Monday, March 23, 2009

Forty Winks: The Perils of Pandora

In the waning years of the previous century, I found myself in the midst of a group of highly creative individuals who wished to take comic books beyond the worn out parameters of super heroes and the dreary pretensions of Frank Miller garbage to a universe where any type of story was possible and commercial considerations were not an issue. These people were part of an independent, small press movement. Brave souls who put their time, energy, and money into producing comic books for the sheer joy of creating something that had never existed before.

The comic that I was involved with was called Forty Winks (you can still find copies on eBay for cheap). It told the story of a 10-year-old girl named Pandora who lived with her widowed father. She was an ordinary girl except that she was an "active dreamer," that is, someone who didn't just float passively through her dreams, but could actually control her actions within the Dreamscape. When a mysterious monster begins attacking her in her dreams, she sets out to discover who this monster is and how he can be stopped. Along the way, she enlists the help of a scrappy gang of urchins known as the Smith Street Gang and a Dream Guide named Sam, who shows her how to navigate the tricky and treacherous world of dreams.

The initial adventure of Pandora and the gang ran over four issues beginning in September 1997 and ending in June 1998. A Christmas special and a TV parody issue followed. Forty Winks proved so popular that she appeared in another company's comic book titled, Comics Library International, where she appeared in five issues. The story, known as The Perils of Pandora, followed on the events in FW #1-4 where Pandora is put on trial in the Dreamscape for breaking several dream laws during her previous adventure. As punishment, she is sent on a mission to explore various aspects of the dream world and gather knowledge about how it works. By the time this new storyline started, however, our little group splintered apart and the producers of Comics Library International took over Pandora's story. The last two segments were written and drawn completely without the participation of her original creators. It was an unfortunate end to a promising story.

Almost 10 years later, the world of indy comics is a very different place, thanks to the World Wide Web. Now comics can be produced and presented to a global audience without the expense of printing paper copies and distributing them to whomever will take notice. Forty Winks artist John Peters has been a steady presence in this world of Internet comics for many years now, and he has returned to the story which ended prematurely. Forty Winks: The Perils of Pandora is being serialized on Web Comics Nation. You can take a look at it here.

Since the storyline in CLI was not fully realized as it was originally intended, John is recreating much of the comic and constructing a new ending. John is an amazing artist with a wildly creative mind. Please check it out. I, for one, am certainly looking forward to seeing where he takes little Pandora on this new, old adventure.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Custom Action Figure - Daniel Craig as James Bond

When it was announced that Daniel Craig was the new James Bond, I couldn't understand what all the fuss was about. It seemed like every time a new actor was assigned the role, there was always some kind of buzz in the media about how this person is not right for the part. As a fan of both the novels and the movies, I can't see how anyone can truly claim any expertise on knowing who is or isn't the right person to portray the character.

Many think that Sean Connery is and always shall be the quintessential Bond, probably because he was the first to play the role on film and that's the first impression many have of who Bond was supposed to be. At the time, however, Ian Fleming was extremely disappointed in the choice, and anyone who's read the novels can understand why. In Casino Royale, the first Bond story, Fleming described Bond's features this way:

His grey-blue eyes looked calmly back with a hint of ironical inquiry and the short lock of black hair which would never stay in place subsided to form a thick comma above his right eyebrow. With the thin vertical scar down his right cheek the general effect was faintly piratical.

In the same story, he writes that Bond had "a cruel mouth" and Vesper Lyn mentions that Bond looks a little like Hoagy Carmichael. That's an obscure reference for most of us today, so here's what the singer/songwriter looked like:

Not exactly Sean Connery, I would say. After the first movie came out, Fleming grew to like Connery in the role and even gave Bond a Scottish background in the penultimate Fleming-penned Bond novel, You Only Live Twice. When Roger Moore took over the role, some said that Moore embodied the proper British gentleman aspect of Bond's character, but Bond never struck me that way in the books. Although he could turn on the British charm when he had to, and he did have a certain code of fair play in his otherwise dirty line of work, he was generally a pretty coarse character. I think Timothy Dalton was also a bit too refined for the role, but I didn't really have a problem with the way he played the character.

Of course, Pierce Brosnan was likely the most popular next to Connery. He had that combination of gentlemanly refinement and rugged strength that fan came to expect from the cinematic Bond, but again, not really the literary Bond. So when Daniel Craig took over, I really had no feelings about the choice one way or the other.

"A blond Bond?" many scoffed.

Well, why not. Hair color or eye color really shouldn't be a determining factor. Instead, what I was looking for was whether or not he might be able to bring back some of the coarse manliness of Bond, especially since his first outing as the MI-6 spy was in a movie adaptation of the first novel. Once Casino Royale was in the theatres, all the fuss quickly blew away and the general public loved the new Bond.

My wife and I have gone to see Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace on her respective birthdays, and have enjoyed each movie quite a bit. We're hoping that they keep releasing Bond movies in mid-November so we can keep the birthday tradition going. That's why it was such a kick when, this past Christmas, she presented me with a 1/6ht scale resin headsculpt of Daniel Craig, made by Dale Van Slyke who sells numerous celebrity headsculpts on eBay. I finally got around to creating my Daniel Craig custom figure this weekend.

As per the usual process, I lopped off the head from one of my 12-inch action figures and glued the resin head onto the neck stalk using model glue. Once the glue was dry, I painted the head, occasionally glancing at a picture of Craig on the computer for reference. The sculpt is not a perfect likeness, but just as good as, if not better than, the other Daniel Craig action figures I've seen online. It's a lot cheaper to make your own as well.

After painting the head, I dressed him in a blue pin-striped suit that I bought from Old Joe Infirmary many moons ago. The light grey shirt is also from Old Joe Infirmary, and the black tie came from the old Playing Mantis Green Hornet set made for Captain Action. All my dress shoes were currently being used on other figures, so I found some G.I. Joe boots that, when tucked underneath the pant legs, could pass for black, lace-up shoes.

Without any armaments, my action figure just looks like Fred the insurance salesman, so I tried to find an assault rifle like the one Craig is holding in the poster for Quantum of Solace. I didn't have one that was exactly the same, but I think the one in my photos is fairly close. I also took some shots of him holding a pistol. I could've gone with a Walther PPK, but I think that's so overdone. Frankly, I'm not sure what kind of automatic he's holding here, but it's chunky and cool looking.

Now I have to figure out what I'm going to do with the Christian Bale headsculpt my wife also got me for Christmas. Maybe I can stage a diorama where he's attacking a cinematographer!