“If comic books and Project Runway had a baby…”

Project: Rooftop. You will want to love it and hug it and pet it and squeeze it and call it George. Just see if you don’t.

Finger’s credit goes to Pop Candy, where Whitney Matheson put it this way:

If comic books and Project Runway had a baby, it might be Project: Rooftop. The website specializes in redesigning superhero costumes, and the results are quite eye-catching. Check out these winners of a recent Iron Man contest, for instance.

Many of the designs come from professional artists, and judges provide funny, kinda nerdy and fashion-forward commentary. (Matt Fraction helped judge the last batch, which makes sense, since he writes Marvel’s Invincible Iron Man.)

I promise you that if you dig comics, this site will not disappoint. The illustrations are top-notch and the commentary from the writers is fascinating. I wouldn’t even consider myself a huge comics buff and spent more time than I will admit working my way back through the archives, last night. Good stuff.

It’d be particularly fun to share with your kids, too, if they’re into that sort of thing. Even if the commentary bores them (and it shouldn’t!), they’ll still love the drawings.

I wonder if Project Runway knows about this little lovechild…?

You were a good man, Charles Schulz… maybe

As iconic as the “Peanuts” comic strip was in the cartooning world for so many years (indeed, as it continues to be), there’s a lot of dissension over what sort of man Charles Schulz, the strip’s creator, was.

Some have pointed out that his own challenges in life were what enabled him to write so poignantly about life inequities even in what was (supposedly) a forum for children, but that the man behind the ink was dark and difficult. Others have argued that his ability to work through such issues in his art left him a perfectly delightful man in person.

This debate is hardly new, but it’s been cropping up in the news again lately and I thought it was worth looking at. Personally, I find it fascinating that people are so interested in diving into Schulz’s life.

Over at Cartoon Brew Amid does an excellent round-up of reaction to the David Michaelis biography. On the one hand, Bill Watterson (creator of Calvin and Hobbes and himself a cartooning legend and something of an iconoclast) gives Michaelis’ biography, Schulz and Peanuts a glowing review. On the other hand, members of Schulz’ own family have been very vocal in their assertions that the book is not the accurate portrayal it makes itself out to be.

Charles Schulz’s son Monte left a comment at Cartoon Brew which said (among other things):

Honestly, the quote I’ve really wanted to give the press, after reading both the early of the manuscript and the final book, is this: “The book is stupid, and David Michaelis is an idiot.” That said, I had a six year on-going conversation with him about this book, and like David quite a lot. But I was shocked to see the book that emerged, because it veered so drastically away from what he told us he intended to write. Which is why we’ve been so militant in our response. Incidentally, the material David edited out of the book is even more outrageous. The fact is, after reading the book, I decided I’d learned more about David Michaelis than I did about my dad. I found that interesting.

The follow-on comments are interesting, as well, and one commenter is kind enough to point out that later this month there will be an American Masters documentary on Charles Schulz’s life on PBS which may be worth viewing.

In “Good Ol’ Charles Schulz,” AMERICAN MASTERS presents an unexpected portrait of the man behind the most popular comic strip in history. The feature-length documentary premieres Monday, October 29, 2007, 9:00-10:30 p.m. ET on PBS.

No word yet on whether the Schulz family has a problem with the upcoming documentary. Or, indeed, why people are so intent on getting the “real” story of a man whose work should arguably be left to speak for itself.

[image credit: Encyclopædia Britannica Concise]

Stan Lee and POW! joining up with Disney

The licensing industry is abuzz today over the announcement made yesterday: Disney has signed a multi-year first-look deal with Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment.

If you don’t know who Stan Lee is, allow me to welcome you to Planet Earth. I hope you enjoy your stay. And you may wish to brush up on the man, the myth, the living legend that is Stan Lee; take a brief crash course here, if so. As the Godfather of the action comic, I think it’s safe to say that Lee is more icon than man, at this point.

His production company, POW! (Purveyors of Entertainment), is relatively new, having been founded in 2005. But Disney swooping in to acquire Lee’s genius comes as a shock to no one. And the official word on the merger is a non-stop mutual lovefest:

Bob Chapek, president, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, [...] said, “Stan is not only loved by fans of the genre, but is one of the most respected and admired figures in the entertainment industry. In fact, it’s hard to think of another individual who has created as many memorable and appealing characters. We’re thrilled that Stan has decided to make Disney his new home, and feel very fortunate to be collaborating with him on a wide range of new projects for all divisions of our company. His track record is impressive by any measure, and Home Entertainment is sure to benefit from his creations.”

