Saturday, September 27, 2008

More Blue Kid! Also, The Snowman, Bad and Good Adaptations

More Blue Kid!

Here it is. I know it's been a while. They should be posting this next story in two parts. This is the first part. There are at least a couple of my favorite pages here. This one is 22 pages in all.

At the moment I'm working on pg 58 and 59, and I should be wrapping the whole thing up in another couple of weeks. Phew. This is my longest sustained effort in comics.

My next project is most likely a longish illustrated children's book, and to keep my hand in comics, some wordless comics stories. The last Blue Kid Story is also wordless, and I think I've been building up to this with the previous pages, depending less and less on words to tell the story. The last story has some interesting formal stuff going on, some novel solutions to the problem of telling a story without words.

I've been really excited about Raymond Briggs lately. Have I already mentioned that? I've yet to read The Snowman but I really liked The Bear, and The Puddleman, and Ethel and Ernest.

There was this incredible animated film made of The Snowman that, as you can see, is gorgeous:

I haven't seen the whole thing in years, but I remember coming upon it by accident when I was a teenager, never having heard of it before. Briggs is huge with the brits, but it seems like we're quieter about him over here. Maybe it's because there's a lot of very English stuff in them when it comes to what people eat and how they talk and what they do with their free time, and American kids can't relate, I don't know.

There's this stage show too, and though the art direction looks decent enough, it kind of freaks me out for some reason:

Some stuff just isn't meant to be live-action, you know? Like all these recent Dr. Seuss train wrecks--32 pg books that weren't intended to be stretched out into 90 minute movies, let alone acted out by comedians with Planet of the Apes prosthetics. There's something very grotesque and frightening about these movies and their horrible all over the place merchandizing.

The worst piece of merchandizing I've ever seen was this book called, "Dr. Seuss' Cat In the Hat Storybook". It was drawn in a Dr. Seuss style almost identical to the original, but it wasn't The Cat in the Hat. It was a storybook based on the movie, The Cat in the Hat. It was this totally counterfeit but officially Seuss estate sanctioned Cat in the Hat book that could easily be mistaken for the real thing by someone unfamiliar with the original. It was one of the most disturbing things I've ever seen.

I've always wondered how much merchandizing and adaptation dilutes the original. Alice In Wonderland is a good example: It's getting harder and harder to find the unabridged Tenniel illustrated version and some people are only familiar with the Disney Film. Winnie The Pooh is a similar casualty. Some people don't even know that there were books in the first place, and the Disney versions are so different than the source material that they don't even resemble the original characters. The original books are also very British, and when my dad tried to read them to me as a kid, I just didn't get them. It didn't look like the Winnie the Pooh I knew. The Disney version is more modern and accessible I guess. At least to the kid I used to be.

Now there were some perfectly good and very faithful animated versions of Dr. Seuss' books done with Seuss' involvement in collaboration with Chuck Jones and Ralph Bakshi and others, the running time stretched out to 25 minutes or so with songs with lyrics by Seuss. But people love these books so much they're gladly willing to smother them, and I'm a little worried about this upcoming feature length live-action Where the Wild Things Are movie. Maurice Sendak is involved, but he was also involved in the Where The Wild Things Are indoor theme park at the Sony Metron in San Francisco, with an In The Night Kitchen themed pizza parlor. My impression last time I was there was that it was a very bad idea, which goes to show that sometimes the artist's aren't the best custodians of their own work.

At least the original is always there to be found if you look hard enough. But how many awful movies were made based on very good books that people who have seen those awful movies won't have anything to do with?

Then there's stuff that far exceeds the source material, like The Godfather. The book is fun, but very pulpy. I saw David Cronenburg's Spider after reading the book, and I hated the book, but loved the movie. And I'm sure there are other examples, and I'm sure the authors have more faith than I do in the quality of their own books.


  1. I too cannot understand why on earth Seuss's family would allow those horrible movies to be produced. They have to be either so greedy that the fortune he earned while alive is not enough for them - or so naive they actually think those movies compliment his work. I can't imagine anybody being that greedy or that stupid. If they were poor and needed the money I could at least understand that. But they don't need the money(as far as I know - I can't imagine they are in any dire straits.)

    It's one of the many great mysteries of life.

  2. I heard that Seuss' widow approved of the Jim Carrey Grinch movie, but didn't like the Mike Myer's Cat In the Hat movie. Having seen neither for fear of being permanently emotionally scarred, my impression is that they both sucked, while The Cat in the Hat sucked slightly more because--well, so many reasons. One of the kids had a palm pilot. Mike Myers didn't only miss the mark, but was so left field with his characterization--The Cat in the Hat as Catskills comedian--that I think I WAS emotionally scarred just by the fact of its existence.

    For some reason we had a 12 pack of coke in the house at the time. I don't know why. I can't recall a time when we drank that volume of coke, or even had coke in the house, but for some reason at THAT time we had a 12 pack. And it seemed as though I was confronted by that creepy Mike Myers grinning Planet of the Apes Cat in the Hat smirking back at me from that 12 pack on a daily basis, forever reinforcing in my mind how great art can be so utterly and totally perverted into something ugly by the evils of merchandizing.

    Seeing the preview was enough to get a very good feel of how they fucked-up Horton Hears a Who. Jim Carrey improvising some pop-culture inspired topical nonsnsense as Horton. Sit-com like dialogue. The whole feel of it very much in that maniacally frantic CGI animation style that seems so popular these days.

    And people LOVE these movies. Maybe not The Cat in the Hat, but The Grinch was a huge hit.

    I'm not a great fan of Van Allsburg's Polar Express, but the piece of uncanny valley creepiness that was that freakish movie, those flourescent waxwork children bouncing around in a shiny hermetic CGI world in eerie motion capture--I just have to say, in the immortal words of Mark Martin, "Gah!" Why o please god why?

    I find it further disturbing that, on a general social level, in polite company, among my wife's family for example, I'm the only one who cares. I remember one family member praising the Van Allsburg movie and describing it as "like Toy Story" and the wrongness of the statement almost made me have to heimlich myself. I don't blame them--they obviously have less personal investment in this stuff than I do and just want to be entertained--but to me these movies--mainly the Seuss ones--are like retroactive abortions of the fantasies of my youth. Does no one understand the pain?

    Enough about this already. Blue Kid Mark. Blue Kid. I'm making comics ova' heah.

  3. The Snowman is my favorite and i and my family watch it several times during the holidays. I also have a CD of the music. Magic!

  4. I agree.

    I also notice from your profile that you like two other favorites of mine, David Sedaris and Lynda Barry.

    I know people who have read Sedaris and didn't care for him, but I always tell them that they really need to hear him to get the full picture.

    And Linda Barry is one of the few people on this earth who knows how to write kids and has some clue as to how they think. Marlys and Maybone are my heroes!

    And though I'm no Raymond Briggs, I recommend you check out my strip, The Blue Kid: