Review: DEAD INSIDE #1

DEAD INSIDE #1

DEAD INSIDE #1

DEAD INSIDE is a new crime noir comic book series, written by John Arcudi; art by Toni Fejzula; colors by Andre May; published by Dark Horse Comics. The main character is Linda, a deputy who has recently been promoted to detective. Linda is a hard case all to her own: does not play well with others, whether professionally or personally. Between the talents of Arcudi and Feizula, they have created a tough character, all sad and lonely, you know, dead inside. Funny thing about death, it comes in many colors. The first thing to really bring Linda to life in years is all about death: a really twisted murder-suicide committed by a most unlikely character.

dead-inside-dark-horse-comics-2016

Detective Linda Caruso can’t let go of the fact that the murderer, so small and slight in stature, would have been able to bring down a bear of a man. This was supposedly an easy enough crime to solve as it took place inside a prison, a minimum security prison at that. This is the first case for Linda at the Jail Crimes Division of the Sheriff’s Office in Mariposa County. Nothing unusual is supposed to happen there. Except Linda now finds herself confronting a crime that becomes more bizarre the more she investigates.

Page from DEAD INSIDE #1

Page from DEAD INSIDE #1

This is a series that will have special appeal for fans of crime and prison television, such as Law & Order, NCIS, Orange Is the New Black, American Crime Story, or Making a Murderer. This is a new series from Rumble writer John Arcudi and Veil artist Toni Fejzula. DEAD INSIDE all adds up to a great study in character and a compelling murder mystery full of gritty style. This resonates with the reader. An intriguing case. And an intriguing detective. Who could ask for more?

Page from DEAD INSIDE #1

Page from DEAD INSIDE #1

DEAD INSIDE #1 is available as of December 21st. For more details, and how to purchase, visit Dark Horse Comics right here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Crime, Crime Fiction, Dark Horse Comics, John Arcudi, Noir

Book Review: ‘1956: The World in Revolt’ by Simon Hall

Illustration by Henry Chamberlain

Illustration by Henry Chamberlain

As a momentous year comes to a close, we look, inevitably, to the future. However, in order to help us on our way, we must also look to the past. If 2016 was the year of Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump, then sixty years ago was the year of the Montgomery bus boycott, the Suez Crisis, and, most significantly, the Hungarian Revolution. A vivid and highly accessible account of the year is provided by Simon Hall in his book, “1956: The World in Revolt,” recently published in the U.S. by Pegasus Books.

"1956: The World in Revolt" by Simon Hall

“1956: The World in Revolt” by Simon Hall

Hall’s book is very readable with a novel’s narrative flow. The interconnections Hall makes are quite impressive as he makes a case for brewing unrest across the globe in the pivotal year of 1956. The seeds of unrest are sown everywhere none the least of which is among the youth. Today, you hear the classic, “Rock Around the Clock,” by Bill Haley and the Comets, and it might come across as a soothing lullaby. Well, relatively speaking. In fact, there’s an undeniable power to it. And, in 1956, it had the power of a cultural sonic boom. There were teenagers dancing in the streets after viewing the rock ‘n’ roll movie featuring Bill Haley and his band. And, around the globe, the status quo was being confronted at all levels. Enough to give those in power plenty of pause.

Hall tackles 1956 in fairly chronological order. We begin with a young and untested Martin Luther King Jr. as he must confront the firebombing on his own home, with his wife and children still inside. Remarkably, no one was hurt from the blast. And thanks to King’s moving address to the crowds gathered, the rest of that cold January night remained calm.

Among the leading news stories that year, the focus was on Egypt, the Suez Canal Crisis, and Egypt’s charismatic leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser.

The greatest undermining of Soviet expansion after World War II was the Hungarian Revolution.

And the end of 1956 would see one more significant sign of things to come: Fidel Castro and his band of revolutionaries proceeded upon their shaky but steadfast push against the Batista regime.

Simon Hall’s book is the first definitive account of the year 1956. Hall’s account presents 1956 as far more than an eventful year but as a source of much significant change that was still ahead. From Poland to South Africa, the call for freedom was loud and clear. Around the world the responses came from world leaders: Eisenhower in the US. Khrushchev in the USSR. Anthony Eden in what was left of the crumbling British Empire. The nationalization of the Suez Canal by Nasser spurred an Israeli-British-French attack that nearly brought in the Soviets–an attack that would ultimately fail. Hall captures it all in a riveting narrative always mindful of those not in power who were brave enough to shout the loudest.

