Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Season Finale That Never Was: Creative Platypus

It all started with a whiteboard doodle during a brainstorm session in study hall. We were experimenting with pitches.  Suddenly, the room synergized and a story began rolling out with the force of a freight train. We had an idea -a great idea.

How often do our thoughts come back to us with an alienated majesty? We discard them because they are our thoughts.

Reading Ralph Waldo Emerson's Self Reliance with my students this year, this passage struck me with the force of that freight train. Do I distrust my own thoughts simply because they are mine and not some paid authority? In a democratic nation, creators crave the votes of the masses; votes in the form of dollars. As the 51% (hoi poloi) become the arbiters of Right and Wrong, so the Paid Position tells us what is worthy (to agathon) and unworthy (to kakon) of our attention.

Plato taught that we do evil through lack of knowledge. No person would knowingly choose the bad since the bad would inevitably harm themselves in the end. Aristotle broke with the master by pointing out that we often do evil through weakness of will. In the same way, perhaps we do not always discard our thoughts because they are ours. Perhaps we also discard them because we lack the will, or the skill, or the power to carry them out.

So here we are. Bad Nun: a whiteboard doodle, a few sketches, and nothing more.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Over the Garden Wall: Film Platypus

I'm always a day late and a dollar short to things. In this case, it's about two years late. Late to what, you ask? Well, my wife and I finally got around to seeing Cartoon Network's mini-series "Over the Garden Wall". It's a show about two brother who become lost in the woods and travel through an eerie feast of New England Americana seasoned with a with worthy of Homestar Runner. In short, it's the show I wish I was brilliant enough to create. As Emerson might say, it was my own thought come back to me with an alienated majesty.

Beyond it's carefully researched aesthetic, the show is a delight for the classically educated. The bleeding edelwood trees have their true home in Dante's Inferno while the talking beasts and witches' cabins are firmly rooted in the Brothers Grimm. There are subtle grecco-roman touches too: the need for two coins to take the ferry across the river, for instance.

"Over the Garden Wall" is on DVD and can be watched on Hulu as well. There are ten episodes of ten to eleven minutes each. If you're looking for a quirky piece of Americana to lighten up your Saint Pompion's Day festivities, why not give "Over the Garden Wall" a try?

Note: eerie pumpkin man drawn by author of this post.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Tale of Two Cities Doodle: Creative Platypus

Not my all-time favorite Dickens book, but it has it's moments. Here we have a pen and brush marker rendition of a whiteboard doodle I did to help my students along. We're such a visual culture that some rudimentary art skills are almost a requirement for teaching these days.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Hellboy and other Readings: The Platypus Reads Part CCCV

The academic year is always exhausting and with a new position this year there hasn't been much time for reading anything that's not school related. However, I have managed to slip in a few treasures nonetheless.

*Warning: Hellboy in Hell spoilers*

The first of those is the final installment of Mike Mignola's Hellboy saga: Hellboy in Hell: The Death Card. How do you end a series that has been going for twenty years? Hellboy's violent career as Anung un Rama, the World Destroyer, would argue a Big Bang. Unlike the movies, however, Mignola's Hellboy has always been more about the brooding silences and carefully worded dialog than the fights. We had our epic battle with the Dragon in The Storm and the Fury. In The Death Card, tough Hellboy harrows hell, defeats Behemoth and Leviathan, and slays the princes of Pandemonium, it is all done with a somber finality that rises above the the frenetic furor of an Avengers or Batman Versus Superman: Dawn of Justice. In fact, when Hellboy finally calls forth all his power and fulfills his destiny, it is only seen in retrospect trough the eyes of a dying demon; a Job-like and I alone am escaped to tell thee. The rest of the comic is a closing down. We see Hellboy make peace with his two loves, Anna (who has become the spirit of the England that is to be), and The Spanish Bride (who calls out to the mountains to fall on her and the hills to cover her). His sister repudiates him and is destroyed. Most interestingly, Hellboy also meets the spirit of a priest ministering to "those in chains" who reminds Hellboy that his humanity makes possible his own redemption. This could be what is meant by the three glowing platonic solids our hero meets at the end as the stars wheel in their courses above him. Whatever it means, the final scene is genius. I've wracked my brain for years over that moment, but I cannot think of a better way for the series to end. It's beautiful.

So what now? There's still Witchfinder: City of the Dead, which I'm more than enjoying as the installments come out. I've also begun Valiant Comics' visionary cyber punk drama Rai. If you enjoyed Frank Miller's Ronin or Cartoon Network's Samurai Jack, this should be right up your ally. The visuals are like nothing I've ever seen; particularly the artist's attention to light. Hopefully, I'll have thoughts on these to share as my reading continues. In the meantime, it's good to be back online and I'll check in with you all again next time I come up for air. Platypi are, afterall, underwater creatures...

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Blade Runner: Creative Platypus

You know, it's been years -maybe over a decade- since I last saw Bladerrunner. I think it was a director's cut, but I'm not even sure which one. It made a lot more sense than the first time I saw it; though even then the movie left a lasting imprint on my mind. I remember the way it played with light and dark. I remember the perpetual rain. Most of all (and who could forget them?), I remember those iconic light umbrellas. So here's a little colored pencil work on a rainy day in honor of a film that deserves all the attention it gets.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Poe's Ligeia (Cont.): The Platypus Reads Part CCCIV

Poe's Ligeia is a mystery. Her features are un-place-able. She has no family. It isn't even clear how long she's been alive. What we do know is that she has deep knowledge of alchemical and occult forces. Here we have Ligeia as an alchemical figure with Lilith-like properties and Egyptian motifs. Not a little inspiration was pulled from the alchemist's laboratory in Hellboy: Wake the Devil.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Poe's Ligeia: The Platypus Reads Part CCCIII

As a fitting follow-up to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, I decided to doodle my way through a bit of Edgar Allen Poe. I've asked my students to do the same as a way of interacting with the text, moving from consumers to creators. It's an honorable tradition. After all, it's hard not to see Lovecraft's debt to Poe when reading The Fall of the House of Usher and comparing it to The Rats in the Walls, or Ligeia and The Thing on the Doorstep. Lovecraft binge-read Poe as a child and then turned his own hand to creating.

So here we have the mysterious Lady Ligeia with her impossible to place features and flair for consumptive look (hint: consumption was linked with vampirism in the backwoods of 18th century New England). Next, we have the opium inspired bedroom/ritual chamber where Ligeia makes her final grand entrance. I wasn't sure how that last one would look on paper, but Poe's aesthetic is unfailingly creepy whether in words or colored pencil.