Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Secret Agent X9

"But there was somebody I don't want to hurt!
    Who was it?
       I... I can't remember !!"

As gripping as any 1930s movie serial but delivered six days a week, Mondays to Saturdays, Dashiell Hammett's newspaper strip begins by introducing his hero and racing through several plotlines over the first eighty episodes which eventually converge

It is from this point we join the story, when Hammett concentrates on the convoluted hunt by X-9, alias Dexter, for the mysterious criminal mastermind The Top and for the true inheritor of the recently deceased Tarlton Powers' fortune.

Hammett cuts loose with richer characterization and dialogue, admirably assisted by talented artist, Alex Raymond's lush faces and figures, many based on models, to create a sense of realism and glamour. 

Together they bring their cast to life, including rugged, relentless detective Dexter, colorful coward Sydney Carp, and the alluring but ambigous widow Grace Powers.

The story picks up as the conspires with Wily Alfred Hall, her lover...

Read here first 18 pages of "Secret Agent X-9" - it was originally published in July, 1934.

Pagan's Plight (67 MB)
Secret Agent X-9
  (Size: 12 MB)

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Asterios Polyp (An excerpt)

Comic books and graphic novels are now almost synonym words. They have once again captured the public imagination. Comics are not just for kids any more and they've definitely broken out into the larger culture. 

But sadly speaking, many of us have very popular misconceptions about comics and believes writing comics is easy. After all, a look at a comic book page shows that most of the heavy lifting is done by the art. This misconception goes hand-in-hand with another, namely, that all comic book writers do is write the words that go into the word balloons. Both assumptions are dead wrong. The fact of the matter is that as a comic book writer, you are responsible for everything that goes on the page, just as if you were writing in prose. The artist is your partner, not your substitute. Think of writing a comic book as a collaboration with another writer, one to whom you must give very good instructions!

Comic book writing is just as challenging, interesting, difficult, and rewarding as writing a play, a poem, a novel, or a movie. But just as those media have certain rules that proceed from their forms, so, too, do comics. When someone write a comic book, he or she needs to think visually and then need to communicate those visuals in such a way as to spark the artist's imagination to present them the way you see them. 

Few months back, I came across with David Mazzucchelli's Asterios Polyp, a Graphic Novel. It was a fantastic book. An absolutely incredible piece of visual communication and one of the smartest and most rewarding graphic novels of the recent time. A pull-out-all-the-stops package that’s funny, poignant and deep, with panels of thoughtfully shaded images that form a visual novel, a paper movie, and finally, an existential meditation on things that matter to us: religion, art, science, love and memory.”

I greatly enjoyed this book. In fact some of the episodes I've reread multiple times and each time I got a new appreciation for some of the details. It's an enjoyable existential journey through the life of Asterios Polyp, a complex and very realistically rendered human character. He's not there to be the hero or villain, he is presented, quite realistically, as a typical human with foibles, faults, ego and jealously.

Asterios Polyp

The Story:
Asterios, the young “paper architect” was named because none of his designs, however award-winning, have never been built. He meets and falls in love with a vulnerable, hopeful girl named Hana, whom he marries. But we also have the “present” of the comic, Asterios aiming to rebuild his life away from everything he’s know, and maybe try to learn something. 

Asterios himself is an impressively dislikeable person. He is smart and inventive but he’s also hugely egotistical, self-confident and stubborn. It’s obvious that Asterios is of higher than usual intelligence, as evidenced through his childhood love of reading and curiosity about the way things work. 

A well-discussed element of the graphic novel is its duality. Asterios is obsessed with opposites and frequently undermines others with reductive reasoning. The journey of the graphic novel sees Asterios learnt to see things as spheres, or continuum, as opposed to equals and opposites, which allows him a more “rounded” view of life.

Read here one of the excerpts from "Asterios Polyp" - it was originally published in July, 2009.

