Dave's Mid-Ohio Con MiniRant:

     Two-Fisted Science Minicomic - Jim Ottaviani
     Understanding Minicomics - Matt Feazell
     Cynicalman.com - Matt Feazell
     Comics Code Illustrated - Jam piece assembled by Matt Feazell

     These are a few pieces I picked up at Mid-Ohio Con, all fairly short
works.  I also read pre-print editions of a number of comics (Rabid Monkey
#9-10, Galaxion #5, parts of Sheba v2 #1 and Akiko #21) but decided not to
post spoilers.  Well, not unless there's a lot of demand.  }->
     I also got the Sheagle Rising ashcan from Elayne and Robin, reviewed
separately after this.

     Two-Fisted Science "Vannikov the Reflector": Your basic 8-pages-
including-covers-and-indicia minicomic format.  Since there's no artist
credit and I forgot to ask when I picked it up, I presume Jim Ottaviani drew
this piece as well as writing it.  He has a simple cartoony style which fits
the tone of this humorous vignette to a tee.
     The basic story is that it's 1949, and the Soviet nuke program's run up
against a wall.  They can't afford the materials to properly reflect neutrons
back into the reactor and get critical levels built up, and they're close
enough to success they can taste it.  Then Vannikov, a rather portly Party
official (as opposed to the fairly skinny scientists) shows up for a visit,
and the scientists get him to stand next to the reactor.  Body fat reflects
neutrons, and there's a hilarious panel with scientists fleeing for their
lives as geiger counter clicks fill the background of the panel.
     Now, if I could just find a solid enough pedagogical use for Two-Fisted
Science to justify using our grant money to buy a stack of the TPBs....
You can get more information by emailing Two-Fisted_Science@umich.edu.

     Understanding Minicomics: This has been around for several years, but I
finally got around to buying it this weekend.  It's a 16 page minicomic
parody of _Understanding Comics_, claiming to be "The Art and Science of
Stick Figures."  Each page has two panels, usually illustrating the lack and
presence of some useful concept, although some are dividing in other ways.  I
especially like the page on drama, where low-drama has Cynicalman simply
saying, "My feet itch."  Then the high-drama panel has a close-up at an odd
angle with speed lines and jagged borders, while Cynicalman says, "My FEET
itch."  Heh.  Easily worth the 75 cents Feazell charges for it.

     Cynicalman.com: A website on a floppy disk.  Available for both Mac and
PC formats, it cost me $5 on Saturday, but the price had been dropped to $1
on Sunday afternoon.
     There's three sections to this "web"page: Minicomics, Sketchbook and a
map of Europe circa 1000 AD.
     The Minicomics page has five comics.  Two are short, probably two pages
if printed as paper minicomics, two are a bit longer (4 pages) and the last
one is Cynicalman #1, which would be somewhere between 8 and 16 pages.  Not
sure if any of the first four is available on paper.  There's a section
explaining things and warning of system crashes if the larger comics are
opened on a Mac using Internet Exploder, which surprises me not at all.
There's also a catalog of Not Available Comics' stuff, including a few other
Mac-only disks.  The comics themselves are fairly enjoyable little bits,
although those offended by Princess Di death jokes might want to give the
larger Stupid Boy strip a pass.
     [Late note: the smaller strips were all one-pagers originally, blown up
in size for the disk version, and Cynicalman #1 was 7 pages of story.]
     The sketchbook page has various sketches Feazell made while in Cape Cod
on vacation, and shows he *can* do more than stick figures.  }->
     Finally the Cool Maps page has a cool old map of Europe.  Not really
pertaining to Cynicalman or anything, but a cool way to fill the rest of the
disk.  Heh.
     As with most things run off a disk, it's a bit sluggish.  The whole
thing clocks in at about 1.2M, so if you get this you might just want to copy
it onto your hard drive before opening.

     Comics Code Illustrated: This is a jam piece done at various cons last
year, where each creator got one (or more) articles of the Code to illustrate
somehow.  I remember sitting with Max Ink at the Protoplasm Press booth while
he drew his contribution to the piece.
     Not ever page breaks the code, mind you.  Many show its enforcement in
an absurd extreme, like a policeman grinning while bullets bounce harmlessly
off his chest, or a kidnapped child returning to his mother and explaining
that he's not allowed to give any details on what happened.
     Not every page is a hit, but there's forty of them, by creators from the
obscure (like Max Ink) to the famous (Sergio Aragones, Mark Crilley, Hilary
Barta, etc).
     If you want to get ahole of this or any other Feazell work and your
local shop doesn't carry minicomics, email Feazell at Cynicalman@aol.com.