Gill Champion, POW! Entertainment, COO says, “There can be no better opportunity to perpetuate the Stan Lee/Pow! brand for all media than to be associated with the Disney Studio. No one better understands the incalculable value and importance of Developing, Producing, Distributing and Marketing new global franchises. We are incredibly impressed with the professionalism and valuable input from the executive and creative talent whom we now so eagerly join.”

I guess that makes for better PR than everyone announcing “Resistance is futile. Spider-Man’s creator will be assimilated.” Best of luck within the Borg, Mr. Lee.

Berkeley Breathed dishes

It’s funny, because just last week I was mentioning how Bloom County is one of my all-time favorite comic strips, and then yesterday I came across this awesome interview with Berkeley Breathed. It’s chock-full of Breathed’s understated wit, as well as information on his past and current endeavors. You simply must read the entire thing, but I’ve taken the liberty of pulling out a few highlights for you.

Proof that we’re on the same wavelength: The interviewer asks Breathed about that very Calvin and Hobbes animation I wrote about earlier, and his response made me laugh out loud.

BREATHED: Oh my God. That’s my only reaction. And this: Bill is going to have a cow when he sees this. Not that it isn’t terrific. I think it’s like how we’d feel finding our wives naked on YouTube… no matter how hot they look.

(It should be noted, he was 100% correct. The video has since been yanked from YouTube on Bill Watterson’s complaint.)

In response to being asked what parenting means to him:

BREATHED: Deferring self-interest. And hearing the word “poop” more than before.

(Dude. Has Berkeley Breathed been to my house??)

More things that made me giggle:

QS: Doonesbury was a musical — why not Bloom County?

BREATHED: The first part of that question is the answer.

(That response should be immortalized in the Annals of Pithiness.)

QS: Who do you hear in your head as the “voice” of Opus?

BREATHED: I always wanted Sterling Holloway for Opus (Winnie the Pooh). He’s unavailable.

(Well, yes. If by “unavailable” you mean “dead,” then this is correct.)

Inbetween zingers, Breathed does share some information about upcoming animated adaptations of his books Mars Needs Moms! and Flawed Dogs; both are being developed by Disney, with Robert Zemeckis producing Moms. Even his comments on the movie progress are chuckle-worthy. Seriously. Go read the whole interview.

Cartoon Network… cacophony?

While perusing the good stuff over at Cartoon Brew yesterday I came across this post about an Australian animator’s reaction to his “discovery” of Cartoon Network. The image to the side there is a scaled-down version of his attempt to visually communicate how the experience made him feel.

I don’t know about you, but I’m having a wee bit of trouble seeing the rainbows, unicorns, and happy field animals in that picture. Well, it is pretty small.

Oh, I’m just teasing. The intent is clear and gorgeously conveyed, though if you’re not sure what Elliot Cowan means, he’ll spell it out for us:

Last night I discovered that I had Cartoon Network on my digital signal.
I watched it for the first time.
This picture is a documentation of my experience.
What a ******* cacophony!
An assault on the ears in particular!
You know those Foghorn Leghorn cartoons where the rooster beats the dog with a fence paling?
It felt like that.

I found this fascinating. I mean, I’ve been watching Cartoon Network for years, so the very idea of someone happening to discover it and then experiencing it as something completely different than the rest of network programming is interesting to me, anyway. Perhaps I’m somewhat inured to it by now. After all, I can listen to children say “MAMA MAMA MAMA MAMA MAMA!!!!!” and register it as no more than a pleasant buzzing, so I’ll admit my tolerance for sensory input may be quite high.

On the other hand, I felt somewhat protective of my pals at CN. I happen to enjoy many of their shows. I might even argue that a few of the more frenetic ones are my favorites because of the swirling explosion of sights and sounds all wrapped up therein. Have I been “ruined” by the high-octane versions of animation that are so popular nowadays?

I wanted to get a better sense of where Mr. Cowan was coming from, so I went and checked out some examples of his animation on YouTube. I loved it. His style is simple and some might even be tempted to call it subdued (though I think it’s more subtle than subdued), and it’s very, very clever. And it certainly makes me see why he would find some of the Cartoon Network offerings a bit… in-your-face.

But I’m perfectly capable of enjoying Boxhead & Roundhead and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. I’m just sayin’.