Derik Badman's Journal

June 2021

2021-06-02 07:51

Session on Saturday went ok. Still feel like little actually happened, but I think it moved things along, setup some future events and had at least one unexpected twist. I expect next session will be a little more... adventurous, since we're getting more to the heart of the current adventure. I think it did help that the setting we are in (the Warhammer Fantasy city of Marienberg which is like a fantasy... Amsterdam/Venice) is pretty well defined. I don't know all the details, but I have the sense of the flavor/tenor of it, which allows for some easier improvisation.

Trying to catch up on the piles of reading in my office. I read more than a quarter of Alisdair Gray's Lanark before giving up on it yesterday. The first quarter (it's divided into four "books") was interesting and strange, starting out just a little "is this realism or fantasy" and then moving into a more fantasy/sci-fi flavor. But then book 2 shifts and becomes this realist bildungsroman about a kid growing up in Glasgow and... bleah... my tolerance for children protagonists is limited. I read a few chapters, then started skimming, then just gave up when I realized book 3 just continued the character's story. Book 4 seems to go back to relate to the first part, but... I give up.

In the same vein I'm starting to weary of Doom Patrol in season 2, a large part due to the introduction of a super obnoxious child character who talks with a whiny British accent. If she doesn't go away (or grow up) soon, I may have to give up on that show too.

Reread Shirow's Dominion: Conflict 1 which I actually find better drawn but less interesting narratively than the previous one. The story as a whole felt very unfocused and more like the start of a series than a single (mostly) standalone book. I'm going to indulge my nostaliga and reread more of his manga, going back to Appleseed, the first real (that is not American's making faux manga) manga that I ever recall reading (got a copy of one of the translations as a freeby at a comic book convention when I was pretty young).

Read a few comics by Sammy Stein (Visages du Temps, Pompei 2079) that I got via the online Printed Matter book fair this year. I really want to like them more than I actually do. They have an immediate appealing brightness and precision to them, as well as the real oddity of being almost completely figure (i.e. bodies/characters shown) free. There is a diagrammatic quality at times, a sense of constructed objects and often destructed objects, that reminds me a bit of Vaughn-James' The Cage. The use of color alone is wonderful (and really I think is what drew me to buy them), lots of interesting use of gradients. But actually reading them... I just don't feel them. They seem very cold.

Melek Zertal's Together is also one I feel... conflicted on. As a whole it's a nice large book, well printed, lots of space for the images, great soft colors, a nice mix of single page images, interesting panel layouts, repetition and variation. The drawings are all in pencil and frequently lovely. One thing that bugs me is how sometimes the characters seem to shift from a more naturalistic rendering into a more cartoony look (especially the eyes), and I want to assume it is purposeful for some reason, but it also just looks like inconsistency (partially I think because the cartoony shift, looks rather... bad... to me). The narrative, loosely shows the relationship between two young women, one arriving on a plane to stay with the other. Specifics are hazy, it is more about individual scene and moment and even just image, with the text providing both dialogue and what seems to be some inner monologue by the one woman. Just reread it, and... on repeat I actually like it more, it holds together more than I first thought. It doesn't play out a story, but it hints at one. In many ways (particularly the ellipses of narrative) it reminds me of some of Aidan Koch's work, though I don't think it is quite as... assured in method. Looking at her site it seems she reuses the two characters in Together in other work. I'll keep my eye out for future work.

2021-06-05 09:08

All those previous critiques feel a little underbaked. At times I feel like because the work exists it deserves my attention and time, moreso with comics than other art forms, since the audience for comics of a certain type is still so limited.

Into volume 3 of rereading Appleseed and it's interesting to me how much the scenes that stick in my head are the interludes, the non-action scenes in between all the espionage stuff and the sci-fi morality questions about humanity. There are still aspects of that plot that I don't totally follow, partially perhaps because it doesn't hold my interest as much or it's not that important to really follow it all (or maybe parts of it really just don't make sense). It's when Shirow steps outside those plots to focus on his protagonists that it becomes more interesting, though oddly I think that is the part Shirow really started getting rid of the longer his career continued. By volume 3 you can see his art getting slicker, his woman just starting to take on the look of the creepy fetishization that his later work has become.

Life is slowing becoming a little more "normal" in the sense of pre-pandemic. We went out to dinner (outside dining) for the first time since March 2020. And today we are headed up to visit my parents and my brother and his family.