     Dave Van Domelen, "What was that all about...why do you laugh?
Comrades?" - Vannikov

Dave's Mid-Ohio MiniRant Part 2:

     Sheagle Ashcan - by Elayne Wechsler-Chaput and Robin Riggs

     This short photocopied ashcan has two stories in it, which are
deliberate contrasts both in terms of how they were written and how the art
was done.  Both concern the character of Sheagle and her fictional Golden/
Silver Age creator, Maria Tannen (the gag's carried a little too far, I was
uncertain for a while if Maria was from whole cloth or based on an actual
Maria Tannen, hence the delay in this review while I waited for Elayne to bap
me and call me a silly-head).  The first story is about Maria, the second is
a "real" Sheagle story.

     "Sheagle Rising": The lead story was done with computerized color art
and reproduced here in greyscale.  The "wash" effect of the greyscale
contrasts jarringly with the speech balloons in what I call the "Fumetti
Effect," but I got a look at the color originals (which will be published in
color sometime in the future, knock wood) and the problem is minimal to
nonexistent there.  (Hey, Robin *did* sign it with "Nitpick this!")
     The story starts with Tannen signing at a convention, where, despite the
fans, she feels like she's somehow...no longer part of her own life.  And
this emotional crisis has been pushed to a head by the fact that her beloved
creation, Sheagle, has just been handed to a Hot Talent.  The guy's a mix of
various Hot Talents through time, but as his name's Morris, I'm guessing that
he's a very large part Morrison, who has recently been snarfing up classic DC
characters and doing things with them.  Maria's not too sanguine about what
Morris will do to Sheagle, and it gets to the point where her creation
appears to her in a vision, demanding she take the character back and, well,
fix her.
     She meets Morris, and initially her (and Sheagle's) fears seem to be
realized.  A hot young turk with a poor wit and more flash than substance, at
least at first impression.  If Sheagle had physical substance, there'd have
been Morrisbits all over the restaurant before the waiter could take their
     Then it turns around.  Okay, he doesn't have a great wit, and he
probably shouldn't be left alone with Sheagle (in any meaningful sense of
that phrase).  But he realizes this, and wants Maria's help in doing the
character justice.  By the end, it's almost too good to be true, with Maria
getting practically full control back creatively while a hot name is there on
the cover to help sell to the unconverted.
     Not to be too snarlingly cynical, but while the second story may have
the superpowers and exotic beasties, this story is the more escapist and
fantastic of the two, if only because the wish isn't utterly beyond
fulfillment, so the story's invested with more of the dreaming.  For every
case of Waid on Captain America, there's another of Liefeld on Captain
America, and the spectrum in between, of creators who think they're
respecting the classic creator's vision, but don't seem to get it.  And I'd
be curious to see how many even ask the Golden/Silver Age creators for
guidance on the characters they've taken over...definitely some, but doubtful
it's all.
     Hm, this soapbox is wobbly, anybody got some shims?

     "Of A Feather" is the backup, which will be appearing in a Friends of
Lulu anthology.  And while "Sheagle Rising" was written as dialogue and is no
more action-oriented than any other comicon, this story has no words at all,
relying solely on Riggs's visual storytelling.  Another contrast is, well,
the contrast in the art.  Set at night, by the light of stars and torches,
it's all stark shadows and glaring light sources, with buckets of ink used.
     The first page is the hardest to get, especially the first time through,
before the reader knows Sheagle can create energy talons...between this hole
in the reader's knowledge and the heavy use of black in the second to last
panel, it's not immediately obvious that Sheagle's disabling the gun (I
initially thought it was the work of the Eagle-she beastie).  Color would
probably make this clearer, but this story's intended for B&W.
     The story itself is fairly simple.  There's a semi-humanoid eagle-like
creature (who I'll call Eagle-she in the tradition of Batman and Man-Bat) who
has got a small girl in her nest.  The townspeople have gathered torches and
guns to "rescue" the child from this "monster."  Sheagle shows up and defuses
the immediate threat from the people, then somehow finds out that the
Eagle-she's child is being held in the town (maybe it was in the newspaper,
maybe the angry townfolk said something about "the other one back at the
jail" or whatever) and pulls a swap, happy endings all around.  And hopefully
the last panel is going to be getting some more shading an a background
before final publication (that, or that's a glowing child).
     This piece tries to do a little too much in three pages, I think.  A
couple more panels would have cleared up a lot, and if that pushed it to only
three and a half pages, well, you could always end with a large panel of
Sheagle flying off, her job done.  }->

     Dave Van Domelen, stopping before he start picking apart the lighting
angles in every panel...he's dangerous when he's only reviewing a single book
at a sitting and has time to go into detail....
Back to Dave's Mid-Ohio Con page.