(1) BREAKING THE FIRST, SECOND, AND THIRD WALL. MUTTS educates everyone in “How to Read a Comic Strip: Part 1”.
Recently, a series of Patrick’s MUTTS comic strips centered playfully on the comic strip lexicon, so we thought it might be fun to round up those strips as a comic strip primer of sorts. There are probably no surprises here if you’re a lifelong fan of the funny pages, but we know that the things we take for granted might not be intuitive to people reading a comic strip for the first time.
So on that note, here are some rules that comic strips live by…
(2) DETER ONLINE ART THEFT. Eli Benik tells “How to prepare your art to post online because fuck AI” in an unlocked Patreon post.
…From what I can tell, there are already plenty of excellent resources for preparing files to print, but I have not seen much in the way of preparing files to safely post online to prevent art theft. Specifically, how to reduce DPI and file size without your art looking like complete garbage in an online portfolio.
In this post, I’ll walk you through the basics of saving your image files to prepare them to post online. I’m using Photoshop CS6 for this tutorial, but pretty much any other art editing program should have these options, if not something similar….
(3) THEY’RE SELLING, HE’S NOT BUYING. If you need somebody to join you in grumping at some of 2022’s fantasy streaming efforts, Camestros Felapton is your man: “The Third Prequelf: The Witcher – Blood Origins”.
…The selling point for all prequelfs is the suggestion that viewers will get more of the same but with a different plot. You liked Lord of the Rings? Well, what if you could watch a different story in the same world? Loved Westeros? What if you could go back to that? Enjoyed Herny Cavill as the Witcher? Well, what if you can go to the same world but it has Lenny Henry in it?
All three mine the back story of the properties to deliver an extra hit of middle-earthy-place but that back story is about a different part of history. It would be weird to make a series about, say, the Tudors and then set a story hundred years earlier that had the same sort of world. …
(4) STILL UNDER ATTACK. Sarah’s Scribbles creator Sarah Andersen writes in an NYT op-ed, “The Alt-Right Manipulated My Comic. Then A.I. Claimed It.”
…The [alt-right] harassment shocked the naïveté out of my system. A shadow me hung over my head constantly, years after the harassment campaign ended. I had been writing differently, always trying to stay one step ahead of how my drawings could be twisted. Every deranged image the alt-right created required someone sitting down and physically editing or drawing it, and this took time and effort, allowing me to outpace them and salvage my career.
And then along comes artificial intelligence. In October, I was sent via Twitter an image generated by A.I. from a random fan who had used my name as a prompt. It wasn’t perfect, but the contours of my style were there. The notion that someone could type my name into a generator and produce an image in my style immediately disturbed me. This was not a human creating fan art or even a malicious troll copying my style; this was a generator that could spit out several images in seconds. With some technical improvement, I could see how the process of imitating my work would soon become fast and streamlined, and the many dark potentials bubbled to the forefront of my mind.
I felt violated. The way I draw is the complex culmination of my education, the comics I devoured as a child and the many small choices that make up the sum of my life….
(5) BEST FLICKS EVER. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] I made an ultra, ultra quick pass through the list of 100 and came up with almost 20 genre films. Including the top two. I included Bond and a couple of other things like it but excluded some other edge cases. So YMMV. A lot. “The 100 Best Movies of All Time: Critics’ Picks” in Variety. A fantasy film is #2! The sff film ranking lowest on the list is —
97. Alien (1979)
A smothering tentacled thingy attaches itself to an astronaut’s face. Several scenes later, an alien fetus erupts right out of his belly, and the cinema would never be the same. Director Ridley Scott, drawing on the imagery of H.R Giger, staged a kind of Skinner box sci-fi nightmare that left audiences in a state of primal shock. Scott envisioned the film’s spaceship not in clean Kubrickian whites but in shades of murk that could speak to the film’s queasy fusion of the organic and the inorganic. And once Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley starts to take on the monster all by herself, a paradigm shift is born: the female action hero, who Weaver invested with such fierce, industrious, yet tossed-off authority that it’s as if she’d always been there.
(6) FIREWORKS IN FANTASY, AN APPRECIATION.
[By Cat Eldridge.]
So shall we talk about fireworks in genre Literature on this, the last day of the year? Yes, let’s do that. Warning: there be SPOILERS here. Really we cannot avoid them. If that will be a problem for you, Ellen Kushner I hear is making hot chocolate down in Riverside.
