Joe Sparrow / Illustrator - Animator - Designer / 07758224292 /

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

fighting bird demon

multiple arms inspired by asura's wrath

inluenza map

  1. Kaiba (Madhouse, 2008) - One of several shows that serve to epitomise that "deep" (note quotation marks there) brand of anime that presumably gets produced when some experienced director with a few successful projects under his belt gets the urge to pitch a batshit crazy plot/art style and the execs just roll with it. Kaiba is difficult to explain, but I like it because a) it's set in space in an imaginatively altered future b) it seems to contain plot elements that in a vague way talk about loss, love and transience c) its art style is chubby and characterful, kind of like Wind Waker but a lot more organic. I'd like it a lot more if it was a bit more coherent, but it's relaxing to watch so you can just sort of zone out and concentrate on the overall mood rather than worrying about the incomprehensible story.
  2. Final Fantasy IX (Square, 2000) - When I was little I got bought the art book for FFIX by my mum (this was well before I ever even played the game), and I read and re-read the shit out of it. Even with only a cursory knowledge of the plot I found the characters and environments really interesting. I think it was my first defining example of the setup that a lot of shows use, that sort of magic-plus-steampunk vibe that means you can almost define it as both fantasy and science fiction simultaneously. It also has a nice balance between "cute" and "serious" design (the cute stuff isn't like panderingly cute and the serious stuff doesn't take itself so seriously that it's easy to parody). It's Final Fantasy and comes with all the setbacks of the series, but it's without a doubt my favourite one.
  3. Dave Cooper - Dave Cooper crossed over this strange line in my mind a while ago where before I thought he was just one of those weird pervert cartoonists like Joe Matt or Dan Clowes (I'm still not massively keen on Pip & Norton, it seems like a comic to market vinyl toys), and then suddenly I read a few issues of Weasel and saw his more recent paintings and I realised he's actually an amazing artist. He takes this thing he's visually and psychologically fascinated with - the physical mass and volume of female anatomy - and has this amazing way of just building it up, sculpting his flabby pygmalion on every page with his tiny pen- or brush-strokes. It also feels like he's actually developed his approach to it, too - the paintings in his more recent book Bent often don't even look like women any more, lovingly caricatured beyond recognition as jelly-like, transluscent, almost foetal creatures. There's something primordial about it. I could look at them for hours.
  4. Iain M. Banks - I'd read a few science fiction short stories in comics before but my first initiation in literary sci-fi was back in my foundation year when I spontaneously decided I wanted to read more. I read Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos, a huge space opera spanning several vast human empires and thousands of years, which for a long time was pretty much my favourite book. This sort of segued into me reading the books of some other famous SF authors - Peter F. Hamilton (overrated, trashy, prone to oversexual self-insert main characters) and Iain M. Banks. Banks has an incredible sense of scope and some fucking crazy ideas (for me the main thrill of good SF) and a penchant for weird, sudden, downer endings. Quite often characters will be faced with insurmountable odds - and then die. Sometimes it feels a little lazy, but there's a concession to realism in Banks' work that makes you feel like you're reading a historical account rather than a fiction sometimes. My favourite book so far is probably Matter.
  5. Stanley Kubrick - particularly talking about A Clockwork Orange here. I love Kubrick's overall cinematography, his approach to the source text, his choice of music, pretty much everything. I know fans of the book are often irked by how much it's overshadowed by its filmic sibling in terms of a place in popular culture, but I think it's everything an adaption should be: an interesting and personal interpretation of a story. However, I share Burgess' frustration at the final chapter being cut from the film - I think it might have confused viewers a little, but it might have mitigated some of the fallout from the film's controversy as it sort of retroactively colours everything else that happens in the plot.
  6. Harvey Kurtzman - I haven't got a lot to say about Kurtzman other than that he was one of those cartoonists alive during a very interesting cultural and political period, and I think he's something of an unsung master of the medium. I really like that his capabilities included both the gritty, first-hand depictions of World War II and the crazy, spare-nobody parodies of MAD magazine, and the fact that he has this expressive, brushy style that spans both. Probably one of the best illustrators I'm aware of.
  7. Alan Moore - Literary genius of our time. It's kind of a shame he seems to find it so easy to put across that "angry old man" image - if he eased back a little (and maybe one or two fewer magic lesbians per story) more people would like him. I think maybe twenty or thirty years after he dies people are going to realise how amazing he was.
  8. Satoshi Kon - About two decades ago, if you were into japanese animated films, chances are you were probably either a fan of Hayao Miyazaki or Satoshi Kon, or both. Kon's first film that I remember people in the west becoming aware of was Perfect Blue, which I think grabbed people because the box described it as "Walt Disney does Alfred Hitchcock", which thrilled people because the west had never really gotten the hang of "adult" animated films. He later directed several other films and a television series, Paranoia Agent, which I think is my favourite out of all of them. Kon's stories really go for the notion of hyper-reality, of impossible things happening in a mundane, japanese world (often "bleeding in" from fiction or fantasy until the two become indivisible), and Paranoia Agent is a good example of this. Lots of crazy stuff in the directing, lots of fourth wall breaking, difficult to "get", but by the end of the series (in a bizarre climax that divides the fanbase a bit) you'll look back and have an overall "feel" of the kind of things Kon was trying to say. I find a lot of Kon's stuff pretty emotional, which is now compounded by the fact that he actually died of pancreatic cancer last year, his latest movie unfinished. You can read a letter he wrote shortly beforehand here.
  9. David Mazzucchelli - I'm putting Mazzucchelli here on the merit of just two books that I've read - his adaptation of City of Glass by Paul Auster, and his most recent standalone graphic novel, Asterios Polyp. The former is another great interpretation of an interesting story, and given the whole theme of isomorphisms and translations in Auster's work it seems curiously apt to try and make a comic out of it. The latter, however, is where Mazzucchelli really shines - the book is very obviously a labour of love, and if at the start you have any dislike for the curious approach to design or the rather luminous, screen-printed look, you'll have an appreciation for it by the end. It's one of those books that should be held up to demonstrate what a graphic novel should really aspire to be - it has a complex story, competently told, which exploits both the capability of language and abstract imagery to communicate with the reader in a unique way that marks Mazzucchelli out as a great author/artist.
  10. FLCL (Gainax, 2000) - As ubiquitous it may be, I'm surprised this anime isn't better known by more people. It's not as careful as Kaiba and not nearly as soulful as Kon, it's just loud, abrasive, beautiful fun, featuring a young, sexually neurotic male, a series of aggressive and often incomprehensible girls, horrifying giant mecha brought to earth through a portal to another galaxy, guitars (lots of guitars) and a yellow vespa. Describing it any more is pretty futile. Great design/animation, fun plot, around five half-hour episodes. What the fuck are you doing?! Google it right now!
  11. Shintaro Kago - Kago would be just another guro manga artist if his comics weren't so darn amazing. The thumbnail shown above, from his story Abstraction, starts off as a banal six-panel romance story, when suddenly our point of view shifts and begins to turn around the comic, and we realise it's actually a sort of 3D shelf that we're looking at, with different panels revealed on each sides. We continue to orbit, our point-of-view revealing absurd shapes and creatures made up of different panels overlapping which begin tearing themselves out of their confining panels and running amok. Kago's work is disturbing and imaginative in the extreme (and there are far more shocking examples than this one). Again, google him if you don't know him.
  12. Chris Ware - Pretty much the first comic book artist I properly fell in love with. Jimmy Corrigan is still one of the best books I've ever read and the Acme Novelty Library continues to spin a complex webs of misery among his characters. Especially interesting is his approach to time and generations, demonstrating a disdain for normal storytelling constraints and often leaving the reader with a bewildering feeling of almost zen-like holism. If you've ever read Slaughterhouse Five, Chris Ware's books seem very much the kind of thing Tralfamadorians would like to read; rather than being a succession of moments within a time-frame, each story is its own "giga-moment" to be understood as a whole though patient study.
  13. Bone (Jeff Smith, 1991-2004) - Bone, again, strikes that great balance between cutesyness and seriousness, starring these amorphic 1940s blob characters cavorting around in a world likenable to something like Lord of the Rings. It's telling this epic story so it has direction (it's not just a gag comic) but at the same time it's got Fone Bone and his cousins to show that it's not to be taken too seriously. This to-and-fro is something I really like in fiction - light-heartedness really increases the punch of serious stuff, and vice versa. Plus, Jeff Smith can really, y'know, draw. Which (not to get on a high horse or anything) is something that's maybe a little rarer these days than it should be.
Good job if you read the whole thing. A little self-indulgent, I know. Original template here. You should do it too!

