Monday, June 30, 2008

Wall E and Beauty & the Beast, or How I'm Seeing Double

Vulture has started the 'Best Picture Nomination' campaign for the adorable robot, In Contention is wary, but hasn't seen it yet, Awards Daily is offering some great theories about the film and its Oscar prospects. And of course, we have to wonder: can Wall E pull off a Beauty and the Beast? 

Well, turns out they have more in common than we might think:

Unlikely couple. Check!

"There must be more than this provincial/trash-addled life!" Check!

Dancing sequence. Check!

Group of mish-mash secondary characters (+ a fight involving said mish-mash of secondary characters). Check!

Wooing involving wowing with stuff. Check!

A plant is at the center of it all. Check!

And to top it all off:
True Love's Kiss prevails. Check!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The 39 Steps, or How it's Hitch-c(h)ock-full of funny.

The 39 Steps

Arnie Burton, Charles Edwards, Jennifer Ferrin and Cliff Saunders.

Because it's a hilarious comedic re-working of Hitchcock's film using a minimal stage, wondrous use of props and a laugh-out-loud four-person cast.

- "But! It's a four person cast!" - when all four actors are on stage and yet a mysterious gun-toting hand appears to wreak havoc!
- Ferrin's turn as the mysterious woman at the theater (along with her mysterious death early on = priceless!)
- Charles Edwards facial expressions. Seriously, they are hysterical and pretty much elevate every single line he's given.
- Any scene in/on the train.
- The lighting and sound design are flawless, keeping it to a minimum and still managing to speak volumes. My favourite bit? The shadow chase which leads to a very familiar silhouette.

You'll elle oh elle your way through this show. Added bonus: if you're a Hitchcock fan you can play "Spot the visual/aural reference!" [if only you could make it into a drinking game!] A-

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Bash'd a Gay Rap Opera, or How Thursday was a good NYC Pride start!

Bash'd: A Gay Rap Opera
Written and Performed by: Chris Craddock & Nathan Cuckow
Music by: Aaron Macri
Directed by: Ron Jenkins

From the first lines, Bash'd announces to its audience that they'll need to take a while to tune their ears to the sounds of gay white men rapping. It's sound advice because, if - like me! - you aren't quite into the Hip Hop or the Rap (yes, they require a "the" in front of them, shut up!), you might need some time getting used to following along. Good thing T-Bag and Feminem (amazing names aren't they?) make it so easy to follow in the first 2/3 of the shows with campy (and manly!) numbers that catalogue the gay species at a regular club, do social commentary on homophobia, gay marriage and violence. 

In essence, Bash'd tells a very traditional story: city boy meets mid-west boy. Boys fall in love. Boys marry. Tragedy happens. Social commentary is achieved. But even if the story is a Romeo-Romeo for the 21st Century (or as someone put it in a later conversation "QAF distilled into an hour with a different ending") what makes Bash'd a treat to watch is to experience Chris and Nathan (Canada whaaa?) having a hell of a lot of fun poking fun and in way honoring the hip hop/rap movement and making it well... faggy. True story: the first 15 mins of the show mentions the words "ass," "cocksuckers," and "fags" more times than I have ever seen on stage (but maybe that shows that I just haven't been watching the right shows!) Don't believe me? Check the cOcKsUcKaZ song on myspace: "I say all you real faggots limp your wrists in the air, don't be straight just be gay like you just don't care!"

That said I did have two quibbles with the show: 1. The scenes which were densely populated made for very confusing situations (I found myself asking "Who's who?" at key parts towards the end) and 2. The move towards violence, which comes rather abruptly upon the campy and laugh-out-loud moments that characterise the first two-thirds of the show. I understand the message that the show is trying to make, but for such a long set-up the ending comes as a bit too rushed (which in a sense, seems like the only way it would happen) and to borrow a phrase from someone who saw the show with me: they lure you in just to kick you in the balls. Good thing the luring in is as amusing as it, or else I wouldn't forgive the kick in the balls - as necessary, or as socially minded as it may be. B

Friday, June 27, 2008

Overheard at Midtown Comics, or How BKV was in NYC!

