Monday, March 30, 2009

Fairy Houses.

Today I would like to share with you the work of Debbie Schramer. She creates the most beautiful fairy houses you have ever seen.
I'll bet fairies would love to inhabit these wonderful creations and I am quite sure that many of you would like to live inside these houses yourself.

These houses are literally dream houses, 'otherworldly' is probably the best way to describe them. I can only imagine how wonderful it must be to see them for real, as most details are not visible in these photographs.

Besides these fairy houses Debbie Schramer also makes poetic photo collages, short films and paintings. All very much worth a look.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Tread Softly for you Tread on my Dreams

Queenie Chan’s “The Dreaming” is a dark comic set in the bush of Australia. The use of images and the plot are beautifully combined to create a gripping and creepy tale. The main character Jeanie navigates the reader through the confusing world of haunting, superstition and missing girls. She is the hero trying to protect the school and her sister. But at the same time, she only half believes the mysterious aspects of the school. Her sister Amber is positive that the school is wrong and evil. The tale is intriguing and a page turner.

A horror story plays out for Jeanie as she follows painted images that reflect the disappearances of the girls at her school. The images are well done, cryptic and lovely. The paintings mesh so well into the plot it seems not a detail, but a reality of the world the girls live in. In addition to the incredible paintings are the characters themselves. They are realistic and vibrant causing a reader to care what happens to the girls trapped in the bush. As the story progresses fairy tale and Aborigine mythology elements are added. The story is layered and complex though the manga is only three volumes.

Overall I give it a 4.5 out of 5.

Afraid to sleep,
J.R. West the Raccoon

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Magical Girls

So, the other night I was watching Sailor Moon. Hey no wisecracks, I loved Sailor Moon as a child, and I hate grading lab reports in total silence. Anyway, while watching Sailor Moon, I started to think about magical girls. Sailor Moon (which came to America long after it was out in Japan) is a fine example of a magical girl story. Japanese cartoons and comics are filled with the magical girl stories—stories of young girls who find they have magic powers and save the world. America has far less magic that Japan in this area. Before Sailor Moon, there were no popular magical girl teams. Until, Joss Whedon brought, our ultimate magical girl, Buffy the Vampire Slayer to America. Buffy produced a mythos and a history. The line of the Slayer is described in “Tales of the Slayers” by Joss Whedon. These magical girls protected through the ages and belong to the American mythology.

The “Tales of the Slayers” follows the stories of eight girls, none of which are Buffy. From the first nameless slayer to last girl Fray, each girl has her story. The first tale is the tale of the first. It is a sad short piece showing the loneliness of the Slayer. The second tale is of a middle ages Slayer, burned for being a powerful young woman who could protect her from, for being a witch. The third is a tale of evil not of Vampire but of the Slayer’s watcher in revolutionary France. The forth tale shows the hardship of the female form in the Victorian age. The Wild West and bond of sisters comes out in the fifth. The Slayer in Nazi Germany fights many evils in the sixth tale. The seventh shows a slayer not far ahead of Buffy, Niki the New York Slayer. Finally, the last story is of the last Slayer, a lone girl, Fray, of the future disconnected from the full history of the Slayers. Each story is a quick read, but shows these girls lives fully. The life of the slayer is complex. Not just because of the gift/curse they bare, but the times they live in. Whedon shows pieces of history through the eyes of exceptional girls.

The comic brought up good ideas and in an easy to understand form. Overall, I give it a 4 out of 5.

Rooting for girl power,
J.R. West the Raccoon

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Who Watches the Watchmen? If You've Read the Comic You Should

I had the great joy of watching the movie "Watchmen". As a huge fan of the comic, my anticipation was quite high. Would Rorschach still be an absolutist who saw interesting things in ink blots? Would Ozymandias still be like his namesake? Would Manhattan be larger than life? The previews were interesting, but not enough to tell if Alan Moore's vision would be preserved by director Zack Snyder. Luckily, I was not disappointed.

In the previews Nite Owl II looked young and hip, however I was pleasantly surprised when his human ego did not stand out, and was still impotent (a symbol of his life without being the Nite Owl. his actor pulled over the emotion needed for his character. Ozymandias was less like his namesake, and more of Alexander the Great. But that did not hurt the movie. Dr. Manhattan was as aloof and amazing as I hoped. His clock on Mars was cg masterpiece. Rorschach was brilliantly insane, he was who I expected. Gritty and passionate. I loved watching the scenes when he did not have his face on. Of course, reading the comic I knew who he was, but it was a thrill anyway. Even seeing the newsstand guy with the boy reading the comic was perfect. Though their subplot was not included in the movie, it was a friendly reminder that the comic book is out there.

The ending surprised me. It is where the major deviation occurred. I will not spoil it for those who have and haven't read the comic. I would like to say that the deviation did not bother me. The heart of the comic was kept. Actually, most of the movie was the comic frame for frame. I was able to compare what I saw on the screen to what I read. Even Dr. Manhattan's habit for not wearing clothing (some friends have complained about the presence of his large blue manhood). Many of the characters looked like their counterparts, even the President copied his comic caricature instead of a realistic Nixon. Overall the look was persevered.

