Sunday, November 16, 2014

Popeye (1980)

 
 
I confess. POPEYE starring Robin Williams is one of my favorite films. I loved it when I saw it as a kid in 1980 and I love it now. It was one of Robin Williams very first starring roles. Actually, it may have been Robin Williams very first starring roles. He did a great job as my favorite one-eyed sailor. And I felt as far as the actors they chose to fill the roles of the characters created by E.C. Segar THIMBLE THEATRE, it was very well cast.
 
Heck!! It's even directed by Robert Altman!!
 
Although I think my favorite bit of casting in the movie was Ray Walston as Poopdeck Pappy. Popeye's long lost father. Perhaps because he might actually remind me of my own Dad.
 
 
Cartoonist Jules Feiffer writes his own introduction story for the character that does not really borrow much for Popeye's own first appearance.
 
However, to be fair Popeye's actual first appearance seems like an afterthought. However, the character was not the original star of the strip and was only intended on being a used for a few weeks before he was dropped. But Popeye proved to be so popular with readers that they had no choice but to keep him.
 
Which I really didn't mind as a kid that they didn't use the original first appearance as part of the story line because I really didn't know about it.
 
And it still doesn't bother me. I think Feiffer wrote an enjoyable script filled with all the quirks and nuance's of E.C. Segar's strip and even the Max Fleischer cartoons. And I found this introduction of Popeye just as acceptable.
 
The movie also includes a fantastic soundtrack by the late Harry Nilsson who seemed born to write music for Popeye.


 
Even his song Gotta Get Up fro 1971 seems like it could have fit into the soundtrack of POPEYE.
 
And he did some songs I really liked in the movie like this ditty:
 
 

 
For someone like me who doesn't care for movies with musical numbers, this one I don't mind. I think I like the fact that the songs and the singing is somewhat rough around the edges. Which go very well with the characters Segar created.
 



I think it's a movie that people really need to give a second chance. If you watch it as nothing more than harmless fun, you'll enjoy it.
 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Vamping and Stamping...

video
 
For the past year or so I've been teaching myself the ukulele. I've been learning a few songs. Mostly ones from 1890 to the 1920s since I have an affinity for that era. However, I did learn the song SOMETHING written by one of my favorite Beatles George Harrison on the uke recently.

Yes I'm not perfect and I admit to it. But I'm enjoying myself enormously. The uke has given me something (no puns intended) to unwind with. I don't have many hobbies and I consider creating artwork my livelihood and NOT a hobby.

And if I were to wait until absolute perfection on anything I'd never get anything done. I'd just be one of those arrogant little toadies with absolutely no talent who troll people's blogs leaving insulting comments.

Incidentally, for those who would like to attempt to leave an insulting remark about my ukulele playing, I should warn you that I do monitor all my comments and most likely your comment will not be published. So you'll waste your breath for nothing.

But if wasting your energy on insulting people is what you live for, be my guest.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Bill Watterson

 
It's been almost 20 years since Bill Watterson decided to cease publication on his beloved comic strip CALVIN AND HOBBES. I feel like Watterson created the last quality newspaper comic strip. I suppose that  statement is debatable. However, that's the way I felt and still feel. It was well drawn. It was well written. And it made me laugh. Three important elements when you are creating something that is SUPPOSED TO BE funny. And which is not always the case in many strips.
 
Watterson was basically king of the world during that time. He even pushed to have a full page for his Sunday strip so the quality wouldn't suffer. And he got his way! Which earned the ire of fellow creators such as Bill Keane of Family Circus.
 
I shouldn't speak ill of the dead (but I will anyways) but Calvin and Hobbes is a better strip than Family Circus ever was. Besides, why need extra space to have Billy running around in his little dotted path around the house and backyard to whatever crap he was supposed to be doing. Or a comic drawn by Billy (eternally age 7) because Bill Keane took the day off to shotgun a 40 of Old English with Jim Davis and Cathy Guisewite.
 
