Monday, December 20, 2010

I'm Cluckin' It

This morning on the way to the office I saw a chicken walking around in a McDonald's parking lot (as evidenced in this grainy cell phone picture):


Fresh ingredients are typically never found in such close proximity to a McDonalds. In the words of the Double Rainbow Guy, "What does this mean?"

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Video: A Catalyst for Positive Change Workshop

Here's the video we shot from last weekend's Comic Book/Human Rights workshop:

A Catalyst for Positive Change Workshop from Todd Kent on Vimeo.

The workshop was geared toward inner city kids, led by the "Professor of Cartoon Art" Keith Douglas and sponsored by the Dallas Tennis Association's National Junior Tennis & Learning Program, Needed Influence of the Arts and CitySquare.

Artwork created by the children during the workshop will be on display via Power Point presentation during the Dallas premier of the Comic Book Literacy documentary at the Dallas Museum of Art on Feb. 26, 2010.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Pictures from the Workshop

The Catalyst for Positive Change Workshop was a success! Here are some pictures:


Keith Douglas, the Cartoon Man, drawing caricatures of the kids:


Metroplex kids learning to draw:


Local historian Jesse James Arnold gives his unique perspective:


Using art to educate:


Check back soon for video of the event!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Review: IDW's iPad App

Unless you've been spending a lot of time lately vegging out in the Fortress of Solitude you've no doubt heard a lot of opinions about the iPad and the role it will play/is playing in the comic book industry. Opinions range from: "The iPad will save the comic book industry!" to "The iPad will destroy the comic book industry!"

I tend to frown on absolutes and/or hysteria. It gets the blood all worked up and that's no good for anybody. The reality is that comic book iPad apps will be just another way to read comics. Some people will like them and some people will hate them and that's that.

But I didn't come here today to debate the merits of a $700 piece of plastic. There are plenty of other denizens of the interwebs that would be happy to do that all day long. Personally, I'd like to narrow the focus a little and take one of these apps for a test drive.

Today's lucky contestant? The IDW iPad app (dun dun duuuuhhh)!

IDW is quickly becoming a favorite publisher of mine. Like Dark Horse Comics did in the past, they built up their line of titles by acquiring licenses to popular properties (Transformers, Star Trek, Angel, True Blood, etc.). I've loved Star Trek for years and IDW has been making some smart decisions with the property. By making the titles project oriented (by releasing mini-series and themed one-shots) instead of locking themselves into an ongoing series, they are keeping the content fresh and avoiding the franchise fatigue that has happened so often in the past.

They've also cultivated talent and published original material. Locke & Key has been one of the best new series (again, a series of mini-series) to come along in years. But this is not meant to be a IDW lovefest. On to the app!

You'll find a lot of similarities with the majority of comic book apps out there. Like many others, this one has three main categories: new, popular and free. They've got a diverse lineup of titles which leads us to our first "pro."

PRO: Browsing List


One tap produces a list of all their titles grouped by property. If you only want to check out their 30 Days of Night titles then 2 taps will get you there (one tap for the list and then a tap on the property). You can also search by typing in the name of the title but I'm lazy with the iPad and I like to keep my taps to a minimum.

But once you're you get there though, I feel IDW stumbles a bit.

CON: Comic grouping (or lack thereof)


Once you get to your franchise of choice you'll find that they have every issue listed alphabetically. So if you search through the issues of Locke & Key you have to scroll to the bottom to find the first mini-series "Welcome to Lovecraft." If you didn't know anything about the series then you might just assume that the first issue listed (at the top) would be the first issue of the story. Each issue contains a summary if you tap it but I think it would still be confusing to new readers. Also I see no reason to list each individual issue. Why not group the issues for each mini-series together?

PRO: Price

The average digital comic (from all publishers) is usually priced at $1.99 and I know a lot of people think that's too much for something that doesn't have that "Wednesday Comic Book Store Smell" but I grudgingly accept it. And IDW seems to use this model as well. However I found several IDW titles for sale in the app store for .99 cents. And I think that's a very good price for a digital comic.

CON: I want more free stuff, dammit!


As I said before, just about every comic book app has a freebies section. IDW's free section is smaller than DC and Marvel's free section (although to be fair, IDW is a smaller company). Also, the other companies update their free section frequently with new issues, back-up stories and previews while IDW's free section has remained relatively unchanged since I first got it.

