Create, Consume, Recycle 06/27/11

June 27th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

stuff i made

I got quoted on HuffPo about Green Lantern

Writing about Akira for ComicsAlliance, making all you other websites look bad

something something captain american movie stand for france

something something hal jordan bomber jackets

somethings something bomber jackets part one point five

who let all these frigging bomber jackets into my digital comics

something i like

This is a minor aspect of the text, perhaps, but I say it is still significant because this is my blog and my Akira website. (Join the webring.)

I’m about 9500 miles too far away and twenty years too late to want to wear most of the clothes in Otomo’s Akira, but I do enjoy his sense of fashion. Characters tend to be grouped into demographics and dress accordingly–twentysomething men rock button-ups and ties, military men wear suits, and teenagers dress casually or for biking.

It’s sort of a throwback, but the billiards scene up there? That makes sense to me. It’s a bunch of guys who are fresh off the job and looking to de-stress after a long day. Loose ties and rolled up sleeves, right? The man still wearing his jacket still has his collar buttoned up and tie straight. He looks out of place, doesn’t he? He does. And later, in another bar, he’s figured out how to blend in. Big smile, sleeves up, jacket in hand.

I like this bit, too. Otomo’s good at picking outfits that make you think, “Yes, this character would wear that.” You can’t see it, but Kai’s polo is tucked in. It’s partially buttoned, too. Kaneda’s isn’t, and when we first see him in that green shirt, he’s working on his motorcycle. What’s the point of tucking in your shirt if you’re doing work? It’s just going to come out, anyway. And Yamagata, delinquent to the core, is rocking a cut-off sweatshirt over a cut-off t-shirt. Nah, son.

Kei is interesting. I like this jacket and black on black outfit she has. It’s sensible, but the glasses make sure that it’s still a little secret agent-y. Her halter top fits her personality, too, in the same casual way that Kaneda’s shirt fits his.

The Colonel has an interesting progression. He’s in very severe suits for the majority of the book, and then the apocalypse hits. His gear becomes much more obviously military in nature, despite the ragtag and piecemeal appearance of it. While others are wearing ripped clothes and pants, the Colonel’s got clothes that let him hold things. They’ve got pouches and pockets, they’re heavy, they’re thick enough to hide stuff…

But yo, check out what the Colonel wears when he gets a late night phone call. Look at that robe, man. What a classy dude. Nobody should answer a video phone shirtless. (He throws a suit on before leaving the house later that night.)

Otomo is the king because panels 1.1 and 1.4 on these two pages. Tetsuo is putting on these clothes. How often do you see that, man? It’s not even a cool “SUITING UP FOR ACTION RARRRR” joint. He’s just chilling in the background, puttin’ on some pants.

Tetsuo is… he’s not pretending, exactly, but he’s definitely playing a role for the majority of the story. “This is what a man is, this is how power should be used,” etc etc. Does that make sense? Viewed in that light, his various outfits click. He wears heavy riding gloves (which he doesn’t even use) and a tank top while leading a motorcycle gang. He wears this all white thing with a red cape for a decent portion of the book, sort of as a symbol of his #2 nature to Akira. His outfit is plain, while Akira gets a nice blue.

And this tactical vest and pants… he’s got no reason to wear that. They just look good. They’re a symbol of conquest and power, since he’s taken the outfit off a soldier he killed. This is just some straight up Arnold Schwarzeneggar swag, something that lets you show off what makes you strong and look ill at the same time.

It’s also an expression of humanity, because Tetsuo is teeter-tottering between complete and total ego death due to his powers and holding it together, but that’s a post for another day. (Wednesday?)

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A: “!”

June 24th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

There’s the temptation to take this day and deliver a real deal conclusion. Wrap the whole series up in a bow, explain why it’s so great, and do it in such a way that everyone who reads it finishes the post with tears in their eyes and their credit cards in their hands. There’s a part of me that wants to finish it, in the Mortal Kombat sense of the term, so that I can put it into a box and say “I did that.” “Here’s points one, two, and three, and now you understand everything you need to know about Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira. Go forth, and spread the word.”

Instead: four consecutive pages from book one.

Panels generally take place in one moment in time. They don’t really show progression so much as a frozen instant. The word balloons in panel five, though, suggest a progression, and a quick one. A narrowing of the eyes or confusion (“What is that?”) and then vague realization (“Wait!”) which then bleeds into panel six, which has full recognition (“Tetsuo!”). You can see it on Kaneda’s face, can’t you?

