Dance With Me

Black on black is always difficult for me to represent, working as I do in black and white. I think I managed it okay here.

I also chose to work with a smaller canvas than usual, which really required me to simplify the character expressions.

BONUS DRAWING: Stargazers.

Braddy Reads The Girl from the Other Side (Siúil a Rún)

The Girl from the Other Side tells the story of a strangely bitter recluse who has to care for a precocious young girl OKAY SERIOUSLY IS THERE LIKE A NAME FOR THIS GENRE OR SOMETHING I SWEAR TO KIRSTIE ALLEY.

*ahem*

Yes, it’s another entry in the “Braddy Really Wishes He Was a Single Dad” series, last exemplified by Sweetness and Lightning. I’m genuinely not sure why manga seems to like this trope so much, but I’m super grateful that they do. These books are consistently some of my favorite comics, and The Girl from the Other Side is no exception.

Of course, The Girl from the Other Side differs from those other books, which tend to be saccharine slice-of-life adventures about embracing the wonderful mysteries of life, by being a tight, tense horror story.

Our (whom I’ll call Teacher, as I genuinely don’t remember if it has another name) is some sort of demon/monster thing called an Outsider. By contrast, his ward – Shiva – is an Insider, who is stuck in the forests of the Outside until her aunt comes to claim her. Insiders cannot touch Outsiders, lest they be cursed to become Outsiders themselves. Teacher helps Shiva navigate the forest and tries to keep her safe… all while knowing, somehow, that Shiva’s aunt isn’t coming for her.

The first two volumes carry an “all ages” recommendation on their covers, which genuinely surprises me. The first volume ends with one of the tensest moments I can remember in comics: Shiva, convinced her aunt is nearby, wanders deeper into the forest to bring her an umbrella. Meanwhile, soldiers from Inside have come into the forest seeking a demon in the shape of a little girl and have strict orders to kill her on sight.

Then this happens:

I legit lost my mind when I turned to this page. The Girl from the Other Side is already one of the most beautiful manga I’ve ever read, with a distinct style that reminds me more of Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind comic than, say, this nonsense. I already adored the scratchy backgrounds, the almost impressionistic rendering of all the major characters… but the picture of a small girl innocently carrying a damaged umbrella past the armed soldiers searching for her to kill her scared me more than just about anything in fiction.

Oh, and the second volume shows Teacher gruesomely hacking another Outsider to pieces with an axes. It takes until volume 3 for the age rating to get corrected to “teen.”

Truthfully, I’m not sure the story in The Girl from the Other Side is all that novel. As I’ve said, there are a million “cute young girl” stories out there for The Girl from the Other Side to draw on. In addition, it’s pretty explicitly riding the coattails of another highly successful manga about a supernatural being serving as mentor to a human girl. In the end, though, I’m not sure how much all that matters. The craft on display in The Girl from the Other Side is enough to have me hooked: masterfully executed tension, beautiful art, and a chilling atmosphere.

Also, I’m still waiting to figure out what the significance of the Irish part of the title is. So I’m at least hooked until that becomes more apparent.

Cooking with Braddy: Banana Pancakes (with a Side of Scrambled Eggs)

Typically, I don’t share the recipes I make, choosing instead to link to the recipe or to the cookbook on Amazon. I like people to rewarded for their creative endeavors, even if those endeavors are simply compiling a collection of recipes. That said, the source of the pancake recipe is a book I got through work for healthy meals and is not commercially available, so here we go:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 medium ripe banana, mashed
  • 1 cup low or nonfat milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Typical assembly instructions apply: combine the dry ingredients in one bowl, the wet in another (bananas are wet, in this case). Mix the wet into the dry, cook on a griddle or in a hot skillet. These don’t make the sweetest, fluffiest pancakes, but a serving of 2 cakes contains about 20% of your daily recommended allowance of fiber, so your guts will likely thank you!