“1956: The World in Revolt” is a 509-page hardcover, published by Pegasus Books. For more information, and how to purchase, visit Pegasus Books right here.

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Filed under 1950s, Book Reviews, Books, History, Pegasus Books

Movie Review: ‘Office Christmas Party’

office-christmas-party

You do know about the T.J. Miller Uber kerfuffle, right? To recap, after a heated exchange involving Donald Trump, the “Silicon Valley” star allegedly slapped his driver. There’s nothing like a big red cup of Starbucks product placement (prominently held in the hand of Jason Bateman for the first few minutes) to take you out of the movie unless every time you see Miller on the screen, you start thinking about Uber drivers being manhandled. The good news is that watching “Office Christmas Party,” even with Uber drivers on the brain, pays off. At first, Miller does not seem up to it as he delivers his lines in the first segments with self-conscious snark. But the dude makes up for it.

OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY

OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY

Come for the laughs and stay to enjoy two heavy hitters, Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston, who make this comedy stuff look so easy. While the actual movie they are in has its fair share of clunker gags, Bateman and Aniston own their characters and command razor-sharp chops. A weak early scene with Miller lamenting the misunderstood needs of bald men is saved by a perfectly-timed answer by Bateman: “Hair?” Miller says over a dozen words. Nothing. Bateman says one word. Comedy gold. It’s that simple. I’m not led to think about Donald Trump or Uber drivers being terrorized. I’m only enjoying pure comedy gold. The same with Aniston. In a somewhat similar set-up, Aniston’s character asks a simple question to Vanessa Bayer’s character who proceeds to chew the scenery. Aniston, now irritated, asks the question again in a tone that demands a quick answer. Bayer answers. Very funny performances from both of them.

Now, as for the plot, the whole shebang hinges on Miller’s character throwing this incredible office party that will save the company, save jobs, and make America really really great again. Okay, not necessarily that last part. Anyway, there’s more. Aniston and Miller are brother and sister in the movie. The two run the family business. Actually, Aniston runs it and Miller gets to act a fool at the Chicago branch office. But, if Miller can just get his act together this once, and this is where the office party comes in, everything could turn out great. Maybe even America could turn great again. Who knows. In fact, a good part of the plot rests on the action of the character played by Olivia Munn who shines as a tech genius. Another good reason to see this movie. In fact, there are quite a lot of moving parts to this movie and it works remarkably well considering unnecessarily bad humor and some rather maudlin subplots.

If only they had trimmed some of the frat house humor, this might merit another star for those keeping score at home. Otherwise, don’t sweat the weak spots. And we come full circle with the character of Lonny played by Fortune Feimster. She actually plays the role of a Uber driver! In the backseat is not Miller. No, instead, it’s Aniston who is none too patient with her chatty driver. Another good example of some good laughs.

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Filed under Christmas, Comedy, Humor, Movie Reviews, movies

Review: ‘Division to Unification in Imperial China (vol. 2): The Three Kingdoms to the Tang Dynasty (220–907)’

Volume 2 in Jing Liu's Understanding China Through Comics series.

Volume 2 in Jing Liu’s Understanding China Through Comics series.

Jing Liu brings to life the history of China in his series, Understanding China Through Comics. With Donald Trump’s focus on China, with no signs of letting up, it is a perfect time to gain a better understanding of a very misunderstood country. It was a pleasure to review the first volume in this series. You can read that here. For this second volume, Liu proceeds where he left off and focuses on the periods of division and unification in Imperial China. The full title is, “Division to Unification in Imperial China (vol. 2): The Three Kingdoms to the Tang Dynasty (220–907),” published by Stone Bridge Press. But don’t let the long title intimidate you. This is a highly accessible work tailored to fast learning while also very entertaining.

There is much to marvel over with Liu’s book. As a cartoonist myself, I fully appreciate the balancing act that Liu had to negotiate in order to have the facts make sense in a comics format. It is often believed that the only path for a work in comics or a graphic novel is brevity. You should only insert a limited number of words in those word balloons and text boxes, so the rule goes. However, that all depends. Liu presents everything in a very clean and visually appealing style and has managed to up his word count as needed.