PRO: Organizing my purchases


The IDW app has a virtual bookshelf (similar to other e-readers) which is searchable and easy to navigate. I also like that you have the option of deleting your purchases and then re-downloading them later for free.

CON: Zooming

When reading a comic you can zoom in on the panel you are reading by giving it the ol' double tap (you can also pinch to zoom like in other apps). Now, in other apps a second double tap will zoom the panel out back to the regular page view. This is a quick and efficient way to zoom in and out while reading. But a second double tap in IDW's app will only zoom in further. And another will take you in even further still. You have zoom back out with your fingers, which isn't a big deal but I prefer the double tap zoom out.

Any other criticisms are minimal and are the same nitpicks I have with every comic app: I wish they'd add new issues quicker, I wish they more titles to choose from, etc.

Although one thing that bugs me is the lack of Doctor Who titles in the app store. I've been interested in checking out their take on the nearly 50 year old franchise but they don't seem to be offered here. But I would imagine that there is some type of freaky rights issue that's preventing it and that if IDW could offer them, they would.


All in all it's a great app and I'm enjoying it. As with all iPad comic book apps, I like the ability to check out new titles for a cheaper price and the ability to carry around a ton of reading material in a very compact space. If you've been interested in trying out some of IDW's titles and have an iPad, I definitely recommend this app.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Catalyst for Positive Change Workshop

A Cartoon/Human Rights Workshop Geared Toward Inner City Kids

The Dallas Tennis Association's National Junior Tennis & Learning Program, Needed Influence of the Arts & City Square is proud to present this workshop lead by the “Professor of Cartoon Art”, Keith Douglas. In addition, local Dallas Historian Jesse Arnold will be a guest speaker. Mr. Douglas will give his insight into an upcoming Modern Day Slavery Graphic Novel. Mr. Arnold a character in the above graphic novel will enlighten the audience as he tells his personal story.

Furthermore, North Texas Filmmaker Todd Kent will be in the audience as we show a Trailer of his Award winning Documentary: Comic Book Literacy. The goal of the Dallas Tennis Association’s NJTL, Needed Influence of the Arts and City Square is to help teach children about important social issues through art.


The children's art drawn at the Catalyst for Positive Change Workshop will kick off our Dallas Premier of the Comic Book Literacy Documentary Film. This event on February 26, 2011 will be held at the Dallas Museum of Art's Horchow Auditorium.

The children who participate in the December 4, 2010 workshop will have their work shown as part of a Power Point Presentation at the Museum during the February Premier. Please join us for this innovative workshop as we inspire the next generation of comic Book Creators & Human Rights Activists.

Time: 10:00 am - 12:30 pm

Date: December 4th, 2010

Location: Roseland Homes Community Center, 3535 Munger, Dallas, TX 75204

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

John Fischner: Dino Sculptor & Comic Book Consultant

Here's a quick look at a unique guy we met while shooting the documentary:



Dinosaur sculptor John Fischner talks a little about his work and his participation, as scientific consultant, on Stephen Bissette's "Tyrant" comic book.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Special Event in Miami


Selected clips from "Comic Book Literacy" will be screened at the 2010 School of Comics and Graphic Novels Day of Education for Teachers and Librarians at the Miami Book Fair on November 18th.

They will be shown between the speaker segments to highlight the key role that comics and graphic novels can play in education.

Click the logos for more information!



Sunday, November 14, 2010

Norman vs. The Dos Equis Guy

It occurred to me that Norman McCay from DC's Kingdom Come kind of looks like the Dos Equis Guy:


That is all. Carry on with your weekend now.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Star Trek: The Undiscovered Cookie

If I wasn't so tired I'd probably have more to say about these Canadian Star Trek Oreos. What? It's been a long week, even though it's only Wednesday. Maybe I can turn this into one of those blogs that just posts pictures and has very little commentary. That sounds pretty good right about now.


After a fair amount of promotion for this weekend's Las Vegas premiere of the documentary, I've definitely earned a cookie break. Regardless of my work-induced fatigue, French-Canadian sandwich cookies with starships carved into them are more than enough to give me a little pep.


These are from 1994 and on the back of each box there is a "free" (or "gratis" for you French speakers) "3-D Starship Mobile." They are all perforated shapes that you pop out and fold together (or glue together, possibly). Add a little bit of string, hang over the nearest crib and you've got instant entertainment for the next generation, courtesy of The Next Generation.