The eggs are even easier to make:

  • 2 large eggs
  • Too much butter
  • Some cheese
  • Veggies, maybe. Like, I dunno, peppers?
  • Are mushrooms veggies? Probably?
  • Shoot, I’m out of ham

Try to make an omelet. Fail. Have scrambled eggs instead.

The Fallen Temple

So my little dinosaur creature was designed (somehow) with Evan Dahm’s Rice Boy in mind. The creepy goo monster with the mask was designed around the creatures from a particular Japanese video game I have an embarrassing amount of affection for. Apparently, I do some of my favorite work when I’m blatantly trying to rip off other creators.

Braddy’s Movie Shelf: Bee and Puppycat

(Bit of an art project: I’m trying to fill up a bookshelf with a bunch of shows I own on Blu-Ray/DVD, but I recycled most of the cases. I’m drawing my own DVD covers, but I figured I’d take a minute and write about why I like these shows so much as I put them on the shelf.)

A couple of years ago, I hit probably the most stressful point of my life to that point. I had just been promoted to office manager at a small psychiatric clinic with three clerical workers. With the raise I got from my promotion, I basically impulse-bought a house.. During the whole closing process, though, all three of my employees accepted other job offers. It took several weeks to get new employees hired; in the meantime, I had to run the clinic basically by myself. I also had paperwork to deliver, walkthroughs and inspections to arrange, and everything else that goes along with buying a house. I was getting so stressed that I couldn’t help but fantasize about the worst case scenario: that I would lose my job.

There were only three things that got me through that time: my parents, the help of an exceptional realtor, and a little YouTube cartoon called Bee and Puppycat.

Bee and Puppycat was a ten-minute cartoon short created by Natasha Allegri and the animators at Frederator Studios. The formula behind Bee and Puppycat was made up of equal parts Garfield, magical girl anime shows like Sailor Moon, and millennial angst. And it wound up being exactly what I needed at that time.

See, between all the pretty dresses, crazy fish monsters, talking ladybugs, and eggplants, Bee and Puppycat is, at its heart, the story of a young woman who loses her job, only to go on and learn that things can still work out.

Later, after the job and house situation settled down, I learned that the creators behind Bee and Puppycat were fundraising on Kickstarter to try to get more episodes made. They even promised to put the whole series on Blu-Ray. So I naturally threw a few bucks behind the project and waited happily for my reward.

And waited.

And waited.

And…

*sigh*

The new Bee and Puppycat cartoons that came out as a result of the Kickstarter campaign were less magical than I expected. There remained a bit of that hopeful melancholy that so attracted me to the original pilot, but that tone was coupled with simpler animations, less compelling plots, and production delays that really tested everyone’s patience. Eventually, I lost track of the series, and I basically forgot it existed.

Cut to late 2017, nearly six years after the Kickstarter campaign. I come home to find a package from Frederator Studios with the long-awaited Blu-Ray. Curious, I popped the disc in and settled down to watch the final episodes.

And I was, once again, blown away.

The pilot of Bee and Puppycat raised a lot of questions about the world these characters inhabited. The finale didn’t answer any of those questions. It actually raised nearly as many questions over again. But it did something far more important: it presented the angst and frustration that comes with change, and went on to reassure the viewer that everything will be okay.

The finale to Bee and Puppycat is perhaps unsatisfying from a narrative perspective, but it’s simple and beautiful and life-affirming. I’m happy to have a copy of the show on my bookshelf. I even made my own (very obviously amateur) DVD case to go along with it:

Intruders

In case anyone was curious, these little dino critters of mine were pretty directly inspired by the organic and unusual characters of one Evan Dahm, whose Rice Boy remains one of the most uniquely-designed comics I’ve ever read.

If, on the other hand, you weren’t curious, you should try to forget I said anything. Or go read Rice Boy anyway. You can do whatever you like.

