Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Life imitates art. Or not

I don't usually post about the real world because I find it too strange and scary, but I couldn't resist commenting on this:

I was reading this news report about an airplane sighted over Daytona beach towing a black banner with words written in white: "6/6/06 You have been warned". The report goes on to detail the reaction of Terica Washington who saw it and called the FBI.

"I thought it might be terrorists," she said.

Yes, Terica. That's just the kind of despicable thing terrorists would do. Fly banners in the sky announcing the date of their next attack. Next thing you know they'll be sending cryptic clues to the police commissioner. But don't worry honey, you know Batman always solves the puzzle in time and foils their dastardly plot.

Valerian page 9

It's been a while, but here we go again.

L: Tu es gentil de me avoir achetée… smack… Tu sais elle marche!

You are nice to have bought it for me... smack... You know it [walks]!

I can’t work out what marche means here. Nothing I’ve found fits the context.

V: Bah… Frais de mission! Allons voir lā-bas cet attroupement!

Bah... Mission expenses! Let us see over there this crowd!

V: Que se passé-t-il?

What [last it]?

I couldn’t find any kind of translation for passé-t-il that made sense here. Obviously in context Laureline is saying something like “What is it?” but it would be nice to know what she’s actually saying.

Merchant: C’est la première fois que vous venez sur Syrte? Alors regardez bien… Voici l’un des plus célèbres connoisseurs qui, aujourd’hui, accepte de repondre aux questions…

It is the first time that you come to Syrte? Then look at well... Here one of the most famous Adepts who, today, agrees to answer questions...

M: …Tenez, un riche marchand de la planète Flugil vient le consulter.

Hold, a rich merchant of the planet Flugil comes to consult him

Merchant2: Puissant connaisseur! J’invoque de ta magnanimité une réponse ā cette question: vais-je vivre assez vieux pour voir prospérer mon commerce jusqu’ā ce qu’il soit le plus important dans le domaine qui est le mien?

Powerful Adept! I call upon your magnanimity to answer this question: will I live long enough to see my trade thrive through what it is most significant in the field which is mine?

Hmm. That last bit seems a bit mangled.

Caption: Dans le silence de la foule attentive, c’est une voix assourdie, mais aux résonances profondes qui s’impose bientôt

In the silence of the attentive crowd, it is a deafening voice, but with major resonances which is essential soon

S’impose has me confused here.

Adept: Ma réponse est la suivante marchand, tu vas mourir dans cent jours… Rentre sur ta planète si tu veux metre de l’ordre dans tes affaires car ta maladie.. !!

My answer is as follows, merchant, you will die in hundred days... Return to your planet if you want meter of the order in your business because your disease.!!

I assume there’s a colloquial expression I’m missing here.

Caption: Soudain, ā la surprise générale, le connaisseur s’interrompt et…

Suddenly, to general surprise, the Adept stops and...

Adept: Jeune fille! Approche!

Girl! Approach!

Crowd1: Que se passé-t-il?

That annoying passé-t-il again.

Crowd2: Jamais les connoisseurs ne parlent d’eux-mêmes ā des gens du people…

The Adepts never speak to the common people...

Confusion here over ā. It doesn’t seem to be listed at all in the main dictionaries I’m using, and in at least one case (jusqu’ā) it should have been à. Can someone explain what is going on here?

Adept: Approche!!

L: Qui ça … Moi?!

Who, me?

Adept: Oui toi! Oū as-tu trouvé cet objet?

Yes you! Where did you find this object?

That accent again. It has to be (where) because the only alternative seems to be ou (or).

L: Mais… Mais ici! Je viens de l’acheter au marché parce qu’il me plaisait et…

But... But right here! I just bought it at the market because I liked it and...

Adept: Ā quoi sert oe … Bijou?

What use is it? A jewel?

L: à donner l’heure voyons! Il n’y a rien d’extraordinaire à ça!

For telling the time! There is nothing extraordinary with that!

Caption: Ā ces paroles, la foule s’esclaffe autour de Laureline cependant que, sans un mot de plus, le connaisseur se détourne pour rentrer précipitamment au palais…

with these words, the crowd bursts out laughing around Laureline while, without a word, the Adept hurriedly turns away and returns to the palace...

L: Enfin, qu’est-ce que j’ai dit?

What did I say?

V: Tais toi et felons d’ici! Nous avons dû faire une gaffe, mais j’ignore laquelle.

Be quiet and let’s get out of here! We’ve screwed up, but I’m not sure how.

Crowd1: Donner l’heure ah! Ah! Ah!

For telling the time ah! Ah! Ah

Crowd2: Cette fille est folle…

This girl is insane...

Crowd3: Le connaisseur a été blessé par son impertinence, vous avez vu? Il part…

Was the expert offended by her insolence, do you think? He leaves...

I think we are getting the general sense of what's going on here but there are those few odd words and phrases that have me completely stumped. Thoughts, anyone?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Jealous, much?

You know, sometimes I wonder about these two.

Oh no! Jimmy's got all those girls after him. I must rescue him!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Kara's incredible Super-Skirt

One thing that's puzzled me since the new Supergirl first appeared in costume is how she manages to keep her skirt from flying up and giving us a flash of her super knickers.

The thing is that it is a short skirt. A very short skirt. As drawn by Micheal Turner and Ian Churchill it barely covers her bottom anyway, and it is a loose pleated design. And yet it remains modestly glued to as much of her ass as it ever covers even when her cape is cheerfully being blown upwards.

Now I know there is a long tradition of superhero underwear defying physics, generally in the whole area of not getting destroyed. They should build tanks out of the material Bruce Banner uses for pants - it might turn them purple but this would be a small price to pay for something that could withstand the direct blast of an atom bomb.

But I digress. The difference is that not only are these panties are intended to be seen, but they are often clearly visible to people around her. Any cheerleader can tell you that there's a difference between what you wear while doing cartwheels in a short skirt in front of 100,000 people and underwear that you don't plan to share with an audience. Silver age Supergirl was flashing her panties all the time - particularly after she started trying out different costume designs in the 70's.

They were usually blue, if you're interested.

When it was just Turner and Churchill it might be a personal choice of the artist, but now Supergirl is all over the DC universe and being drawn by many different artists. They may not be able to agree on what age she is supposed to be, but the skirt remains stapled to her thighs, so I can only assume it's an editorial decision.

So the question is if the sight of a bikini bottom is so terrifying, why permit this costume design in the first place? Why have this absurd situation where the art has to be carefully arranged so reader can't see the super thong even though characters in the comics are constantly getting an eyeful? Why not give her some shorts like Stargirl? Why not give her any other damn costume design but one where you have to keep coyly hiding bits of it that are clearly visible to anyone behind/below her?


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Hal's Head 2: It's genetic

There's been a lot of speculation about Hal Jordan's legendary clumsiness, but my own researches reveal that it may well be hereditary. In GL #14 Hal's brother Jim gets control of the ring and what happens? The first thing he does is knock himself out, as explained here by his girlfriend Sue Williams, AKA Exposition Girl.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Valerian project (5)

Page 8

…Valerian et Laureline quitient sans encombre l’astroport et se dirigent, mêlés ā d’autres voyageurs, vers la capitale.

... Valerian and Laureline leave the spaceport unnoticed and blend in with other travellers moving towards the capital.

Hang on a sec. Didn't it just say that they landed far away from the spaceport? If it was supposed to mean that they materialised far away and then flew to the spaceport and landed there it's a bit vague. Or did it mean to say that they materialised at an isolated part of the spaceport? That would make more sense. Though if they are supposed to be doing covert reconnaisence, landing at the main spaceport in a craft hugely more advanced than anything else there and then wandering around in their uniforms seems a bit lacking in subtlety to me.

Tout se passé bien pour le moment!

All [se passé] good for the moment!

There are half a dozen meanings of se passé and none of them seem to fit well. Any ideas? From the context I'd guess the meaning of the line would probably be the equivilent of

So far, so good!

Oui… Pas de surprise… La plupart des races sont humanoids, nous pourrons nous perdre dans la foule!

Yes... No great surprise there... The majority of the races are humanoid, so we should be able to lose ourselves in the crowd!

V: Heureusement que l’on rencontre tous les accoutrements possibles! Nous passons inaperçus…

V: Luckily that one meets all the possible getups! We pass unnoticed..

Yeah, I know that line is ugly. I'm still working on it.

L: Quel merveilleux marché! Tiens, l’allée des orfèvres! Allons jeter un coup d’oeil…

L: What a marvellous market! Wait, an alley of goldsmiths! Let's take a quick look...

