Bottom of the Ninth
This week on the train I read the first issue of Bottom of the Ninth, an animated graphic novel from Iron Man storyboard artist, Ryan Woodward. This is the first book of its kind (I use the word ‘book’, technically it’s really an app) that integrates 2D and 3D animation, interactivity and sound with traditional comic book story telling…I think the trailer can probably explain it best.
Ryan Woodward is the same animator/artist who created the beautiful short animation Thought of You, which I’ve seen about fifty times since discovering it on YouTube. I am such a fan of Woodward’s art I was keen to read Bottom of the Ninth, despite knowing nothing about baseball.
I shouldn’t have worried, however, because knowledge of baseball isn’t crucial to following the first issue. Bottom of the Ninth is set in the future (2172) and focuses the sport of “New Baseball”, an artificial gravity enhanced version of the traditional game. It follows the struggle of Candy Cunningham as she faces rival batters and a disgruntled crowd who have never seen a girl pitch before.
I’m not going to talk about the story here, because it doesn’t really get underway in this issue. This is a prologue, but it would have been nice to get to know the main character in some more depth. We don’t find out that much about Candy, other than the fact she is a woman trying to play a man’s game (like Leela in the blurnsball championship). I’m looking forward to issue 2, to see the character develop and the story unravel, but I have a feeling that this is one of those books that is best enjoyed in a single sitting.
The art in this book, the overall design in fact, is stunning—Bottom of the Ninth is full of the same sepia tones as Thought of You, which Woodward uses here to add a sense of nostalgia to the future. Incidentally, if the sound clips are any indicator, the sound of the future is the sound of the 1940s.
I realise that this is new way of presenting comics, and that you would expect there to be already a lot more happening visually than in an ordinary comic book or graphic novel (I know, duh), but the 3D animation used in some of the panels was a step to far for me. Unlike the 2D animation, which seemed to belong on the page, the 3D sequences were distracting and pulled me out of story. Weirdly, I didn’t feel that way about the 3D art…The shot of Tao Stadium is stunning and well worth the effort that has gone into designing it.
Bottom of the Ninth is available for download from the app store (I read it on the ipad, and it looked great), or you can find out more information about the book from www.bottom-of-the-ninth.com.
Kid Koala is a scratch DJ. He has toured with the likes of Radiohead, Jack Johnson and the Beastie Boys, collaborated with the Gorillaz and created music for films (including Sean of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World), as well as composing for the National Film Board of Canada and Cartoon Network. But I am not here to impress with my knowledge of the Canadian music scene.
Kid Koala (a.k.a. Eric San) is also an accomplished graphic novelist. His first book, Nufonia Must Fall, was published in 2003 and his latest project, Space Cadet was published last summer.
Space Cadet is the moving story of a guardian robot that looks after a sweet little astronaut, and what happens to him after she leaves space school to embark on her first away mission.
It’s a lovely story, but what really makes this book special is the artwork. Rather than being pencilled and inked on paper or in photoshop, each page of Space Cadet is drawn on scratchboard—like the stuff you get in the ‘Create your own etching of a tiger cub’ kits. The means that each page has a wonderful illuminated quality, even though the illustration style is relatively simple.
Included inside the cover for Space Cadet is a soundtrack to accompany the story, which I listened to it on my first read through. The crackly, warm music, combined with the monochrome artwork enhanced the nostalgic mood of the story, and at times made me feel like I was watching an old black and white film.
The one problem I encountered with the music was that I wasn’t very good at fitting my reading speed to the pace of the soundtrack. The length of the tracks didn’t really correspond to any certain number of pages; some sections were 2 pages long and had a 3-minute track accompanying them, whereas other sections were 10 pages long but only had a 1-minute track to go with them. This meant I either finished a section of pages too soon (and had to skip ahead) or had to rewind while I finished reading.
But don’t let my struggles with the soundtrack put you off. This is a wonderful book, from a talented creator with a clear vision of the story that he is trying to tell.
Studio Ghibli Nisshin Commercial
I was looking for a commercial for the new studio Ghibli film, but found this instead. It was a nice surprise.
The Girl and the Fox
Seriously pretty silent animation from the production company Base14 and Tyler Kupferer. Telling the story of a young girl who must hunt down a mysterious fox that has been killing her family’s livestock, The Girl and The Fox reminded me of the fox sprits that are found so often in japanese fairy tales.
The quality of this animation is all the more impressive considering that Kupferer directed this as part of his college course.
This week I watched Thor: Tales from Asgard, a straight-to-video animation from Marvel, which follows young Thor and Loki and the Warriors Three in an adventure against the frost giants.
Written by X-men evolution scribe Greg Johnson, Thor: Tales from Asgard begins with the young demi-god training against his father’s warriors in a public arena. When Thor discovers that his opponents are letting him win, he decides to prove his real worth as a warrior by finding the Sword of Sutur. Knowing his father will never let him go, Thor stows away with Loki on a boat with the Warriors Three in order to pursue his quest. Things do not go to plan, however, when the first stop the Warriors Three make is at the local pub.
I hoped this was going to be a good introduction to the main characters of the Thor world before I work through the Secret Invasion and Thor 600 comics that Jay has recommended, and I really enjoyed it. Some of the voice acting is a little hit and miss, but like all of the work that Lionsgate do with Marvel, the animation and the art more that make up for it.
Definitely a nice way to pass a rainy jubilee afternoon, if you don’t fancy watching Rolf Harris.
Beyond (The Animatrix)
ITV has been showing The Matrix this week, so I thought I’d post a link to this brilliant animated short from The Animatrix.
Beyond is written and directed by Koji Morimoto, and is set somewhere in between the first and second installments of the trilogy. It ALWAYS makes me want to move back to Japan and get a cat, every single time I see it.
Dragon (Sucker Punch Animated Short)
One of four animated short films from Sucker Punch director Zack Snyder and animator Ben Hibon. This one is my favourite!