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OBSERVATION #201 - Some thoughts I posted elsewhere which I wanted to also share with any interested parties here...


• ART PHILOSOPHY - TRUTH, and INTEGRITY - *as inspired by the insightful words of Rob Liefeld.

The Truth is that the artist, amateur and potential professional alike, may be taught according to the ideal.  But no matter how hard you study, or how long you train...  No matter all the knowledge you amass, the talent you possess, and the skills you hone, the subjective taste of the public presides over all commercial endeavor.  The public, the layman, the viewer, the fan may know nothing at all about art.  But they know what they like.  It has always come down to that.  And, as with so many things in life, there are frustrations, and gracious benefits to this Truth.  On the one hand, an artist can study and practice his craft for more years than it takes a med student to become a top surgeon.  And yet the world will more readily take the surgeon's word as law concerning a medical matter than the illustrator's informed opinion on a work of art (even his own!).  On the other hand, this truth of subjective taste allows for a wide variety of creative expression, at various levels of accomplishment and acceptance.

The vast history of comic books has enjoyed such variety of expression.  And here indeed, the Truth of subjectivism abounds as talent of every stripe has sought a niche.  Comics never began with great art or great artists.  Here the less-skilled artist may find success while masking what may be deemed shortcomings, sheltering beneath the canopy called "Style."  This artist's lines have more energy and flow, that one's figures possess a striking exaggeration, and this other artist's pages contain more power and mood.
It is only occasionally that comics have been graced by illustrators who were finely trained.  But this, of course, never brought any assurance of success.  The very well-drawn book may go unnoticed as the fans favor a specific character, or the way their favorite rookie artist renders extreme musculature on men, and huge balloon-breasts on women.  Instead of simplicity or clarity of design, an overwhelming number of fans may be more fascinated by the artist who renders ludicrous details.  Or fans may just respond better to an artist's rudimentary skills, finding these more relatable than that of the more accomplished illustrator.  Certainly, those who hold quality draftsmanship, and an impeccable clarity of design and storytelling in the highest esteem may shake their heads in astonishment at the runaway popularity of an artist whom they consider of woefully inferior ability across the board.  However, this adheres to the good and bad of the immutable Truth of subjective taste.

What, then, is the value of all the study, the ideals, and all the laborious training?  More important than subjectivism, or popularity is personal Integrity.  Each must first and always remain true to oneself, insofar as this brings no harm to others.  If you aspire to be the best artist you can be, then study and train, and remain true to that.  Your reward is in the journey as much as it is in the results.  If your agenda is to craft a style that earns you popularity, then fulfill that agenda.  Maintain your Integrity.  It is your own, and it defines you.  Don't waste energy on envying the success of others, nor in celebrating their failure.  This is petty, surely unbecoming of a professional, and it is to your own disgrace as a human being.  Stay on your own path, and be less mindful of what others are doing beyond a healthy spirit of competition.  Embrace the positivity that this art form allows for such wide diversity, and that success and recognition are an unquantifiable entity which can be visited upon the great as well as the meek.  Worry less about being "the best."  If you remain true to yourself, developing at your own pace, and having FUN with it, then you already ARE the best.
  • Mood: Artistic
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  • Reading: Comics, novels, manuals, and poetry
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  • Playing: Arkham: Origins
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With this online art community, we have a unique opportunity to connect with our kindred. We must avail ourselves of this experience, for, once it's gone, it may never come again.

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MASTERS OF ANATOMY PROJECT on KICKSTARTER -

Okay, I have been woefully remiss. Several months ago, I was honored to be approached with an invitation to participate in a special project, an instructional book being produced as a result of a campaign launched on the Kickstarter website.
They have posted a gallery of some of my work here:
mastersofanatomy.com/jerome-k-…

Masters of Anatomy is described as a one-of-a-kind anatomy book drawn by 100 animators, illustrators and comic book artists. It features work from world-class artists like Joe Madureira, Adam Hughes, Kim Jung Gi, Humberto Ramos, Francisco Herrera, Pascal Campion, Florian Satzinger, Warren Louw, Loish and many others. The result is a volume unlike anything that exists today. A must have for any aspiring artist, digital or traditional.
OVER $530,000 on Kickstarter -
You may pre-order the book here: www.mastersofanatomy.com/paypal

Pretty cool!
Cheers!
  • Mood: Artistic
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  • Watching: Season 2 of THE X FILES
  • Playing: Arkham: Origins
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With this online art community, we have a unique opportunity to connect with our kindred. We must avail ourselves of this experience, for, once it's gone, it may never come again.

            ****************************************************

I have often been asked about my artistic influences, and for my thoughts regarding instructional books for the aspiring comic book artist.  After providing an answer that also contained some advice and opinions, the question was raised narrowing the focus to my disdain for the anatomy books of Burne Hogarth.  Now, my purpose is not to personally attack the man whose past professional work I have respected.  I offer my OPINION based on my own learning experiences (which did include Hogarth's books), and what I consider to be a strictly honest evaluation as it applies to the question.  I apologize if it comes off like I'm slamming somebody.  But in the interest of possibly benefiting a few of the curious, I see no point in withholding nor varnishing my opinion.

As I intimated, I studied the Hogarth anatomy books around the time when I was about to embark on a professional career illustrating for DC Comics.  There are indeed useful lessons to be learned, for sure, especially if you can decipher the pedantic text.  But, in looking back, I think it's a profound mistake to ever let them ever be more than a superficial reference tool.  Use the drawings as a map to skeletal structure, and for placement of the various muscle groups.  But try to avoid applying these verbatim to your own figure work.  Never emulate that grotesque, stiff structure, or your art will be anything BUT 'dynamic.'

If you'll allow this quasi-tangent, something has always puzzled me, and even irked me.  The default viewpoint of many superhero comics artists from the Silver Age onward seemed to be that every super-powered character must be likened to Greek gods, their bodies almost directly carved from the same marble as the sculpted statues of ancient times. One popular artist's figures come to mind, which, while impressively drawn, were all of monstrous physique, even while appearing at rest (not unlike the drawings of Hogarth in that instructional book).  Personally, I think that's the wrong approach for story, and story should always be the primary concern, if not the primary motivation (Yes, everybody wants to be a superstar, and have their art stand out. But whenever you seek to promote your own art to the exclusion of all else, you degrade the storytelling medium which you profess to love in the first place.).

Why should a character who uses an alien power ring also have the physique of Schwarzenegger? Why should a being who relies on super-speed to thwart villains possess a physical bulk reminiscent of The Hulk?  Because that's what sells?  Then you're a shill more than an artist.   Just own it.  No, a variety of body shapes and sizes, with physiques constructed according to the specifics of each character and their traits is the beginning of sophisticated character design.  And evidence of this sort of imagination is a mark of the truly serious comic book artist, cartoonist, animator, storyboard artist, game designer, and every commercial illustrator overall.

Burne Hogarth's anatomy books should only serve as a moderately-useful guide, and never as the primary or solitary influence for the aspiring illustrator. Let those books be the "gateway" to higher understanding and better study, to wider creativity, and deeper thought.

And, as always, your mileage may vary.  Cheers! :)

  • Mood: Content
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  • Watching: Game of Thrones Seasons 1 and 2
  • Playing: Injustice: Gods Among Us
  • Eating: Atomic fruits
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With this online art community, we have a unique opportunity to connect with our kindred. We must avail ourselves of this experience, for, once it's gone, it may never come again.

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Alfonso Cuarσn. Wow. The man is carving his initials on Hollywood, and the cinematic art form in general. From humble beginnings, as an independent filmmaker from Mexico... Look at him go. I think he owes a great deal to producer David Heyman for taking a chance on him years ago with HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN (Of course, Cuarσn delivered dramatically, helping to spin that film franchise off in a bold new direction, and off into greater heights of success. So, perhaps the debt is owed by Warner Bros. The studio certainly demonstrated their faith with this latest collaboration.).

