The Alabaster Sock

We Will Fight the Threat with Fighting

Archive for April, 2011

Posted by Matt on April 30, 2011

Well, as luck would have it, my final visit to a closing independent book store a few weeks back resulted in me finding the following gem, and at 30% off:

This collects the first two ‘Books’ of Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill’s cult classic 2000 AD strip, along with a few bonus strips. They don’t make these kinds of shorter collections anymore, really. That is probably because the dollar-to-content ratio expectation is up. Coincidentally, this completely screws over my further reading of the series, as the first book in the Rebellion Complete series has all of this book’s contents, plus the next two ‘Books’. Which basically means that I’ll have to essentially buy this book again in order to continue on with this series. Oh well.

So yeah. I had been meaning to pick up something by Pat Mills for a while now. Mills is one of those creators who is very important, for UK comics especially, but hasn’t really become prominent like some of the other 2000 AD talents that came after. Mostly it’s because of his personal choice to not work within the American comics system, sticking with UK and continental European stuff. The sole exception was Marshall Law, another comic of his and O’Neill’s that I hope to pick up some time in the future.

Nemesis is joyful in its anarchic cynicism; you know, you spend a lot of time learning that subtlety is a virtue, especially in satire, but sometimes it’s good just to find something that’s so fucking angry about some aspect of society, that they just throw it all out there. The idea of “Humans are the invaders!” has been done nearly to death, but this one does it well: pretty much ever person on the future earth of Termight are either a malicious bigot or an apathetic rube abiding by a cruel dictator. The primary antagonist, Torquemada, is so evil, it’s hilarious. Which is the point, really. Mills and O’Neill want to show you the evils of racism and religious zealotry (obvious, yes, but even obvious stuff can be overlooked), but want to make it as entertaining as possible. Plus, Mills makes the majority of the ‘heroes’ pretty unpleasant, too. It’s quintessential black humor, and man is it fun to read.

Part of the entertainment factor comes from the art, especially in Book 1, really captures the grotesqueness of the whole enterprise, using exaggeration and really bizarre alien designs, and tons of little things thrown in the background and in the design of the pages. O’Neill is just the perfect artist for this book. Which isn’t to say that Jesus Redondo, the artist for Book 2, isn’t also capable. His art looks cleaner, and tells the story very well (it probably helps that Book 2 is pretty restrained compared to the free-for-all that Book 1 eventually turned into). But I couldn’t help but miss all that crazy stuff going on every page. I read that O’Neill comes back for a few later stories, which is good.

The book also acts as my introduction to the style of comics that 2000 AD features; namely, 4-6 page weekly strips. It’s a bit jarring when you’re used to either full-length American comics or one-page online strips, but it never felt cramped or decompressed. Each one felt like it’s own story, but maintained it’s place within the larger story. Which is what one generally wants to do in most serial comics, don’t they?

So there’s my simple thoughts. Read more thinky stuff about Nemesis here and here. And here’s a video of the creators talking about stuff:

Posted in Comix, Observations, Videos Ahoy! | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Posted by Matt on April 28, 2011

Many blogs I visit have at least one of these navel-gazing posts (that’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it). I really don’t expect many people to be reading anything on this site – it’s more of an outlet to rid my mind of various thoughts no one cares about. Even so, I thank the people who have visited, and that one guy who commented that one time.

So, every once in a while, I decide to look at my stats. Apparently, February 2nd of this year was my busiest day. And then there are the search terms. So, what does direct people to me on WordPress? Mostly, it’s Pokemon names, going to this. I also get a lot of hits from people searching for reaction shots, true murder stories, and pangolins.

And now, the weird ones:

jackson publick cute
horrible cancer
“eleuterio penis”
“it’s late and i have a test tomorrow”
“it’s sublime don’t you think” keanu
this is me giving a fuck owl
nancy callahan hartigan fanfiction (NO)
old omersex

Personally, I am glad I became a source of information for people wanting to learn about horrible cancer.

Posted in Nobody Cares, Technical | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Posted by Matt on April 21, 2011

The new consoles are coming! The new consoles are coming!! Oh, joyous day! Isn’t it a great time to be a gamer?

I don’t think I can possibly understand why so many gamers are so obsessed with a new batch of consoles coming out as soon as possible. I have a pretty good idea why people were flipping out over the rumour of a new Nintendo console being announced at E3, with amazing HD graffix and the like: most gamers are still sore that Nintendo decided to target people other than them, and have tugging it to the idea of an HD Zelda since 2008, really. Maybe I’m just an uninformed armchair analyst, but I just can’t see a conservative company like Nintendo doing a complete 180 on their million-selling strategy, but who knows with them most of the time (another batch of rumours says the thing also has a gigantic touch screen controller, which is kind of neat, and more in line with they’ve been working on since the DS, but on the other hand, doesn’t make much sense financially). But that’s almost a separate issue at this point.

