Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pheaturing The Stray

Hello, kids, and welcome to a Tuesday entry of the Phile. It's Tuesday! Happy Fat Tuesday! Or as we say Phat Tuesday.  Did you see the Westminster Dog show? One of the awards at this week’s Westminster Dog Show went to Martha Stewart’s chow chow named Genghis Khan. If Martha wanted to name the dog after a ruthless tyrant, she should have gone with "Martha Stewart.”  After disputes over its nuclear program, Iran is threatening to stop exporting oil. Which means the U.S. may have to tap into its backup reserve: Mitt Romney’s hair.  A few days ago President Obama visited a factory in Wisconsin that brought back 100 jobs from China. It’s got to be tough for the workers in China who lost those jobs... but kids always bounce back. A court in Germany has reopened a 400-year-old case involving a woman who was found guilty of witchcraft. And if that woman is still alive for the trial, I’m gonna go ahead and say "Guilty.” Tehran is cranking out nukes like Malibu cranks out Kardashians.  President Obama's approval rating is up to 50 percent. Only half the country dislikes him. Apparently his strategy of not being any of the Republican candidates is paying off. Here's how he stacks up against others. Obama is at 50 percent positive. Mitt Romney is at 42 percent positive. Ice cream is ahead of both of them at 97 percent. Rick Santorum's approval rating is 33 percent. His sweater vest comes in at 17 percent.  Commander Daniel Burbank shook hands with a robot on the international space station. It's all part of NASA's "What stupid stuff can we do in zero gravity" program.  Are you guys following this Jeremy Lin basketball player? The other night Jeremy Lin led the Knicks to their seventh straight win. Soon he'll be getting all the benefits of being an NBA star: He’ll get a salary bump, an endorsement deal, a Kardashian.  There's gonna be another Republican debate, and CNN is letting viewers ask the candidates questions. It’ll be awkward when they're like, "This question’s from Mark in Texas." Mark asks: "What else is on?"  A man in Ireland was arrested with more than 500 pounds of marijuana. So I guess there is a little pot at the end of the rainbow.  Despite their exorbitant price tag, Dr. Dre’s Beats headphones have recently become a genuine phenomenon... a hip-hop fashion accessory as ubiquitous as hoodies, Jordans, and Amber Rose. And like any good rap impresario, the good Doctor is branching out... albeit into unexpected (and folate-rich) territory. Check this out.

On Sunday I went to MegaCon as you know, and I was so excited Stan Lee was selling Spider-Man themed inspirational posters. I have one here.

Speaking of MegaCon, all I want to say is THANK YOU. Look at this, kids. 

Alright, one of my favorite TV shows is going off the air in May as I mentioned before, and that is "House". I am so excited they keep releasing more and more "House" inspired inspirational posters.

Y'know, I haven't read his new book series of "Game of Thrones", but I loved his super hero series "Wild Cards". That should be made into a TV series. Anyway, yesterday I introduced a new character who seemed rather popular so I thought I would invite him back. So, please welcome again to the Phile...

Hey, bastard, you want puns, I got yer puns. This mushroom walks into a bar and starts hitting on this woman... She, of course, turns him down. Not willing, to give up, he pleads with her... "C'mon lady, I'm a fun guy..." You know who else walked into a bar? This horse walks into a bar and the bartender says "Hey, buddy, why the long face..." These two strings walk up to a bar. The first string walks in and orders and the bartender throws him out and yells "I don't serve strings in this bar" The other string ruffs himself up on the street and curls up and orders. The bartender shouts, "Hey, didn't you hear what I told your buddy?" String says "Yeah." Bartender says, "Aren't you a string?" String says, "No, I'm a frayed knot..." This grasshopper walks into a bar, and the bartender says "Hey! We have a drink named after you!" The grasshopper replies "Really? You have a drink named Steve?!" This baby seal walks into a bar and the bartender says,"What'll ya have..." The seal says, "Anything but a Canadian Club." This skeleton walks into a bar and says, "I'd like a beer and a mop..." You know who else walked into a bar? I did. I man I sat down next to a man with a dog at his feet. "Does your dog bite?" I asked. "No." A few minutes later the dog took a huge chunk out of my leg. "I thought you said your dog doesn't bite!" I said indignantly. The other guy replied, "That's not my dog." Here's one for your science nerd readers. A neutron walks into a bar. "I'd like a beer" he says. The bartender promptly serves up a beer. "How much will that be?" asks the neutron. "For you?" replies the bartender, "no charge" Descartes walks into a bar, and the bartender asks "Would you like a beer?" Descartes replies "I think not" and POOF! he vanished. A three legged dog walks into a bar and says, "I'm looking for the man who shot my paw." A hamburger walks into a bar, and the bartenders says, "I'm sorry, but we don't serve food here." A termite walks into a bar and says, "Is the bar tender here?" A snake slithers into a bar and the bartender says, "I'm sorry but I can't serve you." "Why not?" asks the snake. The bartender says, "Because you can't hold your liquor." That's it, I'm done.