The Starship Mobiles (and cookie engravings) came in the shape of a Ferengi Marauder (above),


a Borg Cube (insert "Resistance is Futile" pun here),


a Romulan Warbird,


the Enterprise-D and a Klingon Bird of Prey (which is currently cloaked, but it looks cool, you should see it).

Those pesky perforations present a bit of a challenge when trying to keep the boxes in good shape for the sake of posterity. And to be honest these were empty when I got my grubby little hands one them so I'm only guessing (based on the top picture) that the cookies had starship shapes stamped into them.

But surely they did. Can you imagine cracking open a box of Starship Oreos and and just finding a box full of regular, run of the mill oreos!?! Why there'd be anarchy! Or the Canadian equivalent of anarchy.

Do you like links at the end of blog entries? Then you'll love these:

Star Trek Cereal - Star Trek: The Experience Food - Star Trek Candy Bars


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Great Power (and Responsibility) of Perception

Comics have always been looked down upon as a ghetto medium.

(James O'Barr in "Comic Book Literacy")

That is a quote from James O’Barr (“The Crow”) from my documentary “Comic Book Literacy." And it is one of the biggest lessons I learned from my experience producing the film. Well, not necessarily from the producing process but rather the promotional process.

You see, making the movie is only one aspect of filmmaking. Another, almost equally important part, is the promotion of the film. No one can see your movie if they’ve never heard of it. It is during this stage (that I am in currently) that I find myself gaining even more insight into the perception of the medium of comic books. During production I surrounded myself with some of comics’ biggest proponents. I was receiving a constant influx of good cheer, optimistic outlooks and unabashedly boisterous cheerleading for the concept of using comic books for education.


This led to a warm and fuzzy sense of accomplishment and complacency that I began to feel for the medium. Because, hey, we have made it, right? Everyone now loves comics and teachers and librarians are stocking the shelves with everything from The Spirit to Spider-Man as fast as they can. The general public has now accepted Batman and Wolverine as peers to Tom Sawyer and David Copperfield....right? “Mission Accomplished!”

Sadly, no.

Don’t get me wrong. The medium has come a long way from the demonized scapegoat it was in the fifties and the neutered cypher it was in the sixties. Sure, libraries are allowing them shelf space and book clubs are cautiously inviting them over for tea but the beating that the reputation of comic books took in the past has yet to heal completely for the general public.


“The General Public.” That’s a phrase often used by comic book readers. For example, in fanboy circles, the “worth” of a character is routinely gauged by his or her level of recognition by the general public (e.g. people who don’t read comics). Who hasn’t heard the argument that “Character X” is better or more successful that “Character Y” because “Character X” is more well known by the general public?

It hearkens back to the so-called “Grandma Test™.” The more random information your Grandmother knows about a particular comic book character (“Kryptonite hurts Superman” or “Batman drives the Batmobile”), the more relevant the character becomes.

It’s a deeply flawed test of worth but it does call attention to the preoccupation that many comic book readers have with the medium’s significance to the non-comic book reading population. Why do we have this obsession with the opinion of people who have no interest in comics?

Because it is very rare to find a non-comic book reader who has no opinion on comics. Most non-comic book readers have a negative view on a medium with which they have had no first hand experience.

Which leads back to O’Barr’s quote: “Comic books have always been looked down upon as a ghetto medium.”

(Image Courtesy of Life Magazine)

And in many ways they still are. As I said earlier, I’m now in the process of promoting “Comic Book Literacy” and in this Facebooking, Twittering world of ours, one of the best ways to interact with people of similar interests is to post links to relevant content. And there is no shortage of online articles about the use of comics in the classroom.

Many of them, however, begin with the premise that to use a comic book to teach a student is a surprisingly unique concept. And to be fair, in most classrooms, it is. But the tone of incredulity frequently used in these types of articles almost reinforces the negative perception that the general public has of the medium.

What? Comics used to teach? What an odd idea! Well, I guess even something like comic books can be useful sometimes.

Do you see how this might undermine the credibility of a struggling medium?

Picture Courtesy of Life Magazine

Now I don’t mean to be overly negative. I’m not forsaking the silver lining because the dark cloud seems so ominous. Comics have come very a long way and their reputation continues to improve day by day. I do truly believe that one day the inclusion of a comic book in a lesson plan won’t so much as raise an eyebrow.

