Boom Kids! becomes “kaboom!,” releases a Peanuts graphic novel

Happiness is a Warm PuppyBoom Kids!, the all-ages imprint of Boom! Studios, has now renamed itself “kaboom!” Kaboom! will continue to publish child-friendly titles, including the non-Pixar Disney comics line (the Pixar comics have moved to Disney-owned Marvel Comics).

One of kaboom!’s new titles is a graphic novel adaptation of a new “Peanuts” animated special, “Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown.” This special debuts on DVD March 29, and is based on a series of 1960s era “Peanuts” strips. To that end, Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, etc. in the graphic novel (and animated special) will be drawn reflecting Charles Schulz’s 60s drawing style. The hardcover graphic novel is 80 pages, long, will retail for $20, and is co-written by Stephan Pastis, the creator of comic strip “Pearls Before Swine.”

I imagine this will be a modern version of the old hardcover comic book adaptations of “Peanuts” specials that were produced when I was a kid. Before and during the infancy of home video, reading those hardcover comic adaptations were the main way I was able to enjoy “seeing” those “Peanuts” specials over and over. Since this novel (like those old hardcovers) is an adaption of a pre-existing “Peanuts” special, it also shouldn’t go against Schulz’s final wishes that no new “Peanuts” material be produced.

Comic Book Resources has more information, plus preview pages of the graphic novel, here:

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=31049

Liferea article to appear in newest issue of Ubuntu User magazine

I’ve got another article appearing in the latest issue of “Ubuntu User” magazine, the magazine dedicated to the popular Linux distribution. While the article isn’t available online, issue #8 will be available on newsstands March 11 in North America and April 11 in Australia. Meanwhile, it’s been available for several weeks in Europe.

The article I wrote is about Liferea, an RSS newsreader written for GNOME, the desktop environment used for Ubuntu.

I’m pleased to see more of my writing in print! Of course, I’m working on more ideas to write about…

The metric system in animation

The metric system, the measurement system used by the entire world save the United States (and Myanmar/Burma and Liberia) saw a short-lived promotion in the US during the 70s, as the government made an unsuccessful attempt at converting the country to the metric system. Unfortunately, the conversion efforts didn’t succeed; my guesses why America never went metric:

  • Businesses balked at the cost of converting equipment, etc. to metric.
  • Reagan’s rise to power in the 80s (and the accompanying deregulation craze he brought) killed off government efforts to promote metric.
  • American exceptionalism, plus our stubbornness and indifference (to the point of sometimes being outright hostile) toward how the rest of the world does things, even if it places our country at a disadvantage, or makes a few things more difficult. One example: since US weather reports on TV, radio, and in newspapers are generally only in Imperial units, I wind up having to use Google/etc. to convert temperatures, snowfall amounts, and such to metric units in order to tell my British, Canadian, etc. online friends what the weather here is like. A few websites do offer US weather forecasts in metric units, however.
  • The now-ubiquitous nature of electric calculators and the rise of conversion tools on computers, Google, etc. (and the related ability to measure Imperial units in decimals versus fractions, e.g. “11.7 inches” instead of “11 and 2/3 inches”) removed one of the larger arguments for going metric, that “it’ll be easier for us to convert units and do calculations.” Fine for the 1970s when electronic calculators weren’t as common, but now that anyone can just plug in “18 inches in feet” into Google and get an answer (“1.5 feet”), I think one of the biggest arguments for the US going metric has been removed. At least, unless you work for NASA

Still, remnants of the metric changeover do linger in the United States today. For one, medicines and mouthwash come in metric containers (such as the 1 liter mouthwash bottle I have in my bathroom), as does some items such as dental floss (my floss package states it contains 50 meters of floss). All food and beverage labels here contain metric and Imperial units, with Imperial usually listed first and metric units in parentheses, i.e. “1 lb (454 g)” or “20 fluid ounces (591 ml).” Americans are also used to the now-ubiquitous 2 liter soda bottle, plus the occasional 1- and 3-liter bottles. Water bottles also often come in 500 ml, 700 ml, and 1 L sizes. Finally, nutritional labels on food products use metric units (grams and milligrams), though serving sizes are nearly always listed in cups, fluid ounces or teaspoons/tablespoons.