I always liked the use of punctuation as an entire word balloon. Or no, that’s not right–punctuation as speech. (If you’ve ever instant-messaged me, I’m sure you know exactly what I mean.) I first came across it in Metal Gear, and I thought it was pretty clever. What you say when you’re surprised doesn’t really matter, because a simple ! lets us fill in the blanks. “What the!” only goes so far, right? I like ?, too. “Wha?”/”Huh?” are kind of… obvious? Is that the word? They’re concrete. You always say them aloud, or just under your breath. ? is a good way to get unspoken confusion or surprise on the page. When you wake up and there’s a big object on the wall that might be a big ol’ spider, you don’t always go “What the heck is that?” Sometimes you just narrow your eyes and cock your head and look. That’s ?.

Kaneda back-handing that dude and then getting off his bike while it’s still in motion is basically the smoothest thing I’ve ever seen.

WHAM to SMUSH, do you see that? Man.

Tetsuo is beating the bone marrow out of this guy, and I like how it picks up with the beating already in progress. The first two panels say a lot about Tetsuo (look at his face, and the way he stays up on the guy–those two panels take place a split second apart). The full page says a lot about our cast, from how casual Kaneda is during the beating to when he’s finally had enough of it.

Look at the tension here. Just three word balloons. Wolverine was never as much of a loose cannon as Tetsuo is right here, and all it takes is one motion, two word balloons, and a hard look.

Every page is a delight. I didn’t even talk about the scene where Neo-Tokyo catches a bad one when Akira loses it.

Maybe that’s the conclusion I didn’t want to write. “Every page is a delight.”

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R: “Woo-oo-oo-ooh”

June 22nd, 2011 Posted by david brothers

It’s easy to forget how funny Akira can be. It’s a deadly serious manga, concerned with questions of power and control and other weighty subjects, but there’s a strong playfulness to it, too. Most of the cast is young enough for jokes to be believable in their situation, and all the humor is this sort of broad, really traditional comedy. There are pratfalls, dick jokes, vomiting… all this stuff is universally funny. If it isn’t universally funny, it should be. Penises and their associated mental hang-ups are hilarious.

Anyway, there are these bright, shining spots of comedy in Akira. It’s not fall down laughing funny. Maybe smirking funny, or “heh” funny. Regardless, the spots break up the tension a little bit, for both the characters and us. Comedy is supposed to heal, right? We laugh when things get uncomfortable, and stand-up comics is like cultural therapy. We use jokes to bond with each other and feel better about ourselves.

For the characters, it’s a suggestion that maybe things have gone apocalyptic, but deep down at the foundation of things, they’re still the same. They’re still human, they still have their relationships, and everything might just turn out okay. On top of that, there’s a power element, too. Joking or being casual in a tense or dangerous situation is a way to claim control over that situation. “Yes, this is bad, but it’s not so bad that I can’t handle it.”

I don’t know anybody that doesn’t like to laugh. It’s almost an absurd idea, isn’t it? Everybody’s got a sense of humor. Sometimes it’s awkward or off-putting, sometimes it’s skin crawlingly vile, sometimes it’s just regular funny or wry, and if you share it, you’re guaranteed to have a great time.

This is a nice reminder that the story stars people, not machines. It’s sort of like how we rarely see people going to the bathroom or eating in adventure stories. That stuff, and jokes, humanizes characters. You mean to tell me that Batman doesn’t have a sense of humor as black as his cape? The only people I remember writing a particularly funny Batman are Brian Azzarello and Grant Morrison, and both of them had him working this really mean style of gallows humor.

The importance of characters doing things normal people do–jokes, poops, foods–was invisible to me until someone pointed it out. But once you start thinking about it, it becomes really, really obvious. I mean, look at how poor Batman or Superman comics generally are without Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne. You need that human hook. You need to be able to look and unconsciously say, “Yes, this is a human being.”

Jokes are a good way to do it. I really like the one at the bottom of this post. It’s so simple, and such an old idea. It’s almost definitely as old as I Love Lucy or the Three Stooges, yeah? But it’s good. It’s–I don’t want to call it a comfort, but it sort of is. It’s right there on Kei and Kaneda’s faces.

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I: “You’d better fasten your seatbelt, sir.”

June 22nd, 2011 Posted by david brothers

I get bored easily. (Maybe you’ve noticed.) That’s one of the reasons why comics are my favorite story delivery system. Books are cool or whatever, but I’m not really going to discover a new way to read a novel at this point. My friends aren’t going to start telling avant-garde stories at parties. Movies still have some room to grow, I think, but comics have kept it moving. Constant evolution. I know that if I open a comic–a good one, mind–I’ll see something that might just blow my mind.

This is largely a visual thing for me. Storytelling and execution counts for a lot, but what I really, really want is something to look at. Spider-Man’s after images, Flash’s speed (particularly when drawn by Doug Mahnke), and the violence in David Aja’s Iron Fist were all things that really caught my interest and kept me hooked.

Near as I can tell, comics is the last place where you can expect serious visual storytelling innovation as a general rule. There are thousands of artists out there, and a thousand possible styles. To not be surprised or impressed with comics art requires… I don’t even know, the worst luck in the world and awful taste?

Here’s a surprise:

See it? It’s in panel three.

Okay, again. Panel five this time.

That streak of light entertains me every time I see it. Conveying motion is such a weird thing in comics. There’s a ton of ways to do it, and coming across new ones always sorta makes me grin. I first saw that in the Akira movie, and it was just one of several things that impressed me. Seeing it in comics only made me like comics even more. It’s a versatile little technique, and fantastic at implying the motion of something without obscuring it or being overbearingly obvious. It works similarly in the film, though I believe that they wavered and faded out, rather than being a solid-ish streak like these.

It’s a very small thing, though it appears dozens or hundreds of times through the manga, but it adds a lot to the experience. It makes it easier to believe in the world that Otomo is creating. You start to discover and accept the rules of this fictional world, and how it is translated when we view it through the lens of the comics panel. It adds realism, and that results in verisimilitude.

This is exactly how a moment looks in the world of Akira. Moving lights (of sufficient speed, which is something else this evokes that I just realized right now) hang in the air for a full moment before fading away. From that, we can estimate how fast the car is moving, where Kei is looking… Akira starts to fall into place. We accept something minor, and then expand. And then you see this and it looks as real as anything:

For my money, you can’t beat comics for stuff like this. Sometimes I get caught absolutely flatfooted when I come across something new and just have to read the scene a couple of extra times, just to see how and why it works. The reaction’s almost always “Oh, but that makes perfect sense,” too. Because that’s what this stuff has to do, and because that’s what makes you believe in stories.

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K: “Right on time.”

June 21st, 2011 Posted by david brothers

This is Chiyoko.

So is this:

She may or may not be Kei’s aunt, but she calls her Aunty Chiyoko, so sure. She’s part of the same resistance movement (terrorist group) that Kei’s in. She’s astonishingly direct, almost to the point of rudeness. She doesn’t spend any time at all dealing with the metaphysical aspects of Akira. She’s strictly go there, do this, let’s go and do that. At one point, sure, she tells one character to just admit their love, but that’s as deep as it gets when she’s there. Chiyoko is all about real life.

The funny thing about Akira is how often the cast goes up against the military. Early in the series, the military is essentially the main antagonist. And the cast? They’re basically high school kids and young adults at best. Kei’s clearly had some gun training, and Kaneda is scrappy and cunning, but as far as being soldiers goes? They aren’t. They manage to kill their fare share of enemies, though, and they don’t really react like someone unused to violence would. They get by off luck and recklessness, by and large.

Except Chiyoko.

Frank Castle, The Punisher, is a character that’s tough to like. Garth Ennis’s version is my favorite, and on top of that, the one that Garth Ennis draws and Goran Parlov draws, the one from Valley Forge, Valley Forge and a few other tales. He’s this big gorilla of a dude, formidable and invincible all tied up in one package. You look at him and know that he could carve a path through you and your crew with ease.

Chiyoko, in demeanor and depiction, puts me in mind of Frank Castle. She never really says too much. She’s so direct that conversations are near pointless. There’s not a lot of back and forth to be found when one person is completely assured of what she needs to do. She’s the tallest person in the cast, save for the Colonel, and she’s broader than he is. She’s got the same flat, sour demeanor as Castle, and a single-mindedness that’s positively admirable. She’s got a job to do and people to protect, so she does it. She has a purpose.

That purpose is wrecking an absolutely astonishing amount of people. She has an amazing aptitude for tearing through entire groups of grown men with ease. She’s resourceful and inventive. If she’s too far away to get her hands on you, she’ll either close that distance quicker than she should be able to or hit you with something from far. She barely gets a scratch until late in the series, even.

It’s implied that she’s ex-military, though no other female soldiers are shown in the series. But: she knows how to drive a tank, she’s good with a gun, she’s got major ordnance, and she’s even willing to get down and dirty with an armful of rockets, whether that means caving in a man’s skull or firing a rocket directly into his chest. She demonstrates an aptitude in this area that no one else in the book can match.

No one else in the comic wrecks people like Chiyoko. Tetsuo has a bigger body count, maybe, but half of his were accidental or fits of pique. Chiyoko is the one who wins battles intentionally and gracefully. She’s this perfect killing machine in an apron that was just dropped into the story. It’s reasonable to believe that Kei’s resistance group really is an effective terrorist organization if she’s counted as a member.

She’s great, man. She always gets a moment or two to destroy somebody, and she shows more heart than pretty much everyone but Kei and the Colonel. She’s not in the movie, unless there was a quick cameo that I’ve missed all these years.

This is probably my favorite bit:

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Create, Consume, Recycle 06/20/11

June 20th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

stuff i made

Buy some digital comics! These have dongs flopping around and vampires suckin’ blood. That’s a theme, right? Anyway: Butcher Baker, Wolverine & Jubilee, and American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest, get get get it.

-Here’s a dumb question: Why can’t we preorder digital comics?

top 10 marvel comics for September, get up on it

something something green lantern

something i like


Otomo’s Akira exists in this weird quantum state in my head. Schroedinger’s Anime? Sure, why not.

I first saw it probably in ’91 when the VHS dropped. My uncle picked up that and Fist of the North Star from the video store (Video Warehouse?) for some Sunday watching. We bogarted the bigger tv (it was one of those old fat 36″ joints, I think. We finally threw it out in maybe 2003?) in the house while everyone else was cooking and ran through FotNS. It blew my mind. It was so unbelievably violent and just amazing. I would’ve been eight at the most. Akira was the second feature, and it was even more mind-expanding. The story, the animation, all of it was like opening a door. I don’t think we were even joking around while the movie was on. That bit where Tetsuo’s guts fall out and the ground dissolves under him is burned into my head in a way that most things I encountered at that age aren’t.

I made it all the way up to the bit where Tetsuo turns into a pile of grotesque tumors before my cousin (she was, and remains, sixteen months younger than me) came into the room, made a face, and went and snitched to my grandmom that I was watching something gross. I was ordered into the den and that was a wrap, at least until I could sneak and finish watching the movie on my own.

That’s how Akira exists in my mind: sitting on the floor on a lazy Sunday after church, family noises in the other room, but in the living room? New things and shock endings. Fullscreen picture on the VHS tape, getting the tracking just right, on and on. My memory probably isn’t accurate, but that’s what the mental picture is, so that’s what’s true in all the ways that matter.

Time passed. Today, Akira exists in four states. There’s the original anime, 4:3 in aspect and dubbed onto a video cassette before I could afford the real deal. Then there’s the new dub, which features Vash the Stampede as Kaneda instead of a Ninja Turtle. It’s widescreen and (after a blu-ray purchase) hi-def. I like both probably equally. The more recent dub is undeniably better from a craft and quality perspective, but the old one has its charms. A little nostalgia goes a long way, right?

I did look around the internet and find a 720p rip of the Blu-ray that includes the original and 2001 dubs, though. I bust that out when I’m too lazy to get up and put a disc in the PS3.

The manga, too, has a couple of versions. There’s the color Epic ones I grew up with and comprise the majority of my collection, where Kei is Kay and everything is rendered in this really interesting palette that the rest of the comics industry never fully caught up to (Vertigo bogarted the brown, obviously, cape comics jacked the reds and highlights, and the more impressionistic stuff sorta fell by the wayside in favor of ugly gradients). Neo-Tokyo is a city I believe in, as large in my mind as the fictional New York City of rap that I love so much. It’s a city with gutters and layers, and you want to roll in one and peel back the other.

There’s the black and white version, which I still haven’t read in full. Kei is Kei, and some of the dialogue is a little different. It’s fine–I think the color adds a lot of personality to Akira, honestly. Steve Oliff did a pretty amazing job, and I wish that Kodansha had just reprinted those, instead of the black and whites. Still–these are good, and as far as one of my top three favorite series ever goes, well worth it.

(I’ve been eyeing these color Japanese volumes for a while, but they’d be a stupid purchase. I still want them.)

Strangely, Akira doesn’t exist in Japanese for me. I’ve watched the subtitled version… well, I’m not sure how often, definitely less than ten? I’ve watched it rarely enough that it barely registers in my head. I have spent a lot of time writing to the soundtrack, though. Remember when video game stores used to carry game soundtracks? I think I paid a grip for mine from Funcoland, ripped the CD to MP3, and promptly lost it. C’est la vie, long live digital media.

All of these things sorta swirl around in my head. I knew the different versions back to front (“Just when my coil’s reaching the green line!” > whatever it was Kaneda said in that new dub, but Kei > Kay as far as spelling goes), but it all adds up to one gestalt, a superAkira. This is one of those books/series/concepts that looms large in my head, large enough that I’ve genuinely put off talking about it in any sort of depth. I’ve taken stabs at it, sure, but I haven’t put my hands into its guts yet. I don’t know that I can do it without devolving into “This is SO GREAT you guyz” material, with long low-content posts masquerading as actual content.

But here we are, and here we go.

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A: “There’s still something you could do for me.”