But we must realize that with all the progress we’ve made there is still resistance to the idea of comic books as legitimate literature, much less teaching tools.

Here comes the obligatory question: “So what can I do?”


And here is the obligatory answer: Many libraries and schools accept donations. Donate your comics. Give comics to your kids, your nieces and nephews, the neighborhood kids. Create the next generation of comic book readers and they will become a generation who doesn't have a negative preconception of the medium. It won’t happen overnight but eventually, little by little, public perception will begin to shift and comic books will take their rightful place in the world of literature.

Years ago Fredric Wertham gave comics a black eye and a bloody nose. But all wounds can heal with time.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Butter Off Dead

As I've said before, the State Fair of Texas is beloved by both man and X-Man alike. Various rides, attractions and carnivalesque tomfoolery abound but the main attraction is of the culinary variety as the Fair is well known as the Fried Food Capital of Texas.

Last year headlines were made and arteries were clogged with the announcement of the addition of Deep Fried Butter to the roster.
I'm no stranger to fried treats that border on the avant-garde but even I have my limits. Luckily, as with any high end entertainment destination, butter enthusiasts have less life-shortening alternatives when it comes to enjoying their favorite freshly churned fat.

Art, anyone?
Every year sculptress Sharon BuMann whips up a new life sized work of art using one of the tastier mediums, butter. This year's work invokes imagery of the yearly Texas/OU grudge match played at the Cotton Bowl which is located, you guessed it, at the State Fair (Fair Park to be exact).
Previous dairy dioramas include this Cadillac-riding cowboy from 2002.
The muse doesn't necessarily have to be home grown either. In 2008 when the Dallas Museum of Natural History hosted the "Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs" exhibit, the butter sculpture had a decidedly Egyptian flavor.

Will this flavorful form spread a Renaissance across the art world? Will those that work in the medium of butter strive for the same legitimacy enjoyed by more "traditional" artists?

I certainly hope so. At the very least, maybe you'll think twice tomorrow morning when preparing your toast.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hot Wheels

The TV gods converged at the State Fair of Texas' Auto Show. Trumpets sounded, lightning crashed and the space/time continuum unraveled just a tiny bit. Great Scott, what could cause such metaphor mixing awesomeness, you ask?

It all started with the Double E Monkeemobile, made popular by the Double E 60's supergroup, the Monkees.
I used to love the show when I was a kid and back then I found their work vastly superior to the equally misspelled Beatles who they were spoofing (and on some dark, rainy afternoons I still do...shh...it's ok if the TV gods know this but don't tell the Music gods).
If the Monkees aren't quite badass enough for you then you'll be pleased to see Green Hornet's Black Beauty, which is business in the front...
...and even more business in the back.
Which leads us to the main attraction. I always hate it when "mainstream" writers write articles about comic books and always feel the need to start off with an Adam West-style "Biff" or "Pow" but in this case you'll just have to indulge me:
POW! I'm not going to lie to you, that felt good.
I typically prefer the Micheal Keaton Batmobile but this one is a close second (if not, a tie for first).

I purposely didn't try to find out if these were the actual models from TV or if they are replicas. Fun-spoiling information like that tends to, well, spoil the fun. I think we can all take a reasonable guess though.

I can also use my blissful ignorance to assume that every night these cars compete in a "Wacky Races" type of face off for the further amusement of the TV gods and if a mere mortal were ever to catch a glimpse of such a sight, there would be head-exploding repercussions.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Cup Capes

I'm probably a little behind on this. Recently the internet welcomed the arrival of Hostess Green Lantern GloBalls and Flash Cakes. As soon as I heard about them my only mission in life was to obtain them.

For some horrible reason Hostess decided not to sell them in my area so once again I had to turn to eBay for validation. Anyway, a couple of bids later and they are now mine:
Reminiscent of the Hulk Cakes from a few years ago, these dessert treats apparently tie in with the release of Superman/Batman: Apocalypse. How exactly do Green Lantern & Flash tasty treats tie in with that particular DVD? Who knows and who cares?

I'm just happy to finally have some super hero food that features someone other than Supes, Bats or Spidey on it.

Let's start with GL:
As you probably guessed, Green Lanter GloBalls are remarkably similar to the regular Hostess Snoballs: a marshmallow coating covering a cream filled chocolate cake. Except that these are green! Just like the green constructs that Green Lantern creates in order to fight evil. Awesome!