With CHILDREN OF MEN, Cuarσn took an even bigger leap forward, demanding that the film world take him more seriously, as an auteur. Now, with GRAVITY, the director has graduated to producer, and writer, and editor as well. And I notice that his stylization, the seamless transitions, the continuous shots without cutting (a difficult "stunt" in which other directors take much pride, including Cameron, and Whedon), has become more adventurous with the aid of digital effects. But I wouldn't call it "gimmicky," as I might with some other directors. It's a choice that always serves the story, carrying the viewer through an entire environment with a relentless focus on what's transpiring, putting us right there with the characters in the most realistic way. It never become impractical or distracting as it does in a film like CLOVERFIELD, where the cinema veritι realism is diminished by the unforgiving premise (Would anyone seriously carry a camcorder through all of those events so unerringly?).

GRAVITY is something you've never seen before. Spectacle? Yup. Drama. You betcha. And all the more amazing for the way the story unfolds. Total commitment. Hollywood would never have permitted this movie to have been made a few years ago. Cuarσn has earned clout. And to him I say, "‘Con mucho gusto-- bravo! ‘Bien hecho!"
  • Mood: Content
  • Listening to: iTunes Library
  • Reading: Comics, novels, manuals, and poetry
  • Watching: Game of Thrones Seasons 1 and 2
  • Playing: Injustice: Gods Among Us
  • Eating: Atomic fruits
  • Drinking: Wawtuh, ICE cold
With this online art community, we have a unique opportunity to connect with our kindred. We must avail ourselves of this experience, for, once it's gone, it may never come again.

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I thought I'd share yet another of my musings from over on Facebook, and invite anyone to share their thoughts, too.

OBSERVATION #55 - OLD HEROES

• On the matter of new STAR WARS movies featuring our favorite characters from the original trilogy - Is Han Solo still such a bad-ass?
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It is an interesting consideration. I do believe that Hollywood tends to think a bit too one-dimensionally when it comes to our iconic heroes. As they age, they seldom grow beyond the stage at which we all became most familiar with them. Captain Kirk is a prime example. Oh, they got it right in the first two feature films (1979, 1982), allowing Kirk to acknowledge the passage of time, the weight of past sins upon him. That was mature. That was realistic depth, and natural progression. But then they quickly lost sight of this, and permitted the character to devolve into a caricature, a self-parodying oldster vainly trying to recapture his youth instead of embracing inevitable maturity, and whatever should come with that. The producers denied him any new texture, any credible development. That's when it became painfully laughable to watch Kirk leap into physical action yet again, battling aliens hand-to-hand like a 25 year-old. This indignity demonstrated that he hadn't learned new ways of confronting conflict, ways that make better use of his wiles and experience instead of the same old violence, awkwardly performed. It was the same with Indiana Jones, unfortunately. This is NOT to say that Indy, or Kirk, or Han Solo cannot retain that part of themselves that dynamically changes the circumstances around them. Nothing can extinguish their vitality. I believe the heroic rogue will always dwell within Solo, roused at a moment's notice. But if his character has failed to evolve beyond the swashbuckling pirate in his later years, at least on the surface, then I will be sorely disappointed in those who have been given the privilege of preserving and guiding this beloved character.

Basically, Hollywood, in its primary pursuit of the almighty dollar, too often forgets (or ignores) that the greatest nobility of our literary and cinematic heroes is in how they should continue to guide us, the same as our true-life heroes. As they boldly confront and overcome various obstacles, setbacks, and villains, metaphorically encouraging us all to be just as brave in our own lives, they must not neglect the most intimidating challenge which we all must face: Time. We may be able to banish our fear of the sneering bad guys and their brutish henchmen, but time is the enemy no one can defeat. And so, what grander call is there for our heroes than the call to show us how to bravely accept change? To provide the shining example of how to grow old with honor, and grace, strength, and wisdom... To show our youth that this is the road we should all walk, marching ever forward, reveling in achievement but never living in our past... Selflessly leading by stepping aside to elevate our children, teaching them that the role of a hero evolves, but never diminishes in its glory, or in its importance. A hero doesn't always need to deliver a roundhouse punch, or swing across chasms, or fire a gun the size of a cannon. What a hero does-- is show us the way, walking the path we all should tread.
  • Mood: Content
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  • Watching: Game of Thrones Seasons 1 and 2
  • Playing: Injustice: Gods Among Us
  • Eating: Atomic fruits
  • Drinking: Wawtuh, ICE cold
With this online art community, we have a unique opportunity to connect with our kindred. We must avail ourselves of this experience, for, once it's gone, it may never come again.

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It's important to USE color, not just apply it to your art.  Sometimes we overlook the role color plays in our illustration, particularly when it comes to sequential art.  Comic books.  Storytelling.  It's not just for making the picture pretty.  Over on Facebook earlier today, this topic came up in conversation with a good friend.  I thought I might share an excerpt with you here on DA, inviting, as always, your comments as well. 


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OBSERVATION #8 -  The Benefits of an Effective Use of Monochromatic Palettes -

• Monochromatic schemes are a very effective option, not just for the sake of beautiful art, but for the sake of higher-level storytelling. Color is as important an element as all the other steps, and it must share in the responsibility of telling a story well, helping to set mood, and helping to guide the reader's eye to what is most important. This is true as well in film, and it's becoming more and more prevalent and facile these days, thanks to the computer. A director is able to have a scene, shot in normal color, digitally tinted in order to better emphasize the "temperature" he wants in that scene. Or perhaps he wants to change it to appear as a night scene. In sci-fi, this process has been used to make Earthly set locations appear as if actually shot on other planets (Please see: PITCH BLACK, and RED PLANET).

If you are depicting a scene inside a house engulfed in flames, monochromatic schemes are definitely beneficial in making everything appear hotter. A green shirt a person is wearing would no longer look green at all because of the intense orange light.

If your disapproval is a matter of mastering the technique, the computer is a great help. Color a scene the way you would ordinarily, and then add a new layer on top, a single vibrant color. Then adjust the opacity so that it acts as a filter to the layers beneath. You'll notice how all the regular colors become altered.

If it's a matter of taste, then I might ask you to look at the beautiful and amazing examples of art, photography, and film that are out there wherein color is masterfully utilized as an element of sophisticated mood, rather than an unrestrained exercise in rainbow crayons. You know that I know whereof I speak, since I have posted samples of my early attempts at color. I began as most do, burdened by a childish and literal sense. Anything brown must always be brown, or red, or blue, and so on. But as I was exposed to more and more great art, as I grew in knowledge, experience, and understanding, I was able to better appreciate the variety of tools and methods available to the artist. Color is only one of these. But it is a very powerful tool, and it has many uses. It can make or break your drawing. It can enhance one's artwork greatly, concealing a multitude of sins. And it can wreck what could have been a masterpiece, revealing one's utter lack of creativity.
  • Mood: Content
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  • Playing: Injustice: Gods Among Us
  • Eating: Atomic fruits
  • Drinking: Wawtuh, ICE cold
With this online art community, we have a unique opportunity to connect with our kindred. We must avail ourselves of this experience, for, once it's gone, it may never come again.

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Thank you all for coming here this evening. I have a brief statement to make... Please bear with me...

In light of recent events in the news, I've decided to come forward -- and confess that-- I have used Performance Enhancers throughout my career-- in order to obtain an advantage. It was mostly my own choice, although-- my father did start me out at a very early age-- by passing on his talent to me. All along the way, in addition to lots of diligent study on my own-- I did enlist the opinion of others as far as my development, and I supplemented this growth with inspiration from various professional artists and filmmakers, the instruction by great teachers at the High School of Art & Design, as well as the vital encouragement over the years from my family, my friends, co-workers, and the generous people who declared themselves fans of my work. Through all the highs and lows going forward, I hope that I can continue to count on these folks for their indispensable support.

I admit that I am not the least bit ashamed of what I've done, but I will immediately enter into a Deeper Appreciation Program, where I will learn to better focus on cherishing my family and friends, and rededicate myself to improving each and every day, so that I can be the best artist and person that I can possibly be. I sincerely apologize to no one for any of this, or for any of the enjoyment my art may have brought others.

And now, I humbly ask that everyone be patient with me as I pick up more pieces, and resume building my life. Thank you, and thank you for understanding. Now, I will take a few brief questions, if there are any...
  • Mood: Content
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With this online art community, we have a unique opportunity to connect with our kindred. We must avail ourselves of this experience, for, once it's gone, it may never come again.

