Sunday, July 15, 2007

Northern Popsicle Guardians

The quest to watch every Samurai movie ever is going well. I've been on a good streak the past couple weeks after a long lapse just being super busy and kinda lazy.

I finished all the Lone Wolf & Cub features, and am probably just going to opt out of the Shogun Assassin double threat being that all the source materiel is from the series. My favorite was the fourth installment, Baby Cart in Peril. It opens with a close up of a tattooed set of breasts that leads into a female samurai chopping up a bunch of retainer cogs of this one lord. There's also a samurai that somehow lights his sword on fire.

After that I caught the last two Akira Kurosawa samurai films I hadn't seen: Kagemusha and Ran. Kagemusha has one of the most beautiful and ridiculous dream sequences I can remember. I liked that movie a LOT, the colors in particular. VERY inspiring use of color. If I'm ever in a position to be using color in my storytelling career, I think I'll spend a few weeks studying Kagemusha. Ran is a retelling of King Lear. I didn't like it as much as Kuroawa's Throne of Blood, a retelling of Macbeth. Maybe I just prefer Macbeth in general, but I'm not positive. It's been so long since I read it last. I liked Ran, but it's not even in my top ten of Kurosawa's films. It's really creepy though, in a lot of ways.

I just watched The Twilight Samurai, which was surprising. It's about this low level Samurai who's wife dies of illness and he's left alone to cope with raising two young daughters and the care taking of his old senile moms. However, it's no thing, as he's a pretty passive guy, and has never really been into ladder climbing or maybe has lost the components that drive a dude to want to stick a sword into a motherfucker. He's satisfied and content to just count dried fish and do his piece work on the side. Then he has to duel to defend the honor of his best friend's sister, and it's revealed that he's actually a pretty tricky bad ass. The story unfolds and he eventually has to chose between killing some other guy and leaving his samurai status in shame. Anyway, the movie examines some of the more human aspects of the Samurai. It's not all just wandering around chopping up enemies or posturing and face saving. There are bills to pay and little girls to feed and sometimes the simple pleasures are more valuable than having a high reputation or going out drinkin' with the other samurai.

Red Lion is actually a really funny movie. It starts Toshiro Mafune as this farmer turned soldier taking on the task of going back to his home town to bring word of the impending Imperial Army's arrival, only to find that the same evil thug goons that were making the peasants lives miserable when he was literally thrown out of town ten years past,/ are still making everybody's life miserable and worse. He liberates the whores and cancels all debts and proclaims the taxes will be halved and becomes the impromptu leader of a small band of farmers and prostitutes that wrestle the political sway away from the deputy and his bumbling crew. It's all pretty comedic (no small part of which due to the giant red military wig worn by Mifune) until the end when the tragedy of being double crossed by the imperials ensues. It ends pretty badly, but in a very inspiring way. I was really into this movie, so I drew this:

Andrew mentioned in the comments a few posts back something about the difference between black and white and color art... and I sorta feel like, shit, like I never really wanted to get into color because it was just so vast and the infinite possibilities. How every decision has multitudes of consequences and it's just this huge huge thing when you think about it too much. So I stuck with black and white and the plan was to master that with some level of capability before even venturing into the realms of color. Also, printing b/w is insanely cheaper. Well, anyway, it didn't work. I haven't mastered black and white, and here I am dipping my toes into color and I feel insane, but I think I'm ADDICTED to color now. Everything I draw I think in terms of how I would color it, or what it would even look like with colors. This piece I knew I was going to color because of the RED FUCKING WIG. Still, it wouldn't look as good in b/w.

Here's a list of all the Samurai movies I've seen so far.

Sword of Doom
Samurai Rebellion
Sword of The Beast
Hari Kiri
Samurai Saga
Three Outlaw Samurai
Bandits Vs. Samurai Squadron
Seven Samurai
Hidden Fortress
Samurai Spy
Shogun Samurai
Throne of Blood
Red Lion
Samurai Assassin
Incident at Blood Pass
Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo
Samurai Banners
Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto
Samurai II: Duel at Ichijon Temple
Samurai III: Duel at Gamryu Island
Hanzo The Razor
Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance
Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades
Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at The River Styx
Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril
Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in The Land of Demons
Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell
The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi (2003)
Samurai Fiction
Ronin Gai
Shingenshu: Assassins of Honor
The Twilight Samurai

Some other notes of interest:

Paul Pope did a cover and wrote this piece for the third issue of the apparently amazing LVHRD, a magazine you can download the pdf of here: LVHRD MGZN #3

I'm not sure how old this is, probably pretty fucking old, but the other day while I was ordering my second set of Jordan Crane's Uptight All Night post cards over at, there's a pdf available for download called "Reproguide". It's a guide to reproduction. It's pretty cool, and informative and like I said it seems maybe old as fuck, it contains some good tips and tricks for making printed things. Also, the Uptight comic and those post cards are also really great great buys.

Ivan Brunetti's Misery Loves Comedy has completely blown my mind.

Speaking of Samurai movies, Eric Skillman posted the design process of the Criderion REBEL SAMURAI box set over on his blog: Cozy Lummox.

I think that's it for today. Shit, I hope that's it for today.

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