So Brian K. Vaughan (creator of Y: The Last Man, Ex-Machina, Runaways and Pride of Baghdad) was at Midtown Comics (Grand Central) yesterday so I went to get some stuff signed (in hindsight my choices weren't that inspired, only when I arrived did I realize I didn't have any Y's on me! But I did get my Pride of Baghdad signed and issues #1 and #2 of The Escapists (the latter which is also signed by cover artist James Jean).

But the most amazing part of the event was, of course, the lineup. And so I give you: Overheard @ Midtown Comics (or more like: along 45th while we waited to get in)

Random Guy #1 answering a question from an interviewer Re: 355 : Well, it's funny you should ask, cause we were discussing 355 online earlier today. 

Passerby #1: What's this for?
Random Girl #1: Brian K. Vaughan is doing a signing upstairs.
Passerby #1: What?
Random Girl #1: Brian K. Vaughan; he's a comic book writer.
Passerby #1: [disappointed look] Oh. [starts walking away]
Random Girl #1: He also writes for LOST.
Passerby #1: [smiles] Oh. THAT's cool! [walks away]
Random Girl #1 and me: [roll eyes]

Random Guy #1: So, what's your guys' theory on Agent 355's name?
Random Guy #2: Oh yeah. I hadn't even thought of that... cause Agent yeah, whispers her name to Yorick.
Random Girl #2: Do you know what her name is?
Random Girl #1: Well, there's this theory that her name is... Well, you know her last cover. What's she doing? She's doing this [gives the Peace sign]: which is funny cause it's BOTH a Y and Peace, and that would make it so cool cause even though that's her name, like, all she does is war, right?

Random Guy #3 on being asked to talk about Y's ending: Well, from a writing point of view it was pretty good. But as a reader - I just... I'm just gonna miss the characters so much!

Random Girl #3: Is that an Ampersand? [upon looking at RG#2's stuffed &-like monkey]

Random Girl #3: I haven't finished reading Y.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Saved! The Musical, or How I'm filled with (Jesus') Love! Love! Love!

Saved! The Musical! (based on the Mandy Moore movie)

So Vance's recent crushworthy post on Aaron Tviet reminded me I hadn't churned out a review for Saved! The Musical, which I caught while it was playing but somehow neglected to comment upon. So here goes:

Mary Faber, Van Hughes, Aaonn Tviet, John Dossett, Curtis Holbrook, Celia Keenan-Bolger & Julia Murney.

Because coming from such great material (Mandy Moore throwing a bible while yelling: "I am filled with Jesus love!" is just a hint of what the movie was like) I expected a really edgy and fun musical (and also, a friend of the boyfriend's invited us to watch it). That said, it would seem that the material is clearly not as strong as the people involved (Keenan-Bogler, Faber, Hughes and Tviet have so much energy and are so talented one wishes the musical gave them more to work with). The story was kept the same: good girl Mary gets pregnant while trying to de-gay her boyfriend and has to deal with the consequences in the Christian High School during her senior year (Think Juno, only with commentary on the Evangelical movement). But early on one can tell that the real bite of the movie ("Roland, why do you always have to make everyone feel so awkward about your differently-abled-ness?") has been toned down when the pool scene in the movie (where Mary confuses a pool boy with Jesus) gets re-worked as Mary actually talking to Jesus. I know some changes need to be made to the material in adaptation but this particular change is evocative of the sort of work the musical does to undermine its edgy potential: it gets rid of the ambiguity and the power of Mary's choice and makes it instead a religious/faith choice. Indeed 'FAITH' runs all over the musical, and makes the message of the musical a bit less ambiguous than the movie's especially because the book (and Faber's performance) sweeten and tone down the Hillary "Of course Jesus was white!" Faye, which makes the show more heartwarming but really underscores the cathartic/rebellious act that she commits towards the end of the show. That said, the music (though uneven) is very catchy and poppy, and the choreography (which almost always included a wheelchair) was (if minimal) plot-serving.

- Funny how the promo video includes the best numbers. My favourite? I'm Not the Man I'd Thought I'd be. It is a strong number and actually taps into the emotional core of the story: this isn't the way I thought I'd dreamed up my life - and how that conflicts with religious faith.
- The staging. I thought it was very inspiring to make the stage curve that way giving a nice odd feel to the stage and made it able to accommodate Roland's wheelchair but also make for a nice Basketball court.
- The constant texting. Because it's so true - high school kids these days don't talk, just text.
- The gratuitous male nudity. Musicals need more of that. Especially with such a crushworthy cast.

