Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Well, those of you sick to death of hearing about ZOMBAMA nonsense may as well tune out now. I'm heading down to Sunny Sarasota Florida later this week to help out with the second print run of my ZOMBAMA: BRAINS! shirts. About half of the planned run has already been claimed and paid for, so if you want to ensure yourself one of these puppies, contact me asap and I'll send you a paypal invoice and ship it to you immediately upon my return with the booty!

There are several other factors contributing to my trip down there. First and foremost is a driving need to just get the heck out of town for a few days and leave my troubles behind. I won't elaborate on that, but I need desperately to get my mind off "things" here, and this trip should do the trick. I need to learn more about the screenprinting procees itself, and actually participate in it, because it's obviously something I'm very interested in, and I feel I should know as much as possible about it considering shirt design seems to be the avenue I've been guided down lately.

It's also a bit of providence that the Ringling School of Art and Design Senior Illustration Thesis Show will be held this coming Friday while I'm in town. I wanted to go down last year to see the show, which is always very interesting and bursting with promising talent, but I wasn't able to. So, I'm looking forward to taking in the show and meeting some of the talented students (and perhaps old instructors) at my alma mater. If any of the old Ringling crew who are reading this are going to be there as well, send me a note and let me know and I'll keep an eye out for you, and we can meet up and tell tales together.

I'm including a picture of me wearing one of the TeeFury print run of the Zombama shirt. We're going to reproduce this size, style and color as accurately as possible, so that should give you a good idea of what the finished product will look like.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN is widely considered, throughout Trekdom and Geekdom, to be the best of the gaggle of Star Trek films, and I've kind of just went along with that declaration without putting much thought into it. It's the first Trek movie I have very distinct memories of seeing in the theater, with a beloved character actually dying and those creepy bug things crawling into and out of Chekov's ear, but I really haven't rewatched this one in its entirety a great deal of times since then.

I jotted down my thoughts while watching this time, so I would have a more immediate reaction instead of a remembered potpourri of commentary.

-I really don't like the sudden, drastic change in Starfleet Uniforms. Too stiff, too monochromatic, all the same and too faux-regal, like the formal wear of some Duke of a foreign country. No thanks. I prefer the drab uniforms of the first movie to this turn of style. The "away team" jackets some of the crew wears in a later scene are sort of cool with the fat ribbed collars, but they're too bulky with their giant shoebox pockets and they just come off as dorky winter coats.

Gettin' older...

-I pretty much immediately hate Kirstie Alley as new Vulcan cadet Lt. Saavik. She's not nearly Vulcan enough in her manner to pull it off -- there's just something about her performance that makes her come off like she's trying not to be too Vulcan, so she'll still be a likable character, and maybe Kirk will notice her and ask her out or something. She perhaps should have learned from Leonard Nimoy how to correctly play a genuinely likable Vulcan.

-The movie kicks off with a "training sequence" scene that just comes off as too fake. Several of the crew feign fatal injuries as Saavik leads them into certain death, and I guess we're supposed to reel with shock that "hey, they're killing off the whole crew and the movie just started! What is going on here!?" But the scene is obviously not fooling anybody as the direction, tone, and musical cues suggest nothing even close to a scene approaching such levels of drama. All I ended up thinking was, "why are they blowing up all the computer equipment and risking throwing their backs out cartwheeling over the railings for such an obvious simulation?"

-It seems odd that the entire crew of the Enterprise is now reduced to bad dinner theatre performances aboard a training simulation replica of the Enterprise. One of the characters remarks that "galloping around the cosmos is a game for the young", but surely these distinguished crewmembers who've proven their mettle years ago could be promoted to something a little more dignified and important than ride simulation attendants, no? Were the top brass trying to fool Saavik into thinking she really was aboard the Enterprise in a command position? Did they sneak into her room late at night, chloroform her, dress her in a uniform, prop her up in the Captain's chair then startle her awake by shaking her and blurting out "Captain Saavik, there's an urgent situation that needs your attention!" "Oh! What?! Hmm, I appear to have made Captain in my sleep. Curious. Okay, what've we got? Disabled ship in the Neutral Zone, you say? Hmmm."

-Kirk enters to gloat in front of Saavik how he passed the test she just failed by cheating. And I hate what his hair has become -- it's approaching near-fro dimensions. Spock also seems to be now experimenting with eye shadow.

-Hey, we actually get to see Kirk and McCoy kicking back at Kirk's pad in their civvies. And it's Kirk's birthday. McCoy gives Kirk a pair of antique eyeglasses (it's hard to find any with the lenses still intact) as a present. Kirk's reaction: he has to ask McCoy what they're for! Don't they teach any sort of history with visual examples in Starfleet Academy?

-Chekov certainly gets a lot more lines and screentime in this movie than he has in all the TV episodes and the previous movie combined... which only serves to hammer home how annoying his accent is. He also seems to have been demoted from serving aboard the flagship of Starfleet to the Reliant, which has an actual black Captain! Take that DEEP SPACE NINE!

