Do or Do Not.

Archive for June, 2006

The Anxiety of Influence

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For too many years, I wanted to be Jim Lee.

I fell passionately in love with Lee’s amazingly detailed and dynamic artwork and design sense while he was the artist on Uncanny X-Men in the late 80′s and early 90′s, right before he and five other über-popular artists left Marvel to found Image Comics. I’d been drawing comics-style artwork for most of my life, but Lee quickly became my number-one influence [1]: I used Lee’s artwork as reference material, as inspiration — and ultimately as the yardstick I measured my own work against.

Batman by Jim Lee - © DC ComicsAnd I’m wondering just how much damage I might have done to my artistic sensibilities over the last fifteen years by doing so.

Somewhere over the years I lost much of my desire to draw, and I think that a lot of that was because I was unfairly judging the quality of my work against unrealistic standards. My expectations for myself were so high that I couldn’t possibly achieve them — if I couldn’t draw something that was somewhere at least approaching the the ballpark of Jim Lee quality, then the drawing was shit.

Thing is, there’s only a handful of artists out there that I think are in that ballpark, so expecting myself to be able to pull that off and berating my skills when I couldn’t… well, that wasn’t being very generous to myself. I think I judged myself so harshly that I found myself not wanting to draw at all. It’s not fair, of course — I’m not Jim Lee, and I never will be.

But when I say “I’m not Jim Lee,” I mean more than just that he’s a better artist than I am, though I think that fact goes without saying (not knocking myself there, just being honest). I also mean that my natural art style, the style that tends to come through when I’m not forcing a particular look on it, doesn’t resemeble his work at all — my “voice” differs from his considerably. I tend toward more open shapes, toward thicker and more angular lines, toward less rendering and cross-hatching. For years, though, I defined “professional” in my head as “Jim Lee-like” and tried to make my stuff look more like his. It’s like I was trying on a series of suits, each of which might have looked fantastic on someone else but none of which were flattering on me — but if I just kept trying them, dammit, I’d find one that fit perfectly.

Problem is, I never found that perfect suit and quit looking altogether.

Now, though, I want to get back into drawing again. I miss it. Not drawing has never felt right, but every time I’ve tried getting back into it, I’ve run face-first into that same wall of anxiety over and over again — I feel like I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t know how to draw in any style other than this one that doesn’t feel natural to me, and I hate it.

But no more. I’m reclaiming my “visual voice,” I’m no longer looking to Jim Lee as an influence, or at least not as a major one. I’m rejecting that overly-rendered style as Just Not Me; there are plenty of artists I can learn from and gain inspiration from whose work more closely mirrors my natural style. I want to try to separate myself from the frustration and self-flagellation of the last ten years and try something all-new, all-different. I want to enjoy drawing again, both the process and the results.

I don’t need to be Jim Lee. What I need to be is the best me I can be.


[1] Funny thing: Even as I took him on as my primary influence, it seemed obvious to me that we were both influenced by the same artists when we were starting out (mainly George Perez, John Byrne and Arthur Adams). He just has way, way, way more talent than I do and was able to synthesize those influences into something new and exciting while I… didn’t.

Written by Allen

June 20th, 2006 at 9:47 pm

Posted in Art,Comic Books

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What a SUPER Father’s Day!

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As far as my little girls were concerned, Friday night was Father’s Day; I’d imagine it’s completely pointless to ask a four-year-old and a two-year-old to keep a secret for thirty-six hours. Especially when the secret involves a present they helped pick out.

“Daddy, daddy! We got you a present! It’s a secret, SSSSSSHHH!!! It’s a bear!!”

My girls (with more than a little assistance from their amazing mommy) got me the most rockin’ Father’s Day present I’ve gotten yet:

Superbear!

Kelsey picked out the bear (with approval from Laurel) — Kelsey chose this particular bear because it looks like Sleepy Bear, her friend who’s spent every night with her since she was 18 months old. Terry picked out the costume (again with approval from the girls), but I think that one was pretty much a no-brainer, don’t you?