Overall, I had a good time watching this show (cause I love the material and the cast is so talented) even if it was a bit uneven (the second act clicked much more organically than the first one). Sadly, it doesn't live up to the lovely satirical tone of the movie, which, one would have hoped was what initially attracted everyone to get involved in this production. B

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Battlestar Galactica, or How 'Revelations' is an understatement!

Battlestar Galactica: Revelations (mid-season finale)
[Spoilers Alert!]

Holy Frak!
After a two-part episode arc (concluded beautifully by Ms Jane Espenson!) BSG gave us the episode we were all waiting for (and yes, it's taken me this long to digest it - or at least try to). Revelations was what a good BSG episode should be: intriguing, well-written, character-driven, suspenseful and high with the stakes (I'm sure there was a scene were Lee was in a towel, but I know why Ron and David would see that it wouldn't add that much to the storyline, but I wouldn't have complained about that too much).

So, now that we found Earth there are a bunch of lingering questions, which the Sci Fi Channel will have us ponder for the next... oh yeah. EVER. Ugh, I though waiting til Spring 08 for Season 4 was hell. Waiting for Season 4.5 Spring 09 is gonna be worse! What to do with our time? Re-watch everything and ponder s'more:

- Will Kara forgive Anders for being a(n albeit pretty) Cylon?
- Xena told us that the 5th Cylon wasn't in the fleet. Does that mean a) the Final Cylon is dead (Zak? Callie?), b) on the Cylon basestar as D'Anna said this (Roslin? Helo? Baltar) or c) Just elsewhere... but Moore has said over and over again that we know who the Final Cylon is, so... what the frak?
- I re-watched Razor and got this from the Hybrid/wikipedia:

"At last, they have come for me. I feel their lives, their destinies spilling out before me. The denial of the one true path, played out on a world not their own, will end soon enough. Soon there will be four, glorious in awakening, struggling with the knowledge of their true selves. The pain of revelation bringing new clarity. And in the midst of confusion, he will find her. Enemies brought together by impossible longing. Enemies now joined as one. The way forward at once unthinkable, yet inevitable. And the fifth, still in shadow, will claw toward the light, hungering for redemption that will only come in the howl of terrible suffering. I can see them all. The seven, now six, self-described machines who believe themselves without sin. But in time, it is sin that will consume them. They will know enmity, bitterness, the wrenching agony of one splintering into many. And then, they will join the promised land, gathered on the wings of an angel. Not an end, but a beginning."

Okay so we've got to the part BEFORE the mention of the fifth (enemies brought together, etc.) I just have no idea what the whole "the seven, now six, self-described machines who believe themselves without sin" (are these the other cylons?) And then there's the whole "Kara Thrace is the harbinger of death" stuff... yah, she brought 'em to Earth which seems to be 'death-like' but is there more?
- "All of this has happened before. And all of this will happen again." Huh? Will we ever get to know what this means?
- Why is Hera so special? I mean, sure, she's the first human-cylon baby - but then what about Tyrol and Callie's baby; how come she doesn't get an opera house dream-vision. And what'll happen with that Tigh-Six baby on the way?
Too many questions! But god this is an amazing show. 2009 you can't come soon enough. Here's hoping they'll be a TV movie in Fall 2008 to fill in the void (or that Caprica miniseries, whichever).

[photo via Sitrep - which also has an amazing Buffy 'Where do we go from here?' mashup with Revelations' last scene]

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Incredible Hulk, or How yeah it smashes, but is it a hit?

The Incredible Hulk
Dir. Louis Leterrier
Starring: Ed Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth and William Hurt

First off I should say I'm in the minority when it comes to Ang Lee's 2003's Hulk. Cause I liked it. Sure, there was not 'enough' smashing, but that was okay with me. I might also be biased cause I liked its cast so much: Eric Bana, Jennier Connelly (of married to Paul Bettany fame!) and Josh Lucas (!) - how can you go wrong with them?  But of course, the movie gods couldn't be happy with a superhero flick that didn't appeal to the 13 year old male demographic (who couldn't have cared less about Lee's Oedipal storyline, and would have liked more 'smashin' y'kno?') and what they came up with was Ed Norton's The Incredible Hulk. Which is good, it's just... too 'smashy smashy' with (un)healthy doses of brooding and being emo (see poster).