L: J’ai de l’or sur moi et j’ai vu que c’était une monnaie acceptée ici!

L: I've got some gold and I noticed it was an acceptable currency here!

I'm slightly bemused by all the exclamation points. I know this dates from the early seventies but it's almost reached the stage of "I made a cup of tea!" I can't wait to find out how they denote when someone is really excited/alarmed about something. And isn't it a bit late in the day for them to be working out what is acceptable currency?

V: Oh écoute! Tu ne vas pas commencer ā acheter des tas de choses hein! …enfin

V: Now listen here! Don't you go buying heaps of things!

L: Brrr… Tous ces bijoux qu’on se fixe sur la peau sont superbes, mais je n’ai guère envie de me promener avec ces bestioles sur moi…

L: Brrr... These jewels that you set on the skin are amazing. But I don't like the idea of walking around with little creatures stuck to me...

Would it be stretching it too far to just call them 'skin jewels' here? That first sentence reads so clunky. Does it read so unlike natural dialogue in the french? And if it does, is it appropriate for me to translate it more naturalistically? Should I be improving on the original script, or be doing my best to preserve its faults?

L: Oh Valérian regarde!

L: Oh look, Valérian!

L: Une montre… Elle a l’air tres ancienne avec ces jolies decorations.

L: A watch... These decorations are pretty but it looks so old.

V: Oui… Curieux… On en voit de presque semblables au musée préatomique de Galaxity. Alors, elle te plaît?

V: Yes... Curious... It looks a lot like one I saw in the Galaxity preatomic museum. You like it?

Oh, you just know this is going to be trouble...

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Valerian translation project (4)

So far I've been translating connaisseurs as experts, which is quite reasonable but I don't think it really gives them the kind of identity the context calls for, since it fails to convey any sense that this group is supposed to be mysterious and powerful. After consulting my thesaurus I decided that adepts might be more appropriate. It's still (just about) a valid translation but conveys an undertone of mysticism in english that seems to fit, however I just discovered that there is an excellent and comprehensive entry on Valerian in Wikipedia and the part about this volume calls these guys Authorities. Now I don't know what to call them.

Page 7.

Laureline: Tu peux enregistrer, c'est prêt!

You can record. It's ready.

Valerian: Bien! Salut les enfants! ici Valérian appariel XB982 parti le 23/9/2720 de Galaxity pour le système Syrtien...

Good! Hello children! Valérian here, XB982 left the Galaxity as of 23/9/2720 under way for the Syrtien system...

So it's Valérian after all. No accent on the book covers though. And "Hello children"? Is Valerian being facetious here or is there another possible translation of enfants?

V: Rapport oral numéro quatre. Nous sommes maintenant ā proximité de Syrte et avons récupéré les dernières sondes automatiques terriennes qui ont précédé notre exploration. Les enregistrements du langage syrtien nous ont permis d'apprendre la langue courante sous mémoriseur comme prévu. Nous nous préparons ā effectuer le dernier saut spatio-temporel pour débarquer sur l'astroport de Syrte. Rien de particulier ā signaler pour le moment _ Terminé.

Oral report number four. We are now in the vicinity of Syrte and have recovered the last of the advance probes. The recordings of the syrtian language have enabled us to learn the current language with the memoriser as planned. We are now preparing to make the final space-time jump to Syrte starport. Nothing special to report so far _ report ends.

L: Curieuse impression… Dire que nous allons entrer en contact avec la première grande civilisation dans laquelle la terre n’a joué aucun rôle! Crois-tu qu’il y ait vraiment du danger?

How strange... To think that we will come into contact with the first great civilization which had nothing to do with Earth! Do you believe that there is really danger?

V:Mmm… Je n’en sais trop rien, Laureline! Et puis nous ne sommes que de simples agents du service spatio-temporel. Ce qui compte c’est de savoir si Syrte est dangereuse pour la Terre, ou si elle peut le devenir...

Mmm... I don't know if there's anything to it, Laureline. But then we are only of simple agents of the spatio-temporal service. What counts is to find out if Syrte might pose a danger to Earth now or in the future.
L: Mais tout semble prouver que Syrte n’a pas découvert le saut dans l’espace-temps! Si cette civilisation n’a pas essaimé, c’est que la propulsion interplanétaire y reste classique. Impossible pour les syrtiens de sortir de leur système ā moins de voyager pendant des siècles.