June 20th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

Early on in Akira, Katsuhiro Otomo scripts an interaction I found really interesting. Kaneda goes to the school nurse’s office to see if she can shed some light on a pill he found. Four pages:

The interesting bit is that the nurse reveals her pregnancy to Kaneda and his reaction is… nothing. He dodges her reveal in a way that both ducks any responsibility on his part and turns her reveal into a setup for a crude joke. He’s cognizant of what he’s doing, I think. The sad face in the reveal panel makes that obvious. But that doesn’t stop what he does next. In fact, it probably fuels his response. A baby isn’t even on the radar for Kaneda. That’s somebody else’s problem.

The nurse only moves a couple times in this sequence. She stands up from her chair to rush Kaneda out of the office before he gets caught, but after he kisses her, she’s frozen in place. At first, it’s clearly due to pleasure. Kaneda pulls away from the kiss, causing her to lean in. I like the way that she rests on the table after the kiss, presumably due to wobbly knees. She continues leaning on the table during her confession. It’s something solid that she can hold onto while she gets ready to shift the axis of her entire world. And when Kaneda shuts her down with a joke, she’s still leaning.

The body language here is ill. The way she tries to hold the kiss, the glow when she first grips the table, and then the way her head and body slowly slump over the course of three pages. It reminds me of this episode of Chris Onstad’s Achewood:

Kaneda walks around with dynamite in his mouth, and he’s an expert at using it. He’s cruel, and more than willing to use and abuse someone else to get what he needs. The sheer cruelty inherent in asking for a favor and then completely dismissing one of the most important things in someone’s life is incredible. It doesn’t make him wholly unlikable (it sorta does), but it’s a clue that, hey, this guy? Straight up delinquent.

On the flip side of that is the fact that nobody is completely evil. Everybody has someone they tell fart jokes to, or a girl that they get all goofy around. Kaneda is brutally callous, but when dealing with people he cares about, he’s fiercely loyal. He’s more than willing to go to the mat for his friends, and if that means killing somebody to get the job done? So be it. If that means beating up a greyed up little kid… hey. Fair’s fair. No one takes shots at the family and walks away.

I saw Attack the Block the other week. It’s working in a similar lane, in that it humanizes what would normally be pure goons in other movies. David Allison over at the Mindless HQ talked about this in detail in the review that made me interested in the flick to begin with. Both Akira and Attack the Block show the people behind the crime, for lack of a better phrase.

Neither of them are about redemption, either. Both Kaneda and Moses learn something and maybe figure out how to be better people, but that’s not the point of the story so much as it is a side effect of the story. Kaneda goes from his small world of high school, pliable women, and violence on the weekends to a post-apocalyptic wasteland where the old rules are dead, but old skills may come in handy. Things get bigger, and Kaneda is forced to operate on a scale and in situations he never considered and isn’t necessarily cut out for.

“Soandso is a hero” is a simplistic way of looking at things. The best person has flaws, and the worst person has good qualities. It’s a matter of seeing deeper than just the surface level for either side and considering the person as a whole. Kaneda is the right man for the right time. He has heroic qualities, but villainous ones, too.

I’m in the middle of rereading Akira after a couple of years off. I’m a third of the way through or so. I don’t remember what happened to the nurse, but now, I’m seriously and genuinely wondering what went down with her and the kid. Figure I’ll find out as I work my way through the rest of the series, though.

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Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira: “Let’s go, doctor.”

June 15th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

Charlie Huston’s The Shotgun Rule builds to a fever pitch maybe halfway through due to the fact that the chapters are alternating between a point in the future where things are quickly collapsing into trauma and violence and the present, where the characters are being pushed toward that future. This weird double vision keeps pushing you, and every time you cut away from one path to check in on the other, the other path becomes more and more important. You read each page at the same pace, but the scenes push you along until the tension becomes almost unbearable.

Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira has a scene that reminds me of that, though the specifics are almost entirely different. It’s in Akira Volume 2, if you want to follow along. The images in this post are abridged from the scene, but should neatly illustrate what I mean.

There are a few distinct stories going on in this scene, and they’re all headed for the same end goal. Kaneda and Kei (or Kay, I’m not picky) are rushing toward Akira’s refrigeration unit in an attempt to somehow find Tetsuo and maybe find out the truth about Akira. Ryu and his boy are trying to evade the military and infiltrate the facility. The Colonel and the military are trying to beat Tetsuo to the bottom floor. Another guy is keeping an eye out for Ryu for revenge. Tetsuo is making his way toward Akira.

Kaneda/Kei, Ryu, and Shikishima make three strains. Add Tetsuo–that’s four. The four strains twist in and out of each other’s way before the big finale, trading characters or blows. There’s a clear time limit, and a lot of confusion, and the result is that everyone’s rushing everywhere. Hover vehicles are exploding their way down the elevator shaft, dudes are getting shot and stabbed, and everyone’s sprinting toward the finish line, whether that involves wading through sewage or moving in formation down an elevator shaft.

The only exception is Tetsuo. He’s positively strolling toward Akira, walking with his fur collar around his neck and his hands in his pockets. His body language is casual, but focused. He’s amused by all the stuff going on around him, but clearly far from concerned. He’s murdered a dozen soldiers already, so he knows that he can handle whatever gets in his way. He runs into trouble exactly once while descending, and he survives that with nary a scratch. He’s a teenager blessed with extraordinary and seemingly unstoppable power–he’s just as cocky as he deserves to be.

The net result of these four strains playing off each other is pretty great, from a pacing point of view. This could’ve been a dead sprint, with everyone trying to get to one spot before everyone else. Instead, Tetsuo slipping in and out of focus as the conflict goes on makes things much more tense than an out-and-out sprint would be. Everyone is rushing, shouting, and worried. Scientists are telling the Colonel awful news, Ryu is worried about being detected and/or stabbed, and Kei is trying to get to where she needs to be.

And then there’s Tetsuo. Walking.

My favorite page in this scene… my second favorite page in this scene is akira-book2-descent-01.jpg, the bit where he’s riding the elevator down alongside some seriously ominous sound effects. His posture and the giant panels are just insanely well thought out. He doesn’t have a care in the world, because what thing can kill him?

Just the fact that he isn’t worried about what’s going on is worrisome. It’s like sitting in a room full of panicked people, and being panicked yourself, when you spot one person sitting right in the middle of the room with a huge grin on his face. It’s unsettling. Tetsuo’s casual demeanor here makes the entire scene, which is probably around a hundred pages long. His calmness is scary. It ratchets a simple chase scene up into real tension. You can’t read this slowly. Toward the end, where Tetsuo gets these huge, spacious panels or entire pages to himself, things become even worse. Every panel Otomo spends on on Tetsuo moves him closer to his goal. Every panel on the other strains show us characters who are out of their depth and don’t know it.

Flicking back and forth and allowing Tetsuo to directly touch a couple of those strains is an inspired choice. It demonstrates a direct and brutal contrast in approach between the characters. Tetsuo is Jason in the woods, walking calmly after the screaming coed. He’s a predator, and that sneer on his face is never going to go away. More than that, though, it suggests a certain level of finality to the entire chase. What does he know that we don’t?

This isn’t 1:1 analogous to The Shotgun Rule. That book made its tension work by introducing us to characters and then giving us glimpses of the horrors to come. Here, the three non-Testuo strains demonstrate a complete and total loss of control on the part of the characters, turning them into something that is subordinate to Tetsuo and his powers.

The high tension, shouting, and action makes you want to read through those sections quickly. It gets your heart going and you have to find out what happens next. Following that with scenes and panels intended to slow you down and force you to absorb the panels is like that stutter when you switch gears when driving manual. You’re not accelerating any more, but you’re still going, and then bam, you’re going again, and hard. Pause, go, pause, GO.

One last thing.

akira-book2-descent-08.jpg is my favorite page. Tetsuo beginning to turn to Akira on top, the Colonel trying to talk him down, and then Tetsuo turning and really looking into the darkness?


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The Cipher 03/30/11: “we haven’t even gotten to the part where it’s a joke”

March 30th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

i’ve been noticing the fact

created: Wondercon’s this weekend. Anybody going?

Rafael Albuquerque improved by leaps and bounds since his days on Blue Beetle.

-See that last comment in there? Dude that’s like “Sounds like someone didn’t do all their homework before pretending to be an expert.”? He asks me if I read Albuquerque’s Superman/Batman work when I call out both his covers right there. Why would you want to be that guy? The “Oh, sorry, let me correct you” guy?

that nothing glorious can happen anymore

consumed: I felt like talking about movies, I guess.

Donate to the Red Cross and check out some Ron Wimberly sketches.

Help fund Jay Potts’s World of Hurt hardcover.

-Buy Lauren Davis’s The Comic Book Guide to the Mission (when it comes back in stock).

“Oh my God–we hit a little girl.” I hadn’t read this before, and that magazine cover is amazing.

-Here’s an interview with Ann Nocenti about working in Haiti, post-quake.

-I saw two movies this weekend: 13 Assassins and Sucker Punch.

-The worst thing about Sucker Punch isn’t that it’s sexist or misogynist. It’s that it’s awful. It’s inept on almost every level, save for Jena Malone, the stop snitching scene, and… well, that’s probably it. Even the colors sucked.

-How inept is it? Around an hour and forty-five in, Snyder realizes that he has fifteen minutes left and pop pop pop three people drop just like that. Push that story along, baby! On top of that, there’s a huge plot hole in that segment. The girls have to get something. They don’t. They use it anyway to save the day. Really? Who edited this? Who wrote it? There’s a big twist at the end surrounding the least sympathetic character. The music selection is so unbelievably -~POIGNANT~- and -~MEANINGFUL~- that I wanted to leave (no joke) about thirty seconds in, or whenever it was that the line “Some of them want to abuse you” from “Sweet Dreams” synced up to somebody’s abusive father leering at the camera.