But what about the other two? To me, their output at this point is still capable of quite a bit. But then again, I’m not a developer having to work with them. On the other hand, neither are all of the people on the Internet I see clamoring for them. About the only people in the biz who seems to have hinted at wanting a new generation to come soon is, as far as I know, UbiSoft, and like fuck do I think they know what’s best for anyone. I have yet to hear any actual developers talk about how hard it is to develop games for the PS3 and 360 with all their limitations. I have yet to hear of any tantalizing game ideas we’re missing out on because, dammit, these boxes just don’t have the juice. Most of the people actually pushing these things to their limits are either doing it in a low-key setting (like downloadable games with, let’s say, less than HD quality graphics), or are doing it on the PC. Most console developers seem content to churn out essentially the same games over and over again, and something tells me the people behind Final Fantasy and God of War are having to scale back their creativity because of the lack of console horsepower.

For most gamers, I imagine, it’s just early adopter syndrome (EAS): they get bored with their technology fairly quickly, and always something biggerer and betterer. For me, the problem is…I don’t like to spend money. And I haven’t seen any evidence that we’re missing out on anything (if there are, though, I’d love to read about it!). But even if the latter is fulfilled, I can’t even say for sure I’d be excited about new consoles. Part of it is, as mentioned before, I hate spending money, especially on gadgetry with minimal utility (hell, even shit that I could find invaluable, like one of those portable devices with Internet hook-up and everything, I still would feel guilty about buying, because I’m fucking frugal). But as other things vie for my time (like maintaining this blog, for example!), games have to be finding more and more interesting hooks to keep me coming back. And you know what? High-tech audio/visual stuff just ain’t it for me. Or, at least, not on their own.

Consoles are a different business from the games they play, oddly enough. If they become more or less interchangeable, then what’s the point of there being more than one? Yet, they need to have similar structures and capabilities in order to keep the publishers interested in working on them, as Nintendo has learned. So in the end, most features on future consoles that aren’t simply upgrades to what the current crop already has will often have to err on the side of meaninglessness (multimedia stuff like Netflix and shit like Home), as not to alienate other publishers. There are some directions they could go that would allow for some interesting directions in the future: manufacturing the console for a greater emphasis on downloadable content (increasing the harddrive sizes for example), to the point where you can buy even full, retail games through their service. An even greater on getting as much bang for their buck out of what their console can do would be another good advance (Microsoft is already testing the waters there, apparently, by doing trials with game discs that have had extra space freed up through a console update), so we don’t ‘need’ to go back to the well so early. Certainly, consoles should become more adaptable in the future…you know, like computers.

None of those ideas are particularly revolutionary, though. I don’t know what kind of new console features would really make me go ‘Wow’ at this point. A lot of it, to my untrained ear, just sounds like technobabble, which I have no interest in. This is, of course, why I’m not on the boards who decide such things.

The next couple of years should be interesting.

Posted in Gamezzzzz, NERDS! | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Posted by Matt on April 5, 2011

Most comic critics spend a lot of time complaining about things Marvel and DC do. This is understandable, as it was likely reading their superhero lines 20 or 30 years ago (back when they had some sort of presence in non-specialty stores) that hooked them on the medium. But I’m becoming increasingly frustrated with my own constant wandering into that territory, because in the big scheme of things, Marvel and DC mean nothing. The whole comics enterprise has outgrown them, just as they seemed to have outgrown the industry that made them.

I’d be hard-pressed to really consider either to be real comics publishers at this point. They still technically publish comics, yes, but it seems more like some niche branch of their greater marketing schemes, a sort of nostalgic reminder of what they used to be known for, before they had super gigantic corporate parents and the clout to sell their pre-packaged properties to Hollywood (there are moves they have pursued that are more in the publisher direction – Marvel has their licensed books, public domain adaptations, and creator-owned line, and DC still has a billion imprints doing different things). They could stop making comics entirely, and only a few man-children on the Internet would really care. I feel like I’m repeating myself, which is probably because I am.

The major influence Marvel/DC have on the current comics industry is mostly through their symbiotic relationship with Diamond, and thus comics shops. This means that they essentially dominate a good portion of the industry. Unfortunately, we’re talking about something that is still fairly marginal, which doesn’t say a whole lot of good about the industry, does it? And with Diamond slowly going down the tubes, and comic shops definitely not likely to have a brighter future than non-specialty book stores, this is a stranglehold on a corpse. A corpse that didn’t even have a major impact when it was alive.

And with all the neat things being done in comics these days by so many publishers and individuals, in print and online, it just makes paying so much attention to what the corporate guys are doing seem like…a waste of time. I’m going to the Toronto Comic Arts Festival next month, which is a good networking opportunity for guys like my friend Ben…and me, I guess, but my inability to draw goodly makes my dreams of comic creation a little harder to obtain than his. Why do I mention this? I just want you to go to that show’s list of exhibitors. Those are the people who make me love comics as a form. With people like those around, who needs Marvel and DC and their stale adventure stories?

And yet…here I am, talking about them. What is it that keeps us interested in what is really not very interesting? The nerd factor? I am more partial to the Science Fiction angles that superheroes can offer in spades, I must admit. Nostalgia? I have none, having not grown up reading anything other than my beloved Sonic the Hedgehog comics, but I do have thrust upon me constantly by my peers in the nerd blogging frontier. Is it the true end of our age of corporate saturation of culture, where we can’t even think about something without having the biggest and flashiest brand names invading? Or maybe we just find what these old, lumbering former giants are up to while the kids actually push the form as some sort of curio, a reminder of what things used to be like?

In any case, I will try to keep my Marvel/DC bitching to a minimum from now on.

Posted in Comix | Tagged: | 1 Comment »