Animators, of course, have made use of their medium to promote the metric system. One promotional effort is the 1974 short film, “Metric Meets the Inchworm,” where an inchworm with actor Jimmy Durante’s voice and mannerisms tries to find a job that doesn’t use the  system, only to his dismay discover that the whole world’s using it. The film’s cute, especially the inchworm’s dismissals/reactions to seeing his new job using metric units—”I quit; see you later, daddy-o”; “show it to your grandmother, buster”; “I’m long gone—see  ya in the funny papers…”). Of course, the film’s two biggest arguments—that going metric will put the US in step with the rest of the world, and make calculations easier—might be why this film ultimately failed to help convince Americans to convert, since (as noted above) it’s two reasons Americans don’t care about:


Metric Meets The Inchworm (1974) by WackyJacky

In the late 70s, “The Metric Marvels,” a short-lived series of several-minute-long films made by the producers of “Schoolhouse Rock,” also tried to promote the metric system to kids watching Saturday morning cartoons:

Meanwhile, Canada actually went through with their own 70s-era conversion to the metric system. Canada’s animators produced some animated films that tried to relate metric units to Canadians’ daily lives, such as this one with a weird-looking floating head:

Black animated and comic characters: Wyatt Williams (“6Teen”)

Wyatt WilliamsHeading back north of the border for today’s entry, we come to Canadian animated character Wyatt Williams, from Teletoon’s 2000s animated series “6Teen,” a show about a group of six friends and their hijinks at a Mall of America-sized shopping mall.

Wyatt, an African-Canadian youth with a near-addiction to drinking coffee, is portrayed as the group’s most mild-mannered member. With interests including arthouse films, reading, and pursuing his amateur music career (as a guitarist), Wyatt sticks out compared to his male cohorts Jonesy (the egoistical guy who finds a way in each episode to get fired) and Jude (a surfer-dude-accented skateboarder). His best friend among the gang seems to be Nikki, the most cynical member of the group. As a result of all this, Wyatt is usually played as the “straight man” for his wackier cohorts’ antics.

Wyatt’s gotten several recurring plot threads, including ones involving his guitar-playing  and his love life. Over the course of the series, he’s been shown dating several girls (including one who dumped him via a text message).

Wyatt is voiced by Jess Gibbons. In the French Canadian version of the show, Wyatt is renamed “Vincent.”

RIP Dwayne McDuffie

StaticI and the rest of the comics/animation enthusiast world was surprised today by the news that Dwayne McDuffie has died, due to complications from a surgical procedure. Comic Book Resources has this nice summary of McDuffie’s career.

I was introduced to McDuffie’s work through reading the Milestone Comics line of characters when I was in high school, though I preferred Icon and Rocket over Static, not suspecting the latter would become the line’s most successful character. When “Static Shock” came to television, I enjoyed watching Virgil’s animated adventures.

Recently, I’d read some of McDuffie’s thoughts about the comics industry, per his heavy involvement in online venues. One example of his commentary, via satire, is here. Another is this anecdote about Archie’s former attitudes toward interracial dating (as recently as the 90s).

Washington’s Birthday/Presidents’ Day (and George Washington) in cartoons

Peter Cottontail as George Washington(Updated 2/17/13)

Today in these United States is Washington’s Birthday, or “Presidents’ Day” as it’s increasingly called (thanks to advertisers/possibly a push to combine Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays into one generic, days-off-minimizing holiday?). In honor of the country’s first president, mail isn’t delivered, banks are closed, and so forth.

Cartoons don’t seem to make much note of Washington’s Birthday/Presidents’ Day, but there are some instances of it being used as a setting:

Here Comes Peter Cottontail

The early 70s Rankin-Bass special “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” is an Easter special, but involves time-travel to various holidays. Toward the end of the special, we see Peter grow increasingly desperate as he runs low on holidays, and tries to give away his eggs on Washington’s Birthday (dressed as a bunny version of Washington).

The Flintstones

Part of a line of late 70s/early 80s Flintstones primetime TV specials, “The Flintstones’ New Neighbors,” sees the Flintstones and Rubbles gain new neighbors, the Frankenstones, a family of “Munsters”-like monsters headed by patriarch Frank Frankenstone. The plot mostly revolves around Fred loathing his new neighbors as “weirdos,” but by the end of the special (and after the Frankenstones help save Pebbles’ life), he learns to like Frank. Too bad the Frankenstones’ next non-primetime special appearance in 1980′s “The Flintstone Comedy Show” has Fred loathing Frank again… and making matters worse, Frank can’t stand Fred either. After apparently living next door to the Flintstones from Pebbles’ infancy until her teen years, I guess even originally-easy-going Frank couldn’t take the stress of a loudmouthed boor like Fred as a neighbor.