Monday, 31 October 2011

noche de brujas

beware the chupacabras tonight

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

league of league of league of league of legends

So now that my interest in playing SC2 beyond something like a gold level has waned like the tide (although recently piqued by the new announced units/features for the upcoming Heart of the Swarm expansion) the game I have been mostly playing is League of Legends, or LoL for short (a weird acronym at first, but you get used to it). I just wanted to mention it because it's developed quite a following in several online communities I frequent.

The distinctive MOBA-style map used in LoL (get used to the acronyms, gentlemen)

I actually don't think LoL is much to write home about gameplay-wise. Starcraft I can pretty honestly describe to non-videogamey friends as "fast-paced chess" because at competitive levels it's as much about using your brain as your hands, and there's a lot of theory. It has a rich metagame which has evolved over a long time, and I think this separates it from a lot of other games.

LoL also has an established metagame, but the incredibly long game length (20 minutes is considered a short game) means that for a lot of the time it's just "push-button-recieve-pleasure" gameplay as you sit there "farming" (an actual game term) vast swathes of enemy minions, who explode with a satisfying chink of coins as they die. I have less respect for this kind of game than I do for, say Starcraft, or something more immediately cerebral like Portal - it's a style of play that's knowingly addictive and the reason World of Warcraft still imprisons millions daily.

But it is fun, so I play it with friends most days. It's also free, and a quick google will let you download it should you be the proud owner of a windows-running computer. What I have more of a gripe with is the artwork of the game; literally every single character is a second-rate knockoff of an established fantasy/scifi icon (or if you're unfamiliar with the originals, they're just painfully uninspiring and often revoltingly coloured). The worst possible one, though (which almost makes me want to hit up is this demon called Cho'Gath:

I mean, this is probably only a personal thing, but when I was twelve I used to really like Spawn, and this thing just looks like the fucking Violator:

And look at this artwork of one of Cho'Gath's alt costumes! Have you no shame, Riot Games designers?!

That's bullshit. Anyway, to end this tirade, this character is actually really fun to play and has a neat mechanic where he can literally eat other player characters and grows bigger and bigger every time he does so. He also has a bunch of spike-related abilities, none of which are reflected in his design at all. So lazy! I wanted to try out some digital painting (partially inspired by a recent acquaintance who is very good at that sort of thing) so I thought I'd do some more fanart:

the "shiny" flesh is pretty simple to render and it doesn't have too many colours/layers, but one must start somewhere. Also the composition is a bit rubbish. Oh well at least i did something fuck you.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

qwatz qwatz qwatz

Also this video has been breaking my heart recently:

nsfw, obviously