But everything seems to prove that Syrte has not discovered the jump in the space-time! If this civilization has not expanded any further, it is because interplanetary propulsion remains [classique]there. Impossible for the syrtiens to leave their system has less to travel during centuries.
I'm stuck again. I think I can see what is meant here but the words are refusing to make sense. The sense of the line seems to be that if the Syrtians have never left their own system it must be because they only have interplanetary propulsion, but the reason it gives for this escapes me. I can't find a translation of classique here that works. And that last sentence just gives me a headache.

M: Je sais bien! Peut étre n’y a t il aucun risqué et c’est pour cela que nous devons étre discrets. Nous allons débarquer incognito et jouer les tourists…

I know well! It is a risk we cannot afford to take, and for that reason we must be discrete. We will land incognito and play tourists...

Parée pour le dernier saut?

Ready for the last jump?



Et, plongeant dans l’espace temps

And, plunging through space-time...

…l’appareil de Valerian et Laureline vient se matérialiser en un point isolé de l’astroport syrtien…

Valerian and Laureline's machine materializes at a point isolated from the syrtien starport...

Busy, busy

Sorry there hasn't been much in the way of deep philosophical essays on the meaning of Wonder Woman's earrings and general ranting but I've been so busy lately there don't seem enough hours in the day. Heck, I've had issue #4 of Polly & the Pirates for nearly a week now and I haven't got around to reading it yet.

Anyhow, what little spare time and brainpower I have I'm putting in to this Valerian translation because in some bizarre way it's fun, and I want to see what happens next. Normal service will be resumed as soon as we work out what is normal anyway.

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Valerian translation project (3)

Page 6.

Syrte, enfin c'est un immense astroport qui accueille, depuis que les voyages interplanétaires existent, des fusées venues de l'ensemble du système solaire.

Nulle douane, nulle surveilance... On vient sur Syrte-la-Magnifique sans contrainte, on la quitte librement...
Syrte, ultimately a giant starport which, since the coming of space flight, accomodates ships from throughout the entire solar system.

No customs, no surveilance... Anyone may enter Syrte-the-Magnificent without constraint, and leave as easily...
One of those that isn't too hard to make sense of, but which really needs a little tweaking to turn into readable english.

Et les lourds vaisseaux commerciaux, les embarcations légères font toujours paisiblement le trafic entre l'arrière-pays, la capital et l'astroport. poussés par leurs voiles solaires sur cette planète sans vent, les bateaux sont nombreux sur les canaux...
Heavy commercial vessels and the smaller craft traffic peacefully between the provences, their capital and the starport. Powered by solar sails on this planet without wind, the boats are numerous on the canals...
Another one I took slight liberties with, but if my translation is sound then it gets the sense across. I've translated l'arrière-pays (literarly the back-country) as the provences since it seemed to be referring to the countryside beyond the capital city, but I'm not sure if the outer world or the outside world might be better. Hmm.

I can't help feeling it would be less confusing if the capital city had a name that wasn't basically the name of the whole planet with an adjective appended (which sometimes seems to be dropped anyway). The writing is quite confusingly condradictory as it is, what with in one sentence telling us that Syrte is basically one giant starport, and in the next differentiating between the outer world, the capital city, and the starport.

And a planet without wind? Is that even possible if the place has a breathable atmosphere? This is surely hyperbole for the sake of it.

Pourtant, malgré son ancienne té et sa gloire, Syrte n'est plus ce qu'elle était...
Partout des ruines non relevées, des digues effondrées ou des port d'attache ensablés...
However, in spite of its age and glory, Syrte is no longer what it once was... Everywhere is fallen ruins, ploughed up dams or old docks, silted up and useless...
Less sure of this one but the context is harder to read, and I was stumped for a while when the only translation I could find of is T-square or T-piece which doesn't make any sense . Although there is a clear gap it seems more likely that it's not ancienne té but ancienneté, meaning age.

