cc beck and captain marvel

The major artistic inspiration for Kekionga is the original Fawcett Captain Marvel, and especially the work of C.C. Beck.  So why not spend the weekend with a couple of beautiful Beck drawings of the big Red Cheese, both of which are going to inspire sketchbook drawings. And also next week’s online comic.

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distraction: a toy camera

Every photographer should have a toy camera.  The combination of a low fi plastic lens, minimal controls, and no way to review the images on the spot means there’s nothing much to do except see potential photographs in the scenes around you and try to frame them.  The important stuff, in other words.

My latest toy camera is this bright pink Holga digital.  It offers three options to the photographer, only one of which is an actual control: color/black and white, 3:2/square, and sun or clouds.  You can see in the notes above what that means: “clouds” is a normal exposure (according to the camera’s rudimentary light meter), while “sun” is one stop underexposed.  The camera also has a very basic peephole viewfinder that shows you a square.  It’s a square image dreamboat, really, and I am shooting only squares on it.  Here are a few samples  They are all straight out of camera.

 (You can see more on my Instagram @kekiongacomics.)

Shooting with a camera like this is as close as you can get to pure photography.  Anybody else out there have a toy camera?

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fifty superheroes: number thirteen

Erik Walks-on-Air is, of course, a flying hero.  In fact, he’s what I think of as a pure flying hero– he doesn’t use technology or magic, and he doesn’t have “flight” as just one item on a list of mighty powers.  Erik is a guy who can fly, and he is set up for it, small, light and lean, and he has some kind of eye adaptation that allows him to skip the goggles.

His costume is based on World War I era “dazzle” camouflage, which uses randomly assigned large areas of geometric patterns of light and dark (stripes, blocks, chevrons, diamonds) to break up the silhouettes of large objects.  This makes them less visible from long distances, especially to observers using low fidelity observation gear.  Like, say, an early submarine periscope– the usual application of dazzle was on naval vessels and cargo ships traveling in convoys.  I’m pretty sure Erik doesn’t think his dazzle suit actually hides him, but it is somewhat confusing and it looks cool.  Especially since the pattern is always changing …

I will admit that Erik’s hero name sounds like a storybook “Indian name”– that’s more or less on purpose. He was originally designed to be Native American, but if that smacks of cultural appropriation to you, he could just as easily be from an created culture or subculture. Or maybe he’s the one doing the appropriating and is either creative and naive or a bit of a jerk.

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sketchbook week: anpu’s album

Sketchbook Week returns with a new online album of sketchbook drawings of everyone’s favorite retired god.  It’s called Anpu’s Album and there are nine cool Anpu portraits there right now.  I plan to add more as I either draw or find them.  

The image above is just a sample: find the complete album with commentary on my Official Facebook Page here.  (It’s a public page; you do not have to be a member of Facebook to play!)

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distraction: steam locomotive

Here she comes! Sketchbook Week will return tomorrow and probably extend into next week because of this locomotive.  Sorry.  It’s all very easy to blame the steam locomotive when you want to play with cameras all day instead of working on what you are supposed to be working on. But the fact remains that you do not see steam locomotives every day, much less get to hear and feel them traveling at speed through the same familiar grade crossing where you sometimes have to wait for coal, hazardous liquids and new pick up trucks on your way to the grocery store.

So please enjoy these photographs of Old Seven Sixty Five.  Note that I have never photographed a locomotive in motion before.  (Pentax K-5iis Kilo/ Pentax 35mm f/2.8 Macro Limited)

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random image from my sketchbook

Plans.  What are these plans you speak of?  Ha.  Life snickers scornfully at your puny plans.  But since it’s sketchbook week, here is a random image from my sketchbooks.  I mean that– I pulled the book of the shelf and opened it at random, and was reminded that on the 13th of April, 2014, I bought a big black marker. Looks like it was the kind with two tips, a broad one I used for the basic lines and a fine one I used for the face and the details.  Just for the fun of it, I left this image in full color instead of converting it to pure black and white, so you can see the layering and the varying levels of solvent in the marker as the pressure changes.  There is nothing like the drawing experience you get with a high quality marker that’s perfectly fresh, but it never lasts long.

One of the basic uses of the sketchbook is to experiment with new tools and (attempt to) learn to control them.  This character probably represents the essentially wild nature of drawing tools– the marker is barely under control here, and it will never entirely be tamed.

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fifty superheroes: number twelve

The twelfth* of the fifty superheroes is the mighty Man-O-Taur.  And I have mixed feelings about him.  Not about the drawing, which I quite like (doing the whole thing with the scritchy-scratchy pen is always a fun technique) nor about the character himself, who is handsome and well designed (but my own internal standards) but by the idea that a person/being of a non-baseline body type is automatically “different” enough to fit into the super-category.  Am I being morphist here?

So let’s assume that the  Man-O-Taur has a ton of other interesting powers beyond being just “a bull guy” who is big and strong.   Should he be a tech hero (it might be fun to design his armor) or a magic user?  Or even better, make him a psionic, with his powers all in his head and no visible manifestations at all, even a costume.  In that case he could be a real “Ferdinand the Bull”, who dislikes physical confrontation and prefers to sit back and smell the flowers until conflict is unavoidable, then stop the problem with a basically pacifistic use of psi.  Invisible brick wall, anyone? Instant, non damaging unconsciousness?

The Man-O-Taur is also a vegetarian and tries to restrict his carbon footprint.

