Posts Tagged gimmick

Shenanigan: The Third Dimension

Justin Pierce raised an interesting thought about the use of 3-D projection in a recent Wonderella comic strip. At the time, I got a bit of a chuckle out of it and went on my lachrymose way. After all, Cracked has been poking fun at 3-D television since at least January, and the Muppets were making 3-D jokes back in the 70s or 80s (I wish I could track down a video of the scene; it involved the Swedish chef working the concession stand at a movie theater and flinging popcorn everywhere).

Well, now the latest review at The Editing Room is making the same commentary. So is one of the comics over at Dean’s Comic Booth. It seems only appropriate, then, that I jump on the bandwagon and offer an opinion of my own.

My big complaint with 3D television and film is that, decades after the 3D concept was introduced, the technology is still in its “wow” phase. Those of you who are my age, do you remember how aggressively Sega marketed its Game Gear as the first handheld video game device with a color screen? Think how few years (or months) it took for a color screen on a handheld to become commonplace, nothing to get excited over. The same thing goes for sending photos and video from a mobile phone, the touch screen on the Nintendo DS, or whatever deep-fried lunacy the fast food corporations are wrapping in waxed paper and flinging out the drive-thru window this week. A certain amount of hype is generated, people voice their respective admiration or distaste, and within months it’s no big deal. And yet more than half a century after people started wearing funky glasses to the movie house*, we’re still expected to sit up and be amazed that such and such a movie has excellent depth** . . . while the producers trot out the same tricks as ever.

Personally, I’ve gotten jaded enough that a character’s arm sticking out of the screen like he or she is going to grab my face no longer impresses me. The same goes for the plethora of projectiles that various shows have flung out of the screen with the intent to make me flinch***. The problem is, that’s about the only way you get people to notice that your movie is in 3-D, because most people won’t care that the background now sits behind the characters. And if no one notices the 3-D effects, then why bother funneling the extra cash into a 3-D movie in the first place? But the mark of any well-done cinematic craft is the fact that people don’t notice it; if it stands out too much, if Jake Sully goes running through a bunch of roots and pebbles or the Cheshire Cat drifts too far out of the screen and makes the viewer flinch, then it breaks the illusion that the rest of the film is trying to weave.

And that, right there, is the problem with 3-D cinema. As it stands, it takes too much extra effort for not enough pay-off. The extra immersion granted by the addition of depth perception is ruined by the producers having to make absolutely certain that we’re aware of the depth perception. If it ever gets past this Catch-22 phase of perpetual novelty and settles into the background with all the other tricks of the trade, it might actually be worthwhile. But until then, I’ll file it with Shaky-Cam under “That’s nice, but will you please STOP?”

* If Wikipedia is to be believed, 3-D films have existed in one form or another since the 1890s. Chew on that for a while.
** At least, depth in the binocular sense. Hollywood remains as vapid as ever, even when it tries to wax pseudo-philosophical.
*** I recall an episode of Family Matters done in 3-D, wherein a cannonball was fired through the fourth wall, followed by Steve Urkel leaning out through the hole to try and grab it back. I remember this mostly because I didn’t have a pair of colored glasses, so I had to make do with tinted clear Lego pieces taped to my regular frames.

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Review: Furthia High

Some people may have noticed that in the comics I’ve drawn, I tend to include anthropomorphic animal characters. Or werewolves. Or puppies. A cursory glance at my deviantART page will reveal even more cartoon critters. This would lead some to believe that my comic bookmarks are full of furry webcomics. And they would be wrong. Why, you ask? Because with few exceptions, furry webcomics are more about the furry than the webcomic. Just because your character has a muzzle is no excuse to skimp on writing a compelling story or a good joke.

Let me present Furthia High, by QuetzaDrake, as symptomatic of some of the problems with furry webcomics. The first thing you’ll notice is the title, which like many furry works, has “fur” jammed awkwardly into it. Fur some reason, everyfur who does a furry publication has this compulsive furge to furget common spelling and infurt “fur” into every word possible. As you can see, this tends to get on my furves. . . . nerves.

The title gets even more awkward when the plot is revealed: Kale Williams, The Last Human on Earth, is attending his first year of public high school in the furry world in which he lives. This means that the title of the comic is reduced to meaning something like “Humanopolis Academy.” As a veteran punner and armchair linguist, I am officially unimpressed.

The first ad I saw for the comic has (I hope) been lost to the ether, but it seemed to imply that the comic triggered homosexual make-out sessions and is read by a decent number of businessmen and fathers. Make of this what you will. In spite of this, my better judgment took a holiday, and I figured, “Hey, let’s give this a chance.”

The art, from the first page on, is rather heavily inspired by anime and manga. That is to say, The Last Human on Earth has a small, sharp nose that you could cut yourself on, and every character manages to have eyes large enough to take up most of the upper half of their skulls. Sara, the Female Gay Freshman Mouse on the first page, looks like she needs to cut her Adderall dosage at least in half.

Let me interrupt the art critique with this comment on Quetza’s random background character generator. The idea in itself is intriguing; being able to draw up a list of characters to throw into the background without having to repeat yourself is a useful tool for a cartoonist whose comic takes place in such a crowded setting. But Quetza takes this idea a bit too far, including the name, grade, biography, and sexual orientation of every character he draws in the background. When you realize that you will maybe see two or three of these characters again, and still only as window-dressing, it gets downright creepy that Quetza goes into this much detail. Especially considering the gay and bisexual population of the school that is surprising only to people who are unfamiliar with furries.

Back to the art, though: Bruce, the fox with Super-Saiyan hair, is supposed to be overweight, to the point that he affectionately refers to his stomach as “Gutty,” and yet you can’t tell until the obligatory swimsuit arc. A frog and a flying fox manage to have nearly identical faces, and this is not an isolated instance. And on top of this, the feline characters are shown with their foot claws permanently extended. I didn’t even major in biology and these things are standing out flagrantly. I’m frankly surprised there hasn’t been a blue hedgehog character whose spikes are all three feet long and coming off the back of his head, given his grasp on zoology.

As far as the writing is concerned, I will admit to being equally non-plussed. The main protagonists are Kale, The (feckless) Last Human on Earth; Bruce, the Super-Saiyan fox who spends half of his time being cheese-monkey-random and the other half giving LARPers a bad name; Ashley, a Type-A tsundere cat; and Campy, a narcoleptic, poetical, (un)ambiguously gay rabbit. (Campy the gay guy? You wound me, sir.) Kale ends up with these friends almost purely because Bruce is a spaz. After introductions are made, the minutiae are quickly breezed past so that Kale can meet his first cardboard racist antagonist.

This particularly grates at me. Considering how much thought Quetza puts into each of the background characters, why is Lupin the Wolf Guy (no, the uncreative pun did not escape my eye) made so one-dimensional? He exists solely to torment Kale and show the errors of racism and violence in one fell swoop, and the continue to just be a jerk. Also, he has a henchman with a crush on Ashley, with predictable results. Except the author insists that he’s not one-dimensional in his comments, so maybe we’ll see that proven in one of the later plotlines.

At this point, I really can’t say much else about the comic. I could go on about author inserts, self-referential breaking of the fourth wall, rapid-onset Cerebus syndrome, and–perhaps most egregious–depiction of flamboyant homosexuality as the result of post-traumatic stress disorder, but I think I’ve about reached my limit for this review. The comic obviously has fans a-plenty, but I’m not going to count myself as one of them.

Also, Quetza really needs to learn A) that LARPers will know what fencing is and B) how to not talk in Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe.

Comic Rating: Eight kicked puppies and a restraining order.

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