July 2003 Archives

In the same existential vein as B.C., there's a new game coming to consoles called The Suffering. From the description, the story seems sort of like the HBO show Oz crossed with Kafka's novel The Trial. The story takes place in prison, where you, the player, have been incarcerated for murdering your own family. Your challenge appears to be to fight your way out of this feral prison setting, all the while undergoing some sort of nightmarish trial process. I noticed from the screen shots that there doesn't appear to be an option to play as a female prisoner, which is a bit of a disappointment, as an all-female prison simulation sounds like it could be very entertaining.

Continuing in the games-as-headtrip vein, I was intending to write about my excitement over the upcoming Joan of Arc game, but Game Girl Advance went and beat me to it. I have to concur with them that it would add a memorable dimension to the game if they could include Joan's voices within the military gameplay. I previously wrote about the insane-o-meter used in the game Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem, perhaps that could be adapted for the Joan of Arc title. However it develops, its nice to see game developers paying attention to the transvestite market.

Meet Wayne Bruce


It's wonderful getting e-mail from readers. That's how I recently met, via e-mail, a fairly new blogger, Mr. Wayne Bruce. His web site, Heroes & Villains, is an incredibly intelligent examination of identity issues, sexual and otherwise, filtered through a love for Batman comics. You'll find discourse on masks, art, uniforms, and internet identity among other things, as well as specific pointers to Batman comics to illustrate points. Very unique. The site is also a repository for Batman fan fic of the m/m variety. There haven't been a lot of updates recently but Mr. Bruce assures me more of his writing will be coming soon.

New crew


I've updated the Meet the Crew page to include Johnny Bacardi in the list of frequent commentors.

Hulking Truck


Has anyone else noticed the absurd proportions of the 2003 Chevy Avalanche? It's like the Incredible Hulk of trucks. I always feel like a Liliputian when I'm standing next to one--I think the top of the flatbed is about level with my forehead. It makes me feel like a giant hand is going to come out of the sky, pick me up by the scruff of my neck, and throw me in the back so I can be driven off to become the giant's dinner.

The power of the cartoon


Last night I watched Gangs of New York on DVD. It was an awe-inspiring movie and a vivid portrait of New York. I then saw a documentary on the historical inspiration behind the movie included among the DVD's special features.

In reviewing various source material, the documentary touched on the work of political cartoonist Thomas Nast and his relationship to the character "Tweed" in the movie. It emphasized Nast's tremendous power in bringing down one of the most corrupt politicans in U.S. history through his political drawings. Nast used humor to bring down Tweed, as well as a largely visual format that allowed him to communicate to the widest possible audience, including those who were not literate.

Although I had heard of Nast before, seeing him within the violent context presented by Gangs of New York made his achievement seem larger to me. It is always inspiring to me to be reminded of instances where political change has taken place through nonviolent means.

Another nuanced x-box title

I like light reading while I'm traveling, so when I recently flew to Las Vegas I brought along a copy of Electronic Gaming Monthly to page through. After 1 1/2 hours spent waiting in line with a group of frustrated and anxious travelers at LAX, it was a great relief to unwind with the magazine during the 45 minute flight.

Since I missed E3 this year, I was especially eager to read EGM's take on all the upcoming games. As I paged through the previews, my eye was particularly attracted by a game touted as an "'existence is suffering' simulator for X-Box." That sounded as if it were barking right up my alley.

As it turns out, the game in question is called B.C., and its creators are predicting that it will be "the goriest game ever." You play a caveperson in the prehistoric world of B.C., wherein you spend most of your time fighting against various gargantuan beasts in a largely futile effort to stay alive. This being the Stone Age, or thereabouts, you have no real weaponry to speak of--just your standard issue rocks, twigs and sticks, etc.--so you must rely on your wits and the environment to survive.

Somehow I thought an "existence is suffering" simulator would be more, um, French.

She's Sensational

Game Gal is running a feature on the appeal of the She-Hulk.

Geometric mosaics

I've previously written here about mosaics as sequential art. Rubik's Cube Art is a less artful, though quite original, example of the mosaic form. At first, I thought these images were made from disected cubes but, on closer examination--the Apple logo is a good one to look at--I see they are full cubes that have been manipulated to create an image.

Magneto rules

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An article on Queer Superheroes sees the clash between Professor Xavier and Magneto as a "fantasy version of the clash between gay-marriage assimilationists and radical queer activists."

Degraded Trek series


Burnt Toast posted about game company Activision's accusation that Paramount has neglected to keep up the Star Trek franchise, thus diminishing the value of Activision's license for Star Trek-themed games.

I have to agree that recent Star Trek offerings have not been up to snuff. I was all revved up to see Star Trek: Nemesis on DVD a few weeks ago, having missed the film in theaters. Yet having seen it, I could only recommend watching it if you are a Trek completist, as I guess I must be, because I'm one of those few diehards still watching Star Trek: Enterprise after two mostly lousy seasons. The show did start improving in the last half of the second season, so I'm hopeful it might get better next year.

