Ten years ago today saw the English launch of a quirky Japanese puzzler, a sleeper hit that would go down as one of the most endearing, original, and gleefully weird gaming stories of the 2000s: Katamari Damacy. Its fever-dream plot has the record-scratching, Freddie Mercury-esque King of All Cosmos destroy the stars in a drunken fugue, and you, the diminutive Prince, must restore them with the Katamari -- a magical sticky ball that snowballs through cluttered environments, rolling up paperclips, flowerpots, cows, buses, houses, skyscrapers, and continents into new constellations. It also boasts one of the most infectiously joyous soundtracks of all time -- an eccentric, richly produced, and incredibly catchy blend of funk, salsa, bossa nova, experimental electronica, J-Pop, swing, lounge, bamboo flute, hair metal, buoyant parade music, soaring children's choirs, Macintalk fanfares, and the finest theme song this side of Super Mario Bros. Called a consumerist critique by sculptor-turned-developer Keita Takahashi (who after one sequel moved on to Glitch, the supremely odd Noby Noby Boy, and playground design), the series has inspired much celebration and thought [2, 3] on its way from budget bin to MoMA exhibit. Look inside for essays, artwork, comics, lyrics, more music, hopes, dreams... my, the internet really is full of things. [more inside]
It's debatable whether the troubled World War Z signals the end of the ongoing zombie craze, but the film that started it all is much more clear: Danny Boyle's bleak, artful cult horror-drama 28 Days Later, which saw its US premiere ten years ago this weekend. From its iconic opening shots of an eerily abandoned London (set to Godspeed You! Black Emperor's brooding post-rock epic "East Hastings") to the frenzied chaos of its climax, Boyle's film -- a dark yet humanist tale of a world eviscerated by a frighteningly contagious epidemic of murderous rage -- reinvented and reinvigorated the genre that Romero built (though many insist its rabid, sprinting berserkers don't really count). And while sequel 28 Weeks Later with its heavyhanded Iraq War allusions failed to live up to the original (despite boasting one of the most viscerally terrifying opening sequences in modern horror), and 28 Months looks increasingly unlikely, there remains a small universe of side content from the film, including music, short films, comics, and inspired-by games. [more inside]
Young Edd Gould always enjoyed drawing comics of himself and his friends. Growing up in the internet age, his doodles evolved into Flash animations of increasing complexity, and in time Edd and pals Tom Ridgewell and Matt Hargreaves teamed up to produce an "Eddsworld" series of online webtoons and comics. At first crude and halting, the group's "eddisodes" progressed from surreal shorts and one-shots into full-fledged productions that pushed the boundaries of amateur web animation, with expressive characters, full soundtracks, complex effects, and a fast-paced, off-kilter sense of humor: MovieMakers - Spares - WTFuture - Rock Bottom - Hammer & Fail (2). At its height, the college co-op was producing shorts for Mitchell & Webb and the UN Climate Change Conference, fielding offers from Paramount and Cartoon Network, and racking up millions of hits on YouTube. Work slowed, however, when Gould was diagnosed with leukemia -- a relatively survivable form, though, and Gould carried on working gamely through his hospital stays. So it came as a shock last week when Matt and Tom announced that Edd had passed away, prompting an outpouring of grief and gratitude from all the fans he'd entertained and inspired in his short 23 years.
Larry Gonick is a veteran American cartoonist best known for his delightful comic-book guides to science and history, many of which have previews online. Chief among them is his long-running Cartoon History of the Universe (later The Cartoon History of the Modern World), a sprawling multi-volume opus documenting everything from the Big Bang to the Bush administration. Published over the course of three decades, it takes a truly global view -- its time-traveling Professor thoroughly explores not only familiar topics like Rome and World War II but the oft-neglected stories of Asia and Africa, blending caricature and myth with careful scholarship (cited by fun illustrated bibliographies) and tackling even the most obscure events with intelligence and wit. This savvy satire carried over to Gonick's Zinn-by-way-of-Pogo chronicle The Cartoon History of the United States, along with a bevy of Cartoon Guides to other topics, including Genetics, Computer Science, Chemistry, Physics, Statistics, The Environment, and (yes!) Sex. Gonick has also maintained a few sideprojects, such as a webcomic look at Chinese invention, assorted math comics (previously), the Muse magazine mainstay Kokopelli & Co. (featuring the shenanigans of his "New Muses"), and more. See also these lengthy interview snippets, linked previously. Want more? Amazon links to the complete oeuvre inside! [more inside]
Romantically Apocalyptic is a morbidly funny webcomic from Russo-Canadian digital artist Vitaly Alexius (interview, gallery). Set in the starkly diaphanous wreckage of post-nuclear Manhattan, it follows an eccentric contingent of Soviet soldiers as they poke through the detritus of the past and contend with the mutants, cultists, aliens, and other horrors that inhabit the ruins. The comic's striking art style is the result of an arduous process, using "Photoshop, live actors, dead actors, sexy assistants, greenscreen, a camera, and a Wacom tablet" to composite "6 years worth of textures: 1 terabyte of stock footage, shot in real abandoned, forgotten places of our world." This multimedia ambition has burgeoned into plans for a community-powered animated/live-action web series (teaser video, animatic, fanart). While waiting for that to come together, be sure to spend some time on Kimmo Lemetti's excellent Gone With the Blastwave (previously), a very similar webcomic project with a more subdued palette that turned out nearly fifty pages of richly-illustrated post-apocalyptic humor before going on indefinite hiatus.
As households across the world quietly deploy presents from St. Nick, Kate Beaton, author of the charming historical webcomic Hark, a Vagrant! (previ ously) remembers the tradition in a bittersweet light. In spite of venerable op-eds (and their animated offspring), such pain moves some to question whether parents should teach their children to believe in Santa Claus at all.
It's a simple story about a responsible owl, trying to raise a curious (human) son and a geeky (human) daughter in their giant treehouse while dealing with his longtime bear buddy (and honey researcher), Steve. Though it debuted, humbly enough, in the Cracked.com forums, Benjamin Driscoll's drolly sweet comic Daisy Owl soon gained a loyal following, earning a regular feature there (courtesy of David Wong) and routinely making the front pages of sites like Digg and Reddit. In March 2009, Driscoll went pro, quitting his job to work on the comic full-time and making Daisy Owl one of the few self-sufficient webcomics on the net. Its quirky, character-driven humor, focused mainly on children, friendship, and families, has earned more than a few comparisons to Calvin and Hobbes, as well as plenty of fan art. Highlights: Basement - Honey - Parenting - Shampoo - Skittle on the Moon - Nightmare - Movie Night - Thrift Store - Classic Dad - Wallpapers