The PUNisher, everybody. Well, a few weeks ago I invited a friend of mine who has a cool Facebook page called Comics Will Make You Stronger to the Phile. He gave a great review of a trade called "DMZ" which is fanastic. So, I thought I would invite him back for another review. So, please welcome back to the Phile, my friend Jim Mello in a pheature called...

"Invincible" by Robert Kirkman, with art by Corey Walker and Ryan Ottley. I hate to start this off in a negative, but: I don't much care for Robert Kirkman. I've tried "Walking Dead" about four times, and even when it was free, I couldn't bring myself to finish it. "Astonishing Wolf-Man" was so so so bland. I don't think the guy has any eye for dialogue, and most of his characters (especially in "The Walking Dead") are so flat and bland. They act like cliche's merely there to piss each other off, and while some may argue that that's drama, I say it's flat and boring, turning melodrama into soap opera. I'm sure his success is deserved, and I am just missing what this guy has to offer. It's just over my head.  That's not the case here. Invincible plays the superhero genre against itself, and effectively establishes a new superhero microcosm in between the Big Two galaxies, and it fits just fine. While I am not a big fan of Kirkman, I do recognize his ability to pull out some random twist to turn a conventional story on its head. This story does just that. It's nothing that we haven't seen before, but instead of trying to pass it all off as serious, it laughs at itself and that gives it a lot more modesty than Kirkman's other work.  Corey Walker is a solid artist, but Ryan Ottley is where it is at. Take a look at the panel below: crazy detail. It must have taken a few days to pencil, and even longer to color. Awesome stuff.

I apologize for the rant above this all, but if you were able to sift through that, I hope you give "Invincible" a shot. Make sure you read through to the second volume though. Otherwise, you won't know what you're missing.

If you're concerned that you missed 2008's Journey to the Center of the Earth and you're not sure if you're going to be able to jump into this fast-moving adventure whole heartedly, you needn't be worried. The only person who saw it was Josh Hutcherson, who plays the feisty daredevil Seth in both films, and even he doesn't seem to remember it. In fact, the whole movie seems to exist in a bubble where people can fly on bees, but no one's allowed to say "Hey, does this seem weird to anyone else?"  Without wasting too much time on exposition, the movie goes from zero to 60 zooming through the tiny details that Josh, as a known Vernian, believes the novels of Jules Verne to be fact. He clandestinely obtains some Morse code presumably sent by his long-lost grandfather which his stepfather Hank (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) decodes in record time. It says that The Mysterious Island is real and that they totally have to go there. With little effort they do, and it's filled with the gorgeous and peculiar landscape Verne described, where little things are big and vice versa (which makes for adorable elephants but scary lizards). Of course this is old hat for Josh, who has been through this once before, but apparently no one in the movie thinks that figures in here (not even one "Here we go again." Not one). Unfortunately their amazing vacation is cut short and they have to escape the island sooner than intended, using more iconic literary machinery that is actually real.  The movie feels vaguely like serial adventures of old, where there's plenty of action that kids were declaring "awesome" as the credits rolled, and it has moments of beauty that make the 3D ticket price almost worth it. But it's completely lacking anything that grounds the picture and makes it even the slightest bit realistic or tense for anyone else. In fact, the characters unblinking acceptance of every circumstance makes the film eventually feel pointless, because every obstacle is treated as completely insignificant. Regardless of whether it's a hurricane, dislocated ankle, missing person, or cranky grandfather... none of it raises any kind of anxiety in the cast, much less the audience. Roadblocks are followed with an immediate calm plan that is executed precisely, with no screw ups or surprises. If only our government could operate so efficiently. This an ideal adventure picture to show your child if they found Tangled to be too nail-bitingly intense. Lucky for anyone dragged to see this, there's always The Rock to help ease your pain. His scowl packs the same wattage as his smile, and he gets to be in his full kid-friendly movie glory here. His moments of sheer insanity are the only thing that feels genuine about the entire film. Whether he's popping his pecs while Luis Guzman tosses berries at them, or playing a ukelele and doing his own Weird-Al-ing of "What a Wonderful World," he helps make the movie more entertaining and just a hare funnier, raising it to a 1.37 out of ten on the Hilarity Scale. The optimist within says they must be saving all their endearing character banter and swashbuckling for the next film. Because the pessimist within knows there will be another. From 1 to 10, it gets an 8.

