Monday, June 23, 2014

What a maroon! What a "Yentl" Case!

On previous birthdays of mine I talked about Daffy Duck, Pepe Le Pew, Tweety, and Jimi Hendrix. This time, as I approach the big 40, I'd like to indulge in a bit of nerd rage against one Barbara Streisand.

I won't go into the usual criticisms of her like the narcissism or her fiercely opinionated nature.  I personally don't care about those things.  She can roll around in a pile of 8 X 10 photos of herself until she squirts enough "fun juice" to go surfing for all I care.  What I want to talk about is one little movie she did back around 1972.  I do believe it was called What's Up, Doc!

It's so titled because it's billed as a screwball comedy (being reminiscent of the ones made in the 1930's) and good ol' Babsy plays a character that is considered a parallel to Bugs Bunny.  She's holding a carrot right there on the poster and she even takes a bite from a carrot and says Bugs' catch phrase when she first meets Ryan O'Neal's character in a book store.

Then, from this point on, she proceeds to stalk the poor bastard...

...and stalk him...

...and stalk him...

...and stalk him...

...until he sees no alternative but to just give in and be her boyfriend.

They even have a Bugs and Elmer cartoon playing at the same time just to completely emphasize the comparison.

I'm not saying this is a terrible movie.  It has clever writing and brilliant performances by Steisand, O'Neal, and everyone else in it.  As a stand alone feature it does quite well.  My problem is that Barbara Streisand's character is NOT like Bugs Bunny at all.  He's not a selfish sociopath who relentlessly goes after whatever he wants.  He's almost the opposite.  Bugs seems to possess a Buddhist-like zen eliminating all or at least most desire (he still craves more than a few carrots now and then).

Sure, in earlier cartoons, Bugs may have picked on Elmer Fudd just for his own amusement, but that died off pretty quickly.

Nyeeeh! Charge any therapy bills to Jack Warner, doc.

As Chuck Jones put it, Bugs works best when he's being a counter-revolutionary.  He doesn't go out looking for trouble.  He actually starts peacefully enough just minding his own business.

Then some big oaf attacks him.

Bugs then swiftly enacts his revenge.

The villain is vanquished!

If anything, Streisand's character is the exact opposite of Bugs, in that it more closely resembles Lola Bunny's character that in exact opposition to Bugs like in the video clip below:

Or, to keep things more-so in line with the animation output of the original studio, Barbara Streisand's character is actually more like Charlie Dog.  He was that stray dog who always used overly aggressive tactics to find a home.  His usual victim was Porky Pig...

...but on occasion he pursued a Southern colonel...

...and a restaurant owner in Italy.

I'd also like to point out that Charlie never actually achieved his goal.  The cartoon would usually end with Charlie getting the bums rush as it were.

Like I said, What's Up Doc is not a terrible movie and deserves no huge amount of heated derision.  I just wish the writers and producers of this film would have had a better understanding of Bugs' character while they were crafting this film's screenplay.

That's it.

Oh yeah, also, happy birthday to me!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Some very detailed feedback for my latest book.

In my pursuit of reviews for Censor Monkeys Have No Class, I recently got a rather in-depth response to it.  here's the email sent to me:

I must admit, Censormonkeys was one of the hardest comics to review . There are moments that made me laugh and ideas expressed that I can agree with. It's greatest strength is that you've spread a wide net over the political/social spectrum in your skewering. Granted it could be even wider, atheist monkey (note: I'm an atheist) is one that comes to my mind, etc.. The art is decent and fitting of the form, but it could use some polish. I think a little shadowing would go a long way.
There are some things I found to be problematic. The opening with Fanny did not work so well in my opinion. It was at odds with the Censormonkeys portion as here a na├»ve child is derided because she's childish; whereas, the main comic is absurd because the Censormonkeys are over scrutinizing children's drawings. The ending of the Fanny portion came as too suddenly and violent. I'm not against shock value, but I didn't feel it worked in this case because she's a child. As for the main comic, I didn't get the sense that it had much to do with censorship as much it was about overzealous groups forcing their extreme ideas onto children. I believe that is a good thing to satirize and one of the strengths, but that's not quite censorship. Along these lines I felt that both the Black Panther and Feminist Censormonkeys don't quite work as well as the others. I know both groups can have extreme reactions to media on occasion, but really neither of th groups hold enough power (certainly not in the comics world) to censor anything. However, I think you could combine the two concepts into a parody of the ultra-liberal PC types it would have the same effect. Speaking of ultra-liberals, I couldn't help but to think that the design of the Censormonkeys was, well... a bit too close to old racial caricatures. Before you get upset, no, I'm not calling you racist. However, the term “monkey” does have negative racial connotations when combined with the vague resemblance to ethnic stereotypes it can turn away readers. In context the comic is most certainly not racist, but at a glance it's iffy. I know this relates to the point of the Fanny section, but in comics readers do judge a book by it's cover. I don't think that is a bad thing, it is a visual medium after all. I don't know if you are committed to the “Censormonkey” title, but something as simple as changing it to “Censorchimps” could go a long way into not being misunderstood. I hope this helps you in some manner, and sorry if this seemed a bit harsh.

Pretty heavy stuff.  Here was my response:

Thanks for your candour.  Any feedback is appreciated.  Although, you're not really telling me anything I haven't heard before.  Also there's some things I need to clear up too.

1. Fanny doesn't die because she's childish, she dies because she's ignorant.  I only made her a little girl so that people would not expect her sudden death so much.  And really her death was just a Monty Python style punch line if you will (although the Pythons claimed they would end their sketches before the punch-line), not meant to be taken serious at all.  She was essentially set up to die so that the lesson of that tale could have more impact on the reader, just like the tragic tale of MacBeth.

2. I am aware that the term 'monkey' has been used as a racial slur on occasion.  But, as I've said elsewhere, these monkeys represents personality-types not races. For instance, the Black Panther Monkey would only represent black people of that overzealous personality type, not to all black people in general.  Jane Fonda was a black panther at one point so this monkey may or may not represent her. Plus, I have Tom Cruise drawn as a monkey among them and we all know he's absolutely Caucasian. 

3. You're right in that the monkeys more-so represent the overzealous groups that force extreme ideas onto people rather than the ones doing the actual censoring.  But one leads to the other.  When a small fringe group of feminists/angry soccer moms/defamation league jump and cry about some element they see or even just think they see, some suit behind the curtain cowardly takes it down.  With these monkeys I satirize the source of the outcry as a message to the cowardly suits to stand up to these lunatics, don't give in so easily.

4. This leads me to the final point where you give me suggestions on how to change things. If I make any changes to accommodate the sensitivity of others, well then I'm just giving in to the real life Censor Monkeys which pretty much violates the very reason I created this comic in the first place. I didn't come up with all of this scathing satire against them just to let them win. So for that reason I pretty much have to leave things as they are and keep fighting the good fight.  (Although I was toying with the idea of adding an athiest monkey at one point, but there's already 10 monkeys to keep track of as it is).

As for the shading, I am reminded of something that the great animator Chuck Jones once said. "The art of cartooning is to create a solid fully fleshed out figure without the use of shading or subterfuge of any kind."  Although I did put a drop shadow underneath all the characters in this one.  But, I think any more of that would be distracting.

Once again, thanks for your feedback.  Every bit helps.

Do you agree or disagree with any of the points raised here? Do you have any points of your own to add? If so, post them in the comment section below. I need to know the best way to proceed with my next Censor Monkeys book.