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The latest word is that the great John Williams has agreed to compose the score for the new STAR WARS films under JJ Abrams (at least for episode VII ). 

www.usatoday.com/story/life/mo…

My thoughts, as related over on Facebook, are as follows:

- I count myself among The Maestro's biggest fans. Anyone who knows me will bear this out. But, honestly, I don't think he should return to the STAR WARS property. His influence will always be greatly felt, and his music referenced. However, I think it's time for some fresh approaches, across the board...


Lately, I've noticed a relatively new crop of film composers who have the ability to create music that actually resembles that of Williams, or at least comes close enough. But there is also the possibility of achieving a whole new and vital spirit. One need only open one's mind to it.
I once believed that absolutely no one could mimic the power and texture of Williams' Superman theme. But then I heard what John Ottman did for SUPERMAN RETURNS, and I saw the potential. And Joel McNeely surprised me with some of his music for STAR WARS: SHADOWS OF THE EMPIRE.
But I've been very impressed by Alexander Desplat, and John Powell as well.


Basically, if it were up to me (and I respect that it is NOT), I wouldn't even revisit the STAR WARS universe at all. Everything has pretty much been said there, and I favor moving forward with new ideas rather than regurgitating the past. But when there's easy money to be made, Hollywood is all over it. So, IF the STAR WARS universe is to be further explored, just as with STAR TREK, I would expand the horizons and truly present NEW material, reserving nods to the original classic as a bit of nostalgia, sprinkled lightly, but never dwelling on it.

As always, your mileage may vary. :) 

Please share YOUR thoughts, fellow Deviants.


• Oh, here's another item.  Some may find this, as Mr. Spock would say, "Fascinating!"

Check out this awesome video released by NASA:



io9.com/5893615/absolutely-min…

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With this online art community, we have a unique opportunity to connect with our kindred. We must avail ourselves of this experience, for, once it's gone, it may never come again.

**********************************************************************
No, I wasn't blown away by the movie. Usually, when one's expectations aren't so high, this works in the film's favor. It may not be fair to gauge one adaptation by your experience with another (especially since you are also, unwittingly, comparing markedly different periods of your own life, and your own capacity for artistic appreciation). All I know is that after seeing one movie in my youth, I left the theater feeling as if I myself could fly. Total exhilaration. After seeing the other movie this weekend, I left the theater decidedly more-- grounded. Must all films about this character make me wish to soar? Of course not. I am open to the character becoming nearly as malleable as his darker counterpart (to a point!). But I would be remiss if I didn't admit that something was missing, something vital, while there was far too much of something else (Take a guess.).
Opinions tend to adjust upward or downward with time, and upon repeated viewings. But, as it stands now, it's only a good experience, and a mediocre film. That may be enough to get the film franchise going again, as well as the team-up extravaganza for which many have so desperately clamored. And yet, one might have hoped for a much more auspicious and inspiring (re)start.
They got some things right, both old and new. They came up woefully short in other things, and THESE things may make a difference in the long run. Always begin with a sincere heart, a solid and charming crux to the story, and the character. You can surround this with the special effects, the gimmicks, the overdone design and camera moves, the grittier tone, and excessive noise afterwards. Never skimp on what is crucial just because you've concocted a clever new spin on old material. That old material still works for a REASON.

RECOMMENDATION: See it if you like your movies VERY heavy on action, and too light on almost everything else. Entertaining, but not enthralling.

As always, your mileage may vary.

Cheers!


***UPDATE CONTAINS SPOILERS!!!***


Okay, the writers of MAN OF STEEL deliberately constructed that story to achieve a specific directive.  It wasn't as if they stumbled upon a situation which called for a decision to be made concerning homicide.  They intentionally arranged all the elements so that Superman must kill Zod.  After all, they removed Kryptonite from the equation.  They eliminated the possibility that Clark would have much more experience dealing with the "no win scenario" by totally eviscerating the character of Jonathan Kent.  Basically, this was less than a viable NEW approach to the character than it was a sloppy conspiracy to undermine the traditional Superman in order to make him unpredictable, and more marketable (For those last couple lines, it would be ironic if you imagined Kevin Costner's voice as Jim Garrison from the film JFK.  Heh.  If not, try reading it again, just for kicks!).

Now, I say "sloppy" because even within this objectionable context, their own plan just doesn't make any sense.  I've already illustrated elsewhere the hypocrisy of their Jonathan Kent, as well as the egregious inconsistency of the Christ analogy (which Snyder utilizes more heavy-handedly than anyone previously!).  Everyone has keyed in on the grand finale, as Kal-El seems incapable of maneuvering the battle to safer grounds, and the awkward build-up to the final homicide, rescuing a nondescript group of people (Perhaps this should have been Lois Lane, which might better justify Kal's crisis of choice, and thereby alleviating the confusion as to why Kal would care about THESE innocents after allowing so many others to perish.  Having it be Lois would also create interesting character complexities down the line in sequels:  How does it affect Superman's conscience that Lois was the only person that he killed to save?  His guilt would hang over their relationship, while it would better enforce Superman's inner vow to never kill again, and to treat EVERYone fairly, value all life EQUALLY forevermore.  See?  I can write the grim-tone, too, if need be.), while appearing not to show adequate concern for so many other victims.

But in the aftermath, as the filmmakers choose to let the air out of the tension with flat humor, the resolution rings so drastically hollow.  Superman admonishes the army general about spying on him, and the female aide remarks on Kal's attractiveness.  We're all supposed to laugh now, after all that we've seen  (*cue the "Sad Trombone" sound effect ).  And finally, we get the introduction of the familiar version of Clark Kent as he lands a job at The Daily Planet.  Meanwhile, nothing is mentioned or shown of the death, dying, and devastation which must surely exist just outside those office windows.  There were no scenes of Superman assisting in search and rescue operations, no efforts at repairing all the damage, no addressing the media with messages of contrition, appealing for the world's trust now that he has been revealed, and he has proven his loyalty to humanity.  None of what would seem the logical thing to include.  Instead, it suddenly reverts to being just a comic book movie, and we're expected to forget all the darkness of tone, forget all the realism.  Because, in this more realistic world, surely Lois Lane wouldn't be the ONLY person who could see through Clark Kent's lame eyeglasses disguise.  The audience applauds at the long-awaited depiction of Lois as nobody's fool.  But that only magnifies the idiocy of the rest of the world.  Sloppy.

All will be sorted out in the sequel, and all these dangling plot threads and character discrepancies opens the door for a more insidious and opportunistic Lex Luthor.  No, the sequel will answer for its own mistakes, should they arise.  THIS film failed to meet the responsibilities to which it was beholden for this audience.  Granted, the agenda was "set in stone."  I understand that they felt compelled to restructure the Superman property for a modern fan-base, and in the interests of expanding said fan-base.  But I think they could have done a better job of it, instead of just an "okay" one.  And I also deplore the "over-Marvel-ization" of the DC characters and legends, depriving the market of some measure of variety in their choice of superhero fantasy.

~JKM


  • Mood: Neutral
  • Listening to: The Lamentations of The Women
  • Reading: The Signs
  • Watching: Various BluRay DVDs
  • Playing: Injustice
  • Eating: Fresh & Easy
  • Drinking: Wawtuh
  • Mood: Rant
  • Listening to: The Lamentations of The Women
  • Reading: The Signs
  • Watching: Various BluRay DVDs
  • Playing: Injustice
  • Eating: Fresh & Easy
  • Drinking: Wawtuh
With this online art community, we have a unique opportunity to connect with our kindred. We must avail ourselves of this experience, for, once it's gone, it may never come again.

