Back onto the Star Turtle we go!!
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The Shepherd's Crown is the 41st Discworld novel... but not the 41st Discworld book. If we include books like the four Science of Discworld books, the two children's books Where's My Cow? and The World of Poo, and the short stories/writings all collected in A Blink of the Screen, the number of Discworld books is probably more like "somewhere between forty and fifty." I'm not 100% sure, but I think that would make the Discworld series the longest fantasy series ever, at least that was written by one single person. Or if not, it's at least up there. There have been series with more books, but they have usually been shorter and/or been written by more people.
It's also the sixth YA Discworld book, the fifth book in the Tiffany Aching series, and the eleventh book about the Discworld Witches and their undisputed not-a-leader-honestly, Granny Weatherwax. Twelfth if you include the The Sea And The Little Fishes story as a separate book.
But however else you want to put it, this is the last one.
Let's just start with the cover:
Now that's a nice cover. It's done, of course, by our old friend Paul Kidby, and while this probably isn't his best cover ever (The one for Night Watch beats most of them) it looks great. It's Tiffany Aching, as we've come to know her -- but no longer the little girl she was in the beginning; she's definitely an adult woman now. If I'm to guess, she's probably in her early twenties here, given that she was seventeen in the previous book, and there tends to pass a few years between books.
But she hasn't changed more than we've come to know her; she still wears pale green, and she's still accompanied by the irrepressible Nac Mac Feegle -- the main source of wild rowdiness and comedy relief of the books. Imagine a race of hard-drinking, violent Smurfs, who will fight anything bigger than them, steal anything that's not nailed down (and if it is nailed down, they'll steal the nails) and speak in Scottish accent. While Tiffany is the unquestioned central character in the book and the Nac Mac Feegle are usually there more for comedy relief than anything, they add a lot of energy and fun to the books.
There's also a white cat, probably Granny Weatherwax's cat "You" (as in "Stop that, You," or "Get down from there, You,"), which was given to her by Tiffany a few books back.
Let's open the book and see what waits us inside!
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Next post up soon....
Wow... I've neglected this journal for some time. I don't really have an excuse for it, except there's been so many other things to do lately, and, well, long story short, I forgot.
Now, I have for a couple of months been meaning to do a reaction review here of Ryk E. Spoor's novel Polychrome, which is all about my favorite character from the Oz books, Polychrome the Rainbow's Daughter. If you remember my drawing of my eleven favorite Oz characters, Spoor commented on its DeviantArt page, we got to exchanging a few comments about the development of Polychrome from book to book (she is probably the one Oz character who changes and develops the most, even if she remains fundamentally the same), and he mentioned that he had this novel coming out. I decided that I would check it out when it came out, and a couple of months ago I found that it was indeed on sale from Amazon.
So I bought the e-book and was about to read it when I thought: Wait! This novel feels like one I could have a Reaction Review to! I should do the same as I did for Peter Pan's Neverworld and read it little by little, and write down my thoughts as I read!
Problem with that was that I was in the middle of preparations for the summer LARP, and all sorts of other things were happening, so I put it off for a week, and then for another week, and... you get the picture.
And now, here I am with a Reaction Review at last... but, as you might have guessed from the title it's not for Polychrome.
Now, I will get to Polychrome later on, but I'm sure the Rainbow's Daughter (and her author) will forgive me for the delay when I say that the book I'm reation.reviewing is Terry Pratchett's last-ever Discworld novel. The fifth and final Tiffany Aching book.
Now, for the last few Pratchett books, ever since Nation, really, I've bought the digital-download audiobooks rather than the print books; I really like audiobooks, and Stephen Briggs's magnificent vocal performance fits Pratchett like a glove. Plus, we know that Pratchett's last few books were written through dictation and speech-to-text programs, and this resulted in an altered writing style; less polished an more rambly, and just a lot more suited to be heard rather than read.
I was fully intending to buy the audiobook for Shepherd's Crown too... but wouldn't you know it, the ruddy thing hasn't been made available for my country yet. Or rather, the full, unabridged Stephen Briggs version hasn't -- it's possible to get the abridged Tony Robinson version. But though Tony Robinson is a great actor and I thoroughly enjoyed him as Baldrick in Blackadder and the Sheriff of Nottingham in Maid Marian and her Merry Men (watch that show! It's like a kids' version of Blackadder and a magnificent spoof of the Robin Hood mythos!), I don't really like abridged audiobooks. You get the basic story, but so much nuance, humor and character is lost when you cut out all the "unnecessary" parts. And Pratchett's work is so much about the nuance, humor and character.
So I had three options:
1: Get the abridged version anyway and at least get the story. (Could do, but would I want my first impression of the story to be a version with more than a third cut out?)
2: Wait until I could get the Stephen Briggs version, in some way. (But who knows when that could be; could be only a few days, could be ages! Could I stand the wait?!)
3: Buy the e-book version and read it as a text.
As you see, I went for option number 3.
And then it struck me: This book is special. It's the last ever trip to the Discworld, at least with Terry Pratchett as our guide. His daughter Rhianna, now the keeper of the world and its inhabitants has said there won't be any more books -- adaptations and supplementary material, yes, and there's that Ankh-Morpork City Watch TV series I keep hearing about, which I'll certainly follow with interest (CSI in the Discworld!), but this will be the final time we have a new, full and complete Discworld book. It deserves a bit of extra attention.
So I'll be doing a reaction-review to it. Same format as before; one chapter at a time, five chapters per post. I expect this will be a lot more positive than my review for Neverworld, though... hoo boy, that book was a mess.
