Understanding Watchmen

The Trans-Atlantis blog doesn’t pride itself on timeliness. The Watchmen movie is no longer the cinematic event of the moment. The movie’s been debated to death, chewed over, the hype has been sucked out and all that’s left is a gory twitching corpse of low expectations. What better time to see it!? Was I disappointed? No. Was it good? Not really. I’m not sure that I can give an objective opinion. I mostly agree with Zak Sally’s assessment and I think that Isaac Cates is onto something‚Ķ I think the film will have it’s greatest impact on the academic world of media studies. Zack Snyder’s slavish adaptation of the comic-book turns the two Watchmen versions into the perfect study-guides. The story is essentially the same so the student can focus on the unique properties of each medium. Take Marshall McLuhan’s ‘hot’ and ‘cool’ media theories. The hot high definition film can now be studied side by side with the cool low definition comic-book. Watchmen the movie is the perfect example of film as a hot medium. Since the film can never approach the comic-book’s narrative complexity, it compensates with visual overload. Every texture, grain of dust, shard of glass, spark of energy, drop of blood and rain, is visible and rendered in loving hyper-real detail. Each frame is crammed with detail in an attempt to get as much of the comic on film as possible. Dr. Manhattan’s nauseating avatar (CGI has a long way to go before it ascends from the Uncanny Valley) represents the film’s high definition aesthetic. Nothing is left to the imagination. Watchmen the comic-book takes full advantage of the cool nature of comics. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons chose to tell the story mostly through a tight nine-panel grid. Each panel by itself doesn’t contain much detail. It’s too small for that. The complexity of the story unfolds though repetition, juxtapositions, foreshadowing, etc. It’s up to the reader to stitch the whole thing together; to fill in the gaps‚Ķ etc. I suspect that both the movie and the comic-book will very quickly become ubiquitous in college syllabi around the world.

Stereo Total at 7th Street Entry

Stereo Total was the headliner at the 7th Street Entry, but most of the audience clearly showed up to see Leslie and The Ly’s. As usual the drawing conditions at the Entry were challenging. Half the audience was wearing some form of gem sweater. Unfortunately the radiance of plastic jewelry embedded in yarn did not make drawing any easier. Jonathan Ackerman opened the evening with a solid DJ set. Click on the images to enlarge them.

Stereo Total

Leslie and the Ly’s

Jonathan Ackerman

UR : Utopia Report : No. 2

Cartoon Utopia the mini-comic

It’s time for another edition of the UR, the Utopia Report. If you missed the previous edition, check it out here.

The first Utopia Report ended with Ron Regé’s Cartoon Utopia. In a recent post, Ron took the time to explain the sources of the utopian world he is building. Ron’s reading list tends towards the transcendental and mystical visions of utopia. This makes sense. His work for me always had mystical underpinnings. The interactions between his characters always depict some kind of unspoken (telepathic?) connections. Auras, rays, and halos emanate from his characters revealing extrasensory sensitivities. Their egos dissolve into larger energy fields producing new undiscovered harmonies. It’s really interesting to see this work develop. The Cartoon Utopia is slowly becoming the theoretical underpinning of its own formal qualities. It describes a vision of the world by being that vision‚ an “ouroboric vessel.”
Also, check out Ron Regé’s Cartoon Utopia mini-comic.

Interesting call for more ‘utopian post-apocalypse movies. The author wonders why we don’t see “suggestions for post-apocalyptic living or specific life-changing prescriptions for our current situations” in movies as much as we see the destruction of the world. The answer seems obvious. It’s a lot easier to destroy than to create. In a way, he’s giving further evidence to the Zizekian creativity deficiency as expressed in his “it is much easier for us to imagine the end of the world than a small change in the political system” statement. If we can’t imagine a small change, then how can we go about devising new utopian societies and civilizations? But, Zizek’s statement is starting to sound a little dated these days. As the financial crisis erodes confidence in our society, it’s becoming increasingly possible to question the way of life that led us to this point. Perhaps this can lead to more creative visions in cinema, science fiction, and politics. I’m skeptical on the political front‚ but I would welcome more pulp utopianism.

