Monthly Archives: June 2013

A Look at Lone Star State Artists Scott Zirkel and Andy Perez

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Texas natives have a reputation of maintaining strong work ethics, and this holds true with the talented comic book artists and writers residing in all corners of the state. Here’s a brief look at two Texas artists who are definitely worth looking out for in the future:

Among the Hills: Scott Zirkel

"Rave Girl" by Scott Zirkel

“Rave Girl”
by Scott Zirkel

Texas Hill Country artist Scott Zirkel has been “making stuff up since 1977” and his sense of stylized humor flows through his work, including his original comic book “He-Guy and the Guys of the Universe” as well as his writing talents to Viper Comics’ graphic novel “A Bit Haywire” and Arcana Comics’ “Wonderdog, Inc.” Zirkel has also contributed to graphic novel compilations by both Viper Comics and Penny Farthing Press.

He has contributed sketch cards to such sets as “Empire Strikes Back 3D,” and “Indiana Jones Masterpieces,” “Zombies vs. Cheerleaders” and “Hack/Slash,” just to name a few.

Zirkel’s work and wit reflect the artists who have influenced him through the years.

“I’ve always been drawn to the more animated styles,” he said. “The artists that have inspired me the most are Chuck Jones, Tex Avery, Bruce Timm, Bil Amend, Gary Larson, and Mike Kunkel.”

He finds himself comfortable working in both the world of pop culture and fantasy, and with commissioned portraits for “real” people. He has different reasons why he enjoys working with each.

“I like the fictional characters because I can show my own versions of those characters, but I enjoy the ‘real’ people because I enjoy the challenge of trying to capture the likeness of the person,” he said. “I don’t know that I’d say I have a favorite, it just depends on what mood I’m in when I put the pencil to the paper.”

"He Guy" by Scott Zirkel

“He Guy” by Scott Zirkel

Zirkel maintains a diverse workload ranging from commercial graphic arts work with The Alara Group of Kerrville to his comics and illustrations. He said he tries to keep his graphic arts as professional and straightforward as possible, separate from his work in comics. As such the audience between the two is fairly diverse. His comics audience in itself makes up a diverse group, particularly as he offers something all ages can appreciate.

“For the comics, I generally produce all-ages materials. I don’t have any books that would be considered PG-13 or R,” Zirkel said. “I do have some art books that are more risqué, but I don’t have those in stores, just at conventions and online.”

He said his book  “A Bit Haywire,” (featuring art by Courtney Huddleston) seems to receive the greatest feedback from readers of all ages.

“Kids and adults alike have enjoyed it and it’s been really fun to hear from them over the years,” he said.

See more of Zirkel’s art and writing at scottzirkel.com.

Along the River: Andy Perez

"Dia de la Page" by Andy Perez

“Dia de la Page”
by Andy Perez

El Paso artist Andy Perez has taken his West Texas hometown’s cultural uniqueness and infused it into his prints, comics and other works with impressive results.

Perez is best known as co-creator and illustrator for the indie comics “Lonely in Black” and “The Afterlife Chronicles of a Zombie,” but he has contributed digital color work and art, sequential art, sidewalk chalk art creations and pin-ups for titles for several projects. His art has even been featured in the San Diego Comic Con Souvenir Book, and he has created sketch cards for “Hack and Slash,” “Lady Death,” and “Painkiller Jane.”

Perez said having picked up a pencil as a kid and “never putting it down to this day,” his list of influential artists is long and still growing.

“My early work was driven by rad comic artists such as Jim Lee and J. Scott Campbell because comics were my first introduction to art,” he said. “Fast forwarding to more recent years, the art beats of Jim Mahfood, the awesomely gritty art of Ben Templesmith, the cheesecake eye candy from Adam Hughes, the beautifully colorful art of Tara McPherson and the storytelling imagery from a James Jean piece all lend something to my work as an artist.”

He said two works in particular have really struck a positive chord with people of all backgrounds: the dreamlike black-and white portrait, “BOOM!” and the Day of the Dead-inspired “Dia de la Page.” He said both pieces have not only been a big success with the comic con goers, but have made the successful crossover into other venues as art showpieces, not an easy feat for any work of art, he admits.

“With ‘BOOM!’ people have noted that they have enjoyed getting lost in the calmness and flow the piece offers along with the colorful idea of having music follow you as balloons,” Perez said. “‘Dia de la Page’ has been a great conversation piece for those that are unfamiliar with the culturally rich Dia de Los Muertos or the pin up queen Betty Page.”

As one of a growing number of El Paso artists working to make his mark outside the region, he hopes his work will help comic readers and collectors, and art lovers in general, see how diverse and trendsetting the Sun City’s artists can be.