It was a surprise to everyone when Bill Watterson decided to bring his comic to an end on December 31st 1995. A decision that more than irritated many people. Although possibly not Bill Keane who I hear was nursing a hangover from a night of beer pong and jello shooters with Andy Capp creator Reg Smythe from the rumor I just made up now.
 
I actually respect Watterson for his decision. Sometimes it's good to end something while people still miss it rather than when you've rehashed the same joke like so many comics that came before Calvin and Hobbes.
 
At the time he stated his interests had shifted in a different direction. And I respect that too. I think it would be a greater tragedy to have had him continue to create Calvin and Hobbes strips only to resent the very characters he created.
 
Not to mention characters who are STILL beloved by millions. Not bad for a guy who made a decision NOT TO merchandise his characters in any way.
 
Which made Bill Watterson's new strip such a welcomed sight for me. He has done very little comic work since the end of Calvin and Hobbes seeing his latest strip was delightful in its simplicity. It reminded me very much of George Herriman's Krazy Kat stylistically. But it was so recognizably Bill Watterson.
 
I'm not sure if this is heralding a series of new comics for Bill Watterson. If not, it's still good to have this one.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Boy and his Turtle!! Submit artwork today!!

Mommy! Mommy! What's that bad man doing to that turtle???



Well folks!! I finally got my lazy hinder in gear and created a button to submit artwork to A BOY AND HIS TURTLE!! What I'm hoping to be a collection of 50 or so illustrations created by artists from around and about the Worcester area celebrating Worcester's own beloved oddity: TURTLEBOY. Also know as the Burnside Fountain. Edited by myself and fellow artist Jon Hansen.

With cover art by Derek Ring!!

I've got a Paypal button up and running for those who wish to submit online. It's a $10.00 application fee which will be returnable if your artwork is not chosen. However, we also added the option if you would like to use your $10.00 fee as a donation towards printing costs. Don't feel like ya have to. It's just an option. Not a prison sentence.

You can send a sample of your artwork to my e-mail at herbertzohl@gmail.com and I will get back to you once myself and Jon Hansen have made our decision.

I'll try to get a tradition submission sheet ready for those who prefer to submit the old fashioned way.

But click on the button below to submit your $10.00. I would wait till you have an image completed before you submit your application feel. Then e-mail me your name and your e-mail address so I can get in touch with you.


Boy and His Turtle Submission Options
And for those who wish to make a snarky comment about all this. I wouldn't. I just won't publish your comment anyways. So you're wasting both our time. To everyone else good luck and happy submitting!!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Bruce Wayne: The Boy Wonder


I've only caught one episode of GOTHAM so far. But I actually liked it. A lot more than I thought I would. Good cast and an interesting take on how Bruce Wayne would ultimately decide to become Batman.

Robin Lord Taylor's performance as Oswald Cobblepot, the man who would ultimately become that fowl... I mean... foul fiend The Penguin is a particular favorite of mine. I also really enjoy Sean Pertwee as Alfred Pennyworth.

The series has some of the grittiness of the Christopher Nolan trilogy without being too "real". One of the things I think was a weak spot in the trilogy for me... that and the Christian Bale Batman voice. I missed many of the villains like the Riddler and the Penguin which were apparently too "lightweight" for the Nolan films.

Its also nice to see the series focusing on the origins of some lesser utilized Batman villains like Hugo Strange. A character I really like and someone I'm surprised none of the films have featured in some capacity.

The series focuses on Jim Gordon before he was the commish and a Bruce Wayne barely out of Jr. High School. Along with a few vigilante type character that came before the Batman. I does make me wonder if they might go in this direction.

Bruce Wayne becoming the first Robin: The Boy Wonder.

Some of you out there might not be familiar with one of the older continuities in the DC Universe which introduced Bruce Wayne as the very first Robin. 

It was originally used in a Batman story from the 1950's and later recounted in THE UNTOLD LEGEND OF THE BATMAN illustrated by John Byrne and Jim Aparo (seen above) in the early 1980's. Bruce would create the costume in order to meet Harvey Harris, detective he idolized, and learn the basics for detective work. It should be noted to Bat-Fans out there that the color scheme and domino mask of Robin's costume were actually originally intended for Batman.