Thank you, Laurel, Kelsey (who told me “Happy Father’s Day” no less than 300 times yesterday) and Terry, for the totally fantastic Father’s Day (which included breakfast in bed, a two-toddlers-on-one-Daddy wrestling match, and trips to an art supply store, a comic book store and a swing by our amazing local ice cream place). I certainly don’t need special days like this one to know how much you care, but I truly wasn’t going to complain about being showered with all of that love and affection.

Written by Allen

June 19th, 2006 at 8:30 pm

Posted in Personal

Superman Can’t Return Soon Enough

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The next (and likely last) big trailer for Superman Returns is now up on the official movie site (click on the Video section, than select Trailer #2). And hooooo boy… every time I think I’m as geeked as I can possibly get for this movie, Warner Bros. releases another trailer and my anticipation and expectations go up another couple of notches. [1]

This trailer is the first to show much of the movie’s plot (outside of the high-concept tag “Superman comes back to Earth after five years off-planet”). Unsurprsingly, the movie’s about much, much more than just that bit of setup. I don’t want to tell you here what’s in the trailer; I’d prefer you go watch it yourself. But it looks like it’s gonna be goooood.

Yeah, OK, I’m not yet totally sold on Brandon Routh as Supes, and both he and Kate Bosworth seem much, much younger than the Clark and Lois who live in my head. [2] But in the end it just doesn’t matter to me — I’m more concerned with the quality of the movie overall. Bryan Singer didn’t make the same casting choices I would have made, true, but I’m not the one being entrusted with $200 million to make a movie. And because I trust Singer I’m willing to give Routh and Bosworth a chance. (No such free pass is necessary for Kevin Spacey’s Lex Luthor; while it looks like he might be playing up the goofy a bit much for my tastes, I have no doubt that he’ll also play the hell out of the menacing aspect of Lex.)

See, this is the thing: Superman Returns looks to be A Superman Movie Done Right for the first time since Superman II twenty-six years ago. And obviously, the kinds of things that can be done now are light years ahead of what was possible in 1980 — this is going to be a Superman doing the kinds of things Superman should be able to do. [3] Singer’s a hell of a director and he takes his subject matter seriously (ref. X-Men and X2: X-Men United). I have no doubt in my mind that he’s given this movie everything he’s got, that he’s using every bit of directorial prowess he’s learned since The Usual Suspects to make the best Superman movie he can.

So I don’t care if Routh looks too slender to me to be playing Superman, if he and Bosworth both look 22, if the costume doesn’t seem quite right — none of that really matters. Those are cosmetic details. What I want to see is the story, I want to see how the characters are presented, I want to see the sense of epic scope and monumental action that previous Superman movies just weren’t able to muster. I want to see a movie which lives up to the name “Superman” and does the character justice… and I think I just might get it this time.

I’ll be sitting in a theater on the night of Wednesday, June 28, Terry sitting by my side clasping my hand while I bounce in my seat like a little kid after his sixth bowl of Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs. I’ve said it elsewhere and I’m going to say it again here: this might be the movie I’ve been waiting all of my thirty-five years to see.


[1] The last movie to come anywhere near this level of pre-release internal buzz for me was The Incredibles, and that movie lived up to and actually exceeded my monster expectations.

[2] This trailer alleviates my concerns a bit about the leads’ fit for their roles, but I’m still reserving judgment until I see the whole movie. And hell, Routh looks a helluva lot more like the Superman in my head than Dean Cain ever did.

[3] Have you seen the bits with Superman saving the crashing jet in the trailers? I have absolutely no knowledge of the screenplay or what’s going to happen, but my gut says that’s a scene early-on in the flick, possibly the event that announces his return to Earth, and man does that look like it’s going to be a thrilling scene to watch — I bet we’ve scene only the tiniest hints of what that sequence will be like.

Yet the thing is, if I’m right… that’s going to be nothing compared to some of the stuff we see later. They’re holding back a whooole lot of info about the movie, and if they’re putting that sequence out there early to help build excitement for the flick, I can guarantee you that there’s way better stuff to come. shivers

Written by Allen

June 15th, 2006 at 1:51 pm

Posted in Movies,Pop Culture

Temptation

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At this very moment, danger waits for me. It waits for me in the tantalizing form of a blue and gold 48-pixel square on my desktop. And it’s taking everything I’ve got not to throw myself gleefully into that maw of death.

