I have tried to force myself to read The Walking Dead comic book series twice now, and I just couldn’t get into it (and I’m saying this as a huge fan of the TV series based on it).
I tried reading it once years ago before the TV series was even being planned, and it just didn’t take. As a life-long zombie fiction fan, I didn’t find the vibe all that compelling. Now that I’ve watched the TV series and tried again to read the comic book series, the original just pales when compared to the adaptation. In comparison to the TV series, the comic books lack the depth and nuances I love about the TV series.
This perhaps isn’t a criticism of The Walking Dead comic books specifically–it’s more about how American comic books in general tend to have a specific convention of narrative and visual storytelling that never really appealed to me (yes, there are exceptions, but I’m talking about the average American comic book). The 24-pages per issue paradigm is terrible for building atmosphere, mood, subtlety, emotional depth, or allow the pacing enough breathing room so the entire narrative feels more like a natural organism instead of a bullheaded charge to check off plot points and dialogues before the page count runs out.
In comparison, mangas and European comics are much better in that regard, with far more breathing room for introspective moments and to build up atmosphere and mood, as well as a more sensible distribution of amount of dialogues per panel, accompanied by matching facial expressions, body language, and a variety of camera work.
With American comics, it’s common to have a barrage of dialogues all happening in one panel. It becomes this talking heads situation, where the flow of natural perceived time stops and we’re looking at a static image with tons of dialogues pasted in every empty space the illustration allows, sometimes even overlapping important parts of the illustration just to cram more dialogues in. This keeps happening page after page, and what’s worse, characters will spout off long dialogues even while in the middle of extraneous physical activity–such as punching the crap out of each other or in life or death situations. This kind of insensitivity to nuance, pacing, and context is detrimental to the perception of timing and atmosphere, and clumsy in its lack of subtlety and finesse.
Visually, I’m generally also not a fan of most American comic book artists’ choice of stylization. Many of them have this glaring deficiency when it comes to depicting normal looking characters; they either look like grimacing bodybuilders and pouting sex kittens, or they look like freaky psychopaths and inbred mutants. There’s very little subtlety, elegance, or charm in general. I would say that American comic book artists overall have much less evolved aesthetic sensitivity.
The truth is, I never really liked mainstream American comics all that much, even during the 8 years I worked professionally in that industry. I much preferred the indie stuff like Love and Rockets (the stuff by Jaime Hernandez, not his brothers), or the sophisticated adult stuff by guys like Neil Gaiman and the art school types like Jon J. Muth. As for art, other than the previously mentioned, I also like guys like Adam Hughes, Steve Rude, and a few others who draw in more natural styles that are relatively more elegant and graceful.
The reason I chose a career in comics in the first 8 years of my professional life as an artist and writer was mainly because of influences from mangas like Appleseed, mature comics like Sandman, and indie comics like Love and Rockets. The mainstream superhero stuff and the general storytelling and art style of typical American comics were always a negative aspect for me, and its dominance of the American comic book industry was part of the reason I eventually dropped out and never returned. I was always a part of the indie scene, and after a while, it just got tiring always being on the fringe and being disinterested with the majority of the developments in the industry that I never felt completely a part of. (There were other reasons too–you can read about them in my bio in the About Me section.)
I tried playing Star Wars: Force Unleashed, and I was surprised by how bad some of the animations were. The character animation was unnatural to the point where I wish they had just mocapped it all instead of using the clumsy looking key-framed animations. I think most people tend to think a big-name franchise would have very polished production associated with it, but that’s not really the case. The game feels a bit too simple–almost like a kiddie arcade game. After a couple of hours, I just got bored of it. I’m probably not its target audience in the first place.
I have been enjoying the hell out of Dead Island. Even though it’s got some obvious issues such as weird bugs, or terrible NPC facial animation, not much of a story, and lots of side-quest fillers, it’s the gameplay itself that’s got me hooked. If you only played the resort section, you won’t understand this, but in the city section, the game becomes a lot more intense–especially later on in the city when you are constantly surrounded and overwhelmed.
I love the feeling of running scared and looking for a car to jump onto when multiple infected are shrieking and running full speed at me from all directions. Very few games can make me panic like that–where I actually fear for my life. Even the loss of money when I die is enjoyable–a form of motivation to try as hard as I can to survive.