4 Things I would have Smashed right out of this movie!

1. Ed Norton's brooding portrayal of Bruce Banner. We get it, you're tormented. We know, it's hard being green. But do we need so many shots/scenes of you looking down, with a furrowed brow at all times? At one point, even the Hulk broods and shakes his head before continuing his fight with the Abomination.
2. Betty's boyfriend. What does it add to the storyline? Other than, you know, a plot device that allows Betty and Bruce to be found easily by her dad. [Though I did enjoy Hurt's delivery of "Where does she find these guys?" after the BF lectures him on his parental skills]
3. Implausible scenes like: "Hello random (white) stranger who's wearing nothing but some torn oversized pants in the middle of the Guatemalan jungle, come on in and I'll drive you to the nearest town." (wtf?)
4. The endless 'pants' jokes. We get it, you go green and your pants rip. Hah-larious. Oh, what's that Ed, you don't want the purple pants that I got for you to give a nod to the original Hulk character design? Okay. It's funny either way, cause we're so meta.

4 Things I found Smashing in this movie!

1. Tim Roth as the psychopath Emil Blonsky. He plays Emil as a desperate, crazy bitch without ever overdoing it. The scene on the campus when he asks the Hulk "Is that all you got?" and gets a kick that sends him flying got the strongest response from the audience in the entire movie. 
2. The CGI. The Hulk looked very 'realistic' (if you look hard in his first appearance, you can see he has a stubble!) and the fighting scenes (especially the ones in NYC) were very impressive, if a bit too long. Moment I loved: when he grabbed a cop car and made himself two 'fighting gloves.' 
3. The Robert D. cameo. It was sort of a cop out that it was put BEFORE the credits (doesn't anyone reward people who stay through to the end of 'em anymore?) since it ruins Norton's meditating smirk partnered with his greeney look as the last shot in the movie, but seeing Robert made me wanna watch Iron Man all over again.
4. The Bourne-like chase sequence in Brazil and the initial Hulk-encounter. It's the only time the film works the 'less is more' approach, refusing us a clear look at the big green guy for a long time, and instead creating a sense of chaos cause no one knows what's happening. 

Yes, you've heard right: The Incredible Hulk is good, but not Iron Man good. And not Hulk (2003) good either. Now, to wonder what Norton's "final cut" looks like. B+

Sunday, June 15, 2008

We Sing Viva the Entanglement, or How Jason Mraz, Alanis and Coldplay provide some summer tracks

What do Chris Martin (from Coldplay), Alanis Morissette and Jason Mraz have in common? (Other, than... y'know, releasing albums in the last couple of weeks)

They are wordy lyricists. But I do love me some awkward lyrics put to good music, so here go my suggestions from each album:

Flavors of Entanglement
Alanis Morissette

To be remixed: The electro-ethereal tracks Straitjacket and Giggling for No Reason
To be skipped: The multicultural Citizen of the Planet
To be given a second chance? The murky Versions of Violence
To be downloaded: The first single (with its very pretty video) Underneath and Incomplete

This shit’s making me crazy
The way you nullify what’s in my head
You say one thing do another
And argue that’s not what you did
Your way’s making me mental
How you filter as skewed interpret
I swear you won’t be happy til
I am bound in a straitjacket

Viva la Vida or Death and all his friends

To be remixed: The title-track Viva la Vida and the lyrics-less Life in Technicolor
To be skipped: The Beatles-esque Strawberry Swing
To be given a second chance? The double tracks Yes!/Chinese Sleep Rant and Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love
To be downloaded: The Guitar-Hero-bound Violet Hill and 42

Those who are dead
Are not dead
They're just living in my head
And since I fell
For that spell
I am living them as well

We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things
Jason Mraz

To be remixed: The funky If It Kills Me and the happy Make it Mine
To be skipped: The rallying cry Coyotes
To be given a second chance? The wordy The Dynamo of Volition
To be downloaded: The ballads Lucky (feat. Colbie Caillat) and A Beautiful Mess

Well it kind of hurts when the kind of words you write
Kind of turn themselves into knives
And don't mind my nerve you can call it fiction
‘Cause I like being submerged in your contradictions dear
‘Cause here we are, here we are
(A Beautiful Mess)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Post Bang Conference or How Hillary Chute interviewed Lynda Barry

Post Bang: Comics Ten Minutes After the Big Bang!
Friday, June 6 2008
An all-day symposium on the growing cultural significance of comics curated by Art Spiegelman and Kent Worcester

Blogging about an academic symposium - it seems like an attack on everything I get taught in grad school, but I do feel that the more interesting part of a panel like this is the interactions and the personal reactions from the audience (consider it [retroactive] liveblogging in an academic setting).

8:15-9:30 Hillary Chute interviews Lynda Barry
Hillary Chute (Associate Editor of the forthcoming MetaMaus - and you might remember her from this) and Lynda Barry (well-known painter, cartoonist, writer, playwright, illustrator, editor, commentator, and teacher - which she finds are all alike; author of One! Hundred! Demons!, The Good Times are Killing Me and her most recent book What It Is).

If there is one thing I regret is having had to leave early from Chute and Barry's interview - after an hour I was convinced Barry is one of the funniest people alive. Seriously, the interview felt more like a one-woman stand up show more so than an intimate talk with a cartoonist, which made this a great way to end a well put-together symposium (kudos!)

Chute began the interview by wondering what Barry means when she says that all her different professions (see above) are all alike. Barry, with the type of humour that would permeate the entire interview made a curious analogy: at the center of them all is an image. Sure it changes in form, but it's pretty much at the center of all I do. Think of it as hand puppets - you can have a bunny or a snake, but at the center, there's always the hand. [Kinda makes sense, no? In a Barry-like way]. Instead of doing a disservice to Barry (and probably staying away from stepping on Chute's toes) I offer you snippets of dialogue from Barry (rather than a full-fledged transcript):

- "For the longest time I thought it was 'Spy Vee Ess Spy'

- "When I was in college I wanted to be a Fine Artist... a fine fiiine artist!"

- "Comics are my imaginary friends"

- "Matt Groening was very square. He wore slacks and went to a hippie school! I think he wore slacks because he hated hippies and wanted them to hate him."

- "We always delete what we're most unsure of, and that's usually where the 'image' is."

- [after explaining that she wrote her first novel with a paintbrush, as the slow process helped her write it] "And then, I thought... I found it! It's all about the brush. And I wondered: do they know?... Turns out 3000 years of Chinese calligraphy: yeah they know." 

- "Storytelling is a natural anti-depressant"

- "You know those cereal-trances. Like when you're eating cereal and you're like... 'I wanna name by first baby fructose'..."

And the most alluring of them all:

"Is a dream fiction or autobiographical?"

Check the rest of my commentary/'retroactive liveblogging' of the rest of the panels:

11:00-12:15 Comics and Canon Formation
1:30-2:45 Comics and Kid's Lit

3:00-4:15 Comics and the Literary Establishment

5:30-6:45 Comics and the Internet

7:00-8:00 Art Spiegelman and Gary Panter in conversation

8:15-9:30 Hillary Chute interviews Lynda Barry

Post Bang Comics, Art Spiegelman, Lynda Barry

Friday, June 13, 2008

Post Bang Conference or How Art Spiegelman conversed with Gary Panter

Post Bang: Comics Ten Minutes After the Big Bang!
Friday, June 6 2008
An all-day symposium on the growing cultural significance of comics curated by Art Spiegelman and Kent Worcester

Blogging about an academic symposium - it seems like an attack on everything I get taught in grad school, but I do feel that the more interesting part of a panel like this is the interactions and the personal reactions from the audience (consider it [retroactive] liveblogging in an academic setting).

7:00-8:00 Art Spiegelman and Gary Panter in conversation

Bill Kartalopoulos (moderator, editor of the EGON comics website and Indy Magazine online), Art Spiegelman (best known for his Pulitzer winning Maus, co-founder of RAW Magazine, forthcoming: Breakdowns and Jack and the Box) and Gary Panter (known for his Emmy-Award Winning production design on Pee Wee's Playhouse and his Screamers 1970s posters, creator of Jimbo).