(The word “twelfth” is extremely weird, with the way the “v” changes into an “f”.)

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sketchbook week: the sketchbook placemat drawing

Here on the blog it’s Sketchbook Week!   Movie Week seemed to go over well, so this week will be dedicated to images from my sketchbook.  Posts will include two more of the Fifty Superheroes from last year’s ongoing project, an album dedicated to a single Kekionga character, and maybe a readers’ choice entry if I get some good suggestions.

But let’s start with the ever popular crossover.  This image is a crossover between a sketchbook drawing and a placemat drawing.  It was drawn on page from my sketchbook, with one of my good fountain pens (the new Pilot 92, a bright orange demonstrator with a gold nib) but otherwise, it functions purely as a placemat drawing– starting with a single line with no corrections and of course no pencil underdrawing.    The first line was the lopsided circle enclosing the moon.  I added the figure on the right, intending it to be a wolf girl (to go with the moon), but her rounded ears made her an African Painted Dog instead. (Or a Cape Hunting Dog, if you prefer.)   I put the wolf on the left instead, made him a boy to go with the girl, and there you have it, a canine couple dating by the light of a benevolent although not quite circular moon.

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movietime at the cinemark: the fate of the furious

(Movie Week concludes, for now, with the second of the catch-up reviews.  We’re now ready to go to some more movies: bring on a carefully chosen selection of summer blockbusters and also a new actor-driven caper movie that my movie going companion is very interested in.)

It’s a well known fact that the world is divided into two groups of people: those who think the Fast and Furious movies are a ton of fun, and those who think they are dumb,  way over the top, or both.  What is less well known is that those two groups overlap.  I am in the intersection, so sue me.

The Fate of the Furious, oh flick of the dubiously clever title, is the eighth outing in the series following street racer Dominic Torretto (Vin Diesel) and his chosen family as they embark on a wildly unlikely series of adventures that usually involve cars that go very fast. This one is notable for being the first film in the series produced after the death of actor Paul Walker, who played Dom’s partner, best friend, and eventually brother in law, Brian.  That character is missed, but life goes on, and so do these movies. The action never stops until it goes too far, as usual.  All is well, and this movie is just fine if you like this kind of thing.

In case you want to be surprised by a late viewing of Fate (not that it’s very surprising), click to read a paragraph that really belongs above the cut (except that it’s spoilery), and the usual random notes. Continue reading

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movietime at the cinemark: the lego batman movie

(Welcome back to Movie Week, where we are catching up on some reviews of movies I saw earlier in the year but was too lazy or distracted by real world issues to write about.)

I knew The Lego Batman Movie would be a difficult movie to review, at least in the way I usually review movies.  It’s not that I didn’t like it– I liked it a lot– but the usual tactics of talking about casting, performances, plot, storytelling and worldbuilding, then putting the flick in context and adding my own weird observations and comments, and of course lots of throwing in lots of spoilers, just don’t seem to apply.

This is Lego, everybody.  Animated Lego.  And it’s great.  The original Lego Movie was an unexpected delight, and the Batman character was the best thing in it. (My friend B, who is a bit of a Batman maven, says Lego Batman is the best Batman ever in a medium other than comics.) So it’s hardly a surprise that he got his own movie.  The Lego Batman Movie is concentrated Batman in the context of Lego, with a cast of Batman characters (including pretty much the entire Rogues Gallery) and all the crazy vehicles and settings  (including an incredibly well developed Gotham City).  And everything is made of CGI Lego.  Sounds weird.  Works great.  My notes from the day I saw the movie specifically mention the climbing Bat vehicle called the Scuttler, and two of the sets: the vast Great Hall at Wayne Manor with the animated Lego fires in the enormous fireplaces, and the winter garden party set.  The world needs more giant narwhal ice sculptures executed in imaginary Lego.

Casting was sound, and the (Lego with voices) performances are sometimes quite good.  Alfred the butler, who is my favorite Batman character, is great here– father figure, grandfather figure, and superhero in his own right.  Robin is a fun silly-sometimes-touching kid character, and Barbara Gordon (she and Batman are Just Good Friends) makes a great sidekick.  The villains are highly entertaining, including one of the best depictions of the Joker since Heath Ledger’s, but if I may offer a criticism, there are too many of them and it might have been more interesting if the writers had concentrated on a few bad guys and developed them more.

Or maybe not.  Because one of the greatest things about the Lego movie world is its lavishness.  Regular readers of my media reviews and other criticism know that I am not normally a big fan of bigness– in storytelling, in settings, in plots.  But Lego movie world is big, so, so big, and it works for me.  Maybe because it is built out of those familiar little plastic blocks that we all understand with the deep understanding that comes from our mutual childhoods.  We all know what Legos are, and most of us have played with them and dreamed of having an infinite number of pieces and being able to build everything.  The Lego filmmakers are in just that position, with their never empty box of digital Legos, and perhaps we are living vicariously through them.

So I end up loving the bigness of the Lego movie world– its wildly detailed sets, huge vistas and massive casts of minifigures with their endless wardrobes and selection of props. (Lobster Thermidor, anyone?)  Everything I sometimes complain about in movies that are supposed to be somehow “realistic” is just tremendous fun when translated into computer Lego. In a Lego movie we are all living the dream.

(Note that I have typed the word “Lego” more times in the previous five paragraphs than I have in my entire life up to this point.)



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