***********************************************************************************************

OBSERVATION # 212 -
Every professional artist has to earn a living, and some struggle at this more than others. Some artists are required to adapt their style to look like that of another; they must adhere to a "house style," or, in the case of work that corresponds to animation, they must keep the character and environmental designs "on model." But in cases where there is more stylistic freedom, I am often disturbed to find artists who deliberately mimic the style of another, whether that of a peer, or that of a predecessor in that field. Having creative influences is one thing, and this is acceptable. However, taking on the exact style of someone else is another thing entirely.
As I said, it can sometimes be a struggle to earn a living as an artist in the pro ranks. In order to stand out, and be more marketable, it may take quite a bit of effort. Indeed, because of this effort, and an attention to detail, you may not be able to produce as much art as is demanded or expected. Along comes an admirer who studies that "sexy" art style, and then proceeds to mold a rather prolific and profitable career as an imitator, getting lots of notice specifically for a style he/she did not create.
Insert whatever callous platitudes you wish, the commercial world is dog-eat-dog, all's fair in love and war, yadda, yadda... I see this as the equivalent of identity theft, for what is an artist's unique style if it is not his/her identity, and means of honest trade? Inevitably, the artist ends up competing with himself, after a fashion.
Even in the case where an artist has retired, or died, their unique identity should be allowed to live on, retaining its distinction (Please bear in mind, homages are a separate issue.).
Indeed, imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but in this instance, it does also seem like the sincerest form of robbery.
Just sayin'. As always, your mileage may vary. Cheers!

•••• UPDATE - 5/4/2013


It would seem, based on the comments, that I wasn't as clear as I thought. I'll try to reiterate.

On this subject, there are obviously two schools of thought. There are those who see and do the "honorable" thing, adhering to exploring a unique, individual style (Honorable is in quotes because I cannot rightfully expect everyone to have the same idea as I about what is honorable.). And there are those who see all commercial art for what it is: a business. You get over in any way you can.

I am aware of history, how many illustrators employed apprentices, a master teaching his student how to draw according to the master's techniques. Similarly, art teachers and mentors instruct their charges according to the experience acquired, and the methods most effectively used.

I'm talking about an artist as he or she grows to maturity, when he or she comes into their OWN. Now, in the comic book medium, in the branch to which I am referring, there is a measure of latitude, room provided that allows for a freedom of individualistic expression. If it isn't 'sacred,' it most certainly is special! This is a place in the mainstream where an artist can actually make a name for himself, standing out among the crowd for his more personal flair, and perspective. John Buscema's version of Spider-Man or The Hulk or Captain America is distinct from that of Jack Kirby, or John Byrne, and there is intrinsic value to this that can rarely be found or enjoyed anywhere else. I am NOT talking about INFLUENCES. Everybody has influences. Everybody's art looks a little like that of another artist. No, the issue is when there is a deliberate effort to mimic the style of another artist, to the extent that any remaining vestige of distinction is almost irrelevant. THIS is what I find abhorrent, and ultimately dishonorable. It's even a disservice to the mimicking artist, as they surrender the opportunity to express their own individuality for the sake of "impersonating" someone else. And IF that mimic is so skilled as to copy a superior artist well enough, it begs the question: Why couldn't he invest those skills into creating a style all his own?

Yes, the business angle is ever-present. Inventors and culinary innovators are copied and ripped off all the time in the callous  world of big business.  In comics, publishers may encourage the proliferation of a "hot" style if it means a sales spike. And so, they share in the blame, if we are to call it that. But the analogy could be that of the pusher, or the enabler, compared to the one actually buying the drugs. Perhaps that's too harsh. It is a difficult profession in which to earn a living. Get in where you fit in? Save the fancy individualization for less commercial pursuits? Fine. Like I said, there are two schools of thought, one more mercenary, one more "Pollyanna." I prefer "Pollyanna." Maybe I do so because I've enjoyed some greater measure of success in my career. I'm not starving (at the moment). So be it. But I believe I'm the sort of stubborn that would still feel the same, no matter the circumstances. In the commercial field, artists do not GET the chance very often to express an individuality.   In some mainstream comic books, in book jacket design, movie posters, album covers, children's books, tattoo design--- these are the categories that allow for more freedom of expression, and some of these have nearly faded away.  In animation, and product art, you must MATCH the art style established, or you fail. Why suppress your own uniqueness in a medium where you don't have to do so? It's far more rewarding to just BE YOURSELF.

Travis Charest began his career in comics aping the very popular "West Coast" style of Jim Lee, as many others did. But Travis slowly and steadily moved away from that, until he created a style all his own. And by 'all his own' I mean it is distinctive, even if there may be traces of the art styles he may have used as influences. Adam Hughes entered comics on the mainstream stage following Kevin Maguire on JUSTICE LEAGUE. After emulating Maguire, he quickly established himself in dramatic fashion. Adam has incorporated elements of Mucha, just as Brian Stelfreeze has incorporated elements of Leyendecker.  These are motifs, and homages.  Influences, and nothing more.   Almost a lifetime ago, on one of my many failed projects (Haha!), I was instructed to straight-up copy the art style of Craig Hamilton. Rather than refusing outright, I took the opportunity to learn from Hamilton's work, while managing to introduce my own sensibilities so that the art was influenced, but still my OWN.

It has bugged me to see artwork which I initially perceived as that of Adam Hughes, or George Pιrez, yet it was someone else.  Upon closer inspection, there is, thankfully, a telltale superficiality in the adopted style that is noticed by the trained eye, and the work of the original artist is preferred.  Nevertheless, it is the assessment of the untrained eye on which the commercial interest hinges.  Indeed, these other artists have gone on to have great success as "clones." I cannot say whether the artists being imitated are flattered, or apathetic. And it is what it is. This is only my personal rant, my perspective. Judgement is reserved for each to do privately.  And as always, your mileage may vary.

Cheers! :)

*** Again, I invite all who are interested to find me on Facebook, under the same name.  I often post topics like this for discussion, along with silly jokes, film reviews, and other fun stuff.  :)
  • Watching: Various BluRay DVDs
  • Eating: Fresh & Easy
  • Drinking: Wawtuh
With this online art community, we have a unique opportunity to connect with our kindred. We must avail ourselves of this experience, for, once it's gone, it may never come again.

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"I don't mind being the smartest man in the world, I just wish it wasn't this one."
...
"None of you seem to understand. I'm not locked in here with you! You're locked in here with ME!!!"
...
"They claim their labors are to build a heaven, yet their heaven is populated by horrors. Perhaps the world is not made. Perhaps nothing is made. A clock without a craftsman. It's too late. Always has been, always will be... Too late."
...
"Rorschach's Journal: October 12th, 1985. Tonight, a comedian died in New York."
...
Who watches The Watchmen? I do. Now playing on Screen 3 here in the Art Studio, from 2009, is Zack Snyder's adaptation of the iconic and groundbreaking graphic novel by Alan Moore, and Dave Gibbons. THE WATCHMEN stars Patrick Wilson, Carla Gugino, Matt Frewer, Stephen McHattie, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jackie Earle Haley, Malin Ackerman, Matthew Goode, Laura Mennell, and Billy Crudup as "Dr. Manhattan."

I was surprisingly impressed by this film. In some ways, I think it's better than the original source material, as much as that may be deemed sacrilegious by hardcore fans. Because of its topical themes, many movie-goers could not relate to the story's sociopolitical message, nor its urgency, and so the film is ironically dated, yet state-of-the-art in its quality. As I've said elsewhere, sci-fi and comic book fantasy shine brightest when there is a point of view, whether as satirical commentary, or as a morality play. Snyder brilliantly captures Moore's 1980s Reagan Era paranoia, but I think the director goes one better on the author in the final resolution. He astutely keeps Dr. Manhattan as the center of the drama, making the character an active threat which must be eliminated, rather than having mankind unite against some fictional contrivance. It is still a very elaborate ruse, but the film gives it more meaning and resonance. My main problem with this movie is its gratuitous violence, and sexuality. This was the first mainstream superhero movie to receive an "R" rating. And while I applaud this high-profile exploration of superheroes as more adult material, I don't condone the liberal usage of bloody violence, vulgarity, or needlessly lewd sex scenes, nor do I consider them a qualifier of "maturity."

