Favorite artists — Rockwell and Ross

On the way home from Thanksgiving, Janice and I stopped at the Norman Rockwell Museum in western Massachusetts. We’re both fans of Americana, so it was fitting to see Rockwell’s paintings around that holiday.

While classified as more of an illustrator than a fine artist, Rockwell showed an idealized version of the U.S. in the early 20th century that was nonetheless influenced by the old masters. He also celebrated the common man and woman, small-town life, and the idealism of presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy.

Comparison of painters Rockwell and Ross
Truth, justice, and the American way

I was also pleased to catch an exhibit about Alex Ross, one of my favorite comic book artists. Ross’ superheroes are more Reubenesque than Rockwell’s figures, but he also shows a timeless version of ourselves as we wish we could be.

Ross has combined his childhood love of Challenge of the Superfriends, an awareness of classical mythology, and an intimate look at Marvel and DC icons to help renew the medium’s optimism. His paintings also demonstrate that four-color, spandex-clad people can look impressive rather than just silly.

Like Rockwell, Ross uses models for photographic reference rather than painting directly from life or imagination. Both painters have been criticized for the practice, but I think their finished works show that imagination, accuracy, and expressiveness are all parts of their artistic process.

On a related note, here are the comics titles I’m currently reading monthly:

DC:

  • Batfamily: Batgirl, Batwoman, Birds of Prey (to loan to David I.S.)
  • DC Nation (for nephews), Green Arrow/Arrow (to loan), Green Lantern: the Animated Series (for nephews), Justice League, Wonder Woman, Young Justice (for nephews)

Marvel: Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (for nephews), Captain America, Oz (Shanower/Young; trades only)

Other publishers:

  • Fantasy: Avatar: the Last Airbender/Legend of Korra, Conan the Barbarian/Queen Sonja/Red Sonja (to loan), Dresden Files, Pathfinder
  • Space opera (to loan): Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who, Star Trek: the Next Generation, Star Wars: Agent of the Empire, Clone Wars (for nephews), new classic ongoing, Warlord of Mars/Deja Thoris (to loan)
  • Pulp: Rocketeer Adventures, Shadow: Year One/Masks, Sherlock Holmes (assorted titles), Steampunk/Gearhearts/Steamcraft, Steed & Mrs. Peel, Warehouse 13, Zorro Rides Again
  • Trade paperback collections only: Age of Bronze, Astro City (to loan), Indiana Jones Adventures, Liberty Meadows (to loan), Mouse Guard (for niece), Muppets, Peanuts, Powers (to loan), Star Wars Adventures (for nephews)
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Getting our bearings and animation roundup

The Secret World of Arrietty
Image from The Secret World of Arrietty

Janice and I were busy last week with work and more unpacking in our new apartment. We did take some breaks, checking out the Wilson Farm, the Outer Limits, and other shops and restaurants in our area.

On Saturday, 10 March 2012, we screened The Secret World of Arrietty, which is loosely based on the children’s book The Borrowers. The latest Studio Ghibli movie featured the animation style and gentle pace familiar to fans of Hayao Miyazaki’s works, decent voice acting, and a plot that was somewhat more faithful than other adaptations, such as Howl’s Moving Castle or Tales of Earthsea.

The Secret World of Arrietty follows a 14-year-old girl who is a member of a diminutive family of “Borrowers” living beneath the country home of modern humans. Arrietty’s adventures are both charming and perilous, as she has bittersweet interactions with a human boy named Sean.

The U.S. English voice cast includes Amy Pohler and Carol Burnett, but the celebrity casting isn’t distracting. The movie may not be as action-packed or high-concept as other Miyazaki films, but it’s still entertaining and a nice antidote to the recent overload of loud, computer-animated flicks. Overall, I’d give The Secret World of Arrietty, which is rated G, 7.5 or 8 out of 10, four out of five stars, and a B+/A-.

