This entry brought to you by the Wacom Tablet ™

My son loves the Justice League like you wouldn’t believe.  So one of the “father and son bonding activities” we do is take extreme close-up photos of his 4.5-inch Justice League collection.  Here’s one such image.

To get myself used to drawing with the Wacom tablet, I put this image into Photoshop, added a “new layer” and simply traced over it with the Wacom tablet. There’s a trick to getting used to the stylus, since you’re not drawing directly to paper.  There’s a weird hand-eye thing that you have to acclimate to.

To give it the feeling of a spontaneous drawing, I limited my “tools” to the Photoshop “pencil” tool and kept it at the same pixel-breadth throughout.  That gave me the same limitation as though I had only a piece of paper and, say, a warm, fat grease pencil (which is exactly what the stylus feels like on the tablet surface.  I also tried to limit the amount of erasure and keep myself to the kind of marks I would make if I were “live” in art class instead of working with an infinitely malleable digital artwork.

When I felt like the drawing was done, I saved only the top layer and voila!  Hawkgirl!

Click for larger view.  For those blessed with Firefox, MUCH larger view.

And, using the same technique, here is ol’ gloomy-puss himself, Martian Manhunter:

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Venture Bros: Victor. Echo. November.

Here’s my own attempt to fix Triana’s face. Automatoid gave it a good try but stopped at her eyeball.  It is also her brow that needs to be fixed. He is anal but I am analler.

Now, if he will be so kind as to instruct me as to how to put a jpeg into a comment…

Meanwhile, there is a stunning new episode of The Venture Bros. to discuss.

My local cable company lists the programming information of “Victor. Echo. November.” as “Dr. Girlfriend and The Phantom Limb go on a double date with The Monarch and a girl he met on the internet. New.”

Understatement of the year. Outside of the context of actually seeing the show, that reads like the word salad of a man with advanced Alzheimer’s.

Poor Triana. She loses everybody she cares about to this insanity. She’s the only pure character on the show, the only one who refuses to live in a state of arrested adolescence. Or hasn’t figured out that life is more fun that way. Which makes it especially ironic that she gets dating advice from Dr. Orpheus.

And then her face melts.

This episode does the best job yet of mixing together the mundane and exotic, with a plot simultaneously so complex and static that when Brock showed up in Dr. Venture’s lounge, naked, covered in blood and holding a severed head, it took me a moment to figure out what was going on.

The voice work on the show continues to astonish, predictably along thematic lines, taking the exoticism of the characters and welding it to the mundanity of their emotional lives. Mr. Urbaniak’s takes on Dr. Venture as the superscientist who is also a clueless emotional dork and Phantom Limb as a brilliant sophisticate who dresses in a purple leotard, both voices playing against the absurdity of the situation to arrive at rich characters in their own rights. Mr. McCulloch as The Monarch becomes more and more subtle as the layers of his personality get stripped away. In this episode he almost trades places with Dr. Girlfriend in terms of self-awareness, realizing how idiotic he looks while at the same time unable to give up his dream of supervillainy. We’ve come so far from the image of the Monarch masturbating while watching Dr. Girlfriend pretend to woo Dr. Venture. But it’s Patrick Warburton as Brock that really makes my jaw drop week after week, adding impressive depth and nuance to what could have easily been a standard Warburton beefcake part. I’ve always enjoyed his work (I’m one of the few adults who enjoyed The Emperor’s New Groove) but the way he consistently plays past the character’s brutality to hit at something more human and, well, caring, continues to touch me in ways I’ve never been touched before by a heartless assassin. And Ms. Nina Hellman as the new teenage supervillain is a beguiling, subtle creation light-years ahead from the cameos she’s delivered heretofore. 

Indeed, it’s her character who casts a certain light not just on the absurd world of The Venture Bros but on our own as well.  She’s already living in a state of arrested adolescence (the character, not Ms. Hellman), it’s just one beginning now instead of in 1965 so it looks relatively normal to us.  Our own world routinely offers teenagers the chance to remain teenagers for the rest of their lives; The Monarch and his Henchmen are only the most extreme examples of it.  The reason Dr. Girlfriend continues to beguile is that she is smart enough to do without all this supervillain nonsense, but another part of her continues to put on the outfits and date the costume-clad losers because, well, probably because it makes her feel sexy. 

In a way the whole show is about arrested adolescence, with each character presenting their own take on the concept, and that includes Mr. Brisby.  Hank and Dean are the most clinical and literal of Team Venture, being seemingly unable to make it out of adolescence alive.  Dr. Venture’s more mature self literally made its break from his body to go live on Spider-Skull Island (or is Jonas his less mature self, living his playboy lifestyle?).  Phantom Limb may be a sophisticate, dealing in bureaucracy and insurance and masterpieces of Western art, but in a way there’s more than a touch of Felix Unger in him, a fuss-budget who uses his sophistication to hold the world at arm’s length so that he doesn’t have to deal with the messier aspects of adult life, like maintaining a stable relationship or taking responsibility for his actions.

Speaking of which, of the stories offered this episode for the Phantom Limb’s origin, I hope Hank’s is the real one.

It’s this quality that makes Venture Bros stand out among the typically moronic Adult Swim block, critiquing the very quality the block tries to promote.

A couple of weeks ago I was discussing Adult Swim with a middle-aged friend of mine, and we got on the subject of Aqua Teen Hunger Force.  I mentioned that I had tried to watch it recently and couldn’t get through a whole episode.  My friend shrugged and said “Well, my developmentally disabled teenage sons like it.”  And I laughed and then remembered that my friend actually has two developmentally disabled sons.

Speaking of arrested adolescence, I couldn’t help giving Triana’s face another try.  This time I shifted all of her features to the right, making it more of a three-quarter profile.  I’m learning Photoshop!

And, unable to leave well-enough alone, making her a little more anatomically correct and giving her a cheekbone.  I’ll be a 10-year-old Korean boy yet!

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