Asterios Polyp (6 MB)
Asterios Polyp
   (Size: 6 MB)

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Why People Loves Science Fiction and Fantasy?

My first experience with the Sci-Fi movie was, most probably, Star Trek. I remember back in my student life I used to eagerly wait to watch one hour episode of popular "Star Trek" movies on the national TV channel on Sundays.....

Star Trek gallery ships 1719 CONTRARIAN FANBOY

But why people loves science fiction and fantasy anyways?
Most likable answers will be: Sci-Fi comics and movies let us explore the unknown possibilities. With reading of Science fiction and fantasies, people escape out of their own worlds into places and times that do not exist nor ever will. A good reading of an well-written science fiction gives us ultimate interactive experience - because when we read science fiction, our brain begins to build a world from the ground up.

The tales of mystical worlds and improbable technological power appeal many of us, universally. Though Bollywood is the largest movie industry in the world, but sad to say, only a handful top hits of the last four decades have dealt with science fiction themes and/or fantasy. On the other hand, Hollywood's had a long love affair with sci-fi and fantasy. A quick glance into bookstores, television lineups, and upcoming films shows that the futuristic and fantastical is everywhere in American pop culture. 

American Sci-Fi films make lot of their profits abroad, but they under-perform in front of Indian audiences. This isn't to say that there aren't folk tales with magic and mythology in India - of course there are. But Bollywood usually takes quotidian family dramas and imbues them with spectacular tales of love and wealth found-lost-regained amidst the pageantry of choreographed dance pieces. It's a sign that longing for mystery is universal, but the taste for science fiction and fantasy is cultural. For films like Avatar and The Hobbit, foreign sales equal or exceed domestic U.S. sales. But India, the world's ninth-largest economy and second-most populous country, does not even rank in the top 12 foreign markets for the genre.

Science fiction writers have often provided prescient glimpses of future technologies. From the advanced submarine imagined by Jules Verne in his 1870 novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, to the spacecraft described by H.G. Wells in his 1897 novel The War of the Worlds, there are countless examples of science fiction works that have foreshadowed, or even inspired, the development of real technologies. With the advent of motion pictures, science fiction writers’ ideas about what the future might look like could also be visually brought to life on screen.

Here are few science fiction movies that provided amazingly accurate glimpses of future technologies. 

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
Technology: Mobile phone
Star Trek franchise predicted include videophone communications, 3-D printers (replicators), and computer speech recognition. However, perhaps the most iconic Star Trek technology that later became a reality is the handheld communicator.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Technology: Tablet computer
Among all the wondrous technical gadgetry depicted in Stanley Kubrick’s groundbreaking science fiction film is a device that many of us likely own today: the tablet computer. Besides depicting devices that bear an unmistakable resemblance to the tablets we use today, Kubrick’s film also fairly accurately predicted the time period when these devices would appear. Apple’s iPad made its debut in 2010, only nine years after the setting of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

As reported by FOSS Patents, the movie props’ resemblance to Apple’s iPad became enshrined in U.S. federal court records when Samsung cited 2001: A Space Odyssey as prior art against Apple’s iPad design patent claim.

Metropolis (1927)
Technology: Android
In the film, a mad scientist named Rotwang transforms a robot into a doppelgänger of another character named Maria, in order to crush a workers revolt. While today’s androids may not approach the same level of human likeness as Rotwang’s creation, there are plenty of fairly realistic humanoid robots that will take you deep into the uncanny valley. 

Woman in the Moon (1929)
Technology: Space travel
It offers an amazingly prescient depiction of later rocket launches into space, especially considering that the movie was made twenty-eight years before the Soviet Union’s Sputnik 1 launch.

Short Circuit (1986)
Technology: Military robot
While this film’s story about a robot that becomes self-aware after being struck by lightning may not be based on solid science, its depiction of the military’s interest in robots was spot on. In the film, “Number 5,” or “Johnny Five,” is an experimental prototype robot that the government has developed for military applications.

