THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A COMICS EMERGENCY
COMIC BOOK CREATOR 2.0/MANGA CREATOR
Available from Planetwide Games
Have stories to tell, but lack even the slightest artistic ability? Always wanted a way to take your personal pictures and make a fumetti-style book out of them? Want to get a taste of what your favorite comics creators are going through when they letter a page or put together a cover? Then these two products are something you definitely might enjoy.
COMIC BOOK CREATOR 2.0 offers a number of ways for you to put a page together. You can select a template (choosing number of panels and layout) and then choose from a variety of supplied clip art or your own photos in order to fill the panels. Then, you pull up a menu of empty dialogue balloons or caption boxes and place them in the appropriate spots on the page. From there, you also have options to use tools to enhance the panels, or add sound effects, or whatever else you like. It’s pretty cool, and fun to play with. I’m just a little way into figuring out everything the program can do, but even if I don’t get much further, I’d call myself satisfied with it.
MANGA CREATOR works in similar fashion (and is co-authored with TokyoPop), but adds some different features. It has a different suite of balloons and captions, for one, and the art supplied comes directly from the publisher’s library of titles. When you have both softwares on your computer, they’re kind enough to work together, so COMIC BOOK CREATOR actually gives me the option to use the TokyoPop items, including the tools that give you the ability to add stuff like speed lines.
I’ve never used anything quite like these programs, but they’ve been easy to pick up on so far. The interfaces are very intuitive, and when you complete a comic, you can output it in either picture or PDF format. That means you might just start seeing some new comics on this site at some point.
A murder… the young policewoman on the scene, Gwen Cooper, is ordered to leave and allow “Torchwood” to handle the scene. Unmoved by that request, the woman observes the group in action and makes a startling discovery: they briefly bring the man back to life. That’s just the first of many strange things she finds out as she begins to investigate an organization that no one seems to know exists. And it only gets better from there.
TORCHWOOD, a spin-off from DOCTOR WHO, is a massively entertaining and captivating bit of television. We eventually learn the group’s true purpose: they hunt aliens, deal with inter-dimensional incursions, and take any sort of technology left behind and attempt to make it useful for humankind. Led by Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), the group is perhaps a bit myopic in its aims, and Cooper recognizes it. And with the group ultimately lacking a moral center, the young policewoman might just be what the organization needs.
Unlike the labyrinthine mythology behind WHO, TORCHWOOD is open right at the start, making it easy to understand and follow. The characters are appealing; Harkness is a bit of a prat, but Barrowman gives him a ridiculous amount of charm to go with it. He resembles a young Tom Cruise when he smiles, but has none of that actor’s creepy baggage to turn off the audience. Myles brings determination and intelligence to her role as Gwen, and she makes an excellent foil for Barrowman.
The series airs on BBC America, and that’s good for a couple of reasons. One, it keeps it near its roots, but had it aired on Sci-Fi… it would have pointed out an ugly problem. TORCHWOOD: policewoman drawn to an organization with a special mission. Organization not part of the government, but uses its own specialists and special weapons. Organization has secret underground lair where it operates. Yep: though they each first aired only a few months apart, TORCHWOOD was in development for a period of years, and PAINKILLER JANE would seem to have almost completely lifted its foundations.
Sadly, it also illuminates the flaws in JANE, and the mistakes made in changing the character’s comic book roots. TORCHWOOD also makes that series look cheap. It’s vibrant, colorful, the characters well defined… rarely does a science fiction pilot exhilarate the way TORCHWOOD’s did. Intelligent and exciting, this has immediately become must viewing.
Starring Kristanna Loken
Friday Nights on Sci-Fi Channel
Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti’s comic book gets a full season of 22 episodes from Sci-Fi, after the telefilm the aired about a year ago did pretty well in the ratings. The film, which bore very little resemblance to the comic, was frankly underwhelming, but steps have been taken to make the TV series a better effort. The role of Jane has been recast, and while the show still isn’t the comic, it’s a lot closer to the creators’ vision. Put those things together, and this JANE is a bit more watchable.
That isn’t to say the show is brilliant at this juncture. I’ve sat through the first two episodes to date, and there are clear issues for JANE to work through. The set-up is simple; Jane Vasco, DEA agent, is brought onto a secret government team charged with tracking down and neutralizing “neuros”, people with extra-normal abilities that stem from their brains. What no one knows, however, is that Jane has an ability of her own. Not even Jane. But when she gets tossed out of a 46th story window and wakes up in the morgue healed, she kinda gets the hint that she’s a little different. She isn’t a neuro… but the question of her true nature remains open.
Where the work needs to be done: first, Jane’s colleagues are straight from central casting at this point, and that’s an issue. Scruffy, principled boss, big lug with a heart of gold, computer geek who looks like he hasn’t showered in weeks, cute and sensitive doctor (who is admittedly a semi-lift from the comic)… and they even killed the Black operative in the first episode. Also, the dialogue is also pretty stiff so far, her DEA partner Maureen has been added to the mix and given nothing to work with as a character, and Jane’s voiceovers aren’t adding anything to the mix. But the big issue is in the body count; comic book Jane racks ‘em up, but so far Loken has only chalked up two, both of which came before she joined the team. I’d like to see that change and get her closer to the character.
On the flip side, though, some things are working. The casting of Loken is inspired. She embodies the character as written by Palmiotti in the comics perfectly. She snarky, quick-tempered, and generally not the sweetest human being alive. The producers have also resisted the urge to tart her up and play up her looks, which is risky but smart. And while the “neuro of the week” is formulaic, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing right now; in the comics, Jane mows down human after human. On TV, she needs real opponents to face off against or it’s going to get boring in a hurry. Not making Jane a neuro, but something else entirely is smart, too- it adds an element of mystery that plays well on the screen and gives the character a vulnerability.
I’ve listened to BATTLESTAR GALACTICA’s genius showrunner Ron Moore talk about the process of making a show, and one thing he mentions is that the first season is spent figuring out exactly what the show is going to be. And that’s really JANE’s struggle right now; you can see on the screen that the creative team is still figuring out what the show is going to be. So while this series is flawed out of the gate, that doesn’t mean that it’s screwed. Not every series comes out like THE SOPRANOS or LOST; most have to grow into themselves. It’ll be interesting to see how that process plays out with Joe and Jimmy’s baby.
Copyright 2006- 2010 Marc Mason/Comics Waiting Room. All rights reserved