One of my nit-picky issues has to do with Snyder's over-stylization, particularly with the opening credit sequence. Amusing as it was, I just felt it was ridiculous to depict a flashy time-elapsing montage where news reporters can be present at the scene of a crime, while the smirking hero is holding the captured criminal who is still armed, and firing his weapon in slow-motion. It's understood that Snyder is trying to tell lots of story in the fewest amount of frames here. But with this choice, I think he gets too cute (as is his wont).
Dr. Manhattan, on the other hand, is a practically flawless marvel (no pun intended). Billy Crudup, whom I doubted early on, plays the part of Osterman to perfection, with his ever-increasing detachment. He has become so ethereal, and alien, yet Crudup manages to keep the character human throughout, much like Leonard Nimoy's Spock. Very likable. And the special effects for Manhattan clearly demonstrate the keenest attention, and imagination.
The ensemble cast is brutally good. Morgan's Comedian is dead-on. But it's Jackie Earle Haley as Rorshach that anchors this entire production. Never has there been a finer, more ideal bit of casting, and no one has ever done a better job of capturing a character. Bravo, Mr. Haley!
The weakest links are Ackerman, and Matthew Goode. Goode is a fine performer, but he is too slight of build for the character, Ozymandias. I also thought it was unfortunate that it was decided to play this character with homosexual undertones (such a cinematic clichι for a villain). Malin Ackerman is indeed a delight to behold, especially once she appears as the Silk Spectre. But her acting is a bit amateur at worst, soapy at best. It's a sad admission, however, that a woman's beauty covers a multitude of shortcomings. She does sparkle so.

The original music is by Tyler Bates. But, aside from the inclusion of some classic rock tunes from the 60s (which further date the material), I was most enthralled by the sequences featuring the spectacular (and appropriate) music of Mr. Philip Glass.

These are my impressions of Zack Snyder's-- THE WATCHMEN.
  • Mood: Optimism
  • Listening to: Daft Punk, Trent Reznor
  • Reading: Comics
  • Watching: Various BluRay DVDs
  • Playing: Arkham City
  • Eating: Fresh & Easy
  • Drinking: Iced Tea
With this online art community, we have a unique opportunity to connect with our kindred. We must avail ourselves of this experience, for it may never come again.

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• First off, please let me say how totally OVERwhelmed I am by the passionate and voluminous response I have received regarding the fate of YOUNG JUSTICE.  I cannot express how surprised and touched I was by the outpouring of support and concern, and I continue to be.  I deliberately refrained from saying any more about it, or replying to questions.  What really is there to say?  I felt it was your stage, and only your words deserved to be heard.  But again, I thank you all, on behalf of myself, and all of the YOUNG JUSTICE crew.  It was a brief time, but it was all for you.  I shall continue to post my artwork from the show as it becomes available.  And I look forward to sharing more experiences with you, and exchanging comments.

• Please feel free to find me over on facebook, and send me an add request.  Lately, I've been spending more time there, and some of the discussions and news may be of interest to my friends here.  On occasion, I will be transferring little tidbits from there to here, as I have been doing recently.  Case in point, for those who want to talk about STAR WARS, here's a comment I posted today, and as always, I invite your thoughts!  Cheers!

• OF THE FUTURE OF STAR WARS:
Okay, here's what I would do... STAR WARS is too big of a brand not to take advantage of every format available, and every viable approach. Although it began with a story revolving around the Skywalker family (with mixed results), any failure to expand well beyond those parameters would be a grave disservice both to the brand, and yes, to the fans. Fans only THINK they know what they want until they see something new and unexpected. STAR WARS, like STAR TREK, is a vast universe of potential for stories and characters that stretch the scope of imagination. I'm talking beyond Jedis, and beyond The Force. Good and evil may be ever-present factors, but there are certainly corners of the galaxy out of the reach of the Sith, or the Jedi, where the struggle for freedom and justice takes place on other kinds of stages. You must unlearn what you have learned. As long as the quality is kept high, possibly managed by a core brain trust, then I could see more than one film franchise, as well as a television series, animation, comics and video games all tied into the same 'verse, and maybe even spanning timelines. Content could be marketed so that a fan could buy a comic to get more detail on a television show plotline, and play a video game to ascertain the fate of a character from a movie scene, and so on. Could be very exciting.

• OF SUPERHERO MOVIES:
Which are your current favorites, and why?  Which upcoming films excite you the most, and on which characters do you most wish to see them base a new movie?  I was thinking of posting my mini-reviews of all the superhero movies I've seen to date.  What do you think of that?
With this online art community, we have a unique opportunity to connect with our kindred. We must avail ourselves of this experience, for it may never come again.

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Yes, YOUNG JUSTICE fans, the sad news is now official. This very popular show will -- Reach-- its abrupt and premature end with the conclusion of Season Two. It is with a heavy heart that I confirm the reports. Of course, none of us was able to say anything about it since last year. It was a very fun ride. As for the reasons behind the cancellation, I can only say that it was beyond the control of WB Animation, and that the decision was made by the powers at Cartoon Network (bless 'em). On behalf of the producers, and the rest of our dedicated crew at YOUNG JUSTICE, I would like to express our deepest gratitude to all the loyal fans who supported us, who shared the dream with us, and who will continue to love the YOUNG JUSTICE universe, with all its wonderful characters. Thank you, DC Comics! Thank you for the wonderful playground in which to frolic. Thanks to all the great voice actors! Thank you, Greg Weisman, Brandon Vietti, Sam Register, David Wilcox, and the rest of our brilliant team. It was-- fun! Who knew we would have so much fun? To all the fans-- enjoy the rest of the season! There are plenty more surprises left in store.

And, finally, I would like to personally thank my friend, Phil Bourassa for the chance to work with him, laughing and learning every step of the way. See you around the neighborhood.

That's all, folks! Take care, and stay "whelmed!" :)

www.comicbookresources.com/?pa…
  • Mood: Sadness
  • Listening to: Film Scores
  • Reading: Homer
  • Watching: Various BluRay DVDs
  • Playing: Soul Calibur
  • Eating: Stuff and stuff
  • Drinking: a brewski

YOUNG JUSTICE: THE INVASION RESUMES-- AGAIN

Journal Entry: Fri Jan 4, 2013, 5:35 PM
  • Mood: Enjoying The Show
  • Listening to: Film Scores
  • Reading: Homer
  • Watching: Various BluRay DVDs
  • Playing: Soul Calibur
  • Eating: Stuff and stuff
  • Drinking: a brewski





With this online art community, we have a unique opportunity to connect with our kindred. We must avail ourselves of this experience, for it may never come again.

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Welcome to yet another spinning orbit round the Sun. 2013 promises to be a heckuva ride, so please mind your head as the atmospheric safety bar descends, secure all loose objects, keep your hands and legs within the limits of the planetary vehicle, hang on tight, and-- HERE WE GO!!!

This Saturday (check your local listings) here in the U.S., YOUNG JUSTICE: INVASION returns once more to Cartoon Network.  With all the drama this well-made series has had to suffer behind the scenes, it would be no wonder if the fans have long since deserted it.  It was never fair.  It was never respectful.  But it was also never within the control of Warner Bros Animation.  C'est la vie.  So, if you're still interested in the adventures of our Team of young and just heroes, please do tune in again, and settle back for the fun.

Cheers!

~JKM

***  Here's an article interviewing producers Greg Weisman, and Brandon Vietti that provides some news about some exciting things in store on YOUNG JUSTICE: INVASION:  
www.dccomics.com/blog/2013/01/…

The HOBBIT

Journal Entry: Sun Dec 16, 2012, 6:40 PM
  • Mood: Enjoying The Show
  • Listening to: Film Scores
  • Reading: Homer
  • Watching: Various BluRay DVDs
  • Playing: Soul Calibur
  • Eating: Stuff and stuff
  • Drinking: a brewski
With this online art community, we have a unique opportunity to connect with our kindred. We must avail ourselves of this experience, for it may never come again.