The Shepherd's Crown is nineteen chapters, plus a prologue and an epilogue. So what I'll do is divide the review into four posts, five chapters for each... well, prologue plus five chapters in the first post, then five chapters each for the second and third post, and the fourth and final will have four chapters, an epilogue and a final review. That sound good? Okay.
Once more, then, onto the Disc, onto the back of Great A'Tuin the Star Turtle... once more to the Ramtops and to the witches.
And of course, this won't be a real goodbye. Because, to paraphrase A. A. Milne, the Discworld will always be there... and anybody who is Friendly with Witches, Wizards, Dwarfs, Trolls, Goblins, Nac MacFeegles, and Corporal Nobby Nobbs, can find it.
This year, I present my interpretation of Gilbert O'Sullivan's classic song Ooh-Wakka-Doo-Wakka-Day, once again trying my hand at recording an a capella song. Okay, it has nothing to do with Norway or constitutions, and it doesn't sound anywhere near as good as when Gilbert O'Sllivan sings it, but in my humble opinion it's not bad for something put together in what was probably six or seven hours (I worked on it a few hours last night, and a couple hours before I posted it, hence the "probably")... and besides, it was fun to dol
And here are the lyrics, if y'all want to sing along with me. I've made a couple of very minor changes to the original lyrics (I swapped out two words or something) just because I wanted it to rhyme a little better -- plus I repeat the final chorus because it just sounds like the sort of chorus that should be repeated -- but the credit for writing this glorious piece of vaguely surreal nonsense belongs to Mr. O' Sullivan.
(I might as well do),
And you should meet her
She's got a brother,
You wouldn't think to look at me that I was strong,
Now, up in Bradford,
Who's that lady I saw you with?
It's not surprising when you come to think of it,
Now if you love me,
You come to tea, then
You come to tea, then
AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER.
Terry took Death’s arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.
You just can't put it any better than that. See you later, Great A'Tuin.
...and just because it wouldn't be a proper tribute to Terry Pratchett if it didn't end on something silly, here is my drawing of Nobby Nobbs in civilian clothes:
And I don't just mean the fact that Hollywood as of late have made it their goal to bring back and milk all franchises for what they're worth (though perhaps the number of reboots and re-hashings are a bit high), but the unavoidable whining that comes from online fans with each and every one. Especially if the reboot tries to do something different -- know that new Ghostbusters movie they're making, with four women as the ghostbusting team instead of the traditional four men? Hooooooo boy, has there ever been a lot of whining about that. Even before the movie has started filming, old fans are crying their eyes out (and spouting some rather misogynistic drek in the process) because oh no, their childhoods have been ruined! RUINED I TELLS YA!
You might have seen this meme-riffic poster making its rounds around the Internet:
Seriously. These people actually thought that "Stop making it about you when it's really all about MEEEEEEEEE" was a good argument.
Let me just get one thing straight. Your childhoods are not ruined. Quite apart from the fact that if Ghostbusters was the only thing worthwhile about your childhood then said childhood must have been quite a hellish time and I'm really sorry for you...the female Ghostbusters haven't gone back in time to retroactively make it so that your precious childhood never included the original. Nor, to my knowledge, is Sony Pictures planning to recall all the existing DVDs and videos of the original movies and cartoons and change them George Lucas style so that the old guys are no longer there. So for fuck's sake, stop whining so fucking much every time someone tries something new.
It's not just Ghostbusters either. You can't go anywhere on the net, or hear about anything new or innovative in the entertainment industry, be it the umpteenth sequel to an old franchise or something new altogether, without a whole bunch of people complaining that this isn't what they had in their childhoods and the new things suck and by the way THEIR CHILDHOODS ARE RUINED because the Ninja Turtles have noses in the newest Michael Bay movie or whatever. And let's not get into how whenever new kids' stuff comes out there's an outbreak of people complaining that kids' entertainment today SUCKS, not like it was when they were kids when everything was good and awesome and brilliant.
Thing is, though? Most of the time it wasn't. Most of the time it was about the same level of quality as today, it was just you who had yet to develop proper critical thinking because you were a child and would accept any rubbish you were offered as long as it seemed fun or cool enough. And now you're remebering it all in a rose-tinted cloud of nostalgia, the same cloud that makes you genuinely think that everything was so much better before.
I don't buy that it was better before. And I've re-seen a lot of the kids' entertainment I used to be obsessed with as a kid -- some of it, like for example Fraggle Rock, still holds up, while a lot of it doesn't. I mean, really, nostalgia is the only reason why some of these shows are still remembered fondly at all.
But let's say someone got the idea to reboot Fraggle Rock (they've been talking about a movie for ages, and there's the CGI Doozers series, which really isn't anywhere near as good even if it does try) and change it up completely, would I then go online and scream about my ruined childhood? No, because my childhood was so much more than TV programs... and besides, even if the reboot should happen to be terrible, then the old show will still be there.
Nostalgia can be a dangerous thing, especially if it grounds you too much to the past and stops you from accepting or trying out new things. It's one thing to honor the classics of the past, but don't get so caught up in them that you can't see the value of the things that are happening now.
(PS: A team of female Ghostbusters is a great idea, even if I'm not a huge fan of the original movies... frankly I thought the cartoon was better.)
This song is from the 90s cartoon, The Spooktacular New Adventures of Casper, which was loosely based on the 1995 movie Casper, and is one of the best incarnations of Casper the Friendly Ghost ever to grace the small screen. For one thing, while it was sloppily animated, it completely avoided the saccharine overtones usually associated with the character; the stories and dialogue were surprisingly solid, the voices were good, there was some really fun meta-humor and even Casper had a bit more of an edge to him without ever losing the fundamental "friendly ghost" aspect.
The ones who stole the show were of course Casper's uncles, the Ghostly Trio.
And the first I even saw of the show was the skit/song "Good Morning, Dr. Harvey," in which Casper tries to talk to his shrink. This song got stuck in my head, so I finally wrote it down, and I thought that I might as well post it here. So, here it is:
STINKIE & FATSO:
STINKIE & FATSO:
STINKIE & FATSO:
STINKIE & FATSO:
STINKIE & FATSO:
STRETCH, STINKIE & FATSO:
STRETCH, STINKIE & FATSO:
If you want to check out the show... well, you could do a lot worse. Okay, seeya!
A few spoilers in the following conversation, plus a not-too-meticulous going through of plot points, but it sums up my feelings about the movie pretty well:
<@Roo> Oh, and I saw the third Hobbit movie yesterday.
<@Roo> It was like "well, that was a big waste."
<@Roo>And yes, Smaug's demise was an anticlimax in the book as well, but this was pretty much just calling attention to what big an anticlimax he was.
<@Roo> And then the wood elves show up and ally with the humans, and then Billy Conolly shows up in the lead of a huge dwarf army and tells everyone to bugger off, and then Gandalf shows up and says "you cheeseheads, orcs are gonna attack, why are you fighting in between yourselves?".
<@Roo> (I like Bofur. ^_^)
<@Roo> Anyway, that's when the orcs attack and there's a huge battle, and Thorin hallucinates drowning in gold, which makes him change his mind and go "We gotta help the others against the orcs, yo!"
<@Roo> I may or may not have made up the "yo" part.
<@Roo> "IF THIS IS LOVE I DON'T LIKE IT TAKE IT AWAY!"
<@Roo> And Fili kinda just... dies. The rest of the dwarves live, though.
<@Roo> Well, the movies have one huge advantage: There are actually a couple of female characters in it. ^_^
So there you have it! The movie was decent, though I feel that I've sort of had my fill of New Zealand-Middle Earth now. Six movies is enough. (Actually, it's probably one too many, given that a lot of fans and even Peter Jackson himself have shown clear signs of Tolkien-fatigue.) It doesn't help that the movies have cranked up the "epic drama" a little too much; I noticed it especially in the last two Hobbit movies that Mr. Jackson maaaaaaaaay have taken the epic drama a little too far.
(To illustrate: The LOTR trilogy presented a world I could believe in; I could buy that people lived there, you know? People who walked those impressive halls every day and didn't give it a second thought because they were so used to them; there was room for normal life there. For the Hobbit movies this world was swapped out with one that just functioned to look as epic, dramatic and cool on the screen as possible, but which I couldn't buy people living their daily lives in. From the goblin caves to the Elf-king's hall, to Laketown; they looked like dramatic sets, not like someone's homes.)
Now I think I just want to go back to stories that are slightly less epically dramatic for a while.
(And don't worry, this isn't a prank; the sound file doesn't have swearwords or sudden loud noises or anything... I was just curious if anyone who didn't speak Norwegian understood any of it without a translation.)
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The Simpsons is one of those shows I still have sort of a soft spot for. Oh, it's pretty much just a shadow of what it was back in its heyday; characterizations are completely shot to Hell, the stories too often just try to be "wacky" instead of going for some actual wit, and it's very rare that it gets much of a laugh out of me... but the show never really offends me. I've yet to react with actual anger towards a Simpsons episode I've seen; at most it's been a headshake and a "How the mighty have fallen."
Which I can't say about Family Guy. Now, I'll admit it, I caught a fair deal of the episodes when the show was in its first season and I didn't hate it. I never loved it, but for the most part it was inoffensive enough -- the animation wasn't anything special, the characters (excluding Stewie) kinda bland and unmemorable and the scriprtwiters couldn't do comedic timing to save their lives, but it kept my interest enough that if I didn't have anything else going on I'd happily enough catch an episode... but then, especially after the cancellation and renewal of the show, the quality dropped.
And where The Simpsons dropped from an excellent show to a mediocre one, Family Guy started at mediocre and took a nose-dive into pure awfulness. Just about everything good about the show vanished, and everything bad increased tenfold. Shock value humor and painfully longwinded gags became the norm -- and convinced far too many "comedians" out there that the way to laughter is to milk your jokes for ten times of all it's worth.
But... well, a crossover between the two shows is a pretty big deal. They've mocked each other often enough, so I was genuinely curious as to what they might do in a crossover.
Well, sort of a crossover; it's really a Family Guy episode, written by the Family Guy staff and looking at the Simpsons and Springfield through Family Guy lenses. The Simpsons don't feel too off; they look, sound and mostly act as they should, but the world and the writing is still Family Guy, trying and failing to be The Simpsons.
That said, it's not actually a total failure. The double-length episode here has a lousy beginning and a lousy ending, but it has a surprisingly good and entertaining middle. Pretty much all the entertainment value here is to be found in that middle part, when the Griffins have entered Springfield and interact with the Springfieldians -- there's a pretty effective meta-commentary here where Homer and Peter begin arguing about their favorite beers, and the argument is point-for-point the same arguments made by fans arguing about the two shows, with accusations of whether Family Guy ripped off The Simpsons or were just inspired by it. The entire thing leads to a plagiarism lawsuit that's still ostensibly about the beers but is really about the two shows. That part was effective and well-done.
Of course, it sort of all comes to a big fat nothing when the ending is a seven-minute-long Peter VS Chicken fight, just with Homer in the place of the chicken. Sigh. I get that you felt you had to have Peter and Homer duke it out, but why did it have to be seven freakin' minutes of the two beating one another to bloody pulps while destroying much of Springfield? It's not funny, it's not entertaining, and like all the chicken fights it drags. I realize of course that I'm probably not the right person to speak about the chicken fights, as I'm not a fan of Family Guy and fight scenes tend to bore me (though I'm more tolerant of them now than I used to be), but still... when I keep looking at the episode timer and thinking "is it done yet? Is it done yet?" I'd say that's a sign the episode is failing.
However, and not surprisingly, the worst part of the episode is the beginning, before the Griffins get to Springfield and the crossover officially starts -- because this is one of the lousiest manipulative moves I've seen a TV show make.
Let me explain. Seth McFarlane and Family Guy have often enough been accused of sexism, right? Not only that, but it's been wholly deserved in my book; it's done as "tee hee, aren't we cheeky, oh get a sense of humor, it's just a joke" type of fratboyish humor, with a bit of joking about rape thrown in because that's so delightfully offensive. (Seriously, guys. Rape is a very sensitive subject and "it was a joke" does not automatically make you seem like any less of a douchebag, neither do long explanations of why people shouldn't be offended by it or why they need senses of humor.) Well, despite this, I was willing to give the showrunners the benefit of the doubt here; they're trying to be funny and just don't realize how painfully unfunny and immature they come across, they're not actually malicious and probably jolly decent blokes all around, let's all have ice cream.
How wrong I was.
In the "trailer" for the crossover that was put up a couple of months before the episode aired, there was a segment of Bart teaching Stewie to do one of his famous prank calls to Moe's Tavern. Stewie, not getting the gist of it, calls up Moe and says "your sister is being raped" before hanging up. Now, it's pretty obvious what they were going for here; the joke (such as it is) being that Stewie fails at prank calling -- it's pretty typical Family Guy humor; a sort of crass non-joke where the scriptwriters try to pretend that offensiveness equals comedy because that's easier to write. Lazy writing and lazy comedy all around, nothing new.
And of course, when the trailer hit the internet, a lot of bloggers, especially of feminist blogs, did take offense at this "joke," writing about it and citing it as yet another example of the misogyny and rape-jokeyness of Seth McFarlane and Family Guy. THe bloggers pointed out that there was absolutely no reason to use the word "rape" when literally any other non-funny comment would have made the exact same point ("Moe, your bar was demolished!" or "Moe, you have a stupid name!" or "Moe, I got your credit card numbers and have just emptied your bank account!" are just three I can think of off the top of my head) -- but no, of course Stewie had to use the word "rape" because teeheehee, aren't we offensive, get a sense of humor, it's just a word.
There wasn't really a huge outrage here, mind you -- mostly it was some grumbling and sighing, a couple of "why haven't these douchebags gone off the air yet?" and a few fairly patient "look, here's why being offensive is not the same as being funny." Very few bloggers seemed genuiely outraged about it, and this is likely because absolutely nobody expected anything better from Family Guy. The joke wasn't anything they hadn't already done dozens of times before.
But it seems like Family Guy were counting on there being a huge outrage -- because the opening of this crossover involves Peter becoming a cartoonist for no reason and angering feminist bloggers with sexist and offensive jokes. Leading to a number of gags where the show, in an impressively passive-aggressive way makes it plain just how oversensitive and unreasonable these feminists are, with comments like these:
"It's not just a joke, Peter--it's a joke that angered some bloggers!"
"Do you really think this is an appropriate comic to run on Gloria Steinem's half-birthday?"
"It wasn't even funny and I have a great sense of humor." (This last one is said by a particularly whiny-sounding woman.)
Peter is of course his usual crass self and makes more sexist and offensive jokes before lamenting that he just wanted to make people laugh - and then the feminists hurl bricks and make the Griffins feel unsafe in their own home, which is why they flee the city and end up in Springfield for the crossover.
Now, my first instinct here to all this was something along the line of "Sheeeeeeeeesh, your fragile egos really can't handle a bit of criticism, can they? This is Douchey McNitpick all over again -- portray your critics as whiny, oversensitive and unreasonable losers, that way their criticisms come across as worthless!" And yeah, I know it's tempting to make fun of your critics, but it's pretty immature nonetheless...
But then I realized something. An animated show takes time to produce. And it's not as though it usually airs the same day it was finished, either. This episode was written, animated, voice-acted and quite possibly mostly if not completely finished by the time they put out that trailer. And yet the episode included a parody of reactions from the feminist bloggers. I don't think it was a coincidence that they had Stewie make that "rape" joke, or that they made sure to put it in the trailer.
What I think they were trying to do here was to intentionally provoke a reaction. They wanted to offend, and most particularly they wanted to offend the feminist bloggers. "After all," they might have said to themselves, "remember Seth's Oscar speech? Hooo boy, those bloggers got angry at that. They said he wasn't even funny! Well, this time, we'll be prepared! Let's give 'em something they're sure to write angry rants about, and then have that part as a prominent bit of the promotion of the crossover! They'll get so angry, and they'll call us sexist and unfunny -- and then when the episode itself airs those comments will be mocked in such a way that they will seem like the villains here! Yeah, we'll really expose them as over-sensitive, humorless whiners who attack poor, innocent us, we who just want to make everybody laugh! It's brilliant! It can't fail!"
Okay, probably they didn't put it quite like that, but you can't tell me that this entire thing wasn't intentional. They knew they were going to offend, and they were hoping to offend, so that they could shout down the offended parties and look like the victims in all this.
You're cleverer than I thought you were, Family Guy writers. I'll admit that. But you're not as clever as you think you are. That ploy was not only a douchey move, it was pretty obvious. Not cool, dudes. Not cool.
In fact, I first started drawing digitally back in 2008, when I got my first Wacom Bamboo art tablet, and pretty much never looked back since (Here's my post from back then, where I compare drawing digitally with drawing on paper). Three years later, in 2011, I upgraded to a Wacom Intous, which was an even better art tablet (I posted about that too). I had lots of fun with both of them, going through three versions of Photoshop before landing on Manga Studio as my go-to drawing program. I still have a certain fondness for those tablets... I think the Bamboo's gone out of production since then, but I still hold that anyone wanting to give digital drawing a try could do a lot worse than to check out the Intous. It takes some getting used to, drawing on the tablet and having the line show up on the screen in front of you instead of where you're drawing, but it's not as hard to get used to as you might think.
But, of course, I always did hope that one day I would be able to get a Wacom Cintiq -- the Holy Grail for artists like me. A tablet with its own screen that you could draw directly on. But of course Cintiqs are freakin' expensive; on my budget I couldn't afford one... and it was even too expensive for me to be comfortable asking for a "combined Christmas/birthday present" like I had with both the Bamboo and the Intous.
Now, last Christmas, I got a Surface Pro, which incidentally is my first tablet computer. Before that I only had a laptop and an iPod Touch -- tablets were getting more and more common, but I didn't have one... until last Christmas. Yes, it was another combined Christmas and birthday present. Everyone else in the family had iPads or Samsungs (in fact, one of my great-uncles, thanks to winning a contest, had one of Norway's first iPads!), but I asked for the Surface Pro because it came with a stylus, had Wacom drivers and could be used as an art tablet. Unlike the iPad, it could be used as a good art tablet. (I didn't make a specific post about it, but I did mention it briefly in this post, where I posted one of the first drawings I made on the device.)
The Surface Pro was a neat little device; it worked well with Manga Studio and I loved that I could basically take it to bed with me and read online fiction before going to sleep. (This was an extension of a joke I made back in high school, all about how handy computers were and how many books you could fit in one -- "So handy to read in bed" I'd say, with a motion towards the huge monitor that certainly would not be handy to take to bed with you. Nowadays with laptops and tablets it actually is handy.) And as an art device it was pretty sweet too; for the first time I had an art tablet with a screen that I could draw on.
And that's where things were... until now. My financial situation had improved a bit, and I found that for once... I actually had money. Not only that, but I had enough money for my Holy Grail, a Cintiq. I went back and forth on the issue for some time, reading online reviews and checking prices, going: "Hmm, I can afford it, but it's still a lot of money to pay.... but it is like the top artist tablet around... though I do still have my Surface Pro 2, which I really like, so I don't really need a Cintiq... but I kinda really want one, and it might help with the drawing assignments..."
I'll spare you the rest of my wavering. The point is that after some talking to a couple of friends (who all basically said "get the Cintiq!") I decided to get the Cintiq.
I went for a Cintiq Companion because I need the mobility. Not that I was planning on taking it out on trips or anything, but any other Cintiq models would have meant I was chaining myself to a desk in one spot of my apartment, and I like to be able to sit on the couch and draw. From what I learned of other Cintiqs, they were meant to stand on a desk and not be moved around much at all, and needed like three cables to hook up to a computer. So a Companion was simply the one that met my needs the best.
And last week, Tuesday to be exact, I got my new, 516GB Cintiq Companion. Like the Surface Pro, it runs Windows 8 and can be used as a tablet computer... but it's notably bigger and heavier, so it probably won't be doing much traveling.
So, after about a week of playing with the new Cintiq Companion, comparison comes naturally. How does it compare to the Surface Pro? Since I now have both devices, I can actually give my impressions and look at the pros and cons between the two.
Now, the Surface Pro I'm using is the Surface Pro 2 -- I haven't tested out the Surface Pro 3, but according to people whose opinions I generally trust (among them Reed Hawker, former runner of the MAX art exchange which I've been in for years), the Surface Pro 3 is "somewhat worse than the Surface Pro 2 when it comes to art stuff, but virtually everything else makes the Pro 3 better than its predecessor." So since I'm comparing them as art devices, I'm not feeling bad about focusing on the Pro 2.
So, how do they compare?! ...Aw, I'm not even gonna try to be coy here, as an art device the Cintiq Companion is better. I think it can be summed up like this: The Surface Pro is a tablet computer that can also be used as an art tablet, while the Cintiq Companion is an art tablet that can also be used as a (larger, bulkier) tablet computer. There's a reason why the Cintiq is constantly referred to as "the professional's choice" -- this thing was designed with artists in mind, and it really shows.
There's also the position of the on/off button, the speakers and the camera. On the Cintiq Companion the on/off button could not have been more awkwardly placed unless it was in the middle of the screen or something. They've placed it on the lower right, at the exact spot where it's natural to hold it to pick up. Especially when you're left-handed like me, it's in a place where your palm will constantly accidentally push it, and I did end up putting the tablet into sleep mode a few times before I adjusted my position and grip. (The buttons are customizable, so apparently it's possible to disable the button's off function, which should take care of the problem... but still there's no excuse for that button placement.) The camera's to one side, which makes no sense, and the speakers are on the bottom, where they'll get muffled if you draw with the Companion in your lap. On the Surface Pro, all these things are much more sensibly placed; especially the top placement of the on/off button is vastly superior.
And, most imporantly, the Surface Pro is like half the price of the Cintiq Companion. Which is a huge dealbreaker when you're on a budget. Besides, the Surface Pro is more versatile -- so if you're looking for something a little more like an actual laptop and/or tablet to write stuff on and surf the net, that can also be used as a handy art tablet, I'd say the Surface Pro will be the better, not to mention cheaper, choice. Especially if you have Manga Studio installed on it, because Manga Studio and Surface Pro is a very good combination... and perhaps get a replacement stylus for the flimsy one that comes with the tablet (I hear good things about the Bamboo Feel stylus, for instance). But even with the extra money spent on the type cover, the replacement stylus and Manga Studio (if you don't already have Manga Studio, that is), it'll still be significantly cheaper than the Cintiq, so you can't argue the value here.
(That said, it's a good investment, no matter which of the devices you use, to get an artist glove. Both tablets are generally good about distinguishing touch from pen, but having a glove makes it a little easier, and has the added bonus of eliminating the "hand friction" problem on the Surface Pro. But no point in buying one of those expensive "artist gloves"; just buy a pair of cheap cotton gloves, cut off the thumb and next two fingers -- and there you have your own artist's gloves that work just as well.)
There's also the bigger screen of the Cintiq Companion to consider. I'm not really a "bigger is better" advocate and often prefer working smaller -- but I can't deny that the Surface Pro screen can feel very cramped. With Manga Studio and other art programs, the tools and settings often take up like one-fifth of the already-small screen, leaving you with a tiny workspace. Of course, with the ease of which you can zoom in and out, this is not as big a problem as it might have been otherwise, but it still does kinda limit you when it comes to viewing your work in its entirety, especially if you're drawing big and elaborate pictures. With the Cintiq this is not a problem; the tools take up a smaller percentage of the screen and what you have left is a much bigger and more comfortable workspace; in fact, I checked, and with Manga Studio on the Cintiq, the workspace is almost exactly the size of the Surface Pro in its entirety -- in other words, about the size of a normal comic book page.(American format comics, that is.)
Also, the pen. The pen that comes with the Surface Pro is... not very good. It works just fine, but isn't very nice to hold, there is only one action button for it, and the "eraser" on top is flat, which makes for awkward erasing. (Buying a replacement stylus can at least give you a pen that's more comfortable to work with, but from what I see none of them have an on-pen eraser at all, and there's still only one button.) The Cintiq stylus is superior in every way; it's more comfortable to hold, it's not flimsy, the "eraser" part is rounded, and there are two action buttons.
It's much easier to control the line on the Cintiq, and the dreaded "Wacom wobble" (lines becoming wobbly when you draw them) is a much smaller problem; the lines come out smoother, more natural-looking and just all-round better. (The Cintiq has a higher level of pen pressure sensitivity too, though this is actually a smaller deal than a lot of artists make it out to be.)
In short, just about everything art-related is better on the Cintiq. It could have taken some cues from the Surface Pro about the placement of camera and on/off button, not to mention a built-in kickstand like on the Surface Pro would have been much better than the weird aluminum/rubber stand we get, even if we get three different positions as opposed to the Surface Pro's two. But it more than makes up for these shortcomings by being a great art tool.
So, when Sam (the owner of ComicDish) asked me which tablet I would pick of the two... I had to say to go with the Cintiq. If I'd been more needing of a normal tablet I might have gone with the Surface Pro, but I am going to use it primarily for art, and it's just the superior art tool. That said, I am planning on holding onto the Surface Pro. Smaller, lighter and more battery-efficient, it makes for a great "travel laptop" which is much easier to take along on journeys than my regular laptop -- which is a big, hulking, 17-inch-screen powerhouse of a gaming laptop. Pus, hey, I can use it for some on-the-go artwork if I get the inspiration!
And of course... here's my first finished artwork done on the Cintiq Companion, inspired by the fact that I've been reading the IDW Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics a lot lately:
Hello and welcome to another round of Roo's Reaction Reviews! If you remember, the first one of these I did was for To Boldly Flee, by the crew at "That Guy With The Glasses," and while that production did have its moments (I was pleasantly surprised by the climax), I was overall not very impressed. The people at TGWTG aren't exactly what I'd call talented when it comes to comedy, filmmaking or acting -- and when you're trying to make a comedy film, it sort of doesn't help that half your "jokes" are pointless references to better movies, the script is hokey and clichéd, the dialogue painfully unfunny, the satire about as subtle as a blow to the head with a hammer, and almost the entire cast is in dire need of acting lessons.
A lot of people said I was too harsh with To Boldly Flee, telling me that it was an amateur production that was "for the fans" and shouldn't be judged as a "real" movie -- but I don't buy that. Being an amateur production can excuse a lot of things; shoddy special effects, bad costumes, unconvincing settings, and I'll even be lenient with amateurish directing and acting. What it doesn't excuse is bad writing, lazy comedy, and thoroughly unlikeable protagonists. To Boldly Flee was filled with all these.
But today, I'm not looking at a TGWTG project. Today, I'm going to look at another amateur movie revolving around an Internet reviewer -- namely The Angry Video Game Nerd Movie, starring James Rolfe!
James Rolfe was, of course, also in To Boldly Flee, as a "surprise" cameo, but I won't hold that against him. See, unlike the majority of the TGWTG crew, James Rolfe actually knows how to act. Oh, he won't get any Oscars for Best Actor or anything, but he has a decent grasp on comedic timing, he actually knows how to emote, and he doesn't constantly fall back on screaming in a shrill voice while waving his arms about like he's swatting at invisible flies. Plus, with a few notable exceptions (the Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle review coning to mind) the AVGN videos generally haven't made me want to rant angrily at the computer.
The AVGN movie premiered this Summer, and had a limited theatrical run before it was just recently put up for rent on Vimeo. Well, I thought I could waste the five dollars to find out how it was... because I have a lot higher hopes for this than I ever had for the Nostalgia Critic's finale-but-oops-wait-it-wasn't-really-th
Will the Nerd deliver or will I be disappointed? Let's see. Vimeo's ready to go, and I start the movie... now!
What do you say, Sarah? Sound good?