This was by far the most 'informative' of all the panels - in part because it encompassed such a huge topic (the combined careers of Spiegelman and Panter!) but also because Kartalopoulos was able to guide the conversation seamlessly from their underground/counter-culture roots to their works today, with visual aids that remind you why Spiegelman and Panter are such influential artists today. This is why it makes it more difficult for me to convey the amount of conversation that took place, but here goes a try (simplistic as it may be):

We began, as I said, with Art's start in the underground comics scene, talked about his initial idea when offered to write Funny Animals: a story following the Ku Klux Kats ("That lasted for 2 days, when I realised I knew nothing about the black experience... But I knew about Jews." - and thus Maus; or at least its first 3 page version, was born).

Similarly, they spoke of Panter's beginnings and most importantly of his influences: everything from junk culture to cubism, from Chester Gould and Philip Gustin to Andre Breton ("Beauty must be convulsive" he quoted) and at one point they spoke of his paintings as spaghetti and meatballs version of Picasso - if you just look at his paintings, including the poster of the event you can see where all of this is coming from. Of course then they moved to when Art and Gary met, how RAW published Gary's art, and his Jimbo.

And as the conversation got more and more personal they spoke of how they worked as post-traumatic stress buddies following the events of 9/11 (both living in NYC, they witnessed and tried to come to terms with the event through their art). "What I kept wondering," said Panter, "is where's the motherfucking airforce?!" - spoken with the sincerity of someone who was really bewildered by the events of that morning. "We kept talking on the phone to de-stress each other, and kept wondering... what if something else happens?" shared Art, "Where's the safest place to run? Should we run to Staten Island?"

Then the conversation turned to Art's new upcoming children's book (Jack and the Box) which Bill pointed out had something to do with an old comic-essay on the Jack in the Box he had published years ago (and has a very adult-like tone). In the essay Art had explored the ways the Fool/Jack in the Box (read: flaccid penis) had an underlying scary sense to it. I mean, here's something that just comes at you and scares you. But, how it turns out it's funny is by the fact that you control something that (for all you know, as a child) wants to kill you. So, in a sense, he set out to create a children's book that functioned like a jack in the box. Scary at first, but that would be funny when re-read ("I make comics to be re-read, not just read" he acknowledged).

And from the Q&A (short as it was) we got this great question: "If LSD had not been invented, what your comics look like?" (alluding to the constant reference to the drug throughout the talk by both artists in their formative years)

Art: That's a tricky question.

Gary: Well, there was always mushrooms.

Art: I have to say, I did not 'good' work while on drusg. And I have to say, I would probably have 5 more years as a cartoonist, I guess.

Check back for commentary/'retroactive liveblogging' of the rest of the panels:

11:00-12:15 Comics and Canon Formation
1:30-2:45 Comics and Kid's Lit

3:00-4:15 Comics and the Literary Establishment

5:30-6:45 Comics and the Internet

7:00-8:00 Art Spiegelman and Gary Panter in conversation

8:15-9:30 Hillary Chute interviews Lynda Barry

Post Bang Comics, Art Spiegelman, Gary Panter

Post Bang Conference or How 'Comics and the Internet' is a tricky subject

Post Bang: Comics Ten Minutes After the Big Bang!
Friday, June 6 2008
An all-day symposium on the growing cultural significance of comics curated by Art Spiegelman and Kent Worcester

Blogging about an academic symposium - it seems like an attack on everything I get taught in grad school, but I do feel that the more interesting part of a panel like this is the interactions and the personal reactions from the audience (consider it [retroactive] liveblogging in an academic setting).

5:30-6:45 Comics and the Internet
Kent Worcester (moderator, co-editor of Arguing Comics: Literary Masters on a Popular Medium), Sarah Boxer (writer for The New York Times and editor of Ultimate Blogs: Masterworks From the Wild Web), Shaenon Garrity (webcartoonist best known for Narbonic and editor of Modern Tales) and Hope Larson (webcartoonist best known for the award-winning Salamander Dream and co-founder of SecretFriendSociety) [Siva Vaidhyanathan was scheduled to be part of this panel, but couldn't make it]

Worcester, panel moderator, began by admitting that he probably the person least qualified to chair a panel about comics and the internet considering he is very techno-illiterate and confessing to just getting on Facebook. That said, Worcester seemed genuinely interested in the ways comics interact with the Web and set about making the panel think about the ways the internet may have affected comics as a medium; financially and aesthetically, thinking in particular about the changes in their production, distribution, consumption and even about the way fan culture has changed since the Web hit it big (think: forums & message boards!).