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***SPOILER-FREE IMPRESSION -  Okay, so I went to see THE HOBBIT...  I enjoyed it.  Although it may be impossible to go in without the highest of  expectations, I strove to experience the film on its own merits.  Of course, with the appearance of some very familiar faces, it becomes a challenge not to compare this movie to the Rings trilogy.  I will say that THE HOBBIT qualifies as a legitimate "prequel," since Tolkien's novel was definitely written as a prelude to his Rings saga.  And in his adaptation, Peter Jackson seeks to fulfill a prequel connection FAR better than anything George Luca$ ever did with his Star Wars and Indiana Jones film franchises.  Jackson and his writing team have cleverly expanded certain characters and events (extrapolating, in many cases, from appendices written by Tolkien himself), and so, the story may feel padded in some areas.  This is understandable, since the studio seeks to stretch things out into another epic trilogy.  I think that this strategy may rankle some, perhaps including the casual fantasy film buffs.  I believe this is a series for the built-in Tolkien audiences who are not so anally retentive concerning every little detail of their beloved story being fastidiously translated on screen.  I say, rejoice in the fact that it's there on screen at all, and done rather well.  No, it is not in the same class as the now-classic trilogy that broke box-office records, and which earned so many Academy Awards.  But again, if you're able to let go of that, this is indeed a fun return to Middle Earth.  I'd say that the brightest of several highlights is The Riddle Game scene.  Of EVERYthing else, this is the sequence which is truly prrrrreciousssss!  My chief complaints center around some of the creature design (I am a character artist after all!  Haha!), and I think the filmmakers were a little over-ambitious with their CG elements and animation.  Despite this, and some other minor quibbles, I had a good time, and I highly recommend Peter Jackson's THE HOBBIT.  
Cheers!
~JKM

Devious Journal Entry

Journal Entry: Tue Dec 11, 2012, 4:58 PM
  • Mood: Enjoying The Show
  • Listening to: Film Scores
  • Reading: Homer
  • Watching: Various BluRay DVDs
  • Playing: Soul Calibur
  • Eating: Stuff and stuff
  • Drinking: a brewski
With this online art community, we have a unique opportunity to connect with our kindred. We must avail ourselves of this experience, for it may never come again.

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It doesn't seem so long ago when I was the kid, eagerly soaking up the counsel, opinions, suggestions, and anecdotes of those around me. It feels a little weird to now be on the other side of things. I will always be the learner. But I also realize that sharing what I've learned may benefit the kids suddenly around me. Time spins us in wondrous ways, and the ride goes faster than we ever believe.

I'm musing.  Not critiquing, not reviewing, not promoting or trying to sell anything.

Just a moment of reflection, shared with those who know, and those who will know, a lot sooner than they know. :)

~ JKM

***SPOILER ALERT*** BRAVE expectations

Journal Entry: Sat Nov 24, 2012, 2:12 AM
  • Mood: Enjoying The Show
  • Listening to: Film Scores
  • Reading: Homer
  • Watching: Various BluRay DVDs
  • Playing: Soul Calibur
  • Eating: Stuff and stuff
  • Drinking: a brewski
With this online art community, we have a unique opportunity to connect with our kindred. We must avail ourselves of this experience, for it may never come again.

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So, I finally caught BRAVE on home video. I'd say that it's good, but well below the "high water mark" set by Pixar Studios over a decade ago. Sure, there's heart in this story, as well as humor. But absent is the innovation that has come to be expected of Pixar fare. Wonder. An impossible splendor that comes cleverly entwined with well-rounded characters and a sensitive core that causes the story to strike just the right resonant chord. The TOY STORY trilogy, THE INCREDIBLES, FINDING NEMO... These remain the brightest gems in Pixar's crown, but perhaps the studio's reign is at last beginning to fade? In Princess Merida we have a young girl coming of age, dissatisfied with her lot in life, in the midst of rebelling against tradition, her responsibilities, and her parents. Okay, so we've seen this before. What new twist can you offer? Not much. A spunky girl who can do everything better than the boys? Yawn. An old witch in a creepy forest? Seen it. A spell that goes all wrong? Seen that, too. Adventure ensues until the spell is broken, lessons are learned, and new bonding takes place. Shrek much? Pardon my cynicism, but you have to do better than that. The competition is gaining fast on you, Pixar. You only lead until you don't anymore. Just sayin'. Color me unimpressed. Mild thumbs up.
As always, your mileage may vary.
Cheers!
~JKM

MUST MICKEY OWN THE WHOLE WORLD?

Journal Entry: Wed Oct 31, 2012, 3:10 PM
  • Mood: Enjoying The Show
  • Listening to: Film Scores
  • Reading: Homer
  • Watching: Various BluRay DVDs
  • Playing: Soul Calibur
  • Eating: Stuff and stuff
  • Drinking: a brewski
With this online art community, we have a unique opportunity to connect with our kindred. We must avail ourselves of this experience, for it may never come again.

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Okay, so by now, most folks have heard the latest big news in Hollywood.  George Luca$ has sold his Empire to The Mouse House (Disney Studios).  And so, Disney adds STAR WARS to its collection in a more official way, alongside PIXAR, and MARVEL.  As with all things, there is bound to be both good and bad to come of these developments.  Perhaps Luke Skywalker might say, "I've got a bad feeling about this."  And perhaps it was Mickey Vader who had said, "Join me!  Together-- we can END this destructive conflict, and bring ORDER to the entertainment galaxy!!!"

The plan is to launch new STAR WARS movies, of course, under the guidance of Kathleen Kennedy, with Luca$ acting as a consultant.  If they could undo the damage Luca$ has done, that would please me.  Cleanse our palates and minds of those fecal Prequels, and restore the original films so that Han Solo DID shoot first.  Haha!  But beyond that, going forward, I would wish for new and better material, and fresh characters instead of eventually revamping established canon.  I would hate to see other actors cast as Luke, Han, or Leia (although that sort of myopic non-imagination seems to be the pattern of the day).

I also do NOT want any cute crossovers, animated or live-action, that places R2-D2 in the same universe as The Hulk, and Donald Duck.   That would represent the most heinous commercialism, and we may wind up being worse off.

Just musing over the possibilities...  The losses... The gains...

Thing is, Luca$ began as the most successful independent filmmaker in the history of cinema. And now, he just ends up selling out to the very system he originally opposed? I dunno. Maybe it's for the best. Everyone knows he had already lost his way a long time ago, on a ranch far, far away. And who can say what any of us might do in his place, right? It's like he started out as a maverick Han Solo, grew bloated and fat off his success like Jabba The Hutt, became twisted and evil like The Emperor, and then sold everybody out like Lando Calrissian. Oh sure, blame it on the black guy!!! LOL!

Thoughts?

Of Idris Elba, and 007

Journal Entry: Sat Oct 27, 2012, 10:16 PM
  • Mood: Enjoying The Show
  • Listening to: Film Scores
  • Reading: Homer
  • Watching: Various BluRay DVDs
  • Playing: Soul Calibur
  • Eating: Stuff and stuff
  • Drinking: a brewski
With this online art community, we have a unique opportunity to connect with our kindred. We must avail ourselves of this experience, for it may never come again.

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Recently, rumors have surfaced concerning who would be the next contestant on--  err-- I mean, the next actor to get to play James Bond in the historic film franchise, once Daniel Craig moves on.  A few of my friends were most excited by the prospect of Idris Elba taking up this auspicious mantle.  I found myself alone in my dissenting opinion, and I thought I'd share the explanation of my perspectives with you here (edited in part), inviting open and mature discussion.

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"Yes, I heard about this, and for a good friend at work, this seems to be his wet dream.  As much as I like Elba, I don't like this idea about him playing 007.  My friend and I have debated our reasons.  Here are mine (as related over on facebook):

- My dissent has to do with the obvious: race. Even though it should always be about the best actor for any given role, the initial controversy stirred up by a black James Bond would distract too much from the character and story, and it could foment debates about politically-correct attitudes regarding casting. A whole lotta yadda yadda... Secondly, I think it could warp the narrative stream through which Bond customarily flows. The women, the espionage... Fleming's 007 assassin was a ladies man who could infiltrate an enemy's lair as much as a femme fatale's boudoir. Unless most of the cast is ethnically mixed, remaining inconspicuous becomes an issue. Finally, I feel that a black actor whose star is on the rise should never settle for a role previously inhabited by so many Caucasians. While I do recognize the implications of acceptance, I can't help but balk at the hand-me-down nature of it all. Why not let Elba continue to carve out his own niche in cinema history, rather than forever be saddled with being the one who was first to play an ethnic version of a white man's legend? He would have broken through the wrong color barrier. And as Bond lives on and on, should we next expect a female version, followed by a Latino, an Asian, an Indian? A Martian? ... Agent 00UFO? "The name is B'onnd. J'aimz B'onnd."