Dividing up territory.

Dividing up territory.

The story of China is one of many regions vying for control and Liu is up to the task of showing us all the machinations. With great clarity, Liu reveals all the moving parts involved and reintroduces key facts as the story unfolds. Liu employs a number of time-saving devices, primarily he makes good use of all his digital options: fonts, pre-made borders for his panels, word balloons, and such. And, in an uncanny way, his art style compliments this more compact approach. It is a relatively spare style but not without a beauty and flourish running throughout in the spirit of manga. He’s managed to hold back enough in order to mix well with the flow of characters and events. You will not only learn about battles and wars, you will learn about the evolution of Chinese culture and spirituality. For instance, Liu provides a wonderful comparison and contrast to the Tao and Buddhist belief systems.

The excess of The One Percent.

The excess of The One Percent.

Liu presents us with cycles of history, the rise and fall of dynasties. And we come to see the patterns and how they relate to current history. We see the perpetual struggle between the rich and the poor, the strong and the weak. But we never tire of such a narrative. First, dynasties prospered. Then they grew corrupt. Finally, they fell and gave way to other dynasties. Liu shows us both the good, the bad, and the in-between. One example that sticks with me falls squarely in the bad column: there was a time when wealthy aristocrats thought nothing of commissioning miles and miles of screens made of silk just so they could pass through them and greet each other. Now, there’s some One Percent decadence for you!

“Division to Unification in Imperial China” is a 166-page book, published by Stone Bridge Press. For more details, and how to purchase, visit Stone Bridge Press right here.

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Filed under China, Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Jing Liu, Stone Bridge Press

Review: BEOWULF, a graphic novel by Santiago García and David Rubín

BEOWULF, a graphic novel by Santiago García and David Rubín

BEOWULF, a graphic novel by Santiago García and David Rubín

If you are looking for a graphic novel that gives a quirky edge to the epic poem, Beowulf, then check out the all-new English translation of the graphic novel version. Originally published in Spain by Astiberri, this new edition is by Image Comics. Written by Santiago García and illustrated by David Rubín, this is a fresh and bloody take on the oldest surviving long poem in Old English (circa 1000 AD).

There’s that scene in Woody Allen’s 1977 masterpiece, “Annie Hall,” with Alvy talking to Annie about her English lit courses. He advises her to take anything but Beowulf. That was the common view on the prospect of reading the Viking epic in its original Old English. But attitudes evolve. An interest in Tolkien and such helps. Robert Zemeckis directed a pretty decent Beowulf movie in 2007. The fact is that Beowulf has influenced countless great works of fiction in numerous mediums. What is distinctive about this new graphic novel is how much it revels in the gritty and gruesome.

Beowulf makes his case.

Beowulf makes his case.

Our hero is the brave warrior, Beowulf. He’s on a quest to kill the monster known as Grendel, right? In that task, he succeeds. All seems well until he has to confront the wrath of Grendel’s mother–and beyond! If you’ve read this in high school or college, you know it’s pretty rough going for Beowulf. Santiago García’s script and David Rubín’s artwork mean to up the ante.

Grendel!

Grendel!

Consider the fight between Beowulf and Grendel. There’s definitely a contemporary sense of provocation here as Grendel is depicted as having a devilish zeal to inflict pain. In fact, he sexually assaults Beowulf. It is one of the most unusual scenes I’ve read in comics this year. Done with a certain level of restraint, you could possibly miss it if you were quickly scanning through pages.

Use of floating panels.

Use of floating panels.

This is an intelligent and imaginative adaptation. While not without a generous dose of blood and gore, the creators here aimed to tap into the power of the original work. The pacing of the narrative and the robust art make this a highly accessible read. There are interesting touches running throughout like the floating panels within panels offering various points of view and/or an inside look into a character. This has a thoroughly contemporary sensibility and decidedly provocative. Recommended for mature readers.

BEOWULF is a 200-page hardcover, in full color. Direct market release date is 12/21. Book market release date is 12/27. For more details and how to purchase, visit Image Comics right here.