I recently read Kim Stanley Robinson’s, Red Mars. It’s part one of a trilogy about the settlement and terraforming of the red planet. Earth is overpopulated and running out of resources. Mars seems the obvious solution as the destination for mass emigration and a huge source of natural resources. The drama of the novel hinges on the struggle between capitalist and socialist tendencies (though the author doesn’t necessarily spell this out). The capitalists see Mars as a planet-sized mine and a source of planet-sized profits. The socialists see the red planet as a blank slate for a new society and an opportunity to forge a new relationship with the environment. The harsh living conditions on Mars foreground the preciousness of things we usually take for granted on Earth. Atmosphere, soil, water are not there for the taking. The terraforming (literally Earth-shaping) of Mars is a huge collective effort. In such an environment concepts like private property and money become meaningless. How do you turn Mars into a new Earth, when Earth no longer resembles itself? I can’t wait to read the rest of the trilogy.

Speaking of Kim Stanley Robinson… here’s a recent article where he describes capitalism as a multi-generational Ponzi scheme. A lot of ideas found in Red Mars are echoed in this essay.

Eyeglasses: A History

As mentioned in the previous post, I’d done some illustrations for Robyn Chapman’s Hey 4-Eyes! zine. Well, here they are. It’s a brief history of eyeglasses from Emperor Nero’s Emerald to Otto Wichterle’s invention of the contact lens. The drawings are presented in reverse-chronological order. All the research was done by Robyn.
Otto Wichterle inventor of contact lenses
1961 AD. Otto Wichterle and his Merkur (a tinker-toy-like construction system) based apparatus used to develop the first contacts.

Continue reading “Eyeglasses: A History”

Hey, 4-Eyes!

Hey 4-Eyes! Promo
A few of my drawings (illustrating some key moments in the history of eye glasses) will be on view at at the Hey, 4-Eyes! show at the CCS gallery in White River Junction, Vermont. Here’s the full details:
Hey, 4-Eyes!
A Glasses-Themed Gallery Show

The Center for Cartoon Studies
94 South Main Street
White River Junction, Vermont
Gallery Hours:
Saturday March 21, 11am-5pm
Saturday March 28, 11am-5pm
First Friday Event April 3, 6pm
The Center for Cartoon Studies is proud to present an exhibition of artwork from Hey, 4-Eyes!, the world’s most popular zine about eyeglasses. CCS will showcase original work by acclaimed artists Jason Lutes (Berlin), Sarah Oleksyk (Ivy), Jim Medway (Shorty Loves Wing Wong), Joseph Lambert (Turtle, Keep it Steady), and many more.
Hey, 4-Eyes! is a self-published journal (otherwise known as a “zine”) dedicated to eyeglasses. Filled with original comics, interviews, history, and keen observations, Hey, 4-Eyes! celebrates the continuing evolution of the accessory you can’t live without.
Please join editor/publisher Robyn Chapman as she debuts the third issue of Hey, Four-Eyes! in conjunction with White River Junction’s First Friday on April 3. This event will include book signings, live readings, and educational slide shows.
The Center for Cartoon Studies (CCS) is America’s premiere cartooning school and studio located in the historic village of White River Junction, Vermont. Faculty and visiting artists include many of today’s most celebrated cartoonists. CCS has received national acclaim for its work and prominent mention in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and scores of other publications. For more information, visit http://www.cartoonstudies.org/