Anyway, the special’s climax mostly revolves around a picnic held on “Washingstone’s Birthday,” a prehistoric holiday Fred has the day off of work for. Apparently the “modern Stone Age” version of the United States had a history reflecting ours as well, down to “Founding (Cave-)Fathers” like “George Washingstone.” The original series did make occasional reference to things such as Bedrock’s “Washingstone Bridge,” while the “Flintstone Frantic” episode featured a cameo by a prehistoric version of President Lyndon B. Johnson. (“Lyndon B. Johnstone?”) I’ll assume Fred got off work earlier in February as well for Lincoln’s Birthday, or whatever his “rock”-pun name is, though a “Pebbles” cereal box I once saw had Fred visiting the “Missing Link Memorial”…

The Simpsons

The fourth season episode “I Love Lisa” sees Springfield Elementary put on a hilarious Presidents’ Day play, with a number about the “mediocre presidents,” then segues to a sketch about Lincoln’s assassination (which Bart manages to alter in his own way). It all wraps up with a sketch featuring Ralph playing George Washington and Lisa playing his wife Martha, Ralph (jilted earlier by Lisa) giving an uncharacteristically excellent performance that moves the audience to tears.

There’s also the second season episode “Two Cars in Every Garage, Three Eyes on Every Fish,” where Mr. Burns runs for Springfield’s mysterious state’s governorship. This exchange between Marge and Homer was a pretty good take on Presidents’ Day:

Marge: Well, leave it to good ol’ Mary Bailey to finally step in and do something about that hideous genetic mutation.
Homer: (snort) Mary Bailey. Well, if I was governor, I’d sure find better things to do with my time.
Marge: Like what?
Homer: Like getting Washington’s Birthday and Lincoln’s Birthday back as separate paid holidays. “President’s Day” (blows a raspberry) What a rip-off!

George Washington appearances

Outside of the holiday, George Washington tends to turn up quite often in animation, via flashbacks, dream sequences, time-travel, history lessons, etc. A few examples of Washington’s animated appearances:

  • Syndicated and PBS educational series “Liberty’s Kids” featured General Washington in various episodes, in stories involving various aspects of the American Revolution.
  • “Peabody’s Improbable History” from “Rocky and Bullwinkle” featured General Washington in two episodes: the first was about Paul Revere’s ride, where Peabody teaches Washington that “famous old hog-call cry” as a way of rallying enough men as troops in “under sixty seconds.” One guess what Peabody’s episode-ending pun was, when Sherman asks if Peabody would call the assembled troops “sixty-second men?” The second was about British General Cornwallis’ surrender to General Washington at the Battle of Yorktown, though focused mainly on Cornwallis’ side of things (he needed Peabody and Sherman’s help in finding the sword he was going to surrender with).
  • Educational cartoon “Histeria!” often featured Washington, who spoke with a parody of comedian Bob Hope’s voice/mannerisms.
  • DC Comics’ funny-animal superhero comic “Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew” occasionally featured the crew visiting, or dealing with threats to, the capital of the “United Species of America,” “Waspington DC.” The 2007 “Final Ark” miniseries featured at one point what I assume is a statue of Earth-C’s first US president, a hornet wearing colonial-era clothes and a powdered wig… “George Waspington?” The original series also had a storyline involving the statue of another historical Earth-C American president, “Abraham Linkidd” (a goat).

Black animated and comic characters: The Falcon

Captain America #117
The Falcon’s first appearance, from “Captain America” #117.

(Updated 7/16/14)

Today’s entry is Marvel hero the Falcon (real name Sam Wilson). The Falcon is noteworthy as American comics’ first African-American superhero (Marvel’s earlier Black Panther is from Africa), and the first one without “Black” in his name. The Falcon first appeared in “Captain America” #117 in 1969, and was created by Stan Lee and Gene Colan.

His origin: a social worker raised in New York, Sam found himself stranded on a deserted island along with Captain America, and wound up being trained by him in becoming a hero. Sam also found himself gaining a psychic connection with a pet hawk he’d befriended (named Redwing), thanks to the actions of Captain America villain the Red Skull. Returning to the mainland, he kept up the persona of the Falcon (later gaining a suit that allows him to fly), and has had adventures to this day, including a long stretch of stories where he was Captain America’s partner/best friend. During the 70s, Cap’s comic was re-titled as “Captain America and the Falcon.”

I left out the 70s retcon (which Wikipedia suggests has mostly been ignored by later writers) that claimed Falcon’s social worker past was a reality rewrite created by the Red Skull’s use of the Cosmic Cube (a reality-distorting device), and that “originally” he was a criminal named “Snap.” A few sites online give a few guesses why they’d retcon him in such a manner, but it all sounds tacky and ill-conceived to me; little wonder why Marvel apparently now mostly ignores this particular retcon.

In July 2014, Marvel announced that Sam would be assuming the role of Captain America. This comes from a storyline where Steve Rogers loses the Super Solder Serum from his body, which causes him to revert to being a physically aged, elderly man and retire from heroics. Sam incorporates the Falcon costume’s flight capacities into his Captain America uniform.

