Working on my 2012 Midwinter Interlude piece

I’ve started working on the drawing I intend to submit as my piece for Bemidji State’s 2012 faculty-staff art show, the Midwinter Interlude. Back in 1991, I did a nine-panel collage of isolation shots of the character Jade DeCamp from Tim Vigil and David Quinn’s “Faust: Love of the Damned” comic series. You can see the original here, on my DeviantArt page.

I drew this on really bad paper, just some cheap 11×17 sketchpad, and as a result the paper has yellowed pretty badly over the last 21 years (eep!). I’ve been thinking about redoing this drawing for a long time, and my need for a new piece for this year’s Interlude seems like a perfect opportunity to do so.

I started this late last week, and grabbed a photo of the beginnings of the first panel; it’s up on Google+. That first panel is going pretty well. Most of the rest of it, not so much. The start of this drawing has been frustrating; I’ve done well on the panels that seemed like they’d be the most difficult, but on the “easy” ones, it’s just not working. I recall working on the original, and I pretty much just sat down and drew it. I can see how much better I was in 1991 when I was drawing significantly more often; I can tell where things went easily with the original just by how they’re drawn. For me to struggle with getting those panels to come together now is really frustrating.

But, last night I sat down and worked on the largest panel, which is also the most difficult angle, and I think that’s going very, very well. That panel will be an improvement on the original, and that’ll help the entire piece.

Now, I just need to work through those other panels and get this thing knocked out. I have until early February to finish it, and I think that should be plenty of time. I went right down to the wire with last year’s piece, finishing up about 10:30 p.m. the night before submissions had to go up in the gallery. But, I didn’t start it until January. I’m hoping this year I’ll be done far in advance of the show.

Assuming, that is, that I can get those side panels looking somewhat respectable. I’ll post another in progress shot in the next day or so.


G.I. Joe: Retaliation trailer hits YouTube

The HD trailer for next summer’s “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” hit last night. I’ve watched it about 20 times already and caused Melissa to lament that she had “married a man-child.” So, yes, the trailer is awesome. It has explosions. It has Storm Shadow. It has Rattlers. It has a proper-looking Cobra Commander. And it has Snake Eyes fighting ninjas on the side of a mountain. June, 2012, can’t get here fast enough.

Comic Review: Cobra Civil War: G.I. Joe #8

Cobra Civil War: G.I. Joe #8
IDW Publishing
Street Date: Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Cover price: $3.99

Written by: Chuck Dixon
Pencils: Wil Rosado
Inks: (none credited)
Colors: Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
Letters: Shawn Lee

Cover A: Tom Feister
Cover B: Tom Haynes (photo cover)
Cover RI: Tom Feister

G.I. Joe: Flint, Beachhead, Tripwire, Scarlett
Cobra: Baroness, Major Bludd

The Joes dig their way out of the rubble of Springfield, left behind after their deadly encounter with the BAT, lick their wounds and plan how they intend to explain what went so terribly wrong in their loss of the Tuna, and a daring raid frees Baroness from captivity.

All of this leads into the conclusion of the Cobra Civil War, as the High Council names Cobra’s new commander.

It’s difficult to adequately explain the conclusion of the contest, particularly in context with the rest of the crossover event that came before it. Zartan’s status as a stand-in for Oda Satori comes into play in a significant fashion, and the Council initially installs one candidate as Commander before reversing its decision when it became clear what the ultimate winner’s ploy had been all along.

The conclusion to the contest is interesting, even though there was never an indication that the contest was heading in this direction. There’s no real way to examine how the contest wrapped up and maintain a spoiler-free review (which is a concern even though USA Today revealed the identity of the new Commander in an online story on Tuesday). Calling the entire Civil War storyline a red herring isn’t entirely accurate, because there never was a clear leader; but, ultimately, very little that we actually saw unfold over the last eight months of this event had much to do with how the contest ultimately ended. The ending to the contest would have been significantly better if we’d have had a chance to actually experience this plot instead of having it tidily wrapped up in a neat little bow in the span of exactly five and a half pages. Reading this issue felt like sitting through a bad detective movie, where the villain spends the last five minutes going through a “you want to know how I did this evil thing you’ve just found out I did? Well, let me explain it…” monologue.

If you haven’t followed one single issue of the Cobra Civil War, you can pick up G.I. Joe #8 and not be significantly disadvantaged by having missed the previous 22 issues of the event. There’s something not right about that.

In the epilogue, a character we’ve hardly seen during the civil war storyline reappears. Destro has reconstructed a teleporter and is working with Cobra scientists at the Section X installation in order to solve his molecular breakdown and free himself from the armor keeping him alive. You can probably guess how this goes for him.

G.I. Joe continues in January when the Cobra Command story arc begins.