Yep! If you didn't know that before, you read that right!!

The purpose for the secret identity was so Harris learning Wayne's true motives (avenge his parents death most likely) which could potentially lead to the detective discouraging Wayne from pursuing this obsession. Wayne ends up saving  Harris's life in the process of trying to meet him and in gratitude for the good dead, the detective agrees to train the lad and even gives him the moniker Robin since his costume resembles a robin redbreast. 

Many years later when Bruce Wayne would become the Batman, he would pass the Robin guise to his ward Dick Grayson.

This continuity has long since been retconned. Which I think is kind of a shame because I feel the whole idea of a young restless Bruce Wayne donning a mask long before he was Batman is a great idea.

Actually, I think it would work really well in the context of the series GOTHAM. Mock me as you may, but I think it would be great. Especially considering they are creating this bond between Wayne and Jim Gordon. Perhaps it's time to dust off that old story-line and substitute Jim Gordon for Harvey Harris...

...the detective Wayne idolizes.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Steampunk Alice Costume

Several months ago Carrie Nilles contacted me asking if her daughter could have permission to use the design Paul Loudon and myself created for our Steampunk Alice project to be used as her costume. They had found my design on my deviantart site and what her daughter liked about it was the fact the design was fun without it being all "corsets and cogs" as some Steampunk Alice costumes can be.
 
Carrie posted a photo of her daughter's costume yesterday and I have to say I was very thrilled with the results and very flattered they used my design.
 
 
I thought they did a fantastic job with visually realizing the character design :-)

Friday, October 10, 2014

William Gillette's Sherlock Holmes

Back in 2009 I released a graphic novel based on William Gillette's play SHERLOCK HOLMES... actually my association with the play goes back a bit further than that.

To give you a better idea, at the dawn of the 20th Century William Gillette WAS the face of Sherlock Holmes. A great deal of that had to do with his 1,300 stage appearances as the character. And some of it had to do with Frederick Dorr Steele using his likeness as Holmes in the artwork he created for Collier's Weekly's reprinting Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original tales.

He WAS the face of Sherlock Holmes the way Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett and now Benedict Cumberbatch have become the face of the character to their respective generations.

While it's debatable he was the first actor to play the role, he should get credit for introducing the character to an American audience. Many of the elements we commonly associate with Holmes such as the deerstalker, hat the curved pipe (sometimes briar, sometimes a meerschaum) and the phrase "Elementary, my dear Watson" were due to Gillette's play.


Some of this made me dislike the Gillette play for the longest time. At first I felt like it watered down and dumbed-down the character. However, over time I began to appreciate both Gillette AND the play her wrote. In truth what he did was take some of the best elements of the very best Sherlock Holmes tales (i.e. A Scandal in Bohemia, The Final Problem and The Sign of Four) and wove them together to create one narrative.

The more I thought about it, it really was a great way to introduce an audience who may not be readily familiar with the character to give them what was really a "Best of" album of some of the great Sherlock Holmes stories.

This reason, and the connection of Gillette being a fellow native New Englander (go visit his castle along the Connecticut River. Its an amazing place) also helped me in my decision to choose Gillette's play to adapt into a graphic novel.

Recently, they found the only film Gillette did as Sherlock Holmes back in 1916. The film was said to be lost to the ages. But it was recently discovered. Apparently it had been misfiled or something. But as far as Sherlock Holmes films go, this is the absolute Holy Grail of Sherlock Holmes films. The only film appearance of William Gillette as the character he made famous on stage.

I'm actually surprised by this fact. Especially considering how many times he appeared on stage in the role I'm surprised this film is the only time he would appear as the character.

The film itself is in the process of being restored and is set to debut at a film festival in France next year. And in the United States following this.

However, if you cannot wait for that, you could always pick up my adaptation of the play which would ultimately become the film starring William Gillette: