Oh, really? "GODDESS!"
Somewhat surprised by which X-man I'd be...

You are Storm!

You are very strong and very protective of those you love. You are in tune with nature and are
very concerned with justice and humanity. Unfortunately, certain apprehensions and fears are very hard for you to overcome, and can often inhibit you when most need to be strong.
Which X-Men character are you most like?
brought to you by Quizilla
Dean-lo discussed approaches for critical reviews for comics in his blog a few days back. Here's my personal approach.

Though I don't normally do this with comics, when forced to come up with constructive criticism, I break my analysis down like this: Story & Storytelling.

- Plot
- Characters
- Theme

It ALWAYS starts with the story for me. This is why I started collecting Sandman at Issue #3, and hunted down back issues immediately (they were still on the shelf, mwa-ha-ha). I was convinced that despite my interest in the stories, the types of stories being told, and the way that they were told... Sandman was doomed to extinction. Then by issue #7, I was shocked that I couldn't buy it because I HAD TO WAIT FOR THE RE-ORDERS. Other people were buying it, enough to cut into MY COPIES!

KHAAAAN!! <--- Star Trek: Wrath of Khan reference.

It's because if this that I believe that having strong stories is key to the growth of the industry, MORE than "cool art" with lots of T&A. Just look at the sales of Sandman...

However, the story has to be told well. That leads me to...

- Images (Quality of Art, Artistic Idiom, Panel-to-Panel Transitions)
- Words (Quality of Scripting, Placement and Balloon / Caption Choice, Script Flow)

IMAGES. Can a comic book be done WITHOUT any words? Sure, I've seen it done (ignoring the necessity of having some words in the art itself, such as the words on a billboard sign, or a spray-painted epithet on an inner-city brick wall). Most of the time, they have to rely on cop-outs like someone writing a letter that you read over your shoulder... or lots of action without 'sound effects'.

Quality of Art. To be done WELL, art basics should be satisfied - line quality, perspective, proportion, body language, facial expressions, panel composition, etc. Perspective and proportion problems plague many amateur efforts. Body language and facial expression problems can sometime distract you from the story. It's like a

Artistic Idiom. Hyper-realistic art? Minimalist art? Cartoony Art? Richly detailed backgrounds, or stark abstract backgrounds? Wide cinematic panels, or borderless pages? All these can be employed to tell the story and emphasize the conflict of the storyline, and reinforce the underlying tone of the storytelling. Sometimes it's a polished, cohesive whole. Sometimes it's a mish-mash of techniques that serve to dazzle... but ultimately come across as disjointed and gimmicky.

Panel-to-panel Transitions Also referred to as page composition, this is the SEQUENTIAL aspect of SEQUENTIAL art... another funky term for comics, coined by Will Eisner (I believe). The choice of panels (wide, narrow, short, tall, bordered or borderless) and transitions (moment-to-moment, subject-to-subject, action-to-action, etc.) also serves to control the pacing of scenes and helps to reinforce tone and theme. The worst examples of this leave me scratching my head, thinking "who is this character talking, and how did he end up there?" or "which panel do I read next?" The best examples slide effortlessly through the story.

WORDS. The other half of the powerful Images & Words combination of comics. They communicate what pictures would be hard pressed to do. Dialogue. Internal monologues. It's like the sound portion of a movie, except that you can use captions and thought balloons, and a variety of other techniques to things like establish setting, add depth to character, or move scenes forward.

Quality of Scripting. Word choice, an ear for speech patterns and dialogue. Awareness of grammar rules (even if you have to break them, you gotta know 'em) and spelling. Appropriate use of vocabulary. There's nothing like a caption or word balloon that perfectly complements a panel or series of panels. And there's nothing like having that effect marred by the misuse of "your" or "you're". KHAAAAN!!!

Balloon Choice & Placement. Choosing not have captions. Choosing to use thought balloons. There's a wide variety of tools that you can choose, or not choose to tell your story. These choices will also impact the tone and overall narrative flow of the story. The placement is also key. Sometimes a critical image is obscured or crowded out because of too many words, or because the balloon placement leads to being read out of sequence. Done well, you can almost "hear" the narrator, characters, and surroundings in a powerful sequence.

Script Flow. Sometimes, choosing all the options leads to a jumble. It's like having the narrator and the characters speeches and thoughts all happening at once, or in a confusing sequence. Sometimes it seems like the words are at war with the images, instead of acting in concert to deliver the overall storyline and enhance the storytelling experience.
The preceding strips came from Liberty Meadows. Go there and read. Actually, they were strips that were censored by the syndication company that handled Frank Cho's Strip. Because he got tired of that (among other things) he's now part of the Image Comics family.

Here's another set.

Dean, this was NOT the reason I liked to get up early in HongKong to exercise. You must believe me.

Perhaps Pokethulhu had some basis after all?

Goodnight kids!
Interesting Pickup Line

It wreaks havoc with my table width, but so what - I like it.

Now That's Just... Hm....
Being the GM of a Role-Playing Game is a lot like being a Writer. And an Editor. Of a shared world anthology. Where some of the contributors may not have read the anthology bible. And where the writing, editing, and unfolding of the story of the shared world is done live.

And somewhere along the line, you're supposed to have fun.

Me, I like to watch my players struggle with the mysteries and monkeywrenches that I drop into the story line... oh, pooh. My delete button ain't working.
Have you seen the new Honda ad? If not, check here.

Finished? Believe it or not, there was no trick photography according to the Daily Telegraph.
Six hundred and six takes it took, and if they had been forced to do a 607th it is probable, if not downright certain, that one of the film crew would have snapped and gone mad.

On the first 605 occasions something small, usually infuriatingly minute, went just slightly awry and the whole delicate arrangement was wrecked. A drop too much oil there, or here maybe one ball-bearing too many giving a fraction too much impetus to the movement. Whirr, creak, crash, the entire, card-house of consequences was a write-off and they had to start again.

Thanks to Drei A. for the tip-off.

Back in High School & College, I used to have an alarm clock radio. This used to be very important to me, because it would wake me up with the news and the latest music tracks (depending on which radio station I'd chosen to leave it on before I went to sleep).

I'd usually set it to one of those rock & roll radio stations. No sense waking up to something that was gonna put me to sleep. Plus, the DJ's often had some wild & wacky stuff to talk about in the morning. It got my mind humming and the mental gears turning before I was fully awake. On days that it was VERY important to get up on time, I'd set the dial to one of the Spanish radio stations. There's nothing like hearing Mexican "Banda" blaring at 6AM in the morning to wake you up in a very panicked state.

*blaring song* "Me gusta jugar al futbol!"
*wide awake* "What the- ?"

Nowadays I don't listen to music all that much. Is bad. Is very bad. Despite the annoyance of a last song syndrome, I miss being able to hear the nuances of music, and being able to identify orchestral hits or strings mixed in with percussion, etc...

Add to Shopping List: Alarm Clock Radio. Hopefully one that plays CDs too.
Yeah, the soreness in my arms and shoulders tells me that my first practice in Arnis in a LOOOOOOONNNNNGGG time is successful.


JASON, is that YOU?
Ran into Jason B. while waiting for Sir Marc to show up and teach Arnis. Turns out he stays in the same condo-apartment as K8. It's a small world after all...