Maybe my use of the term "hand-me-down" comes off a bit crass. Granted, roles exist for actors to play. Honestly, ever since Sean Connery, every actor to become the new Bond has been given a "hand-me-down" part to play. And yet, giving it now to a black man may seem progressive, but it's also the ultimate exploitation. If this is good enough for Elba, then may God bless him. But if he's really so good, I just think he deserves to make his mark in a pure way, rather than stepping into someone else's legacy, helping to line the pockets of the Broccoli family.
This whole situation also illuminates the severe lack of positive fictional role models for black actors to choose from. Instead, must they aspire to one day play the lead character unctuously proffered by white folks? Come on, son. We deserve better than that.  I mean, how many roles initially created by black folks are any white actors chomping at the bit to play? Food for thought.

As ever, your mileage may vary.

~JKM"

I received a response from another very good friend, via e-mail, which essentially took me to task on this matter.  He invoked Jackie Robinson, and said that if Morgan Freeman can play God, then Idris Elba can play Bond.  He mentioned the lucrative opportunity that is hard to refuse in the tough world of cinematic acting, to which I agreed.  He went on to admonish me against separatism, pointing to a future where anyone could go see a Bond movie, and not think twice about the character's race or gender... that in this bright Utopia, such things would have become passι, of no account.  He applauded the prospect of any controversy which Elba's Bond casting might incite, stating that such discussion is necessary for growth.  He expressed his frustration with the status quo, as most black actor roles are relegated to the sidekick, the comic relief, the sage minstrel, and the hapless victim.  Stereotypes.  He lauded Elba in "LUTHER," but said that 007 is the bigger, better stage for this brilliant and charismatic actor.

I do not disagree with many of those points.  I am fortunate to have friends possessed of solid judgement.  Nevertheless, I felt compelled to elaborate my viewpoints in this way:

"Well, there are certainly different ways of looking at it, and I don't claim to know which is best, or which is right.  I can only express my point of view as part of the discussion.  We must agree to disagree beyond that.

But I'd like to respond to a few of your points.   I would agree that, with all the difficulties actors face in getting work, Elba might justifiably leap at the chance to play a character of such successful and prestigious pedigree.  However, I was expressing my misgivings on more theoretical grounds.

Yes, if it were possible to journey back in time, I would definitely read everything I've said to Jackie Robinson, and to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as well.  I think they would smile in understanding, acceptance, and pride.  This is my opinion, such as it is.

The baseball analogy seems incongruous.  Still, I might adjust it to reflect that the overall game is Hollywood, not the James Bond film franchise itself, and Jackie Robinson then serves as a pioneer for black Americans in that field of the dramatic arts.  Robinson would be evening out the playing field for all races to act on the big screen, but he was not assuming the identity of anyone but himself (within the analogy).  He was not wearing some other man's name and number as he bravely began to forge a new path in a formerly exclusive sport.  This might also apply to the heroic Tuskegee Airmen, who helped open the way for racial equality in aviation.


I don't see any direct correlation between your Freeman/God analogy and what I was saying about Elba playing Bond, although I appreciate the tangential connection, which actually illustrates my position (more on this later).  While we all recognize the controversial decision and subsequent reaction to the casting of Morgan Freeman as God in BRUCE ALMIGHTY, or even as the President of the United States in DEEP IMPACT, these instances were more akin to the groundbreaking roles played by the great Sidney Poitier.  Mr. Poitier broke through the proper barriers that allowed for Elba to even be considered for James Bond.  The difference is that Poitier demonstrated how blacks deserved equal status in society and in Hollywood based on their own individual merits, and as a people.  But the characters Poitier played were not colorless every-men.  They were not shoe-horned characters bereft of distinction, who could be spun around in a revolving film-franchise door to be played by any actor who might garner sufficiently stunning headlines.  They were upstanding, dignified black men, triumphant in their ethnicity, a much bolder choice in that time.  Neither were they roles originally conceived as white characters now handed out to a black actor in some grandstanding gesture towards civil rights.   In fact, I wonder what Poitier might have thought if ever he were offered a legacy role such as James Bond.  Maybe I'm wrong, but I think he would have politely declined, recognizing it for what it is, not as a step forward.  Perhaps he would smile more broadly at being offered the role of Othello.  I don't know.

On the subject of racism--  I believe that every one of us who is tainted by societal programming has some measure of prejudice within.  It feels almost automatic.  I think it really becomes a problem based on degree, and whether or not we act on this ugliness, instead of being open-minded concerning change.  It is true that more and more races are intermingling, and this is a beautiful thing.  In my own family, I have a sister-in-law who is of Mexican descent, and a brother-in-law who is Caucasian.  Still, I don't think the over-arching purpose is to achieve an ethnic or cultural homogeneity.  I don't believe that's the cause for which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was fighting, a color blind society.  Whenever I hear white folks trying to be beneficent by proclaiming that they don't see racial color, but they see only the person, inwardly I scoff, resisting the urge to correct their gentle lie.  Maybe they're sincere in their meaning.  Maybe.  But, to the contrary, I think it's more a matter of seeing the wondrous variety and richness of diverse culture present in the world around us.  We aren't supposed to ignore it!  Embrace it!  When there is attraction between people of different races, it's okay that he first noticed her fair skin and blue eyes, while she was enamored with his darker complexion, and full lips (or vice versa).  The underlying depth of love encompasses each individual's personal character traits, of course, but that initial physical attraction to contrast of race and culture need not be suppressed, if this was indeed the catalyst.  And in interracial coupling, I don't believe the point is to blend away all that was good in the two disparate heritages.  Embrace the differences, celebrate them, preserve them.  Don't ignore them.  This would be just as repugnant as allowing diversity to evoke fear and hatred.  Race, color, and ethnicity should and must matter in a positive way.

In this vain, I don't favor the notion that eventually, in either a far-flung or not-too-distant future, a parent could read the story of Robin Hood to a child, and have the characters be depicted as black simply because the wave of political correctness has washed away all distinction, and you can select whatever version of the classic story you prefer: ethnic, or original flavor.   On the screen, the latest remake of STAR WARS features a black Luke Skywalker, and on the stage, OLIVER TWIST casts a young Latino in the title role.  Ostensibly, this all appears miraculously open-minded, and progressive.  I can't help but see it as warped.  It's the wrong road.  No, thanks.

I think it has to do with folklore.  Folklore may have tenets, characters, and narrative structure that is common to a variety of cultures.  However, inherent in each culture comes a specificity that makes that folklore unique.  This is the cultural identity, and it can be important on different levels.   Art is intertwined with folklore, and it is most often a product of its era.  The story of "John Henry" centers around the beginning of the Industrial Age, and the poignancy of the tale is derived from the fact that John Henry is black.  He is a black man going up against the advancing power of the machine, of progress, and the diminishment of his livelihood, and of his relevance.  To adapt this story for the screen, casting a white man--  it would lose so much meaning.  If we are to apply a standard one way, then the reverse should also be true.

James Bond is modern-day folklore.  Author Ian Fleming created the British master spy/assassin during the Cold War era, drawing from his experiences and associations in Naval Intelligence.  The megalomaniacal villains were cartoonish representations of Communist dictators, and others behind the Iron Curtain of nations.  I've always felt that Bond has become an obsolete character, and that his films should only continue as period pieces.  It is only through the persistent exploitation of this popular character that he has become an icon warped to comic book proportions, agelessly spanning generations and undergoing an evolution of purpose.  There is good and bad in this.  The good is obvious.  Profit.  The bad is that, as the character continues to transform, becoming symbolic, his meaning slowly becomes diluted along with all specificity.  Again, folklore encompasses specificity.  And art identifies its era as much as it helps to define it.  When you take these things away, allowing commerce to recklessly and relentlessly mold iconic characters of folklore for marketing consumption, there is an insidious tragedy at work.  Casting Idris Elba as James Bond does a disservice to the character, to the folklore, as well as to Elba himself, in a subtle way.  Ironically, it also does a disservice to racially progressive thinking, even if most may see it as a triumph.  Better for Elba to develop a character and film franchise of his own, and have THAT be widely accepted and applauded, than to "put on somebody else's shiny coat."  I haven't seen "LUTHER,"  but I understand that Elba has reportedly expressed interest in taking that character to the big screen.

