Geeking Out on Graphic Art, Sidling Up to Sci-Fi

I just stumbled across, the website of Aaron Booth, a Sydney, Australia-based web designer that was trained as an illustrator at Joe Kubert's renowned World of Cartooning (NYC). In addition to the expected ranting and comic book musings, his blog contains links to his eye-catching drawings and photographs.

Some of the art is suprisingly amateurish considering his training (not bad, just a little flat) -- but a great deal of the newer material is staggeringly good, especially his Flash/Illustrator work that transforms mundane photogaphs into vector images that rival the best comic book artistry I've ever seen (and I've seen oodles, let me tell ya).

Booth (aka Dr. Snafu) is particularly apt at capturing a sense of emotion in the silent pauses and glimmering eyes of his portraits. If he can sustain this level of quality over the course of sequential panels and action sequences -- and mix in some delicious backgrounds -- then illustration wunderkinds such as Josh Middleton and John Cassaday will have a run for their pencils. Do yourself a favor and visit his site for more sumptuous visuals. Or go directly to his Flickr gallery.

(The images above are copyright Dr. Snafu; the other images on this page are copyright their respective owners.)


As recently hyped by Wired magazine, Star Trek: New Voyages will be releasing a new Star Trek episode soon. This one staring Walter Koenig, the original Lt. Pavel Chekov. It's amateur fan-boy TV-show freak-out time, as the New Voyage kids finally have one of the real Star Trek actors acting alongside their hazy facsimile versions of Kirk, Spock, and crew.


I finally got around to reading the first volume of Keiji Nakazawa's Barefoot Gen: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima, which was excellent.

Jason Lute's sublime Jar of Fools: A Picture Story and Dan "Ghost World" Clowes' suprising, twisting David Boring were also mind-blowingly superb. And Kyle Baker's Plastic Man: On the Lam! was a wacky, Plaztastic, double-entendre filled surprise.

However, Rick Veitch's Maximortal and Brat Pack graphic novels (the first two volumes of the as yet uncompleted King Hell Heroica five-part series) were not as mesmerizing as I'd hoped. Interesting, provocative, gross-out funny, and weird, yes. But not the best revisionist superhero epic in the galaxy (Veitch has had his hand in quite a few classics over the years, notably as an artist, but his solo works never quite reach the pinnacle of such superhero reimaginings as Planetary, the Invisibles, Watchmen, X-Statix, Miracle Man, Sandman, the best of Frank Miller and Alan Moore, even such oddities as American Flagg, Nexus, Zot!, Madman, Concrete, etcetera, etcetera). Brat Pack does offer lush black-white-and-grey artwork, the creepiest interpretation of Batman & Robin you'll ever read, the iconic/archetypal Doctor Blasphemy (one of the most memorable-looking comic creations ever), and the catchy tagline, "Live fast, love hard, die with your mask on."

And storywise Maximortal and Brat Pack tie together nicely while also seemingly forming the backdrop for exciting things to come. But overall the scripting can feel a bit hamhanded and rushed, wallowing in its own dirty jokes and contrivances while never living up to the best ideas and images presented. Maximortal, especially, substitues too much philosophy and psychedelia for action and plot. Perhaps Veitch will pull it all together if he ever gets around to completing his Heroica cycle, but in it's current shape it's a rough (but often rousing) beast best suited only for the hardcore comics fan.


Designer Mark Wasserman is Plinko. Plinko is cool. And funny.

Also worth a look is X-Ray Spex, the blog of comics writer/newspaper man Will Pfeifer, "Promising penetrating insight, delivering cheap cardboard glasses"


The Sci Fi Channel's online Seeing Ear Theatre has some great new radio-style audio dramas up, like Bebe Neuwirth reading the part of the Queen in Neil "Sandman" Gaiman's Snow Glass Apples.

And 4ColorHeroes offers a ton of links to free, super-rare Alan "Watchmen" Moore online goodies, including lost comics, scripts, MP3s, interviews, prose, and essays.