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Filed under Beowulf, Comics, Comics Reviews, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Image Comics, J.R.R. Tolkien

Fantagraphic Books to Publish ALL TIME COMICS, a Shared Superhero Universe Featuring the World’s Most Fanta*stic Heroes

All Time Comics, Crime Destroyer #1, Jim Rugg cover

All Time Comics, Crime Destroyer #1, Jim Rugg cover

Alternative comics and superhero comics mix it up in various ways. The Big Two comics publishers, DC and Marvel, will occasionally employ “indie” cartoonists. Image Comics has set a high standard in creator-owned comics that generally deconstruct the traditional superhero genre. And there are all sorts of satirical and subversive answers to the standard cape and tights. That brings us to today’s announcement of the launch of a brash new line of superhero comics titles from the alt-comics stalwart, Fantagraphics. The line of comics goes by the cheeky name of All Time Comics. The project is led by alt-cartoonist and writer Josh Bayer. This is part of a shared universe featuring four heroes: Atlas, Blind Justice, Bullwhip, and Crime Destroyer.

Panel work-in-progress from All Time Comics: writing, pencils, by Josh Bayer; inks by Al Milgrom; letters by the great Rick Parker.

Panel work-in-progress from All Time Comics: writing by Josh Bayer; pencils by Noah Van Sciver; inks by Al Milgrom; letters by Rick Parker.

The fun begins March 31, 2017, with “All Time Comics: Crime Destroyer issue 1,” a 36-page oversized comic book featuring the writing of Josh Bayer, the inks of Ben Marra and the last art by legendary artist Herb Trimpe, who co-created Wolverine. Upcoming issues feature art by Rick Buckler Jr., Ben Marra, Al Milgrom, Noah Van Sciver, and more. Issue #1 will feature two distinct covers, one by Jim Rugg and the other by Johnny Ryan. Upcoming issues feature art by Rick Buckler Jr., Ben Marra, Al Milgrom, Noah Van Sciver, and more.

Page from upcoming contribution by Noah Van Sciver (pencils) and Stephen Bissette (inks).

Page from upcoming contribution by Noah Van Sciver (pencils) and Stephen Bissette (inks).

This looks to be a true mashup of the sensibilities of alt-comics and superhero comics. Look for a love of the genre mixed well with irony.

Here’s a look at upcoming titles:

All Time Comics: Crime Destroyer #1

Josh Bayer (story); Herb Trimpe (pencils); Ben Marra (inks); Jim Rugg (cover) + Johnny Ryan (cover); MARCH 2017

All Time Comics: Bullwhip #1

Josh Bayer (story); Ben Marra (pencils); Al Milgrom (inks); Das Pastoras (cover) + Tony Millionaire (cover); APRIL 2017

All Time Comics: Atlas #1

Josh Bayer (story); Ben Marra (story, pencils, inks); Das Pastoras (cover); MAY 2017

All Time Comics: Blind Justice #1

Josh Bayer (story and pencils); Rick Buckler (pencils); Al Milgrom (inks); Victor Martinez (cover); JUNE 2017

All Time Comics: Crime Destroyer #2

Josh Bayer (story); Ben Marra (story, pencils, inks); Das Pastoras (cover); JULY 2017

All Time Comics: Blind Justice #2

Josh Bayer (story); Ben Marra (story); Noah Van Sciver (pencils); Al Milgrom (inks); Das Pastoras (cover); AUGUST 2017

For more details, follow Fantagraphics right here. You can also follow All Time Comics via Twitter @alltimecomics and via Facebook @ALLTIMECOMICS.

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Filed under Comics, Fantagraphics, Noah Van Sciver, Superheroes

Review: TETRIS: THE GAMES PEOPLE PLAY by Box Brown

"Tetris: The Games People Play" by Box Brown

“Tetris: The Games People Play” by Box Brown

Box Brown is a cartoonist that I really admire for being able to take a subject he’s passionate about and distill it to its essentials into a comics format. His previous graphic novel was on the all-time great pro wrestler, Andre the Giant. You can read my review here. Brown’s latest book is all about the all-time classic video game, Tetris. Published by First Second Books, “Tetris: The Games People Play,” is a testimony to Brown’s determination to collect all the pieces to a story and create a greater whole.