And now for the Flash:
So, here we have modified chocolate cupcakes with red icing and yellow sprinkles. That's more than enough justification for me.

So there you have it. I like to think of this as a giant step forward for second string characters who hope to break into the grocery store genre. If all goes well, hopefully, we will soon see Aquaman Canned Tuna, Plastic Man Pretzels and Booster Gold Potted Meat Food Product.

And that would be a beautiful thing.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Next Screening: Back to San Diego

We've got another screening coming up in San Diego!
Words Alive and Lestat's Coffee Shop Presents:
The Comic Book Literacy Documentary
Lestat's Coffee Shop
3343 Adams Ave San Diego, CA
October 12, 2010 - 7:00 PM

Thanks to our friends at Words Alive and Lestat's Coffee Shop!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

iTuned

I am now releasing some content via iTunes - Podcast style! Click below for the link:

And remember, each subscriber validates me as a person that much more.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Would You Like Bacon With That?

I realized that apparently, from time to time, I post pictures of bags of chips with weird flavors (like Hot Dog or Steak, Ribs & Ketchup). So since that's a thing that I do, here are are some bags of bacon flavored chips:
Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Recent Press

We've had some good press lately. Click below for a great review of the film from Four Color Commentary:


Click below for an interview of me from Graphic Novel Reporter:


Coming soon: Info on more upcoming screenings!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Update: NY School Seeking Comics

Awhile back I posted information we had received from a Schenectady, NY school that was seeking comic book donations. Here is an update we received from Walter Mahoski, a representative from the school:

I received donations of about 3000 comics in just about three weeks which really floored me. Of particular note was the participation of the following people:

-
Ron Marz came through with a wonderful collection of comics for young readers, and offered some terrific words of encouragement to me. Later in the year, I hope to have Ron come in to talk to students about writing for comics. Ron is a great guy, and I can't say enough about his positive attitude about our project.

- Don Casey of
Paragon Comics, here in Schenectady, contacted me and made an INCREDIBLE donation of about 1500 comics from his stock. Don spent a great deal of time with me, talking about comics and their potential to teach young students. His generosity built more than HALF of our comics collection, and we are SO grateful for his kindness and dedication to our cause.

- Bob Lupe of
Aquilonia Comics in Troy, NY also contacted me with an offer of support. He invited me to his shop, and when I got there, he had already hand selected a nice collection of comics for me. He then let me raid his 25¢ bins, and REFUSED TO ACCEPT A PENNY when I tried to pay him for the comics I selected. Bob responded with kindness and enthusiasm and when he heard I was going to start up a comic book club, he extended an invitation to have the club visit his shop, and he would provide all the kids with deep discounts on comics. Bob proved himself to be a generous and concerned neighbor, and a man who understands the potential of comic books to instill a love of reading in children.

- Bob Zaugh of
Bongo Comics sent me a box filled with some terrific Simpsons comic books.

-
Dark Horse Comics also sent a box of comics.

- I wish I could list all of the people who donated large pieces of their private collections to our school. There were many of them. After reading about our program, a collector from AUSTRALIA sent me a package with a stack of comics inside. That man spent $28 to send them on a long journey to Schenectady, NY.

I have spent the recent weeks pouring over the comics, taking out what was inappropriate for our young students and sending them along to our high school. I had to remove about 800 comics from the collection. The comics I kept were separated into different age levels. Students who receive permission from parents to participate will have access to only the comics we have determined are age appropriate.

At first, we will be simply letting the students borrow comics, take them home, and just read. After a few weeks, we will begin tapping their new found interest in the medium with specially designed lessons and activities, sneaking in English Language Arts teaching without them even knowing it! :)


We will be kicking off Comic Book Month in November, with lots of activities and events. Teachers will spend a half day brainstorming ideas on how to put our comics collection to use in their classrooms.

We are very excited, and again, SO GRATEFUL to all the people and businesses who came through with comic books for us. We are still actively accepting donations, as we expect wear and tear to be high on the comics, and we are certain demand for more material will increase as students fall in love with comic books!


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Dallas Comic Con Pictures

We headed out to the Dallas Comic Con this weekend to promote the documentary and had a great time. Here are some pics:

A semi-naked R2-D2 entertained the crowds:
These happy days are yours and mine:
Hawkgirl smash! And Catwoman does something as well:
Album selections include the Archies, Green Hornet and Popeye:
These guys might have an explanation for the recent Tardis sightings at MIT.