There’s only an appropriate place to begin with this conversation and that’s with the splendid fireworks created for eleventy first birthday:
Gandalf’s fireworks were very impressive to the hobbits, who hadn’t seen their like since the Old Took died many years ago. Green trees with scented flowers, singing birds, eagles, and sailing ships were all effects created through Gandalf’s work with colored smokes and lights. The finale was a large red-gold dragon that flew out of a mountain, breathing fire and circling over the Hobbits’ heads, before exploding over Bywater. This was in honor of Bilbo’s adventures during the Quest of Erebor and was also the signal for supper.
But there are others as well, not just in fantasy but in SF too. On Babylon 5 in “The Long Night”, when the Centuria occupation of the Nara homework is over and Mollari and Cotto are leaving there to go the home, fireworks light up the night sky as the Narns celebrate the Centauri are leaving and that the long nightmare of their occupation has ended.
Other SF one is in The Return of The Jedi when Luke sets a torch to the logs stacked under a funeral pyre where his father’s body lies, again dressed in black mask and helmet. He stands, watching sadly, as the flames leap higher to consume Darth Vader — Anakin Skywalker. In the sky above, fireworks explode and Rebel fighters zoom above the forest.
Stephen King’s Cycle of the Werewolf has fireworks as part of the plot, to precise The town’s annual fireworks celebration is cancelled because of the monster’s attacks, but the use of illicit fireworks by Marty half-blinds the monster when it attacks him on the 4th of July.
Finally our last choice is from the Potter universe. In the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix film, Fred and George set off the fireworks in the middle of the Charms O.W.L. Exam. Some of the fireworks go after Draco Malfoy, Vincent Crabbe, and Gregory Goyle. Fred and George then set off a rather larger and quite real dragon-shaped firework, which went after Umbridge. Just outside the Great Hall, its jaws closed around her causing it to explode and destroy all of Umbridge’s Educational Decrees. She is rather annoyed.
So what’s your favorite use of fireworks in genre fiction?
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born December 31, 1937 — Anthony Hopkins, 85. I think one of his most impressive roles was as Richard in The Lion in Winter but we can’t even call that genre adjacent, can we? Oh yes we can as it is most definitely alternate history. He was, during that period, also King Claudius in Hamlet. I’ll say playing Ian McCandless in Freejack is his true genre role, and being Professor Abraham Van Helsing In Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a plum of a genre role. It’s a better role than he as Odin has the MCU film franchise. What else have I missed that I should note?
- Born December 31, 1943 — Ben Kingsley, 79. Speaking of Kipling as we did yesterday, he voiced Bagherra in the live action adaptation that Disney did of The Jungle Book. He was also in Iron Man 3 as Trevor Slattery, a casting not well received. He’s The Hood in Thunderbirds (directed by Frakes btw), Charles Hatton in A Sound of Thunder and Merenkahre in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, the third of three great popcorn films.
- Born December 31, 1945 — Barbara Carrera, 77. She is known for being the SPECTRE assassin Fatima Blush in Never Say Never Again, and as Maria in The Island of Dr. Moreau. And she was Victoria Spencer in the really awful Embryo, a film that that over five hundred review reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a sixteen percent rating.
- Born December 31, 1945 — Connie Willis, 77. She has won eleven Hugo Awards and seven Nebula Awards for her work, a feat that impresses me! Of her works, I’m most pleased by To Say Nothing of the Dog, Doomsday Book and Bellwether, an offbeat novel look at chaos theory. I’ve not read enough of her shorter work to give an informed opinion of it, so do tell me what’s good there. She’s very well stocked at the usual suspects and quite a number of her works qualify as Meredith moments.
- Born December 31, 1949 — Ellen Datlow, 73. Let’s start this Birthday note by saying I own a complete set of The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror which yes, I know it was titled The Year’s Best Fantasy for the first year. And I still read stories from them from time to time. If that was all she had done, she’d have been one of our all-time anthologists but she also, again with Terri Windling, did the Fairy Tale and Mythic Fiction series, both of which I highly recommend. On her own, she has the ongoing Best Horror of Year, now a decade old, and the Tor.com anthologies which I’ve not read but I assume collect the fiction from the site. Speaking of Tor.com, she’s an editor there, something she’s also done at Nightmare Magazine, Omni, the hard copy magazine and online, Sci Fiction webzine and Subterranean Magazine. And yes, she won a number of Hugos for her editing including one this year which she richly deserved.