-Somebody should revoke Snyder’s music licensing permission. The music wasn’t bad, exactly, but I felt like I was watching a thirteen year old make an anime music video out of his wet dreams. The metaphor isn’t even that deep, man. And the ending is awful.

-I went with some friends because a) it was cheap and b) I hadn’t seen some of them in a while and it seemed like a nice way to kill a Sunday matinee. We laughed, and hard, at the snitching scene. It was absurd, yet another moment of “Really? REALLY?” stacked on top of a million others. This guy next to us was like “Ha ha, real FUCKING funny” in that tone of voice where people go on to lecture you about something you don’t care about. I wonder how it feels to be that guy.

13 Assassins, though.

-It’s the new Takashi Miike, and the story of 13 samurai (well, twelve and another guy) out to kill a dude who is basically Japanese Caligula. He’s the half-brother of the shogun, corrupt, almost cartoonishly evil, and has embraced his nobility to the point that other people aren’t even human.

-He’s played wonderfully by Goro Inagaki, with the perfect amount of distance and just… what, callousness? He isn’t evil, he just doesn’t care. There’s a hole in him somewhere.

-This flick is the most grown mannest, whiskey drinkingest, cigar smokingest, record playingest, old school Caddy drivingest movie I’ve seen in a long time. Honor, sacrifice, horror, and all that stuff Garth Ennis loves is in here, and it’s great.

-There’s a scene with a quadruple amputee (CG, I assume) that was incredibly haunting and led to a tremendous payoff toward the end.

-The last 45 minutes or so of the flick is one running battle, 13 versus 200, and the prize is one man’s head. The pacing of the scene, of the fights, and the moments between the fights is dead-on. It flies by, and by the end of it, you’re not ready for it to be over.

-I liked how the big battle began with what was essentially asymmetrical warfare and exploiting home field advantage. The men are all a little different, and the way they approach living their lives and bushido was all very interesting. One guy’s reaction to his first kill was great, while another scene set in a long alley with several swords was a really well done action scene.

-“Kill any of them that get past me.” I got chills. He was so real.

-I think what I liked most about 13 Assassins was how straightforward it was. No gimmicks, no stupid slomo, and no really masturbatory shots. There are a few comedic bits to break up the tension (much needed), but they don’t break the movie. Even the violence was subdued. Other than a couple of scenes, most of the blood is shed off-screen, and there’s one spot of nudity that doesn’t come off sexual at all. Due to that, the way that the blood eventually covers their swords is striking. It’s straight up chambara, no magic tricks.

-Oh no, I lied–there’s one gigantic gout of blood, but there was a really good reason for it.

-And something impossible happens in the epilogue, but I think I figured it out and I’m okay with it.

-Toward the end of the movie, and you can see this in the trailer, a man wipes the blood off his sword with his sleeve. That scene is fantastic, and didn’t go down like I expected.

-I’m trying to think of my favorite scene, but all of it was enjoyable. I watched it while eating a porterhouse steak and shrimp tortelloni alfredo, drinking cream soda from a bottle, and sitting in the dark. Great experience.

-It’s ten bucks to rent off Amazon (or iTunes, if you’d rather see it in HD). I waffled a bit–ten bucks is a lot to spend for a rental. Then I realized that I’d just spent six whole dollars on Sucker Punch and went ahead and copped it. I got my money’s worth. I’ll buy it on Blu-ray when that drops, too. I’m a fan, borderline stan.

How good is this critique of that new Wonder Woman show by Adam Warren? All to the good, that’s how good. I don’t really care one way or another about the show (Zealot > Wonder Woman), but his points are on point.

-There’s a remake of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira coming, directed by the Hughes brothers and set in a Neo-Manhattan, after the Japanese swooped in on an economically vulnerable America and bought up the place, last I heard. The script’s probably changed since. A lot has been made about them casting white actors in the lead roles.

-I think they have a point, but at the same time: Yojimbo vs Fistful of Dollars.

-The situation isn’t exactly comparable, but I can’t imagine we’ll possibly get an American Akira with some white dude going by “Kaneda.” That’s stupid to anyone with half a brain. But my point, rendered as best I can while writing on the fly before I leave for work: I don’t think a not-Japanese Akira is a bad thing, in and of itself. There’s nothing wrong with remakes that put a film into a new context.

Yojimbo vs Fistful is a good example of that. Both are classics, and I can’t tell which one I love more. Probably Yojimbo, because I watched it more recently.

