Friday, March 13, 2015

Steven Universe

Amethyst the Hothead, Garnet the Tank, Pearl the Know-it-all,
and Steven, the Boy with the Heart of Gold
Last year I saw advertisements on Cartoon Network for a new show called Steven Universe.  I didn't like the art and it looked stupid so I didn't pay it any mind.  But then one day I was watching an artist's stream from her desktop, but instead of drawing, she was watching cartoons.  So the 30+ international viewers of her channel sat and watched cartoons with her.

I swear, neither Asimov, Bradbury, or Clarke ever imagined a technological future as odd as the one that we actually got.  Anyway . . .

So, she was watching Steven Universe.  Now, I respect the woman's art and entertainment choices, so I stuck around and watched this show which was visually displeasing to me.  I figured, well, I thought Adventure Time's art sucked too, and it turned out to be one of my favorite shows ever, so it might as well give it a chance.

Steven Universe is a coming-of-age story about a boy named Steven,  His slacker dad who lives in a psychedelic van, and Steven's three . . . um . . . caretakers who are actually . . . well . . . it gets complicated.  Let's just call them superheros for the moment - Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl.

Stuff that happens in space.
Where Adventure Time is an bizarre romp through D&D and Gamma World, Steven Universe is a game of Champions and Traveller.  Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl are the Crystal Gems that protect humanity by fighting off crazy monsters that pop up on Earth.  Steven is also a Gem who is just beginning his career as a hero at somewhere around 12 years of age, whose superpowers are flaky and unreliable at best.

After the first ten episodes, I decided I liked the quirky show.  By the time the second ten went by, I had decided that Steven Universe was much better than Adventure Time.  The third had some of the best storytelling I've seen.  By the fourth ten I was getting a nagging feeling that Steven Universe wasn't just a simple story - but important literature.  I know that's kind of an odd thing to say about a cartoon aimed at 12-year-olds, but . . . damn.

Throughout the story, Steven experiences the world, learning and growing all of the time.  As he changes, the people around him are effected by his changes, and grow as well.  It's not all good.  Horrific things have happened in the setting's 6000+ year past.  Death is a big, ever-present theme.  Fear drives most of the main characters, and they keep him in the dark about what has happened - and what they did.  But life and growth are also there, as embodied by Steven.

Stuff that happens at the donut shop.
The show is absolutely chock full of wonderful things, and the damn show makes me tear up on a regular basis.

I'm being really vague about a lot of this, I know.  I just don't want to spoil anything for anyone, since the multiple reveals are just fantastic and fascinating . . . an art unto themselves.

The show was created by Rebecca Sugar, who was responsible for several of the best Adventure Time episodes ever, including "Dungeon," It Came from the Nightosphere," "Susan Strong," "Fionna and Cake," "Hot to the Touch," and "Simon & Marcy."  She also writes a lot of songs for the show - and we all know how fun singing along to cartoons is. :)

I do warn you, sexuality is a theme in Steven Universe.  I don't think any of it is bad or inappropriate, but it's definitely there.  One episode made me uncomfortable, but another viewing made it clear it was my own baggage that was the problem, and the whole episode is about what happens when the innocent exuberance of youth slams into the realm of blossoming sexuality and how uncomfortable and confusing that whole thing is.  In retrospect, it's the one of the most fabulous 11 minute story I've ever witnessed.  You'll know it when you see it.

And every frigging episode ties in with every other one in wonderful and unexpected ways.  It's a vibrant world full of vibrant people where things happen and those things matter.  I highly recommend binge watching it.  But do yourself a favor.  Watch the episodes in order. :)

- Ark

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


Here is Kafi.  I don't know where she - or her name - came from.  The deep recesses of my head, I guess.

I've been really depressed about my art this year.  It always seems I'm on the verge of something - understanding something - developing some skill or ability to create more of what I want to create.  But it never materializes, and I stay lashed to some untameable muse who draws through me - and can never draw the same person twice.

I guess that just means I need to practice more. :)

- Ark

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A-Doodle-A-Day is COMPLETE!

Last year I set myself a challenge - to post something artsy every day.  The intention was to get me into the habit of drawing every day, though it had several other benefits.  One was to get me over the fear of exposing work that I didn't think worthy of posting.  The other was to show people that, proportionally, a lot of crap is drawn by every artists for every one good drawing.

Completing the challenge was frustrating at times - and I did sandbag posts a bit - but I drew every day and I am very happy with the results.  I am now done spamming your blogrolls with all this mess now.

So what's next?  Well, nothing so public.  I need to work on anatomy and getting a better handle on 3d-space.  I'll continue to post art, but hopefully there will be more game content as well.

Have a happy New Year!

- Ark

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


So, does miniature painting fit into my A-Doodle-A-Day challenge?  Well . . . sure . . . why not.  I just have one more day left in the year-long challenge anyway - and all I stipulated was that I post something artsy each day.  So there. :)

My son and I have been getting involved in Infinity.  I had been looking around for something to play at the FLGS - perhaps some type of collectible card game - but instead chose something I never thought I'd play - a scifi wargame.

The setting is like . . . um . . . if Ghost in the Shell had a love child with Mass Effect.  Or if Bubblegum Crisis and Appleseed had a threesome with Halo.  The background is massive and rich and crazy and reminds me of a lot of the science fiction campaigns that I've created.  The game came out in 2005 in Spain, and grew out of the developer's own home sci-fi role playing game.

While the background is cool, the mechanics are even cooler.  Unlike other wargame or skirmish games that I've seen, there is always something for each player to do.  It's not MOVE - WAIT - MOVE - WAIT, it's ACT - REACT - ACT - REACT.  If the opposing player runs his trooper around a corner where your dude can see him - BLAM.  Blast him.  It's always busy.  You are always studying a fluid battlefield and acting or reacting.  You get your face down to the board level and check to see if you can get a bead on moving troops all the time.  If you don't notice something - well - that's your bad.

Aside from troopers and shooting, you can deploy hackers to take over the enemy's battlemechs and strafe their own troops, you can release lovable looking koala-bots that run up to soldiers, hug them tight, and blow up, you can race up and down the streets in combat motorcycles, you can send a squad of optically camouflaged high tech ninjas behind the enemy lines, you can have an airdropped werewolf take up a sniper position, you can shoot people with packets of nanowire, you can . . . oh dear . .  . there is a lot. :)

I've decided to start building a Nomad army.  The Nomads are basically Space Gypsies.  They excel in hacking, optical camo, and horrific technological weapons.  Oh, and they have crazy-ass murder-nuns.

My son is working on an Ariadna army.  They are a lost colony that was unlost at some point.  Take Americans, Russians, Frenchmen, and Scots, cook for a hundred years, don't let them advance technologically, but give them some unobtanium that makes bullets that ignore armor, turn half of them into werewolf-like things, then have an loopy AI resurrect William Wallace to lead them.

Anyway, a brand new edition - 3rd - just came out with a very spiffy starter set - Operation: Icestorm.  It doesn't hurt that there are quite a few players already at the FLGS, so this next year should be full of fun skirmishes and lots of superglue on my fingers.

- Ark