Back to the Future Part II (1989)
Technology: Wearable tech
Back to the Future Part II depicts multiple futuristic technologies. The smart eyewear that Marty McFly’s children are using in the film. Is it a head-mounted virtual reality device like the Oculus Rift, or is it more like Google Glass? 

Minority Report (2002)
Technology: Gesture-based user interface
The film did accurately predict gesture-based user interfaces long before touchscreens and motion-sensing inputs became common.
In the scene, Captain John Anderton — played by Tom Cruise — manipulates images on a computer with dramatic gestures. While most people today don’t operate their smartphones and tablets with exaggerated two-handed gestures, the swipe and pinch-to-zoom motions used by Anderton are essentially the same gestures used to operate touchscreens today.

Total Recall (1990)
Technology: Driverless car
This blockbuster film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger is packed with all sorts of futuristic technologies that have yet to be invented, including machines that can implant false memories and animatronic disguises that sort of work. However, amid all the Martian mayhem, there is also a scene that depicts a technology that is currently being developed by Google: driver-less cars.

Everyone has that feeling of being an outsider at some point in their lives, particularly here in the US, we don't have communities like we used to. A lot of people feel like they don't belong at all. Science Fiction hits on what it's like to go out into an alien environment. For some, change is frightening, and science fiction embraces, encapsulates, and explains that change.

I read science fiction and fantasy because it appeals to my critical thinking - because it's a genre full of ideas and optimism and inspiration.

Amazing Adventure Series
Amazing Adventures

Here are two interesting, old Sci-Fi stories from "Amazing Adventures Series". The first was drawn by Murphy Anderson and Sy Barry (possibly), and the second one is inked by John Giunta

Feel free to download and distribute the stories - enjoy your weekends... 

Amazing Adventures 
(Size: 9 MB)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Rip Kirby - The Chip Faraday Murder (The Official Rip Kirby #1)

"A beautiful woman dies on Rip's doorstep, thrusting him into a killer's web..." 
Returning from military service in the Pacific, scientist and amateur detective Rip Kirby wakes up to the sound of a pistol shot outside his flat before seconds later finding himself clutching a dead girl's body on his doorstep. With the sound of clacking heels and the fact that the girl worked at a reputable model agency as sole clues, a puzzled Rip persuades his friend Honey Dorian to work undercover as the model's replacement - with dramatic consequences...

The former Marine Corps major, Rip Kirby is a scientific detective in the finest traditions of Sherlock Holmes. He possesses a superior intellect and a brilliant wit.

Kirby combines physical violence with worldly wisdom and thorough police procedure to solve difficult cases. He wears glasses, smokes a pipe, plays chess and appreciates both complex music and fine French brandies.

Rip Kirby - The Premiere Story (March, 1946)
Alex Raymond created 'Flash Gordon'' to compete with Buck Rogers. Not stopping there, he went on to create 'Jungle Jimas a rival to Tarzan of the Apes. Raymond also created 'Secret Agent X-9' along with 'Dashiell Hammett' and 'Rip Kirby', a two-fisted but intellectual detective.  Rip Kirby is considered by many to be Raymond's finest effort. It was his last as he dies in an auto accident while still creating the strip. Raymond is considered one of the three greatest comic creators of all time.

Rip Kirby was translated into French, Spanish and many other European languages as well as the in the Asian subcontinent and we all enjoyed Rip Kirby comics all the time. 
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
RK001: The Chip Faraday Murder
Original run in papers: 4 Mar 1946 - 22 Apr 1946
Story & Art: Alex Raymond

Want to travel back to the New York of the 60s and 70s ? Here is your chance... read the gorgeous visuals, engaging characters in this vintage, timeless - the very first (Premiere)  Rip Kirby comics - first published on March 4th, 1946. 

Pagan's Plight (67 MB)
The Official Rip Kirby #1
   (Size: 31.2 MB)