Reprogramming Science

Rather brilliant Pommy scientist Stephen Wolfram published A New Kind of Science (NKS) back in 2002 to much controversy and acclaim (the text is available online for free). The book shows how simple programs (i.e., sets of instructions underlying biological, computer, physical, and social systems) can produce complex results, and suggests that programs, therefore, can answer questions that traditional mathematics and science cannot.

The concepts can be hard to digest all in one swallow, but the gist is this: math and science wonks like to tackle a particular part of a problem and then reduce it to a very specific formula (say, E=mc²); while computer programmers tend to write very complicated code so that their programs can do relatively simple but specific tasks (like the thousands of lines of coding needed to create a word processing program so you can type up a sentence like this one). But if you write a very simple and general piece of code that doesn't create something very specific, but instead is designed to generate a lot of variations, then the results can be astoundingly complex. This in turn raises the argument that a simple program is a more powerful tool than a simple formula in terms of reducing the math and science of life to its fundamental roots.

The need for traditional mathematics and science still exists, and conventional formulas might be used within the programs themselves, but what is radical about Wolfram’s thinking is that neither creating a super-complex program or searching for the ultimate, compact mathematical formula is going to solve every problem. Instead, thinking in terms of simple programs and the complex results that can result from running those programs over a long period of time might lead to answers otherwise unattainable.

So while biological scientists have been able to figure out that the make up of all forms of known life can be traced back to what is currently called DNA, and the scientists continue to crack the puzzle of various DNA combinations, in the end no simple formula may ever explain how all of the possible DNA combinations relate to each other; but a program, using known DNA code as it’s base variables, could be written that would generate all DNA combinations, and thus help show us the likelihood of, say, a human developing from the muck instead of a dolphin.

For instance, a formula like E=mc² alone will never explain how a turtle evolved from a microbe, but a program could (theoretically) be written to trace the evolutionary development of the turtle's DNA while also generating the thousands of other possibilities of organisms that might have developed under different circumstances.

Anti-evolutionists that have evolved from simple creationist dogma on to Intelligent Design theory hold forth that Darwin's theory of evolution cannot explain the complexity of the creatures that now exist (especially man), so therefore a "watchmaker" (God) must have designed the basic templates. Wolfram's concept, however, shows that very simple programming code could generate all manner of results. Combine Wolfram's concepts with modern DNA studies and Darwin's concept of survival of the fittest and a more defendable view of evolution begins to emerge.

Wolfram sees his theories as being the “new math”—a math that may one day be used to explain the underlying processes that drive biological, social, and physical systems. Life, the universe, the stock market, music, art, sex, cellphone ringtones, etc.: All traceable back to the results derived from instructions (a.k.a. programs) generating all variations of repeatable processes and formulas under a confined set of conditions.

Of course, that’s just my own, highly inflammable, arguably off-the-mark interpretation of his theories. Look into it for yourself and discover the controversy and insight of Wolfram and his contemporaries (and try not to get distracted by all the claims of plagiarism and "I discovered that first" battles flying back and forth between all these modern thinkers, including Wolfram, that are ready to claim a seat of glory next to Einstein, Aristotle, Newton, et al.)


Related Post:
"The Apocalyptic Battle Between Science, Religion, Republicans, the Environment, and Those Dreaded Neo-Hippies"

Not Related Post: Brian M. Palmer likes indie music, comics, comedy, and Arrested Development (AD). Thus, he is a good guy. Check out his exclusive and amusing interviews with various AD cast members.

Use It: David Harper recommends TheSage, a stupendous Dictionary-Thesaurus freeware program that trumps most related software I've seen, including some of the better dictionary websites and expensive stand-alone programs. Looking at the results, examples, and cross-references TheSage generates, the word "exhaustive" comes to mind -- although it's certainly not exhausting to use.

I also like the more simplistic, fast-loading WordWeb shareware program-- a powerful, international Dictionary-Thesaurus that you can set up to always run in the background (it doesn't use up much of your computer's resources): Highlight any word in any program and then click ctrl-W and boom!, WordWeb pops up with the definition, correct spelling, related words, etc. I use WordWeb all the time, at home and at work.