Today's guest is the 12th artist to be pheatured in the Peverett Phile Art Gallery and says he is an artist, music maker, aspiring writer, goofball, geek, nerd, and dork. Please welcome to the Phile... The Stray.

Me: Hey, Stray. Welcome to the Phile. What's up?

The Stray: Hi! Thanks for having me! You have a great blog here, I noticed you interviewed Billy Dee Williams. That guy was in Star Wars, only the biggest movie all-time... and I'm a guy that makes t-shirts, so I'm humbled and honored to be in the same company. Now that I think of it though, I kinda am like the Lando Calrissian of the t-shirt making world. Anyway, I'm sitting at home on a rainy Monday morning listening to comedy podcasts and sketchin up some stuff. Life is good.

Me: Yep, I interviewed Billy Dee. That was cool. So, are you The Stray, or just Stray?

The Stray: The "the" is optional, I don't expect people to call me "the". Stray is fine. It started off as a nickname, then I started using it as a monicker in chatrooms, and I just got used to people calling me Stray, so it stuck.

Me: You're not a stray though, right?

The Stray: Not anymore, I was orphaned when I was very young and tried to fend for myself on the street. I was taken in by a group of street smart dogs, it was a real tough time but eventually I was adopted by a little girl named Jenny. No wait a minute that's the movie Oliver & Company. Some times I get my life mixed up with Disney movies. No, I'm not a stray.

Me: Where did that nickname come from?

The Stray: The Stray is a silly nickname I created in highschool, it was my own little way of saying that I don't subscribe to any labels, I'm just me. I used to dress a little unusual when I was in highschool, I experimented with different looks, and I didn't really care what anyone thought of me. And one day some girl was trying to figure me out, asking me what I was. "Are you a punk? Are you a goth? Are you a skater?" etc, and it just rubbed me the wrong way. Why do people to place each other in these made up categories? I thought if I was going to be labeled I'm the one that's going to create the label, and that label was "stray". Oh highschool.

Me: Where are you from, Stray?

The Stray: Los Angeles, born and raised. I'll never leave either, I love this place unequivocally.

Me: How long have you been drawing?

The Stray: Always. It predates my memory. Every kid doodles, artists are just the ones that never stop I think. I think getting into comics really fueled my need to draw too, because I just HAD to draw Spider-Man. I'd sit there for an hour just trying to get the webbing on his costume right. Art to me is just like one of the essentials of life at this point.

Me: I have to ask, what's the story behind the three headed pink bear? It's kinda scary.

The Stray: Haha. That's "cerBEARus", get it? Like cerberus the 3-headed dog of Greek myth? But except a bear because that's more awesome. It just popped into my head one day, and I drew it, and for some reason no other color looked right to me besides pink. It's kind of become my unofficial mascot. It's on a t-shirt at designbyhumans.com/shop/detail/women/8117 but it's sadly sold out.

Me: Is a bear you favorite animal?

The Stray: It's my favorite animal to draw at least. There's just something fun about drawing all that fur to me. They're huge mountains of hair, and they're incredibly powerful majestic creatures, but there's also sort of an adorableness to them. They're so fluffy.

Me: What kinds of medium and tools do you use, Stray? I am guessing you are always drawing something, am I right?

The Stray: Most of the time I start on paper with pencil, scan, and then I click some stuff in photoshop and a masterpiece is born. Yes I am indeed always drawing something. My last new year's resolution was to draw EVERY day, and I've managed to do this the whole year except for a few days where I was hindered by sickness, pain or injury. I recommend to any artist who suffers with "artists block" to just commit to drawing every day, even if it's just a little bit, even if it's not great, just do it every day and once you get into the habit you'll stop making excuses for yourself.

Me: I have to ask you about your inspiration. Who is your favorite artist?

The Stray: I'm inspired by so many different artists, it's impossible for me to pick a favorite. Bill Peet, Bruce Timm, Genndy Tartakovsky, Katsuhiro Otomo, Satoshi Kon, Mike Mignola, James Jean, Frank Frazetta, Alfons Mucha, Jamie Hewlett, Kirby, Ditko, I could list names forever. Marvel comics, Disney, Pixar, Miyazaki, Dragonball Z, Studio 4C, etc etc.

Me: You have a few video game tie-in's work. Are you a gamer?

The Stray: Not really, to be honest. I haven't owned a game console since the late 90's. The 1st Playstation was the last system I owned, then I gave that away and just stopped. Video games are a lot of fun, but it's such a time consuming and EXPENSIVE hobbie. I'll probably get back into it at some point when I have more disposable time and income.

Me: One thing I know you like a lot, and that is "Adventure Time", am I right? Is that your favorite show? You have done a few "Adventure Time" themed pieces, right?