Now, I need to make the point that I am not promoting separatism.  I don't see much merit in blacks making films exclusively for blacks, or any other group doing similar.  That is severely limiting, myopic in vision, and ultimately it preserves racism.  I am also disappointed by the appropriation of folklore across the racial divides.  THE WIZ is an example of this, as an ethnic adaptation of L. Frank Baum's THE WIZARD OF OZ.  The intentions are benign, as the producers sought to bring the magical story to inner city kids in a more identifiable way.  I can't help but note the accidental hypocrisy in this, as those who promote a color-blind society do so by forcing changes in their children's mythology so that they only see themselves.  This underlines the need for OTHER, newer mythology that better satisfies both the needs of unique cultures as well as the general population.  Alongside an unaltered version of CINDERELLA on the shelf, there needs to be JOHN HENRY, and ZORRO, and so much more.

Funny enough, there is a "Black Hollywood."  And, believe it or not, many of the films coming out of there are quite successful in their own right, produced by Spike Lee, Ice Cube, the Wayans Bros, and Tyler Perry, among others.  These often subsist on the ethnic stereotypes which I mostly find distasteful, and yet the market for this remains steady and strong, crossing the same racial lines as hip hop, and rap music.  Exploitation abounds, but at least in cases such as these, some of the bounty is reaped by people of color.

Basically, I see it this way--  There are all types of characters and stories throughout history.  Some of these characters are generic in that they can be endlessly adapted, played by actors of all diverse races and cultures.  They may be timeless, with a relevance that crosses all boundaries.  Then there are those characters that only resonate from a folkloric specificity, and I feel that these should only be adapted.  The characters and settings are not racially  interchangeable.  One example of this would be Akira Kurosawa's THE SEVEN SAMURAI, which John Sturges adapted as THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN.  James Bond was specifically created as a white British character in Cold War Europe.  To suddenly cast a black actor in that role is less about being racially progressive than it is about garnering publicity, and making an outdated political statement.  I would rather see a global film industry where a character can be created without ethnic stereotypes, and the producers feel free to cast a black, Asian, or Latino just because they want to, and that character is the lead.  But at the same time, those producers will still feel free to cast other lead roles corresponding to a specific ethnicity where appropriate and respectful.  Racial cross-casting is usually a stunt, and it's a stunt I believe the world has out-grown (or it should have by now).  "LUTHER" may have been conceived as a color-less character, although I read that his creator was influenced by Sherlock Holmes, and Columbo.  Therefore, Luther is a sort of adaptation, and he is not a black Sherlock Holmes, nor a black Columbo.

Cheers!
~JKM"

Thoughts?  ...  Anyone...?   ...  Anyone...?  ...  ...Bueller...?   ;)

THE JUSTICE LEAGUE STRIKES BACK?

Journal Entry: Fri Oct 19, 2012, 12:38 AM
  • Mood: Enjoying The Show
  • Listening to: Film Scores
  • Reading: Homer
  • Watching: Various BluRay DVDs
  • Playing: Soul Calibur
  • Eating: Stuff and stuff
  • Drinking: a brewski





With this online art community, we have a unique opportunity to connect with our kindred. We must avail ourselves of this experience, for it may never come again.
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Greetings to all!  I apologize for being remiss in my Journal entries.  Work has been keeping me busy, and I can only be grateful to be employed these days.  But there's lots on my mind, and plenty to discuss.  The fact is that most of my opining has been reserved for facebook of late, that diabolically addictive site.   All here are welcome to find me there, to say hello, or share a thought.  Speaking of which, today I shared a few thoughts regarding the announcement of a long-awaited JUSTICE LEAGUE movie (WB's answer to Marvel/Disney's THE AVENGERS -- although Paramount released it.  Heheh.).  I originally received the link from our fellow Deviant, BroHawk.  And now I pass it on for your perusal (not a lot of news, but the game is definitely afoot).
www.superherohype.com/news/art…

In the headline for my facebook topic thread, I said:

"Smells like obvious desperation. And haste, in any endeavor (especially the expensive ones) is never a good idea."

In response to various comments from friends, I went on this way:

"MARVEL clearly had the superior strategy, savvy, and patience, steadily developing their individual hero franchises (IRON-MAN, THOR, CAPTAIN AMERICA, THE INCREDIBLE HULK), while paving the ground for an epic crossover film. Warner Bros, regardless of the fandom anticipation, is starting JUSTICE LEAGUE from a base full of negatives.
• Christopher Nolan, at this time, wants no part of it.
• The Batman must be re-cast, and the character really should be rebuilt from scratch since Nolan's Bat-universe was more practical in tone, and less open to such fantasy elements that any intermingling with the DCU would necessitate.
• Both the GREEN LANTERN movie, and the WONDER WOMAN television project were failures.
• The rest of the DC superheroes, with the possible exception of The Flash, are not well-known or taken seriously enough outside of fandom to generate enthusiasm among prospective mass audiences. Therefore, a proper singular introduction in some form is prudent, rather than making any ensemble film too heavy with back-story, or origin exposition.

Basically, the DC heroes must ride the coattails of their Marvel counterparts, and Warner Bros must rely on the good will established by Marvel Studios to expand the tolerance of any who demand logical story structure and character development, while simultaneously banking on those fans who just want to see the DC characters up on the screen together, quality be damned.

They can claim not to have "copied" Marvel, but who's really gonna buy that? The fact is that there is money to be made, and DC/Warner Bros has been getting severely trounced in the race to exploit their various superhero properties.
Of course, a reverse order multi-franchise plan CAN work. However, I believe it to be the more difficult choice.

I don't mean to imply that a reverse approach to film franchises is impossible. I'm saying that Marvel did things in a smarter way, and perhaps the best way. From a storytelling standpoint, introducing an audience to characters such as these one or two at a time, allowing them to develop, is optimal. From a financial standpoint it also works, because each singular film becomes a less expensive tryout before committing to the epic team-up. Once it has been proven that audiences want to see each character based on their own merits, then the ensemble film is justifiable, along with the marquee actors' salaries, the bigger special effects, etc.. And with all the satellite franchises subsequently piggy-backing on release dates, feeding off of each other's success, the studio earns a rotating wheel of profits.

(Han Solo of STAR WARS was mentioned as an example of a character beginning as part of a group dynamic, and becoming such a scene-stealing hit as to be worthy of his own adventures as a result.  This example was cited to support the argument that JUSTICE LEAGUE's characters could follow this template, provided that the ensemble movie highlights individual characters well enough.)   With a property like STAR WARS, it's a slightly different dynamic. With the immense popularity of Han Solo, Luca$ could have spun that character off into a possibly lucrative sub-franchise (I'm pleased that he didn't.). But in this case, the original story structure revolved initially around the Luke Skywalker character, following his journey and arc as he collected other characters along the way (This is similar to most Quest storylines, like that of THE WIZARD OF OZ, and THE LORD OF THE RINGS.). The ensemble is assembled as a function of narrative progression, and occasionally you get "break-out" characters. Han Solo is an example of a breakout character.  This holds true as well for Fox Studios' X-MEN franchise, where The Wolverine is the breakout character, able to sustain his own spin-off franchise.

THE DIFFERENCE IS that with THE AVENGERS, each of the main characters is a LEAD, with a separate and self-contained adventure generated independent of the group, and preexisting the formation of the group. Cap had his own personal history that was chronicled before he joined The Avengers. Conversely, Nightcrawler only came to light as part of The X-Men, and his back-story is, intriguing or not, initially based on that association.
So, this has become the challenge of the JUSTICE LEAGUE movie project, at least in part. Most of the League is comprised of lead characters collected into a group dynamic, just like The Avengers. Marvel executed their plan marvelously, a plan which, again, is optimal.  It's not impossible to launch JUSTICE LEAGUE by working inside-out.  I'm saying it's more difficult.  I'm saying that the challenge is made harder because most cynics will see it as a cash-grab, therefore the filmmakers must exercise greater diligence toward quality. I'm saying that many of the film-making solutions, and part of any success for JUSTICE LEAGUE will be owed to all the hard work that MARVEL has done.  I'm saying that, with the negatives I listed above, the JL machine is already starting the race at a decided disadvantage, having to start over while the opponent has completed several laps, and is only gaining momentum."

Thoughts?  ...Anyone?   ...Anyone?  ...  ... Bueller?