Multiples Mall: A Bookish Fair

Click to enlarge.
This is kind of late‚Ķ but better late than never. On Saturday (Feb. 21), The Walker Art Center hosted the Multiples Mall event. Subtitled ‘A Bookish Fair’, it featured the work of artists who make ‘book-related multiples’. It was a pretty fun event and I hope the Walker keeps doing it every year. Here’s the pile of stuff I picked up. I took this picture with my Nokia 6300. It’s not the greatest, but my Canon is dead, so it’s going to have to do. 3 Minute Egg has some video of interviews from the floor.
(1) A Labor of Gratitude is a collection of 4 small zines designed and put together by a group designers associated with the Walker itself. Each booklet is a tribute to a significant public figure or artist that the designers felt was under-appreciated by the culture at large. Michael Chang, Major General Michael Collins, Levi Eshkol and Ana√Øs Nin. Their significance is examined through quotations, reflections, images and statistics. My favorite booklet was the Michael Collins one. It’s filled with poetic descriptions of Collins’ time in space excerpted from Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journeys. Now I know what Roy Batty’s final monologue in Blade Runner was inspired by!
(2) Cipher Text by Brian Aldrich. A small booklet filled with text that’s been enciphered using an unknown (to me) encryption system. I liked the newsprint paper it was printed on and the idea of text I could not decipher.
(3) Texas ++ by Sean Lynch. A brief western melodrama drawn inside of an old Borland C++ technical book. I believe the characters were based on some kind of chart from that book. Occasionally, elements from the book become part of the story. It’s an interesting experiment. I really liked the colors. Sean had some really cool stuff in that Borland Book/Sketchbook. I want to see some of the other strips to surface from it. Especially the post-apocalyptic one.
(4) Me No Like by Josh Journey-Heiz. A series of images paired with short text pieces that act as a critique of life in late-capitalism. The images feature hairy primitive neanderthal-ish creatures wreaking havoc on emblems of capitalist modernity: office buildings, golf courses, Hard Rock Cafe, Hummer limousines, etc. Like some kind of archaic luddites they hurl their stone-age weapons at tanks and security cameras in a futile attempt to keep technology at bay‚Ķ but, they seem to know enough about modern ways to hunt frat boys using booby trapped beer kegs. With accompanying phrases like: “The ghosts of high-capitalism haunt those not shopping”, what’s not to like!? Josh is also part of Knife World. See #6 below.
(5) Befoul’d by Hardland/Heartland. I assume the art is done by different members of the Hardland/Heartland collective. I couldn’t tell if there’s an overarching theme to the drawings‚Ķ but who cares! The art was compelling enough for me to pick up the book.
(6) Knife World by Knife World. The record as a physical object is stunning. The wraparound artwork is printed in old-school red-blue 3D. To view it in its three-dimensional glory, you don’t need a set of 3D glasses‚Ķ the blue-red lenses have been built into the center of the vinyl disc itself! The cover depicts a desiccated wasteland populated by piles of toys and a looming Mt. Rushmore re-carved into some sort of rock ‘n roll monument. The music is fast and frenetic‚Ķ I keep wanting to say it’s vaguely reminiscent of a ’60s psychedelia inflected Lightning Bolt‚Ķ But that’s not a very good description. Check out some of their stuff online.
(7) Manny + Bigfoot by Meghan Hogan. A surreal little fable of… well the titular characters and a bunny. A nice eco-conscious package with a velcro seal for safe keeping. Meghan & Raighne publish the Good Minnesotan.
(8) Opolis by Elisabeth Workman and Erick Brandt. Opolis is a prose poem pamphlet exquisitely printed (in Doha, Quatar) on very thin (think phonebook paper thin) translucent pink (or yellow, or blue, or green) newsprint. Each part of the the poem is paired with a photograph. The poem reads like an illicit stream of consciousness love affair colliding into strange unfinished urban neighborhoods built on top of forgotten ancient red light districts haunted by specters of angular furniture designed by lonely architects permanently exiled to little known oriental mega-cities‚Ķ it’s probably my favorite bookish object from the Multiples Mall. More info here.


It’s been a little quiet on this blog over the last few days. It’s hard to post through the painful haze of clogged sinuses! The regularly scheduled programming should return this week. Meanwhile, a quick reminder that the MOMEMENTUM: The New Comics exhibition opens on Friday (March 6th). I hope it’s already in everyone’s calendars! A few pages of my comics (from MOME vol. 12) will be displayed among gems from many other awesome MOME contributors (listed in the graphic below). I will also be giving a ‘Gallery Talk’ with Zak Sally on April 9th. Check out the details here. Come and say hello!
MOMEntum Exhibition at MCAD, Fantagraphics, MOME