“I think the misconception is that it’s all southwest art with landscape paintings, which it really isn’t,” Perez said. “It’s been very exciting for me to see my hometown energetically jam art and creatively raise the bar artistically in so many mediums.”

See more of Perez’s work at artedeandyperez.com.

"BOOM!" by Andy Perez

“BOOM!”
by Andy Perez


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How to make a “World’s End” or other Geeky Pub Sign for Dad

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pub sign finishedIt always seems dads get ripped off each Father’s Day. Mother’s Day always hits at the end of the school year when kids have school time to make a well thought out mom’s gift complete with a tear-jerking “ode to mom” and hand prints. Dads, on the other hand, have to share their month with “grads” and get whatever generic maroon-and-hunter-green man cave specials can be found in the entrance foyer of department stores.

Ah well, who am I to fight tradition? Here’s some incredibly easy mini geeky pub signs you could throw together before lunch…but Dad won’t know because they will also be so incredibly cool.

Now, just because this is easy, doesn’t mean it isn’t thoughtful. I personally have a geeky affinity for pub signs, from both real and fictional establishments, and have actually made a few of these for my own kitchen (aka the Southwest Pirate Pub). Naturally, when the teaser poster for Edgar Wright’s latest Pegg/Frost vehicle, “The World’s End” was released I thought “I must have me one of them nifty signs, there.” Now I do…and now Dad can have one (or one from any geeky establishment of his choice).

What you need:materials
• Small squares of balsa wood or corrugated cardboard (balsa preferred)
• Print-outs, catalog and magazine cut outs, stickers or photographs (you don’t mind cutting) depicting your favorite fictional watering hole
• Black or dark brown craft or antiquing paint
• Craft glue and/or decoupage glue
• Yarn, twine, hemp or other ribbon
Optional: a nice cup o’ hot tea for refreshment…or have a pint if you’re of age…we’re at the pub, after all.

pub cut-outsStep One: Cut out the pub sign to eliminate any background you don’t want shown. You can be as simple or detailed as you like here.  Make sure you pick a pub that has meaning to your intended dad or dad-like creature: Mos Eisley Cantina (Star Wars), The Prancing Pony and Green Dragon (Lord of the Rings/Hobbit), Moe’s (Simpsons), Hog’s Head or Leaky Cauldron (Harry Potter series), Merlotte’s Bar & Grill (True Blood, if your dad is into this), Tapper’s (from the Midway arcade game and now Wreck-It Ralph fame), One Eyed Jacks (Twin Peaks) and plenty more.
By the way, if you’ve seen the full World’s End trailer, you’ll notice a quick shot of all the pubs hit on the characters’ soon-to-be infamous pub crawl (hey, the “King’s Head” monarch looks awfully familiar). See below.

IMG_0235Step 2: Place the cut out on the wood or cardboard (don’t glue it yet) and use an X-acto or cutting blade to carefully score (cut part of the way through) the board so it complements the sign. Do I need to remind parents to not let younger kids do this part that involves pointy sharp things? Make sure you leave about a half-inch at the top; you’ll need that space in a minute. Remove the image finishing carefully cutting and shaping the sign how you want it. I really recommend using balsa because it soft, light and easy to cut through.

painted boardsStep 3: Paint or antique the sign and let it dry. Then use a thin layer of glue or decoupage to paste the pub image where you want it. When in place (make sure you have it where you want it before this next part), paint the entire sign with decoupage or 1:1 water/craft glue mix.

Step 4: Enjoy your libation while it dries. Still not dry? Have another.

Step 5: Use a small screwdriver or drill bit to gently poke holes in each of the top corners and attach the yarn or other twine. Ready to hang!

drill holeHere’s a tip, use back of the sign to write a small personal note to Dad with pen or Sharpie so he will always have that reminder of how much you “appreciate him” and also so you don’t have buy a card. These are cooler, anyways.

Make one each year until he builds up a collection, leave them on random walls where he can find them throughout the year, or give him one of these with a coordinating pint glass or mug. My own Geek Test Dad, says these would make great coasters (with an extra layer or two of decoupage) or magnets, as well!

On second thought, Dad just may have it pretty good this year, after all.
Cheers!

world's end pubs

A Cautionary Commentary for Over-The-Top Critics

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khanSimon Pegg got it right.

Usually, when any celebrity criticizes the public, I tend to ignore their out-of-touch statements, but my fellow fanboy was spot-on when he recently expressed his feelings for the club of Abrams-bashers for their criticism of his signature “lens flares.”  Pegg, who loves the effect, mentioned its effectiveness  (in his own opinion) to Spielberg’s use of bloody seawater shots in “Saving Private Ryan.” While promoting his role of Scotty in Abrams’s “Star Trek: Into the Darkness,” he was asked who first made the criticism about these visuals, to which he replied:

“Probably some film student who wanted to demonstrate his or her knowledge of film terminology, thus elevating themselves to an assumed level of critical superiority, which gave them the kind of smug, knowing smile that indicates a festering sour grape, fizzing in the pit of their own ambition,” Mr. Pegg said, before profoundly…and profanely continuing to rip these critics a new one (including referring to them as “boring neggyballs.”)