Le palais impérial lui-même est de plus en plus délabré...
The old imperial palace becomes more and more dilapidated...
...Dans la jungle, oū de pauvres pêcheurs poursuivent le dangereux marcyam, gigantesque serpent d'eau ā la peau précieuse...
... In the jungle, the poor fishermen still hunt the dangerous marcyam, a gigantic water snake whose skin is highly prized...
Seuls les inexpugnables temples des connaiseurs tranchent sur la misère ambiante.
Only the impregnable temples of the experts contrast with the surrounding misery.
Dans l'espace, ā quelques années-lumière de Syrte...
In space, only a few light-years from Syrte...
What's that I spy on the distant horizon? Could it be an actual story? Or at least a character or two? Yay!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Valerian translation project (2)

Some people do jigsaw puzzles; I translate french graphic novels into english. It's not that different in some ways. You pick out the bits of each sentence you understand clearly, which are like the corners on a jigsaw, and then you puzzle your way through the rest relying heavily on the context - seeing how the new bits match up with what you have so far. And every so often you get to something that doesn't seem to fit however you rearrange the pieces and you reckon you must have lost a verb down the side of the sofa.

Page 5.

And straight away we are in at the deep end again.

...schamils hypnotiques de la planete Glimius lesquels on senferme pour trouver l'oubli.

...Hypnotic [schamils] of the planet Glimus which one [senferme] to find forgetfulness.

is the best I can do so far. None of the dictionaries I tried included either schamils or senferme so I'm a bit stumped there. Schamils may be a made up name but senferme has to mean something in context.

...Pierres vivantes d'Arphal qui se fixent a la peau pour faire les beaux bijoux.
...The living stones of Arphal that can be set directly into skin and worn as beautiful jewels.
...Rarissimes spiglics telepathes de Bluxte, animaux familiers qui vivent sur la tête de leur maître en lui communiquant leur bonheur toujours égal par transmission de pensée
...The extremely rare telepathic spiglics of Bluxte, animal familiars that live on the head of their master, communicating a constant feeling of happiness via thought transference.
...Métaux rares, mets raffinés étoffes colorées... dans l'enchevêtrement des ruelles de Sytre, une population venue de toutes les planètes, achète, vend, vole parfois...
...Rare metals, refined [mets] colourful fabrics... in the tangled lanes of Sytre, a population drawn from every planet buys, sells, and occasionally steals.

Only translation I can find for mets is dish, which doesn't seem right.

...On vient aussi sur Syrte pour consulter les connaiseurs, médecins ducorps et devins des âmes, impénétrables derrière leur masque de metal.
...Visitors also come to Syrte to consult the great experts, doctors of the body and soothsayers of the heart, impenetrable behind metal masks.
...leur puissance, dit-on, ne fait que s'accroître, et certains pensent qu'ils sont peut-étre denvenues les véritables maîtres de syrte. Peu nombreux, les connaisseurs sont les hôtes les plus respectés et surtout les plus craints du palais...
...their power, say some, does nothing but increase, and others think that they might be [denvenus] the true masters of Syrte. Though small in number, the experts are the both the most respected and most feared inhabitants of the palace...
Once again I couldn't find a translation for denvenus, and I'm a little dubious about my translation of that last sentence, particularly having used inhabitants where the original is hosts, but it seemed to make the most sense.

...A moins qu'ils ne vivent dans des temples-fortresses perdus dans la jungle Syrtienne

...Except when they live in temple-fortresses lost in the Syrtienne jungle.
Another line I'm a bit dubious about but literally it's "unless they don't live in" which makes no sense to me.

Only one more page of this and we might actually get to Valerian and Laureline.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


I went to see the Dave McKean/Neil Gaiman movie Mirrormask tonight and had been intending to review it but the pub I went to afterwards for a quiet drink was hosting a band that performed Kinks covers in the style of Led Zeppelin. I'm not sure which was the more surreal experience.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Five songs I'm obsessed with this week

For no particular reason I felt like sharing the soundtrack to my life...

Pink - Eighteen Wheeler
Ookla the Mok - Stop Talking about comic books or I'll Kill You
K. T. Tunstall - Other Side of the World
Shinohara Tomoe - Ultra Relax
Concrete Blonde - Ghost Riders in the Sky

The Valerian translation project (1)

My copy of Valerian volume 2: L'Empire des Mille Planetes (Empire of a Thousand Planets) arrived today, so my attempt to translate it commences.

I was worried that I'd look at the first page and it would be complete gibberish to me, but in fact I was pleasantly surprised by how much of it I could read, even though my program of building on the french I learned at school is only up to lesson 6 (of 90) of Pimsleur's Learn French course, and I don't expect it to include words like spatio-temporel.

Even so, the words that I don't get in the sentances are usually the important ones, so I'm going to have to look a lot of it up. Looking around at what is available I decided first port of call would be Google's automatic translation service. Here's the text of the opening page in french:

Noirs espaces infinis de l'univers, soleils brulants eclairant des terres in connues. Combien de milliards de civilisations d'etres vivants pouvez-vous abriter?

And Google's translation:

Blacks infinite spaces of the universe, suns brulants lighting of the grounds in known. How many billion civilizations alive beings can you shelter?

Not bad for a machine, although when there are several likely meanings to a word the choice you get seems pretty random. The only word it rejects completely is brulant, and it doesn't even get brûler (meaning to burn) without the accent.

So correcting the mistakes and rearranging it into something that makes sense in english, what do we get? How about:

The black infinite spaces of the universe, punctuated by the light of stars that brighten the known worlds. How many billion living civilisations do you shelter?

Could be better, but I think it gets the sense across.

On to page 2. Well, page 4 actually, since it is numbered from the title page.

To start with I was flying along, only needing to check the occasional word here or there.

In a remote galaxy one planet forms the centre of an immense solar system.
It is Syrte the Magnificent, capital of the Empire of a Thousand Planets.
Syrte, with its fabulous imperial palace, houses the last descendent of a dynasty which, since the dawn of time, has extended its influence over all of the planets of the system.

Only the accredited ambassadors of the empire and the prince's favourites may penetrate the heavily guarded palace.

But then I ran into a problem.

Le peuple qui souvent se presse au pied l'edifice ne peut qu'entendre les echos de fetes mysteriouses.

Which Google tells me means:

the people which often press with the foot the building can only hear the echoes of fetes mysteriouses.

I don't get this. Who are the people referred to here and why/how are they listening to the echoes of mysterious fate by pressing their feet against the building? Is it a mistranslation or a colloquialism that is zooming over my head?

Moving on...

But Syrte is the great marketplace of the empire. In the souks and along the canals one can find anything one's heart desires. The merchants of the empire scour the outer worlds to bring back innumerable wonders.

That wasn't so hard.

Now if only someone a little more gifted with la francais can help me with the whole foot pressing business I can continue.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Jumping off point

When comics companies pull an all-change on us and give a comic a new creative team or a big retcon, they like to tout this as a good 'jumping-on point' for new readers. In order to make this a good place to start they often dump a lot of the character, cast, plot and sub-plot of previous issues and start the comic going in a completely new direction. The corollary they often seem to forget is that if you were enjoying the previous incarnation of the comic then this also makes a perfect jumping-off point for the established readership.

This becomes particularly relevent right now as DC gives a number of their titles a major overhaul for a post-Crisis world, even though Crisis hasn't finished yet. Are the guys at DC as sick of the whole thing as we are that they are so keen to move onto the next phase? Starting the post-Crisis comics while the story is still in progress feels a bit like when you find easter eggs in the stores before christmas.

So while you are checking out the new directions for Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman or Hawkmangirl, how many titles that you previously read will you now be expecting to drop as the series you have enjoyed until now is concluded, and all the stuff you liked about it is pushed aside to make way for the shiny new model? And what is the point of getting people interested in one title while alienating them from another? Can't they just tell good stories within established continuity that will attract new readers while keeping the established ones?

And one more thing. While they are constructing elaborate ways of gutting established titles and slapping on a fresh coat of paint to pull in new readers, how is it that when they actually have a new original series they don't use the all time most successful jumping on point of beginning the story with issue #1? Take for example Supergirl, or any of the new Crisis spinnoffs: if you knew nothing about them but picked up the first issue would you find a good jumping on point? No, you'd find yourself in the middle of some story that started in some whole other comic. Would you then go hunting for those other comics which featured characters you knew nothing about having stories that you weren't interested in simply in order to find out what the hell was going on with this new comic that you picked up because it was a first issue?

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Supergirl's scary bits made safe for public viewing

I've seen posts in both Dave's Long Box and Tom The Dog on the subject of what Tom gives the delightful name of Editorial Swimwear so my bullshit detector was primed for when I saw this picture in Supergirl #5.