Based on a True Story

There’s a reason we call him “Meow-Meows”… and it’s not just to be cutesy. We call him by his name, and his name is his voice, and he is all and he is everywhere and he demands that we love him.

Send help.

This Is the Greatest Show? This Is? THIS Is?

I’m a big fan of the movie musical renaissance we’ve been experiencing over the past few years. You can tell I’m a fan, because I call it a “renaissance” even though we only get one of these big budget productions every year, discounting that magical time when both Annie and Into the Woods ran in theaters at the same time. You can also tell I’m a fan because I keep going to these movies, even though they’re… well, pretty bad, most of the time. Nobody complains about anything quite like fans do.

But that’s pretty much the way I feel about musicals in general. Musical theater has pretty much always been a style over substance genre. Put a gun to my head and demand I name five musicals that have more to offer than sparkly production values, and I’ll probably just say Hamilton five times and hope you don’t notice.

So imagine my surprise when I went to see The Greatest Showman the other night and discovered, to my absolute delight, that this movie musical is divinely and spectacularly… fine. It’s… it’s fine.

The Greatest Showman stars Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum, a cancelled Silent Hills project… I mean, a devoted husband and father who struggles to keep his woman in the manner to which she has become accustomed by putting on shows, which employ all sorts of people who have been ostracized by society. Even though he takes his performers for granted, Barnum eventually recognizes that, through his circus shows, these men and women have found a place to call home and a group of people who accept them as they are.

And, look, I get that there’s significant value in advertising the theater as a place where all are welcome. It’s one of the things I love most about theater. I still get choked up a bit thinking about that time James Corden hosted the Tony Awards. I’ll even admit that using rare genetic conditions as a metaphor for the “outsider” status that tends to follow so many who find solace in the theater is, though a little clunky, not actually a bad idea. But there are definite issues with telling that kind of story using P.T. Barnum as your protagonist, especially when you consider that the people Barnum employs were shunned due to their physical abnormalities, like being a woman with a beard, or a being only three-foot-tall, or… being… black.

Hoo, boy.

This is kinda messy, because P.T. Barnum was a real person with a… complicated relationship with race. The Smithsonian published a pretty detailed discussion of Barnum’s rise to fame, which involved fewer wax dummies and more slaves. One slave, in particular: Joice Heth, an elderly woman who, Barnum claimed, served George Washington. She was old, but not that old. Barnum toured with Heth, making his outlandish claims pretty much right up to the day she died. Then he sold tickets to her autopsy.

Seriously. That happened.

It feels like The Greatest Showman wanted to address Barnum’s early racism, but it didn’t know how to do so without making him more unsympathetic (and you don’t want to do that – Hugh Jackman needs to be sympathetic). So they decided to address racism by having Barnum’s partner, Phillip Carlyle, fall for one of the black performers, Anne Wheeler (played by Zendaya). Which would be a fine solution, I guess, if either of those people actually existed. Which they don’t.

This is why I have trust issues. In a year where there was so much debate over preserving our history, be it good or bad, that a movie “inspired by a true story” would try to ignore the less salient aspects of Barnum’s life. Especially since they probably didn’t have to.

See, Barnum eventually went into politics, where he appeared to regret his treatment of Joice Heth. He even argued in favor of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, saying:

“A human soul, ‘that God has created and Christ died for,’ is not to be trifled with. It may tenant the body of a Chinaman, a Turk, an Arab or a Hottentot – it is still an immortal spirit.”

Where’s my movie about THAT guy? I’m picturing Lincoln, but with jugglers and The Tattooed Man.

The Greatest Showman does have some good stuff to offer, in particular a wonderful performance from Jackman and some of the best dancing I’ve seen in a film… pretty much ever. But I can’t help thinking that it’d be a stronger film if it were about Peachy Buckingham, pretty fictional circus boy. And then we could get a serious, Oscar-worthy film called Barnum: The Spectacle of Conscience. Starring Javier Bardem.