The Falcon’s appeared in various media outside of comics, including the 2000s series “The Super Hero Squad” as one of the main “Squaddies.” There, he has the ability to launch his costume’s “feathers” like projectiles at villains, something his comic counterpart apparently can’t do. On “Super Hero Squad,” the Falcon was voiced by Alimi Ballard, an actor on the TV series “Numb3rs.”

Falcon also has a prominent role in the 2014 film “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” There, he was played by Anthony Mackie.

Comic review: Darkwing Duck #9

Darkwing Duck #9Darkwing Duck #9

Written by: Ian Brill
Art by: James Silvani

This issue starts off by picking up the previous storyline’s plot about Darkwing’s reputation being ruined by the alternate-universe Darkwings running amok. With Launchpad’s help, DW attempts to improve his image. It isn’t long, however, before the main new plot begins: old Darkwing enemy Steelbeak (of sinister spy agency F.O.W.L.) needs Darkwing’s help to stop Steelbeak’s bosses from unleashing upon the Earth the evil threat of… “Duckthulhu.” Yep, Lovecraft references in a comic with a talking duck superhero. While Darkwing, rightfully, distrusts Steelbeak, he decides to go along with him anyway to investigate. Meanwhile, Morgana and Gosalyn are left behind at home, though apparently not for long…

A nice start to the storyline. I look forward to seeing Gos (inevitably) show up next issue.

More random Disney references appear here: Gosalyn’s room is covered with posters of various Disney characters (ranging from Iago from “Aladdin” to King Louie from “The Jungle Book”). The lion statue outside the St. Canard Public Library resembles the lead character from the classic Disney short “Lambert, the Sheepish Lion” (and thus sparing us the 8 billionth “Lion King” reference, much as I like “The Lion King”).

Not related to the story, but to the cover (as shown above): Steelbeak according to that police height chart is 7 feet (213 centimeters) tall?! He didn’t look *that* tall in the TV series to me…

Comic review: Tiny Titans #37

Tiny Titans #37Tiny Titans #37

Written by: Art Baltazar and Franco
Art by: Art Baltazar

This month’s issue features the “Shazam Family” (or “(Captain) Marvel Family” of course, if it weren’t for Marvel Comics trademarking the use of “Marvel” on a comic book cover).

The overall story features Mr. Talky Tawny, the talking tiger, serving as a substitute teacher at the Titans’ school. There’s also various jokes about how the Marvels change into their identities via their magic words, which gets Psimon involved. We also get to see Mister Mind, the “world’s wickedest worm,” discover the existence of Pet Club and want in, which *also* gets Psimon involved.

Freddy in his regular identity is shown with a wheelchair here instead of a crutch (as in older appearances). Freddy also uses a wheelchair in “Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam” (a comic also worked on by “Tiny Titans”‘s creators) and some other modern appearances. Mary here also looks somewhat like her “Magic of Shazam” self.

As in the previous few months’ worth of Johnny DC titles, more Archie digital comic ads appear in this issue.

Black animated and comic characters: John Stewart (“Green Lantern”)

John StewartMoving on in this series (and in time for the upcoming movie this summer), we come to John Stewart, one of Earth’s several Green Lanterns. John Stewart first appeared in “Green Lantern” (vol. 2) #87 in December 1971/January 1972, and was created by Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams.

Stewart (no relation to “The Daily Show” host) was originally selected by the Guardians of Oa as a backup/secondary Green Lantern of Earth, and served as such for years. Stewart’s also been featured on occasion as the main Green Lantern of Earth (during periods where Hal Jordan wasn’t available), and had his own series on occasion (such as “Green Lantern: Mosaic”).

In 2001, John Stewart was chosen as the Green Lantern for the “Justice League” animated series, instead of Hal Jordan or the comics’ main GL of the time, Kyle Rayner. At the time before the show’s debut, there was some online controversy over the choice, as various fans of Kyle (and some of Hal) felt slighted by the decision. Unfortunately, some of the complaints online at the time came off as quite nasty, claiming the producers were “just being politically correct” and only chose Stewart because he’s African-American (despite that Stewart’s a long-running supporting character and GL in his own right). The producers of “Justice League” did state that they wanted to add some ethnic diversity to the otherwise all-Caucasian team (Martian Manhunter aside). As it turned out, the complainers (unsurprisingly) were wrong, and Stewart went on to become one of the most popular characters on “Justice League.”

Post-”Justice League,” Stewart’s still seen in some productions to this day, including being the Green Lantern of choice for the “Super Friends” comic book.