Of course, this commentary was met with counter-commentary from several film bloggers who decided to tell him how his comparison was inaccurate and went on to describe in boring detail how much they knew about cinematography (with the help of Wikipedia, I’m sure).lens flares

This example is just one of the thousands of instances where über-criticism of movies is beginning to tarnish the movie-going experience. Many of today’s money-making filmmakers (Lucas, Shyamalan, Burton, Snyder, Nolan and the aforementioned Abrams) have become punching bags for the masses of online critics who will sometimes verbally beat-down and destroy a film sometimes based on its teaser poster, trailer or casting choice alone.

Granted, all of these directors have made some less-than-successful-choices in their work, but there must be a reason audiences keep throwing their cash their way.

Dissing movies and movie makers has been around as long as movies themselves. Since Edison and Dickson cranked out their first moving pictures on the kinetograph, there was probably some frustrated inventor out there scoffing “that running horse looks soooo fake…and since when are horses that tiny??”

The difference today is the rise of social media, including endless movie sites (Rotten Tomatoes and Movie Mistakes come to mind), coupled with the easy availability of apps and apparatus that make us all film editors and YouTube stars, has turned the movie world into a virtual minefield for over-the-top nit-picking. We can post, meme, tweet and blog away endlessly today at our disdain for a certain, film, actor or director until our fingers bleed and our butt’s asleep in the desk chair.

I’m guilty of this myself,  (I probably know lines from Mystery Science Theatre 3000 as well as I do movie quotes), and I realize there are plenty of God-awful-throw-up-in-you-popcorn-crappy-made movies out there. I won’t give examples, lest some of what I consider garbage may be someone else’s favorite of all time. I also realize the service legitimate criticism is for helping us make smarter movie choices, instead of just drinking the Kool-Aid offered by every filmmaker.

I also know even movies I love are not perfect, and watching for mistakes can be part of the fun (admit it, you wait for the Storm Trooper in “Star Wars: A New Hope” to bash his head walking under the door, too).  I’m sadly often a “book was better” utterer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I disliked the film.

However, there is a difference between watching a movie with a critical eye, and with a jaded one. This vile-filled “everything you do, SUCKS” attitude complaining about A) poorly done effects, B) too-much eye-candy CGI sucking the life out the story, or C) pretty much everything else, comes across more petty than professionally-minded.

There are some who have made criticism-for-laughs a fine art, and I am fully supportive of these cyber-humorists as long as what they do they do out of fun, and not bitterness. Some of the one’s I’m prone to waste some time and having a laugh with include:critic sites

• Rifftrax: I made it through college and grad school with the help of MST3K, and the stars of this show (Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett) have evolved beyond B-Movies and vintage film shorts to offering commentary tracks for many of today’s first-run hits (along with even more B-movie and vintage film shorts. Purchase a track to play in sync with your movie and let the fun begin). These guys are still the best at what they do, and what they do is bring the worst out of the best and the even worse out of the worst).

• Honest Movie Trailers: Found on the Screen Junkie’s YouTube channel, these “truthful” trailers do for blockbusters what Carfax does for used car salesmen, “where guys go to get honest and authoritative advice on what movies and TV shows they should watch and which ones aren’t worth the time.” It appears the only thing worth watching is their commentary, but it’s entertaining and, for lack of a better synonym, very, very honest — and blunt — indeed.

• CinemaSins: Another YouTube phenom not quite as popular as Honest Trailers, but gaining quite a following, this channel tallies up the mistakes, distractions, inconsistencies and anything else in films they deem unsatisfactory. Kind of a video combo of Rifftrax and Movie Mistakes, they point out some things you might not want to know about your favorite (or least favorite films).

Both Honest Movie Trailers and CinemaSins take suggestions from viewers of which films to slaughter next, so be prepared to watch even the biggest budget hits get torn to pieces, often with admittedly hysterical results.

It’s all right (better, actually) to watch movies with an open, critical mind, knowing you aren’t going to see a perfect specimen of film. Humans, after all, are the ones making movies and there is nothing less perfect than those gangly apes (yours truly included).

But, I leave you, fellow movie-watcher, with a word of caution and invitation: If you can do better, please do (no excuses about ‘I would if I had the money, manpower, etc’). Someday you may (I hope you do, because I want to see you do well), but when you do, be ready to join the other piñatas for the public pummeling.