Here, of course, we have He-Man on top of Battlecat, while Orko floats beside him, the Sorceress flies above, and Man-At-Arms and Teela stand together. I've given all the characters a slight redesign, drawn them more as how I think they might look if I'd been given the task of redesigning them. The Sorceress is the closest to her original Filmation character; the main difference is that she's bare-armed and that her outfit is white instead of multi-colored... because I think she looks better in white.
(I'm thinking of doing a picture with the core villains too; that'd be Skeletor, Evil-Lyn, Trapjaw, Beastman and possibly Merman. Basically the ones I presented back in my review of the Filmation cartoon!)
I believe I've mentioned, once or twice in the past, that I have a soft spot for the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe franchise.
Now, this doesn't mean that I think it's particularly good. In fact, as a concept it's pretty nonsensical and not all that thought.out; the classic toys are a mixed bag and the revamped toys (twice revamped!) even more so, and the classic eighties cartoon was hilariously bad. The reboot cartoon from 2002 was a lot more polished, with higher production values and less absurdities, but still had flaws and plot holes you could drive a truck through. But there's a certain charm to the franchise in all its cheesiness, and especially the '80s cartoon has a sort of quirky appeal with its unique blending of sci-fi and fantasy, which many other franchises have tried to imitate but few if any have managed to duplicate.
The characters may not make any "Top 10 Most Brilliant And Complex Heroes/Villains" lists, but they're darned likeable all the same. I always appreciated that He-Man, while hailed as a Paragon of Good and looking like a tanned, blonde Conan the Barbarian, was basically this laid-back guy who never took himself too seriously and had a witty comment about everything -- or how Skeletor, far from being your average gloomy Dark Lord, was this sniggering comic opera villain who always got the funniest lines but could still be a massive threat. (In fact, Skeletor was the highlight of the 2002 show because he was still joking around and cracking one-liners but was still a legitimate menace.)
There's been attempts at revamping Masters of the Universe -- or MOTU, to be cool -- again after the 2002 series failed to bring in the audience -- but seriously, apart from some good-looking toys (I still kinda want Orko from the "MOTU Classics" line) the attempts have been rather tragic. And why? Well, a big reason why is that without fail, they've all taken themselves much too seriously. The Image comics had some good artwork, but otherwise they were incredibly dull and (with a few exceptions) with no real character at all. I read the proposed script for the 2000-something MOTU movie, and it was terrible; just this generic and hyper-serious attempt at an "epic barbarian fantasy" with no similarity to the original franchise apart from some of the character names. I'm glad that movie was never made; it would have made the 80s live-action movie look positively brilliant by comparison. And that movie only had a handful of the familiar characters and much of it took place on Earth and starred two generic 80s teenagers. (They're still trying to make a movie, but hopefully it'll be at least a little less terrible.)
One revamp that was made, though, and is still ongoing, is the comic book series published by DC. And boy, is it bad. And it's not bad in a charming and entertaining way, like the 80s cartoon or to a lesser extent the 2002 cartoon -- they were at least fun. But the new DC incarnation of He-Man is just as joyless, humorless and plain out painfully bad as 95% of everything DC does these days.
Yeah, I've mentioned once or twice before that I think DC has pretty much lost all enjoyability, too. Personally I blame Batman -- one dark, brooding and "serious" hero gets popular, and so DC thinks that all their properties have to be dark, brooding and "serious." This it He-Man, for crying out loud! It should at least retain some camp factor! But no, the DC He-Man is just a disgusting and depressing tale of boring villains, unlikeable heroes (using the word "heroes" in the loosest sense here) and bleak, depressing storylines that makes you wish that a comet would just hit Eternia and end everybody's misery.
In fact, it feels a lot like they're trying to be Game of Thrones and failing miserably at it.
Yeah, not a fan.
But, today we're going to look at a spin-off/crossover between this MOTU incarnation and the rest of the DC Universe, from Keith Giffen (plot), Tony Bedard (script) and Pop Mhan (art):
Yeah, my initial reaction too was that this is a pretty much a rehash of this comic from the 'eighties:
The exact same concept, just made all serious and dramatic and "epic" and stretched out over six issues, and trying to pretend that it's for adults. I'll admit it, I don't have high hopes for this, but I'll try to give it a fair chance.
So let's see how it reads!
( Reaction reviews to all six issues behind the cut!Collapse )
No? Might just be me then.
With me it's sewing needles, or sewing kits. I didn't even recognize the pattern until this week, but it's been like this for years. I'll be out shopping for things and in one of the stores where they sell all sorts of minor things I'll find a sewing kit, or a sheet of sewing needles, and I'll go "sewing needles, and thread, I need that!" and then I'll buy them. Only to realize when I get home that I have tons of them already. Or, sometimes, I'll actually need a sewing kit, and not be able to find any needles or thread at home, and so I'll go out and buy some -- only to come back home and realize I wasn't looking in the right place, and I have tons already.
And, and this is the annoying part, still when I need a sewing needle I can't find one.
I mention this now because I'm going to another Summer LARP next week, and am sewing a new costume for myself. (I like sewing my own costumes, and I always sew them by hand... partly because I don't have a sewing machine and partly because hand-stitched costumes are just that much more authentic, especially when the LARP is medieval-fantasy.)
Oh well, at least I have needles enough for now!
Say hello to the first wave of heroines from IAmElemental! From left to right, we have Industry, Energy, Fear, Honesty (she's the one with the wings), Persistence, Enthusiasm and Bravery!
If you haven't heard of IAmElemental before, let me bring you up to speed: I Am Elemental Action Figures for Girls (link to the official website) is a toyline and potential franchise started by two American mothers named Julie Kerwin and Dawn Nadeau. Dissatisfied with the action figures available to their kids (especially the fact that female action figures are extremely rare, and the ones who do exist tend to be all about boobs).