- Born December 31, 1953 — Jane Badler, 69. I first encountered her on the Australian-produced Mission Impossible where she played Shannon Reed for the two seasons of that superb series. She’s apparently best known as Diana, the main antagonist on V, but I never saw any of that series being overseas at the time. She shows up in the classic Fantasy Island, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, Bitch, Popcorn & Blood and Virtual Revolution.
- Born December 31, 1959 — Val Kilmer, 63. Lead role in Batman Forever where I thought he did a decent job, Madmartigan in Willow, Montgomery in The Island of Dr. Moreau, voiced both Moses and God in The Prince of Egypt, uncredited role as El Cabillo in George and the Dragon and voiced KITT in the not terribly well-conceived reboot of Knight Rider. Best role? Ahhh that’d be Doc Holliday in Tombstone. Nope, not even genre adjacent but I really, really love that film.
- Born December 31, 1971 — Camilla Larsson, 51. Therese in the first series of Real Humans on Swedish television. She was Jenny in the Mormors magiska vind series which is definitely genre given it’s got a ghost and pirate parrots in it!
(8) COMICS SECTION.
- Tom Gauld finds the highly scientific attitude toward the New Year is unwelcome by some.
(9) MARVEL YEAR’S EVE. The Spider-Verse Unlimited Jackpot Question #31 launched today. Writer: J. Holtham; Artist: Fend Hamilton; Colorist: Pete Pantazis; Editor: Ellie Pyle.
It’s New Year’s Eve and Madame Web, AKA Julia Carpenter, is going to a party. When she takes a turn with an unexpected dance partner, what will Julia make of the New Year’s visions that result?
(10) PRIME TIME. Thanks to SYFY Wire for pointing us at the “Amazon The Boys ’90s sitcom trailer parody”.
… Amazon has proved once again that anything — even the most hardcore of superhero shows — can be transformed into a piece of heartwarming television with a grainy VHS filter and an upbeat soundtrack. For no reason in particular, the streaming platform has reimagined the adult-oriented project as a ’90s sitcom. Because why the hell not, right? If you’re new to The Boys, be warned that this is not an accurate representation of what goes on in Vought Land….
(11) JOURNALS OF JOCULAR SCIENCE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The Hulk and She-Hulk biomedical implications were the subject of a discussion paper in the Christmas/New Year edition of the British Medical Journal: “She-Hulk: an incredible case of transfusion associated graft versus host disease”.The Festive season can be rather fun in some science journals, especially those, I have noticed over the years, with slightly older editors. (I don’t know why this is but tentatively suspect that younger editors take themselves, and want be taken, more seriously where as oldies who have been around the block a few times simply don’t care.)
Anyway, there were a number of interesting academic papers in the festive mix this year including one rather disturbing piece of research, “Can artificial intelligence pass the Fellowship of the Royal College of Radiologists examination? Multi-reader diagnostic accuracy study”, which pitted real-life radiologists against an artificial intelligence giving them a Royal College of Radiologists examination. It demonstrated that all that is preventing artificial intelligence from replacing radiologists is training AIs, showing them a sufficiently large number (many thousands) of x-ray pictures of medical problems… Forgive me, I stray.
Meanwhile back at the plot and the discussion paper on aspects of She-Hulk biomedicine.
Transfusion associated graft versus host disease (TaGVHD) is a rare complication of blood transfusion in which viable lymphocytes within a blood product survive and proliferate in a recipient. This process results in an almost always fatal form of graft-versus-host disease, with donor T cells attacking multiple organs.
This discussion paper analyses a high profile case of non-lethal TaGVHD due to inadvertent blood contamination of an open wound after a car accident. While both donor and recipient survived the crash and contamination, the recipient was left with unexpected side effects, namely inheriting the ability of the donor to transform into a huge, green-rage monster.
The celebrity nature of this case means that the identities of both donor and recipient as well as the details of the incident are already in the public domain. The donor is Bruce Banner MD, PhD, PhD, otherwise known as the strongest Avenger. The recipient is Jennifer Walters, JD – also known as She-Hulk of high profile law firm Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg, and Holliway, the only legal firm in the world representing superhuman clients.
The paper concludes that while superheroes as blood and bone marrow donors capture the imagination, the safety of engaging super-powered individuals as donors is far from established. However, this case will hopefully encourage normal humans to donate blood – allowing them to become the real heroes….
(12) YEAR IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Well, that was 2022.
And this is how we got there…
[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Rich Lynch, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nigel. Signing off 2022 now — see you on the other side!]