The Stray: "Adventure Time"? What's that? I like adventures, and I like time, but I have no idea what you're talking about. No, yeah, you're right. I totally love "Adventure Time".

Me: The "Drive" poster you designed is brilliant with Finn is cool. Are you a fan of that movie?

The Stray: Thanks! Oh yeah, I really dug it. Loved the style, loved the music, loved the simplicity and the visceral intense violent moments, and most of all I love Ryan Gosling, he's so dreeaaamy.

Me: What is it about "Adventure Time" that you like so much?

The Stray: Where do I begin... I think it's kind of a perfect cartoon. Anything is possible in animation, and they really take advantage of that, you never know what you're going to see from week to week. I also love that they're not afraid to let the tone of the show change. Some times it can be random and whacky, then other times it can have really dark moments, or be really sentimental, and it never feels off. The characters are really endearing and charming and have a lot of humanity to them, from the way they talk or react to situations. And there's all this dense mythology that they have yet to uncover that makes the show have several layers. Recently there was an episode where they delved into the origin of the Ice King, and it reframed this silly character as a tragic figure and completely changed how you look at his past actions in retrospect. That was kinda deep, I honestly almost cried, haha. It's a great show, one that kids and adults can appreciate equally.

Me: You created your own characters as well, am I right?

The Stray: You are correct.

Me: Are you planning on working with them more in a children's book or cartoon?

The Stray: I'm developing a cartoon around them, that's going to be adult-oriented. It's based loosely on my experiences when I was in art school as a younger adult. I think it'll be interesting, and something a little unexpected of a cartoon I think. We'll see.

Me: Who are some of your characters, Stray?

The Stray: The main character is Maurice who is a bush baby, and he has other animal friends like a sloth, a rabbit and a sheep. You can take a look at them here right here.

Me: What other movies and TV shows are you inspired by? Your artwork seems a lot more original then others I have seen.

The Stray: Wow thanks, I don't know if my stuff is all that special, but that's a huge compliment. I'm a huge consumer of tv and movies, favorite shows right now besides "Adventure Time" would be "Regular Show", "Young Justice", "Always Sunny in Philadelphia", "Louie", "Parks and Rec," "Community", "Breaking Bad", "Walking Dead", "Curb Your Enthusiasm", "Delocated", "Sons of Anarchy", "Misfits", like a hundred more, I watch a lot of tv. Some favorite recent movies have been Scott Pilgrim, Attack the Block, Bridesmaids, Hesher, 13 Assassins.

Me: I was looking at your hippo and rhino rappers, and find it scary. 

Me: Not as scary as your real life Yogi Bear but scary. Where did that idea come from? Did you know "Flight of the Conchords" had a song about a hippo and elephant? Do you know that show?

The Stray: I must correct you, sir, "Flight of the Conchords" has a song about a hippo and a rhino, not an elephant. That is where the idea for the design came from, it's a direct reference to them. The Hiphopopotamus and the Rhymenoceros. The design is titled "Lyrics are Bottolmess" which is a reference to a freestyle by the Hiphopopotamus. So yeah, I know that show, and love those dudes.

Me: Did you see The Muppets? Brett McKenzie from "Flight of the Conchords" wrote the songs in it. You should do some Muppet stuff. That picture of you looking like a Mupept though is cool. How did you make that?

The Stray: Not yet! I definitely plan to though, I love the Muppets. I have very fond memories of those movies growing up. I probably will do some Muppet stuff in the near future. That muppet piece of me was all digital painted. 
The Stray: I overlayed a high-res carpet texture to give it that Muppety feel.

Me: Okay, if you were gonna design a logo for the Phile, what would it look like?

The Stray: That's a toughy. It'd really depend on what you wanted. Maybe it'd be a cartoonized version of you with a nice text treatment around it. Maybe I'd draw you with 3 heads and color you pink, I don't know.

Me: Stray, thanks so much for being here, and keep up the good work. Go ahead and plug your websites and take care, man. Please come back again.

The Stray: No thanks, this was awful. I kid. Sure, have me back any time, I'm very flattered you'd want to interview little ol me. People can find me at thestray.tumblr.com there's a shop page where you can find my shirts, or you can just go to thestray.spreadshirt.com/ oh and I'd like to plug designbyhumans.com and teefury.com, two sites that have been very good to me and have printed a lot of my work. Thanks for the interview man. If I ever accomplish anything of merit feel free have me back.

Well, that about does it for this odd day on the Phile. Thanks to my guests Jim Mello.. check out his Facebook page Comics Will Make You Stronger, and of course to The Stray. The Phile will be back tomorrow with Alumni Tish Meeks from 3 Kisses, then on Sunday it's singer Lizzy Ross. And on Monday it's singer Martina Downey. So, spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

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