Page excerpt from TETRIS: THE GAMES PEOPLE PLAY

Page excerpt from TETRIS: THE GAMES PEOPLE PLAY

You most likely know the game even if you don’t normally keep up with games. It’s right up there with such legends as Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. It’s a game with a simple charm and an uncanny allure with origins dating back to antiquity. You can learn more about it and play it for free at the official Tetris site right here. Essentially, the goal of the game is to arrange little blocks as they fall down your screen in the most efficient way possible. There’s a Zen vibe there in its relative simplicity. Ironically, the innocent little game of Tetris became entangled in a complex legal fight that found the game industry giants, Atari and Nintendo, locking horns.

Tetris was originally created in 1984 by Alexey Pajitnov. Brown faithfully follows the creator’s journey and all related Tetris canon. Now, what you probably do not know is that there is a lot of intrigue behind what happened to this game on its way to becoming a classic. When Pajitnov created the game, it was the result of his passion for games without any other plans beyond that. As a citizen of the Soviet Union, his only plan was simply to be a good computer programmer for the government. Brown runs with the story once a profit motive is triggered.

Tetris creator Alexey Pajitnov

Tetris creator Alexey Pajitnov

And so our story gains numerous twists and turns as a cat and mouse game is played out. It is at this point that all the machinations can get a bit overwhelming. Brown handles all these moving parts well. He keeps to a basically lean and clean grid of panels that helps to steady the eye. And, at various intervals, he will devote a page to a portrait of the next key player in the drama. It is a modest little portrait set off by a black background. It amounts to a perfect pause, a great way to catch one’s breath.

Brown seems to hold back a bit more with his artwork than he did in his last book. He has a rather pared-down style to begin with. For this book, I think he opted to simplify as much as possible for the sake of clarity given all the details involved. Some work in comics is mostly to digest information. Other work is mostly to admire the artwork. And so on. Brown strikes a nice balance of conveying information with a certain zeal and style all his own. Once you start this book, you’ll want to keep with it and get the whole Tetris story.

“Tetris: The Games People Play” is a 256-page duo-tone paperback, published by First Second Books. For more information and how to purchase, go right here.

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Filed under Box Brown, Comics, First Second, Games, Geek Culture, Geeks, Technology, Video Games

Great Ideas at TEDx Seattle

TEDx Seattle at McCaw Hall, Seattle Center

TEDx Seattle at McCaw Hall, Seattle Center

You’ve seen TED talks on YouTube, right? You can always go right to the source at TED.com. If you’re unfamiliar, TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. TED began in 1984 as a conference that today covers just about any topic. These are powerful short form talks in more than 100 languages.

Considering the "Greater Than" theme

Considering the “Greater Than” theme

Have you ever gone to a TED event? Well, there are a number of these around the world. I went to an independently run TEDx event here in Seattle. You can discover more about TEDx Seattle right here. With a zeal to learn and a trusty notepad, Jen and I took in a day of TED talks. For fans of TED talks, you can imagine how cool that is!

KCTS, a proud sponsor of TEDx Seattle

KCTS, a proud sponsor of TEDx Seattle

This is the first year for TEDx Seattle, formerly known at TEDx Rainier. This last Saturday, we settled into our seats at McCaw Hall at Seattle Center and were utterly delighted with each presentation: from Ranae Holland, a biologist-turned-reality TV star on the hunt for Bigfoot all the way to Suzanne Simard, a forestry expert advocating for all us to address climate change.

The theme for this event was “Greater Than,” an umbrella concept that reinforces our sense of community which is greater than the sum of its parts. The talks were further divided into sessions: curiosity > assumptions; future > today; together > alone; and > sum of the parts.

We had stopped by Stumptown Coffee Roasters on Pine and overheard a couple of young women. One said to the other: “And you can spend your whole life in public service, like Hillary, and still lose to a man!” That’s a good sense of what clings to the air and will remain in the air for years to come. So, heading to our TEDx event seemed like quite a fitting place to be: a place to try to make sense of the rifts and the shifts we are currently experiencing.

I was curious about how each talk would act as a thread to a larger conversation. Can we answer the big question, How do we all come together? Celeste Headlee, a longtime host at National Public Radio, made the case in her talk that we are far more isolated than we may realize. The healing won’t take root, said Headlee, until we respect each other and form authentic bonds. That struck a positive and constructive chord that reverberated throughout the conference.