Hugh about to take a dip in the poolWhile we're on the topic of Star Trek, I thought this might be a good time to introduce you to my Sims couple, the Twos. Their actual names--following Borg nomenclature--are One of Two and Two of Two, but it is probably easier to think of them as Jean-Luc Picard Two and Hugh Borg Two. I introduced this couple into my game so that Peter and Joe Jennings would have another gay couple to socialize with, but this plan has not worked out so well.

The Twos enjoy a lively game on the X-BoxIn the top picture, you see Hugh ready to enjoy a nice swim in the Jennings backyard. Hugh is a bit of social beast--arrogant yet charismatic at the same time. He's the sort of person one might socialize with and then hate oneself later for doing so. Hugh and his mate, Jean-luc, live in a rambling cube-like structure where they spend a lot of time playing on their X-Box together, as you can see here.

I thought for sure Jean-Luc would be the top in the relationship but in fact it is just the opposite. But that happens so often in real life. You think you know someone, and then they get involved with somebody and this whole other side of their personality emerges. But these two do have a softer side as well, as you can see from their Hello Kitty bedroom suite.
The twos asleep in their pink pad

Cheap games

I was browsing Game Girl Advance last night and came across a link to a new service I think I'm going to be getting lots of use out of. It's called Gamefarmer, and it's a free price checking service for games. I've previously used Game Price Zone, which also has a sister service called DVD Price Search, but Gamefarmer includes more and older platforms. It also has a personalization feature that allows you to set up alerts so you'll receive an e-mail when the price on an individual title hits a specified price point.

PBS show on gays & comics

Unfortunately, I missed the recent History channel documentary on comic books because I don't have cable. I often wish that I did have cable or satellite TV, but it's probably for the best that I don't have unfettered access to the Cartoon Network.

However, I do plan on catching the documentary showing this month on In the Life on gay and lesbian comic book creators. If you want to catch it, you should check PBS to see if the public television station in your area is carrying it. If not, I'm open to a tape swap!

Ang Lee's Hulk

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I was let off work early on Thursday for the holiday, so the Cute Little Red Headed Girlfriend and I walked to our local movie theater and saw a matinee of Incredible Hulk. We both enjoyed it, though we were for the most part attracted to different elements of the story. The exception was the whole Beauty and the Beast angle, which we both loved, because that's a chick thing.

My girlfriend likes weird science, so she was pretty enthralled with the laboratory setting and the DNA plot line. She also liked the Hulk creature, with his outsized emotions and incredible strength. I found myself interested in the uncanny echoes of current events found in the story. Having just read a front page story about the ex-military scientist who is the chief "person of interest" in the anthrax investigation, it was strange to see a similar story unfolding on screen.

I also liked the way the Hulk was presented against the twisted formations of the desert landscape, linking him to its elemental presence. It seemed appropriate, given that the Hulk is the manifestation of a single, powerful emotion to have him appear against such a severe landscape.

The mood of the story seemed to teeter between an over-the-top comic book plot and a mythic drama. At times the balance worked, but sometimes it did not. The multi-level oedipal plots, and the abstract presentation of military power and corporate greed as foes, brought to mind an unfolding Greek tragedy. However, I felt that the complexity of the oedipal plot did not mesh well with the simplicity of the Hulk's rage. Anger is a very primal emotion, a giant emotion, and it would have been better framed by a less psychological complex storyline.

The transformation sequence was outstanding. Not Bruce Banner turning into the Hulk, I mean Betty/Jennifer Connelly's amazing hair transformation. When her hair is up, she's just a confused and frustrated girlfriend. But when it's down, suddenly she's the Hypnotic, Taming Female Essence of Hair. I haven't seen as good a filmic hair transformation since The Ten Commandments, when Moses/Charlton Heston's hair keeps getting bigger the farther he gets down the mountain. And Nick Nolte's performance as a world-class nut-case was fantastic.

I agreed with what Roger Ebert had to say about Ang Lee's use of split-screen panels in Hulk:

"The movie has an elegant visual strategy; after countless directors have failed, Ang Lee figures out how split-screen techniques can be made to work. Usually they're an annoying gimmick, but here he uses moving frame-lines and pictures within pictures to suggest the dynamic storytelling techniques of comic books. Some shots are astonishing, as foreground and background interact and reveal one another. There is another technique, more subtle, that reminds me of comics: He often cuts between different angles in the same closeup--not cutting away, but cutting from one view of a face to another, as graphic artists do when they need another frame to deal with extended dialogue."

This may in fact be the payoff from the recent run of comics-inspired movies. Directors like Ang Lee may begin to develop new frameworks for storytelling that blend comic book narrative devices with traditional film techniques.

Where's the spoiler warnings?


My usual surf has been interrupted in the past week because several of the bloggers I usually read have posted their reviews of the latest Harry Potter book. I'm about 1/3 of the way through it now, so I have to click off once I realize what they're writing about, since many people are not using spoiler warnings. Still, it's fun being part of a synchronous reading event, especially one with an international aspect to it.

New Conal sighting

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This weekend, while the cute-little-red-headed girlfriend and I were tooling around L.A., I spotted the unmistakable poster work of Robbie Conal plastered on several walls and posts. The new poster (also available as a sticker) is up at his web site, along with the details of his latest guerilla art action. The postering event was designed to coincide with the President's recent fundraising appearance in L.A.

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