Following Worcester's encouragement each woman in the panel ("And how great is it that we're not talking about being a woman in comics?" asked Hope to her fellow panelists) to give a brief bio giving us some background as to how they got involved with the internet and comics:

Hope confessed that the main reason she started publishing her work on the web was in order to find a print publisher - which she did, and now she mainly uses the Web to promote her work.
Shaenon (an editor of comics by day) says that she makes webcomics in the form of daily strips in the same way print-comics are made and made it clear that Narbonic and her other creations come more from a place of enjoyment rather than financial drives ("I'm not really good at the whole entrepreneurship part of webcomics" she said, to which Hope echoed: "I mean, you can make 'good' money on webcomics, but it's a lot of work. It being mostly merchandising and stuff.") Shaenon also spoke of the feedback aspect of publishing her comics online: she enjoys hearing what her readers have to say in form of comments, for example.

Boxer, a webcritic for the NYTimes (but more interestingly a graphic novelist herself - see The Floyd Archive), was suffering from jet-lag and instead of talking, she resorted to reading a written script where she described how she had found herself writing the Web anthology and the various ways she saw the internet and comics intersecting. What was striking - and this might have been due to the more theoretical approach Boxer took, was the description of the 'future' of comics in the Web. Quoting Scott McCloud, Boxer put forth the idea that the future of comics might lie in the 'infinite canvas' that is available on the web (she also quoted Gary Groth, whose attack on McCloud centers on McCloud's "thinly veiled argument for animation"). Yet, the more she has explored the world of webcomics (including Hope and Shaenon's work) she has found that webcomics tend to maintain the framing and page-constrictions found in print. As an insight she offered: webcomics are to comics what email is to regular mail. That is to say, there are more options available but we don't utilize them to their full potential (or choose not to).

Here Hope and Shaenon focused on this issue: why don't webcomics use the 'infinite canvas.' Simply put, they said, creating something on an 'infinite canvas' makes it impossible to publish. This, coming from two writer-artists that prefer print (mainly due to its financial possibility) doesn't seem quite a shock. Hope did comment on her Sex Rainbow work being printed as a deck of cards in order to include the 'infinite canvas'-like feel it had on the web, prompting Worcester to ask: "So is this the future of reading? A deck of cards?"

Ultimately the panel - in due part because both of its writer-artists were print-based, or functioned within a print-based comics environment - didn't (or couldn't) explore further the implications that Boxer's comments and questions raised (sadly, no new ground was opened in terms of the 'weightlessness,' the 'ephemeral nature,' the 'insubstantiality' of webcomics or even the paradoxical idea that, in being less substantial, webcomics offer more possibilities for archiving than their print counterparts!). Instead the conversation veered towards a web vs print comparison where both Shaenon and Hope bemoaned the lack of Editors on the web, saying that the help of an editor in print-based projects helped them immensely.

And once the floor was open to questions, the panel became a How-To seminar. Up and coming webcomic artists wanted to know how to promote their work; established webcomic artists who Hope and Shaenon read professed their admiration; and ultimately the session became more of a networking panel, strengthening the sub-culture of webcomics rather than exploring theoretically what the internet can/should/does offer the form of comics. [Ed note: This kind of sounds like a complaint, but alas, as an English Grad Student, I feel everything should be more theoretical - which need not be taken as a complaint]

Check back for commentary/'retroactive liveblogging' of the rest of the panels:

11:00-12:15 Comics and Canon Formation
1:30-2:45 Comics and Kid's Lit

3:00-4:15 Comics and the Literary Establishment

5:30-6:45 Comics and the Internet

7:00-8:00 Art Spiegelman and Gary Panter in conversation

8:15-9:30 Hillary Chute interviews Lynda Barry

Post Bang Comics, Art Spiegelman, Hope Larson, Shaenon Garrity,Sarah Boxer,