Wil Rosado continues his fill-in duties, penciling his third issue in replacement of series regular Javier Saltares. His art’s consistent with the work he did on the sixth and seventh issues of the series. He continues to draw Baroness very well, Scarlett looks great in the few panels she appears in, but otherwise the figures feel stiff and motionless. The vehicle caravan ambush by Krake’s forces was well-done, though, and his Zartan transformations are arguably shown as well as they have been in any of his appearances in IDW’s universe. Overall, he did a nice job on his three-issue assignment.

There’s a minor continuity error; Baroness is drawn with a broken left lense in her glasses on page four, but on page 10 both lenses are intact.

The creative team is the same as been for the last three issues. Romulo Fajardo, Jr., handled colors and Shawn Lee lettered the issue.

No reviews for the covers to this issue. I only had access to the photo cover, Cover B. The photo covers seem like a better fit for the retailer incentive, continuing the trend of significantly differential covers for that version that has been apparent over this entire series. As a “B” cover to the final installment of a 23-issue crossover event, it’s a strange choice.

The contest is over; Cobra has named a new Commander.

There is no preview available for G.I. Joe #8.

Update, etc.

The new job is going fantastically well. I’ve been at it for six weeks now, I think — and it’s been six great weeks. The next issue of Bemidji State’s alumni magazine is in page proof and edits now, and goes to press on Friday; we’ll get page proofs back and it’ll go to print on Dec. 15. It still feels early, but I have a good feeling about the way the magazine has progressed so far. It’s been my major focus since taking over in October; I’ve also been really busy on campus-wide workgroups for a variety of things – two major vice president-led workgroups on a pair of initiatives to forward some of the president’s goals for the school, one on athletics and one on student success, and others for things like enforcement and campus signage for our tobacco-free policy, and the feasibility of developing an integrated system to control the LCD TVs being used as message boards across campus. It’s been a busy time — but a very good kind of busy.

Not only is the job going well, I love it, too. I’m having so much fun with it. I’m not entirely sure how to describe it; there’s an urban legend about Ted Williams that said he could see the seams on a baseball as it twirled its way toward home plate. He discounts that story, saying only that he could tell which direction the ball was spinning in the last 20 feet.

When I go to work every day, when I think about this job, I see the seams. It’s an amazing feeling, one I haven’t had about my job in a long time.

My fall term of grad school is winding down. I turned in the final paper for my Administrative Problems in Physical Education course this weekend; I struggled to get 2,500 words on Prong Three of the federal Title IX legislation over the weekend, and finished and submitted the paper late Sunday evening. It was due at 8 a.m. Monday morning, and by the time I sent it in I was just calling it “done,” and not “good.” I got one hundred percent on the paper; out of 320 possible points in that class this semester, I missed three. That’s a final grade of 99.06 percent. I will take that.

My other class should wrap up today. There’s an assignment due today, a peer evaluation of the members in our group for a group project; I turned that in on Monday. I have a two-question, open-ended essay final that I want to try and finish tonight; I started it Monday as well, but didn’t get very far. I tried again last night and made some progress, but I wasn’t feeling very well so I didn’t get it done. I’ll try to get it taken care of tonight. I should have an A locked down in that class as well, barring some disastrous grade on this final. So, Operation: 4.0 in Grad School is off to a good start.

IDW’s “Cobra Civil War” story arc wraps up today in G.I. Joe #8. I wasn’t able to get an advance copy to review; USA Today did, and they spilled the identity of the new Cobra Commander yesterday. By process of elimination it’s not surprising that it ended up being the character it was, but in terms of how that character was portrayed during the Civil War story arc — which lasted eight months and spanned 22 individual comic books — it’s a pretty head-scratching decision. I’m curious to see how it’s justified. IDW had an opportunity to do something pretty fantastic with this Cobra civil war, but it ended up being a disastrous mix of divergent story lines that were supposed to come together for today’s big announcement — but that never remotely materialized. There were two storylines that I thought could have been very interesting; one was wrapped up after four issues of the Snake-Eyes series, and the other had a legitimate “holy crap” moment about three months ago that has never again been addressed or even referenced. This story was not what it could have been, by a long shot. I’ll pick up my copy of G.I. Joe #8 over lunch; I’ll have a complete review posted here and at The Terrordrome tonight. I’ll probably also start working on a retrospective of the Civil War storyline as well, as a lead-in to the Cobra Command story arc that begins in January.