-I think the biggest problem with a white Akira is the setting. Akira is fueled by a lot of things: the cost of power, science gone wild, nuclear fears, a certain type of street gang, and probably half a dozen more specifically ’80s, and probably Japanese, fears.

-It’s 2011. We don’t care about half that stuff any more. It’s like rappers still rhyming about pushing crack. It’s old. We have new fears, new things that will tilt the world off its axis and send us spinning off into space. The Akira remake needs to reflect that, and I’m not talking about Kenyan Manchurian Candidate Islamofascists hiding behind couches.

-If you’re gonna remake something, remake it. Don’t just try to translate it. That’s boring. Let Me In was pretty cool, and my understanding is that it took some liberties with the source material. If you’re going to adapt something to a new context, use the original as a base and then work within the confines of that context. Direct remakes are boring.

-If they do the work, I think an American Akira could be great. But honestly? The only faith I have in that movie lies with the Hughes. I don’t even know if I think it’ll ever actually get made.

-No way can they top the books, anyway. I wrote about it here and here. I own a couple color guides from it, too:

akira color guides

-So, y’know, as a huge fan of Akira, and a dude who is probably about to irresponsibly drop some dough on the colorized Japanese editions of volumes 2-5–maybe the Akira remake won’t be that baaaaahahahahahahahaha

we’ve run the gamut of our filth

David: I quit trying to save comics when I realized that comics wouldn’t save me
Esther: Action Comics 899
Gavin: Green Lantern Emerald Warriors 8, Incorruptible 16, 5 Ronin 5, Avengers 11, Captain America 616, Deadpool Team-Up 883, Incredible Hulks 625, Punisher In The Blood 5, Secret Avengers 11

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The Cipher 10/20/10

October 20th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

leave with lifeless lungs or come in peace
-Remember when I said “You should be reading it” in relation to the Fraction/Ferry Thor? I take it back. I was okay with the first issue being empty, what with it being essentially the first chapter in what is meant to be a book, but the second is just as empty. All of the goodwill I had for it was instantly sapped by the pace and plot. Check out Tim O’Neil’s pretty good review of the issue. I agree with everything he said, I think. Pretty art, I dig the letters, but you’re cashews if you think I’m gonna pay four dollars a month for that.

-I’m slowly working my way through the books I bought at NYCC… and the books I bought after NYCC, and the books I’m probably gonna buy tonight. Time to scale back the insanity some, maybe? Who knows.

-I went to APE. It was okay. I liked the Writers Old Fashioned panel on Sunday. I bought a couple pages of art from Steve Oliff, the incredible colorist who did Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira.

akira color guides

One of the best comics ever, seriously. I’m happy to own two bits of it. These are also the first two pages I’ve bought that don’t feature colored folks.

-Disc-less Netflix on PS3 > Netflix on 360. The interface is smooth as silk.

-I deleted like ten gigs of mp3s last night. Goodbye, Canibus and Cassidy. You overstayed your welcomes. Drake, you’re next.

-If all goes well, I’ll have both a new Pretty Girls for Friday and a good post for tomorrow.

-You ever feel like there’s something you’re forgetting, even though it’s consumed your thoughts for days? I’m having that feeling right now. It was definitely something to do with comical books.

i would rather have you fear me than have you respect me
wrote: Ehh, light week. Just a preview. You should watch the footage of our panel from NYCC, though, and leave comments about my looks.

read: One Piece, Vol. 55, Gunsmith Cats Revised Edition Volume 4, and Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, Vol. 11. OP was great, as expected. GSC flagged a little toward the end there by introducing a major character and then ignoring him for the rest of the book. It stumbled, but other than all the pedo stuff, it was pretty great. (Ugh.) 20thCB11 introduced a staple of adventure comics (crippling self-doubt!) and resolved it over the course of a chapter (I am invincible.), so that was nice. I like it more now, but it’s still threatening to spin off into absurdity (more than it already has, I mean). I hope the guessing games are mostly done. The stuff about Kanna was really strong this time around. More of that, please!

watched: I ordered The Night of the Hunter and received Seven Samurai. Why? Because Robert Mitchum and Akira Kurosawa, that’s why.

listened: It is positively absurd how much I’m feeling Rick Ross’s Teflon Don. Who knew? I’ve mostly been listening to Kanye and old joints, though.

laws and rules don’t apply to me
david: Hellblazer 272, New Mutants 18
esther: Possibly, but not likely: Batman the Road Home: Catwoman, Commissioner Gordon. Possibly: Batman and Robin 15, DCU Halloween Special, Tiny Titans 33. Probably: Superman/Batman 77
gavin: Azrael 13, Batman And Robin 15, Green Lantern Corps 53, Carnage 1, Chaos War 2, Deadpool 28, Hulk 26, Shadowland Power Man 3, Steve Rogers Super-Soldier 4, Darkwing Duck 5

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