Scott Wyatt talks about urban density.

Scott Wyatt talks about urban density.

As the day progressed, Jen and I got really caught up in the talks. In fact, there were so many ideas presented that it is a bit overwhelming to attempt to recap everything and do it justice. I will focus on just a few with some brief comments. Scott Wyatt, a partner at architecture firm NBBJ, hit the nail on the head regarding the critical mass we have reached as a crowded city. Part of the solution is to adapt and that is what Wyatt covered. With more and more of us shoulder to shoulder, it compels us to find ways to live in harmony.

Another compelling talk was on artificial intelligence presented by Oren Etzioni, an entrepreneur and AI researcher. His main point was that the robots are not coming for us and never will. No, it’s quite the other way around. It is up to us to embrace the new tech as it is ultimately there for us and to help us come together.

Eliaichi Kimaro. Illustration by Henry Chamberlain.

Eliaichi Kimaro. Illustration by Henry Chamberlain.

Eliaichi Kimaro presented an outstanding talk on her journey of self-discovery. Given the opportunity and the motivation, Kimaro found herself making her first documentary without any prior filmmaking experience. She set out to tell the stories of her ancestors in Tanzania. What she came back with were stories that would summon deep reserves for healing and transformation. Her wish for all of us is that we flood the world with our stories. You can visit the website for Kimaro’s film, “A Lot Like You,” right here.

We also greatly enjoyed the talk by Judge Wesley Saint Clair who has some impressive ideas on providing options for youth who find themselves in criminal court. No, he said, this is not a Hug a Thug program. Instead, it is a no-nonsense program that provides these youth with an opportunity to become part of the community. It was a moving talk and the judge deserves all the support he can get.

We ended the day on a high note with Suzanne Simard, a professor of Forest Ecology at the University of British Columbia. Her talk covered the intricate and complex nature of ecosystems. Simard made clear that climate change is very real. Ultimately, we all must come together, as Simard stated, not only for our sake but for the sake of our planet Earth.

In these uncertain times, we can always count on brave and thoughtful people to speak the truth.

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Filed under Culture, Design, Entertainment, KCTS, Seattle, Technology, TED Talks, TEDx Seattle

Review: ‘How to Draw Sci-Fi Utopias and Dystopias’ by Prentis Rollins

"How to Draw Sci-Fi Utopias and Dystopias" by Prentis Rollins

“How to Draw Sci-Fi Utopias and Dystopias” by Prentis Rollins

I want to share with you a book that really speaks to me as an artist and storyteller. I’d been meaning to write a review of it for quite some time and then it struck me last night as to what to say here. This is one of those books with the goal of art instruction that really gets it! And it is considerably helped along by its niche focus! Are you into science fiction? Would you like to draw work that perfectly fits into that genre? Well, then, here’s the book for you: “How to Draw Sci-Fi Utopias and Dystopias” by Prentis Rollins, published by Monacelli Press.

This is the ultimate guide for illustrators at all levels on how to fine tune their sci-fi imagery. You get the very best advice from Prentis Rollins, a DC Comics veteran (Rebirth, Supergirl, and Batman: The Ultimate Evil). Given the opportunity, I would love to pick his brain. But, let me tell you, this book is the next best thing as Rollins takes a very accessible and conversational tone throughout his instruction filled to the brim with examples. There are 32 step-by-step case studies in all created and imagined especially for this book.

Whether you are attempting to create a compelling utopia or dystopia, it all comes back to basics. Here is a book that goes through the building blocks all the way to sophisticated techniques to really rock your world. Rollins is certainly not alone in stressing a need to master the fundamentals before veering off to pursue your own thing. In fact, he implores you to not rely too heavily upon emulating the work of others. However, he also emphasizes the very real need to be inspired by others.

For Rollins, he has two main influences: American artist Syd Mead (Blade Runner, Star Trek: The Motion Picture); and the Swiss surrealist painter H.R. Giger (Alien). As Rollins is quick to point out, these two artists could not be further apart from each other. Mead is logical, clean, and rational. Giger is morbid and nightmarish. You could place one in the utopian camp and the other in the dystopian camp. And that falls well into the theme that Rollins pursues: a close look at science fiction imagery, both utopian and dystopian.