All for now. I’m going to try again to post more here now that I’m feeling more settled into this new job. Plus, the holidays are coming up, so I’ll need to brag about all of my awesome Christmas presents somewhere. 🙂

Comic review: Cobra Civil War: Cobra #7

Cobra Civil War: Cobra #7
IDW Publishing
Street Date: Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011
Cover price: $3.99

Cover A: David Williams, with colors by Kelsey Shannon
Cover B: Antonio Fuso, with colors by Arianna Florian
Cover RI: Trevor Hutchinson

Written by: Mike Costa
Art: Antonio Fuso
Colors: Arianna Florien
Letters: Neil Uyetake

G.I. Joe: Steeler, Firewall, Chameleon, Lady Jaye
Cobra: Blacklight, Blackout

Well, this is it – the final issue of the Cobra Civil War before the new Cobra Commander is revealed in G.I. Joe #8 next week.

So where do things stand? Is there a clear winner, or even a clear leader, based on how this so-called civil war has played out over the last seven months and 22 issues of comics over three series?

Not even close.

Still, this issue approaches “Cobra” perfection. Mike Costa opens with the “I will never…” line that has defined the majority of this series, diving into Firewall’s background. What Costa has done so well in this series is to carefully expose the flaws of each of its main players and show how those flaws have been responsible for developing them into what they have become in the present. In this case, Firewall’s back story illustrates her as a soldier who has been wildly successful, but not in the way she had dreamed. Her limitations, and the limitations others placed on her, shaped her to the point that she was perfectly suited to be the G.I. Joe agent to root out Cobra’s mole. In some ways, she understands him because, in some ways, she has been him. The backgrounds Costa lays out for Steeler and Firewall are remarkably similar; the only appreciable difference is how they chose to deal with the limitations placed upon them by others.

Through Blacklight, whose long journey through this series as scattered two- to three-page cameos was never clear until Costa turned him loose in this issue, those similar stories have likely come to an end. With one shot, we find there’s much more to Blacklight’s role in the Civil War than could have been imagined, even considering his role in the death of multiple Joes during their failed mission to Panama. How his actions affect Tomax’s candidacy for Commander and what his support for Tomax means for his relationship with the Baroness will have to play out as Cobra adjusts to its new commander.

While this issue in and of itself is fantastic, its position as the final chapter of a storyline called “Cobra Civil War” is a disappointment — not due to any failures of this story, but a failure of the overall story arc. It is basically impossible to claim that this story has been anything approaching a Cobra Civil War; one agent was killed in this issue, and a couple of months back Krake shot up some of the Baroness’ Vipers for no apparent reason whatsoever. It has hardly been a civil war in the manner that was expected when the basic structure of the Cobra Commander contest was introduced. The Cobra series has been strong as always, and the Snake Eyes issues dealing with the Vikrim Khallikhan story arc was fantastic. Across the entire Cobra Civil War crossover, however, IDW seems to have missed an opportunity to do something fantastic with its version of the G.I. Joe universe. Cobra #7 shows a glimpse of what could have been, but ultimately never materialized.

Series regular Antonio Fuso is back after a two-issue hiatus, and turns in what’s probably one of the best-looking issues in this series so far. For a series that has been relatively light on action so far, the back half of this book is basically one extended fight scene around some tanks in a motor pool. Simply put, Fuso nails it. There have been instances earlier in this series, particularly in the storyline surrounding Blackout’s escape from Panama, where it’s been difficult to tell what was supposed to be happening in a particular panel. Not here. The action is perfectly clear, and there’s a sense of motion and flow to the fight that is easy to follow even though it’s shown through mostly closeup panels. This is a fantastic comic-book fight scene, and Fuso takes full advantage of the fact that he was given the bulk of the back half of this issue to show it. It’s hard to pick highlights; but Page 16 showing an exchange between Steeler and Lady Jaye is brilliant, and the final page showing the aftermath of the brawl, and Chameleon’s reaction to what she’s just experienced, is intense.

David Williams’ Cover A continues IDW’s tradition of very cool covers that don’t have the slightest thing to do with the story inside. It’s related in that a Cobra kills a Cobra with a rifle, but neither Storm Shadow nor Baroness are anywhere near this issue. Still, cool cover.

Antonio Fuso’s Cover B is a closeup of Steeler/Blackout, and Trevor Hutchinson’s Major Bludd for the retailer incentive wraps up a pretty interesting run of covers for this month’s No. 7 issues of the three Joe series. The style has been so radically different from anything else that’s been done in the series so far.

Tomax and his new agent, Blacklight, have dealt a serious blow to Major Bludd’s efforts in the contest, with this being the closest thing that this series has had to being an actual “Cobra Civil War.” Who’s in the lead now? Honestly, who knows. Next week’s announcement of the winner of the contest could go to any of the remaining competitors — or none of them. There’s never been a clear picture of who might be leading the contest and, now that the contest is presumably over, that hasn’t changed.

Comic Book Resources has a seven-page preview of Cobra #7 here.