I also really enjoy the weapons system–to be able to modify them, and maintain them with repairs, or to upgrade them. With so many weapons available, you have to constantly make decisions on which ones to sell off, drop, upgrade, or keep. Some weapons have much longer reach than others, and I always make sure I have at least one, so when I’m on top of a car, I can still hit the zombies. Shorter weapons cannot reach them at all, but they tend to be more deadly in general. Guns are surprisingly weak compared to melee weapons, but then again, the way the weapons are ranked in the game makes no logical sense whatsoever anyway.
I just made my way into the jungle (finally! Took forever, and it’s very frustrating to not be able to advance a quest due to the “triggering” event happening so much later in the game. This is a glaring design problem), and I think that’s the last third of the game. After I finish it, I’ll likely start Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
Quickie TV/movie reivews:
Entourage (series finale) – This show has been a guilty pleasure, and I’m a little disappointed by the way the series wrapped up, since the plot development was a bit abrupt. For example, the entire courtship between Vince and his wife-to-be was completely skipped over, and that could have been an interesting development to see Vince finally growing up and find true love. I really liked the final scene though–where Ari is once again being tempted by ambition and power, after what seemed to be a final wake-up call and enjoying life in the sun. I think he’d go for it, because a leopard can’t change its spots.
Soul Surfer – Although this film may be more mainstream than I had expected, I thought it was well-made and entertaining, and despite not getting into the darker side of the lead character’s emotional turmoil too much, still depicted a moving story. I didn’t really recognize AnnaSophia Robb until I looked her up later and realized I’d seen her in a horror movie with Hilary Swank before when she was younger.
Crazy, Stupid, Love. – This is one of the most enjoyable romantic comedies I’ve seen in a long time. It’s got more heart, more wit, and better writing than most of the romantic comedies I’ve seen in the last few years. The cast was also very endearing–I loved everyone in it. The scene when Emma Stone was at Ryan Gosling’s house–how can anyone not love that scene? I haven’t seen chemistry between two people portrayed that well since…I can’t even remember. When I think back on how other romantic comedies try to portray chemistry between two leads, they seemed forced and lacking the natural ease and endearing quality of the Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling scene.
Bruno I just couldn’t force myself to sit through this low-brow farce. See, Borat had a certain kind of charm, and the humor had wit, and I mostly enjoyed that movie and like Borat as a character. Bruno was just a complete low-brow, crass, and revolting mess. It had no subtlety, no likable characters, and its stereotyping of gay men was just so offensively over-the-top that the only people who would find it funny are the kind of people who would probably commit hate crimes against gay men. I don’t know what the hell Sacha Baron Cohen was thinking. He should have done an Ali G movie instead (even if he keeps saying that character is too well known already).
Happy Accidents – I watched this because of Marisa Tomei, and it’s an okay romantic comedy with a sci-fi premise as a gimmick. Marisa is a cutie pie as always, and a joy to watch.
The Promotion – This comedy had an odd, subdued tone to it, especially when today’s comedies tend to be in your face. It almost feels like more of an indie flick, but the characters and writing in general aren’t quite quirky enough for an indie effort. I enjoyed seeing the two lead actors playing more normal characters instead of the typical cartoon characters they tend to play.
American Teen I couldn’t get past the first fifteen minutes because it reeked of contrivance. I hated how the editing, the music, and the overall presentation tried to make it look like some teen drama–it’s as if the people being filmed were shoehorned into the roles they’re supposed to play. Maybe I was being too critical and should have sat through it, but as I skipped forward at various intervals, I didn’t see anything worth watching. I already know the kind of drama these kids go through–we’ve seen them everywhere, and we’ve lived them ourselves, and none of these people were spectacularly different from the people I already knew in my life that I’d want to spend any more time with them.
The Simpsons movie – If you like the TV series, you’ll like this. It’s basically the same as some of the more epic episodes of the TV show, but longer and with better production quality.
The problem with movie versions of a TV series is that almost always, we’ve seen better stories from the TV series at some point. It’s as if the writers blew their wads on the TV show and the best of their work has already been done. Sure, the production quality is significantly higher due to bigger budget, but the stories themselves are never better than what we’ve already seen on the small screen–and didn’t cost us a dime.