Now this story doesn't strictly require a double page nudie shot of Supergirl, and obviously for the intended market they couldn't ever have considered doing one that didn't have that clumsy old device of hiding her scary parts by placing objects in front of them, and if you look close it is possible to see that the artist has drawn threads of very lumpy looking smoke and cunningly hung drapery to protect us from the terrifying sight of female bits. So what's with the heavy airbrush on top of this, so clumsily obvious because it is seen nowhere else on the page and doesn't fit the style of the rest of the art?

I can only guess that editorial saw the original version and panicked that you could almost see some of the wrong sort of skin and opted for some last minute butchery of the artwork.

And yet somehow they left in the dodgy explanation Zor-El gives his teenage daughter for why she needs to get naked, that odd expression on his face as he stares down at her breasts while removing the last of her clothing, and her delighted response.

Is anyone else seeing a mixed message here?

Friday, March 03, 2006

Pretentious, moi?

I've always considered it a mark of pretentious intellectual oneupmanship when someone says that they are reading whatever the text under discussion might be in the original language it was written in. In most circumstances where this is applied to philosophy, literature, religious texts, or whatever it might be there are usually perfectly good translations available that are entirely adequate for most purposes (I make an exception for poetry here; while a translation might have a beauty of its own, it cannot be the same as the original).

So it is with a degree of selfconsciousness that I find myself brushing up my school french in order to read the series of french Valerian graphic novels. But my patience has run out.
Some years ago four volumes were released in english that gave a taste of this fun and wonderfully drawn series, and now after years of waiting for more what we get is Valerian: The New Future Trilogy. Now to be a little pedantic I have to point out that this is not in fact a trilogy in any sense of the word, just 3 self-contained sequential episodes of the much longer series. But the really frustrating thing is that after such a long wait to see this series the translation is so poor.

And by poor, I mean it's so bad that I am not only saying "I could do better than this crap" but I am actually going out and buying one of the untranslated volumes and doing so. I had been intending to start at the beginning and work my way through in chronological sequence, but due to a slight confusion I ended up getting volume 2 on ebay instead of volume 1. Ah well, if I get anywhere with the project I can always do that one next. After all I've already read volumes 4, 5, 7, 10, 13, 14, & 15.

I'm just waiting for the book to be delivered, but I'll let you know how I get on. In the meantime I'll maybe review the volumes that have been translated. I already did a brief piece on The New Future trilogy over at Comics Should Be Good, but it's a good excuse to reread the older books.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


People sometimes look at you a bit odd if you admit you read comics, but I have a worse confession; I collect dolls. No, not action figures (which seem to be a legitimate form among comic fans, but dolls. And not just any dolls; I collect goth dollies.

Actually I used to collect all kinds of cool toys that I would have died for when I was a kid, but at some point I felt the need to pack them all up in a box and stuck them in the closet. But my monitor wasn't the same without a cool toy sitting on it, and when I saw these gorgeous goth dollies I had to have one. Now I just bought my seventh (selling off some of my old cool toys to pay for her) and my computer area is starting to look like it's inhabited by a small goth girl gang.

But how does this relate to comics, I hear you ask? Well doll collectors are worse than comic collectors. In the same way that the more obsessive comic collectors buy comics encased in plastic that they cannot ever read, doll collectors buy dolls and never take them out of their boxes. This whole frame of mind upsets me in some strange way that it's taken me a long while to pin down, and I think what disturbs me is that if you buy something and never touch it, can you really say you own it, or are you just acting as a caretaker for it for a while? Comics are made to be read, dolls are made to be played with. The BeGoth dollies have improved tremendously in construction since they started and the newer ones can be posed in all kinds of ways. But what's the point if they are being bought by people who never take them out of the box? They might as well be solid plastic.

Are these people just packaging fans? Do they take esthetic pleasure from the packaging and feel that this is an artform in itself, or do they see the dolls as artworks in their own right (they are very nice sculptures, it's true) and that the best way to display them is in the original packaging? Or are they playing investor, sitting there calculating how much profit they would hypothetically make if they ever actually sold them (which of course they wouldn't ever do)? I guess that for the people that like that sort of thing, that's the sort of thing they like.

Me, I buy my dollies to play with (though I haven't quite reached the point of having goth dolly tea parties), even when they are from a limited edition of 500. And if that makes the packaging fans whimper then they can console themselves with the fact that this makes one less pristine, mint condition, never removed from box doll, and thus gives that tiny bit more value to the other 499.