That’s right… I have the 10-day free trial of World of Warcraft installed and ready to go.

First, let me just say that I’ve honestly never been all that much into most MMORPGs, which strikes me as a little bit funny since I work for a company what makes ‘em. [1] But what I am a big fan of is Blizzard. I first got turned onto their games in college when some buddies of mine I worked with at the universtity newspaper hooked me on Warcraft 2: Tides of Darkness. I’d never played any sort of networked video game before that (this was ’96 [2], so online games had been around for some time, but I was coming late to this particular party), so Warcraft 2 certainly had that novelty aspect going for it. But even past that, the game was just fun — the gameplay was addictive as hell and the game had a fantastic sense of humor to it. I even spent a long time playing through the single-player misssions — far more time than I’d spent playing any one video game before that. [3] And since then, every Blizzard game I’ve played has been top-notch.

All of that means I’ve been aching to give WOW a spin since well before the game launched, but because of the one-two punch of No Money – Gots Little Kids, I’ve just never had a chance to try it out. Even now, I just don’t have the friggn’ time to play any games, especially not one that I know will be as addictive as I have a feeling WOW is. When I do have some free time (and “free time” here is defined as “time solely to myself” and is considered separate from Quality Time With Beloved Family), I want to work on my writing and building my web empire. Playing video games doesn’t help me get any closer to achieving my goals.

But still… for ten days, it’s free, so I’ve gotta try it out.

I’m sure that WOW isn’t the best MMO ever, though it’s by far the most popular. But I think it will be quite good enough to suck me in and make me want to waste untold hours of my life immersed in its world. (By the way… is it considered “wasting time” if I’m enjoying what I’m doing? It’s not really wasted time if I’ve spent it making myself happy, right? I think that reaction must just be an ingrained guilt thing for me — it’s time I could’ve spent being productive rather than just playing a silly game. Feh.)

Anyway, I’m putting off starting the trial as long as I can because I’m only going to have those ten days — I don’t want to start it up if I’m going to be short on time for the next week-and-a-half. I know that no matter how much I might wind up enjoying the game, I think it’s extraordinarily unlikely that I’ll be getting a monthly subscription, again because of that No Money – Gots Little Kids combo.

But still… for ten days, it’s free, so I’ve gotta try it out.

Y’know, if I’m lucky, the generic video card that’s in my computer won’t even be able to render the game very well and I’ll be saved (though WOW was supposedly designed specifically so that it would run just fine on lower-end computers). ‘Cause heaven forbid I leave myself to my own willpower to keep me from playing.


[1] I played quite a bit of City of Heroes during its first few months — hell, c’mon, it’s superheroes, of course I played the hell out of it. But I set myself an all-too-simple goal (I just wanted to fly) which I was able to accomplish at level 14. After that, I quickly lost interest in the game. And my wallet started wanting that fifteen bucks a month back.

[2] OMG OMG OMG ten years ago!! Gah!

 

[3] That record for most hours spent in a single game stood until 2000 – 2003, when I would amass an ungodly amount number of hours immersed in the original Unreal Tournament; I’m pretty confident that personal record of mine will never be broken again. For the sake of my marriage, I sure hope it won’t.

Written by Allen

June 14th, 2006 at 9:02 pm

Posted in General

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Link: Gas-Free Future

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We’re going to need a whole lot more of these in the future if we’re ever going to break our dependence on oil, whether foreign or domestic: CNN has a report on a gas station in California which sells alternative fuels in addition to regular gasoline. The best part? They sell BioWillie, the soybean-based biodiesel that Willie Nelson sponsors. (I have no idea if BioWillie is better or worse than any other form of biodiesel — I just like the name.)

Side note: according to the picture that accompanies the article, the price per gallon of regular unleaded in San Diego is around $3.49. Friggin’ OW.

Written by Allen

June 12th, 2006 at 11:07 am

Posted in Technology

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