A utopian scene

A utopian scene

Consider these examples, among the many you’ll find in this book. One shows you a scene more in the vein of Syd Mead.

A dystopian scene

A dystopian scene

While the other shows you a scene more in the vein of H.R. Giger. And, yet, both resonate a certain way of doing things that is all Prentis Rollins. And that, my friend, is the whole point of the book. I hope you’ll get a chance to pick up a copy for yourself or for someone you know who would get a kick out of such an impressive art instruction book.

“How to Draw Sci-Fi Utopias and Dystopias” is a 208-page trade paperback in full color. For more details and how to purchase, visit Monacelli Press right here.

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Filed under Art, Art books, Batman, DC Comics, DC Entertainment, Illustration, Monacelli Press, Prentis Rollins, Sci-Fi, science fiction, Supergirl, Superman

Movie Review: ARRIVAL

arrival-movie-amy-adams-2016

What will it be like when they arrive? It’s a question that’s been asked over and over again, from H.G. Wells to Steven Spielberg. What sets “Arrival” apart is that this new sci-fi film starts where most of these first contact stories end: this is a film about engaging with an alien race from some other world in some rather in depth terms. In the process, we humans may learn more about ourselves and the very nature of reality. It’s rare that a movie really hits me on such a visceral level. Part of it has to do with its steady and realistic pace. 1977’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” set the standard. In recent years, we’ve seen a trend towards more contemplative sci-fi. In this case, it’s what the movie has to say about how we perceive reality. The aliens have got a much different take on that.

"Arrival" screenplay by Eric Heisserer

“Arrival” screenplay by Eric Heisserer

Director Denis Villeneuve is known for pulse-pounding thrillers with a quirky sense of style (Sicario, Prisoners, Enemy). For “Arrival,” the trick was to find the right balance of the theatrical with the compelling and cerebral quality of the original short story by Ted Chiang. I strongly encourage you to seek out Chiang’s story. You will find it to be quite moving with a different set of parameters at home on the printed page. Screenwriter Eric Heisserer succeeds in taking the beauty and nuance of Chiang’s work and finding something comparable in a Hollywood screenplay. Heisserer addresses every aspect of the original story. He amplifies the plot and adds action where it makes sense. Read my interview with Eric Heisserer right here.

"Stories of Your Life and Others" by Ted Chiang

“Stories of Your Life and Others” by Ted Chiang

Part of this story is about communicating and connecting. How do we do that? The answer lies somewhere in language. Amy Adams plays the role of an exceptional linguist, Dr. Louise Banks. She is assigned to crack the alien language. Jeremy Renner (Ian Donnelly) is assigned to crack the alien math. And Forest Whitaker (Colonel Weber) is there to monitor. There are many others behind the scenes. In fact, there are twelve of these massive alien pods that have landed on various spots across Earth. But our attention is mostly on these three main characters, and our eyes are especially on Louise.

Amy Adams as Dr. Louise Banks

Amy Adams as Dr. Louise Banks

By the time that Louise has been enlisted, the alien site in Montana has been joined by an organized U.S. government contingent. And initial contact has been established: a crew enter a portal and make their way to a screen that separates them from a couple of Cthulhu-like creatures. While incredibly strange-looking, they also seem benign. Louise’s breakthrough is to authentically reach out to them. In time, these “heptapods” emerge from the language barrier to reveal a whole other way of looking at reality. Amy Adams delivers an exquisite performance as the one person who really gets it, in the same spirit as the Richard Dreyfuss character, Roy Neary, in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

"Arrival," directed by Denis Villeneuve

“Arrival,” directed by Denis Villeneuve

“Arrival” is one of those special gifts from Hollywood that are still very much possible. This movie ranks right up with 2014’s “Interstellar,” starring Matthew McConaughey, as Cooper, in a somewhat similar struggle involving a parent and a child. Eric Heisserer says that his screenplay pitch went through 100 rejections from producers before it was green-lit. Well, his persistence most certainly paid off. This is definitely the perfect holiday movie, date movie, perfect all-around movie.

“Arrival” went into wide release as of November 11th. Visit the official site right here.

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Filed under Eric Heisserer, Movie Reviews, movies, Sci-Fi, science fiction, Screenwriting, writers, writing