In other animation, Janice and I recently watched our DVD of Azur and Asmar: the Princes’ Quest, which follows two boys from their childhood in medieval France to the deserts in search of a fairy princess. Like Sita Sings the Blues, my first impression of the flat computer animation was that it was crude, but the detail and style grew on me as the characters and story developed.

I thought the movie did a nice job of depicting the conflict and synergy of European, North African, Arabian, and Persian styles and folklore. I’d give Azur and Asmar an 8 out of 10, four out of five stars, and an A-.

I have yet to watch Justice League: Doom, and Cartoon Network’s “DC Nationblock has just started on Saturday mornings, with a mix of Young Justice, Green Lantern, and humorous shorts aimed at younger audiences. It’s a little disjointed so far, but I like the shorts. Disney XD will be starting its own Marvel Universe programming on Sunday mornings, including The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Ultimate Spider-Man.

And that’s not even including upcoming animation such as Star Wars: Clone Wars, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Avatar: the Legend of Korra, How to Train Your Dragon: the Series, and Pixar’s Brave! I’ve given up for now on trying to keep up with the latest TV iterations of G.I. Joe, Transformers, and Kung-Fu Panda, although they all seem decent. In comedy, I find myself more interested in The Looney Tunes Show, Metalocalypse, or Archer than in The Simpsons or Fox’s Sunday night animation block.

One final item (for now) of news: Sadly, Jean Giraud, also known as Moebius — borrowed from the mathematician — died last week. I discovered his art years ago in Metal Hurlant/Heavy Metal magazine. As with the recently deceased Robert McCall and Ralph McQuarrie, Moebius shaped generations of science fiction and fantasy creators and fans. Examples of Moebius’ influence include the distinctive looks of Alien, Blade Runner, Dune, The Fifth Element, Heavy Metal, Tron, and Willow. All of these artists will be missed, but their visions live on!

Boston Comic Con 2011 report

Cosplaying fans
Some of the Justice League

On Saturday, 30 April 2011, I attended the Boston Comic Con. The show moved from the Westin Boston Waterfront to the larger Hynes Convention Center downtown. There were numerous artists, vendors, and costumed fans, and I’m glad the modest show moved to a larger venue.

Among the artists I spoke with were Frank Cho, who I’ve followed since The Washington Post ran Liberty Meadows; Joe Quinones, whose expressive and retro renditions of Green Lantern were phenomenal in Wednesday Comics; and Stephane Roux, whose work I’m currently enjoying in DC’s Zatanna.

The comic book writers and graphic artists were accessible, the back issues were fairly well organized and priced, and there were also panel discussions. It may not have had the attendance of last month’s Anime Boston, but I hope that events such as the Boston Comic Con and Wizard World’s New England Comic Con continue to grow and prosper.

Hollywood has kept mining comic books and graphic novels for ideas, and I look forward to this week’s opening of Thor, as well as Green Lantern and Captain America: the First Avenger. Janice and I had hoped to get to Dylan Dog: Dead of Night last weekend, but the movie (based on an Italian supernatural horror/comedy title) wasn’t playing anywhere nearby.

I’m less interested in X-Men: First Class and the Spider-Man reboot, since they take more liberties with the continuity established in both the source material and the previous films. They and the planned Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider, and Hulk movies seem more intended for Sony and Fox to hang onto their licenses rather than let them revert to Disney/Marvel control. Other than Chris Nolan’s profitable Batman series, Warner Bros./DC Comics has some catching up to do!

On the animation side, I still recommend Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Young Justice, and it’s too bad that the campy Batman and the Brave and the Bold has been canceled, but at least Bruce Timm and company are working on a Green Lantern television series.

Back in print, I’m also looking forward to Free Comic Book Day, which is this Saturday, May 7. I’ve thinned out my monthly “pull list,” or subscription, at New England Comics in Norwood, Massachusetts. I’ve dropped The Avengers, Batman, Batman and Robin, Streets of Gotham, and the proliferating Green Hornet titles, but I’m still reading many others, which I’ll try to review in the coming months.