Hang on, let me just quote Julie Kerwin here, she'll explain the basic idea:
It's not superheroes, it's superpowers. All the superpowers we could ever want or need are already inside each one of us. Instead of the periodic table of elements, humans have a whole other set of building blocks, the Elements of Power. Armed with this knowledge, we researched, planned and outlined a series of action figures, and then we searched out people with powers to share. Some helped us design our visual identity, and others helped us to personify the powers. Using Joan of Arc as a muse (because real heroes walk among us) we designed our first set of figures -- figures that embodied the components of courage, stood for character without being reduced to characters, were more heroine than hooters, and most important, were fun to play with.
So there ya have it. In a world where gender segregation is worse than ever in the toy market (toys weren't this gendered a couple of decades ago), it's great to see someone trying to buck that trend. I never subscribed to the idea that there should be exclusive toys for boys or girls, and IAmElemental seems a good start here. And also, one of their taglines is the coolest tagline ever: "We have superpowers -- want some?" You can't tell me that's not awesome.
Seems like a lot of people agree with me too, because the Kickstarter project to fund these toys went to 400% of their stated goal within two days. It really seems like people want to see this franchise and these toys!
Mind you, I'm not quite sure what Kerwin means means when she says the figures are meant to "standing for character without being reduced to characters." I mean... "reduced" to characters? I like characters! Characters are awesome!
And this leads to the big problem I have with this toyline.
I mean, don't get me wrong! I applaud the idea, it sounds really neat, and I like how this seems to be about the empowerment of everyone rather than the normal "these people are more powerful, and hence better, than you" thing I get from a lot of superhero-themed stuff. Not to mention, the boob-to-waist-to-hip ratio is much more realistic and makes the girls look more normally athletic than just sex fantasies.
But... well... These figures all look exactly alike! Apart from the color and the hairstyles and the accessories (which are interchangeable anyway) and small variations in what kinds of boots/gloves they wear, they're the exact same! Same body, same face, same blank expression. The only one that actually stands out a bit from the rest is Fear, and that's only because she's several shades darker than the rest and wears a mysterious hood. As for the rest of them -- remove the accessories (including Honesty's wings) and take a black-and-white photo, and then try to tell Enthusiasm from Energy, or Honesty from Persistence. Not easy, is it?!
I mean, it's probably an economical thing; it's much cheaper to have them share a mold than it would be to create a separate and distinct mold for every figure, but I dunno, since they managed to give them different boots and gloves, I kinda wish they'd bothered to give them different faces. Even the Ninja Turtles at least got different expressions!
For all the talk about "character," I'm not sure there's a whole lot of that there, since these figures are completely interchangeable. And each figure is basically just described by a vague "empowering" statement about it, which is less about character and more about, well, power.
Now, according to the creators, it's actually meant to be about the power -- these figures aren't individuals, but representations of the powers they symbolize, that is inside everyone: "In the IAmElemental universe, the girl herself is the superhero – and she has all the superpowers she will ever need already inside of her." Which is cool; I'm sort of envisioning a Herman's Head thing, or like in that new Pixar film that's coming out in 2015, Inside Out, where the action takes place inside the head of an eleven-year-old girl and the main characters are all physical representations of her emotions, such as Joy, Anger, Sadness and Disgust. (That movie sounds cool, by the way, I can't wait to see it.)
But I'm wondering if they might not be taking it a little too far when they start sneering at how "we live in a world where product tie-ins are a de facto part of the average media marketing plan, and children are spoon-fed a perfectly-packaged storyline with the purchase of every action figure," and ask "Why live vicariously through someone else? Why not be a real, live Superhero?"
Well... if you're going to put it like that, why have the action figures at all? Why not just... be the superhero yourself? This way it just sounds like "don't bother to buy these action figures, they're not even characters, and you should be a superhero yourself anyway so they're completely unnecessary." And I'm sure that's not what you want to say: after all, I thought the point of this was to have more action figures for girls, not to totally denounce the idea.
I know that if I was a little kid playing with these, I would want them to be characters. Not just abstract representations of aspects of myself, but separate characters with their own strengths and flaws, because that's what's fun. This might not be such a big problem, mind; when I was playing with dolls, action figures and toys when I was little I usually had no problems thinking up names, personalities and roles for them to play no matter if I actually knew their "official" names/personalities or not.
What's more, I think that girls need more characters, and more stories. Stories with characters that they can get to know, to identify with or learn from the mistakes of, characters that they can know on their own premises and not the boys' premises. Boys, by contrast, already have a ton of characters, of all types; characters they can admire or laugh at or see themselves in or identify with; see every single story or franchise ever. The girls? They get the "token girl" who is either the damsel in distress or the love interest/lust object, and often this is a "strong female character" which basically means that she has no flaws and is perfect, and a "role model." A role model who isn't actually a person, just a vague collection of "strengths" that ultimately isn't even there on her own premise, because her main role is to be admired by the boys.
What I would like to see, what I think girls deserve, is female characters that are allowed to be characters, that they can perhaps see themselves in. Characters that may be role models, but are allowed to be flawed, or silly, or fundamentally mistaken about something, or have trouble behaving themselves perfectly -- that are allowed to not be perfect, but can still be heroic. Because that might clue the girls in that they don't have to be perfect in order to be awesome. Goodness knows that the rest of society is going to put enough pressure on those poor girls to be "perfect" anyway.
So, since I think even adults need to play and pretend every once in a while, ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to make up some characters here, and present my interpretations of the seven Elements of Courage, as I think their personalities might be, based on their appearances, names and powers. To give them their own strengths and flaws and quirks.
( Meet the CHARACTERS under the cut...Collapse )