The movie itself was a visual joy. The transition from paper to movie kept the grizzly images juxtaposed with the bright colors. The current technology allowed for the world of "Watchmen" to be what fans expected. Dr. Manhattan was the god the comic made him. The fight scenes were incredible and Ozymandias was the perfect human by the grace of movie magic.

I was very please and cannot wait to own the movie. I give it a 5 out of 5.

Watching Watchmen,
J.R. West the Raccoon

Sparky, the seriously paranoid robot.

A couple of weeks ago I came across this adorable little shop I found through Etsy, called; Reclaim2Fame. My visit turned into a great adventure when I got introduced to all these wonderful creatures which inhabit the shop.

Big Hug Harry, Alien Queen and Woof the almost mechanical steampunk trusty terrier robot are just a couple of the curious figures which you can find at Reclaim2Fame.

But my personal favorite is Sparky, just look at that little fellow....

All of the creations are made of at least 80% recycled materials and some of the pieces are composed of more than 80% reused material.
Reclaim2Fame gives you an altogheter new view on 'garbage' and what it can become.
It leaves you wondering what bits of it have been and in wonderment of what is created from it. Luckily the creator of Sparky and his friends eases your curiosity by giving you a good discription of the creatures previous life.
More then worth a visit!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Review of X/1999 Part 1: It’s the End of the World as We Know It

The Clamp mangaka team (comic writing team in Japan) created the manga series X/1999. It has spawned a movie and a television series. It is a related to Tokyo Babylon and Clamp School Detectives (both take place before X/1999). It can be analyzed on so many levels, so I have decided to look at it in a series of posts. Starting with an overall review of the series, with a focus on the first seven mangas.

The world of X/1999 is full of magic, priestesses, monks, wind summoners, and fire summoners, with a hint of technology surrounding the mystical world. The characters by and large are superhuman. The story focuses on Kamui, "The one who represents God's will" or "The one who hunts God's will" the only character who can choose his own fate. Kamui must choose between joining the Dragons of Heaven and saving humanity or the Dragons of Earth and saving the planet by killing humanity. There are six Dragons of the Earth and six Dragons of Heaven. The seventh member to either team is Kamui. The tale begins with his choice which up to volume seven has not happened. Kamui has lived through a lot of hardship and seems to not care about anything but himself. Until you see his interaction with Fuma and Katori, his childhood friends. However, they along with powerful magic user in the two sets of dragons are sucked into the fate of the 1999, which only Kamui can choose.

The character play in the first few books is interesting. The Dragons are not easily noticed when they are not using magic. They are children, mild-mannered adult or people kept away from everyday life. The intrigue of how the end of the world will occur with two conflicting predictions of the future keeps the story interesting. How the characters deal with the knowledge that their lives are planned in interesting.

Overall, it is a great read and I would recommend it to End of the World fans. I give it a 5 out of 5.

Enjoying 1999 all over again,
J.R West the Raccoon

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Faye Stories Part 1: Extending Fairy Tales

Donna Jo Napoli has a gift. She is an accomplished youth writer who specializes in a very unique genre. Napoli writes fairy tales. However, do not expect the old school Grimm or Anderson. Napoli takes stories, some that are familiar and some that aren't, and expends them into full novels that answer all of the questions that short stories leave.

Donna Jo Napoli's possibly most famous piece is "Zel", a retelling of Repunzel. Instead of a story about a girl locked in a tower, we get a story of a girl. Zel, who like the original tale is raised in a tower by a witch who owned a garden, is a strong willed girl who is curious. It is not the story of a witch stealing a child, but a witch holding onto childhood. Zel is not trapped in the tower until she shows signs of maturing into a woman. Her "mother" so appalled by puberty and Zel's growing desire for men, that she is locked away. The witch stole a child, and then stole that child's ascent into womanhood. Napoli took a simple love story, and made it a deeply personal tale.

My favorite Napoli story is "Beast," a Beauty and the Beast story where Beauty only shows up in the last two chapters. How did the Beast fall from manhood? Where is he from? How long was he a Beast? Napoli answers all those tales, giving the man under the animal skin a real story. Additionally, "Bound" takes Cinderella into China drawing on ancient forms of the story from the Middle Kingdom. She spins a story about a girl not with fairy feet, but with large unbound feet. "Breath" makes the piped-piper story about those in the village. About their descent into madness and fear. "Sirena" gives us a look into the ancient Greek tale of Philotectes from the Trojan War and the Sirens from the Odyssey. The sirens have a turn to tell their story through Napoli.

Napoli takes stories that we have heard and expands them into epic tales about characters we might have overlooked. She has a gift to give voices to those long forgotten. If you get a chance pick up some of her work.

Rereading stories from her childhood,
J.R. West the Raccoon