-It's a nice bone to Trek fans to bring Khan back as the villain for this film, and they laid out his backstory quite nicely, but they goofed with having Chekov and Khan mutually recognize each other as they had never met before. Chekov had not yet joined the cast when the original episode featuring Khan aired. Anyway, I love Ricardo Montalban's performance as Khan, and he begins deliciously gnawing on the furniture with his performance nearly straightaway -- and you gotta love that chest-baring outfit. It was rumored that Ricardo had some sort of prosthetic chest to cover up his withered old-man chest, but this appears to have been roundly disproved by many folks involved with the film and seems like an unlikely and unnecessary measure.

-Kirk gives the Enterprise a pretty sorry inspection tour. He tried to be a big hardass about it, and even does the old finger-swipe-dust-test on one of the consoles, but he just comes off as a big lazy softie when he tries to intimidate an ensign (Scotty's nephew) to no effect and then abandons the inspection due to apparent boredom.

-We get some recycled footage of the Enterprise in drydock from the first film (which might not be so obvious to me had I not watched it mere days ago). I'm still impressed, after all these years, with just how frikkin' cool a ship the Enterprise is! It's elegant, sleek and sexy, and I think it later lost some of that appeal after they complicated its linework with extra detail and features. It's just a cool ship -- like an old-school flying saucer mating with a couple of big hair-dryers.

-Yet again, the Enterprise seems to be the only vessel in close enough range to handle the threat at hand. How many ships are in the employ of Starfleet anyway? Three? And the other two are always out on some long-distance border-run? I also wonder how these guys can perfect teleportation and warp technology, but they can't seem to manage to make a computer that doesn't speak in some stilted monotone! Kirk mentions, after listening to the sales pitch presentation for the Genesis Project, that "the tape was made about a year ago". I'm sorry, did you say "tape"? Again, teleportation, warp technology, still using "tape" for recording purposes. What doesn't belong in that group? The minds behind Star Trek are often praised with a Jules Verne-like precognition in creating futuristic technologies like cellphones, tricorders, and bluetooth headsets (I'm looking at you, Uhura), but I'm gonna have to label most of that as accidental luck if they can't imagine beyond tape recording. Or was Kirk just being old-fashioned in his terminology, like when your grandfather refers to you listening to your "ipod records"?

-The back and forth sniping between Mccoy and Spock really shines in this movie. They're like an old married couple for cryin' out loud. That is all I have to say about that.

-I always thought it was sorta dumb that, as big as these ships are, no matter where they get hit during space combat, bridge consoles start going up like the Fourth of July, sending crewmen cartwheeling over the railings. Is that really how things work on a starship? Take a shot to the rear nacelle and Spock's science-console commits sympathetic suicide?

-Khan's "gang" sure knows an awful lot about operating a Starfleet vessel, especially considering they've been stranded on a lifeless planet for 15 years. Sure, Khan's supposed to be a genius, but what did he do, give them all a super-quick crash course in Starfleet vehicle operation between scenes?

-Spacebattle! Action! Violence! Death! Why in the hell would Scotty drag his nephew's nearly-dead body all the way up to the bridge instead of first taking him to sickbay? Cuz it makes for a nice dramatic follow-up to Kirk's comment about going to check and see if there's any injuries, that's why! I'm sure the kid would have died anyway, even if you hadn't taken the precious time to personally display his injuries to your Admiral on the bridge before getting him to the medical attention he so obviously needed. Good on you, Scotty! Oh, and then we get a truly corny moment where Kirk visits the dying lad in sickbay and the kid seeks permission to pass into the next life as he uses the last of his strength to sit up and squeak out "Is the word given, Admiral?" Kirk replies and grants him permission to beam on up to heaven with "The word is given. Warp speed." Wow. Kirk not only let the dutiful pup join the Federation of Spirits, but he gave him permission to do so at "warp speed"! Surely the highest honor one can receive from a Starfleet Admiral! Most poor shmucks only get to kick the bucket at "impulse power".

-It's funny how bulky and cumbersome those communicators look compared to today's cellphone technology. I guess it's due to the necessary range the things require... yeah, that's it.

-Ah, here it is, the most quoted (and over-exaggerated) line from the film, when Kirk lets his ham show with his dialogue with Khan leading up to his quaking, echoing bellow of "KHAAAN!!" I'm stunned and consider it a real misstep in the writing of this film that Kirk and Khan never share a face-to-face scene in this entire movie! All we get between these two adversaries is phone conversations and vidscreen interchanges. It's a real shame, because this film (despite it's reputation) could have been actually great instead of just comparatively great if we'd had a scene or two of Kirk and Khan competing face to face to see who can chew up all the scenery first. And maybe one of those old-fashioned fistfights where Khan completely mops the floor with Kirk and leaves him for dead. Woulda shoulda coulda.

-I'm not a Star Trek purist or anything, but I don't like this "carrying on a conversation during transport" thing they've done here. Isn't the transporter supposed to be disassembling, beaming, and reassembling all your molecules in a few seconds time? Never mind how impossible that would be to do to sentient organic matter, but how the devil are you supposed to speak to each other while the process is occurring? How does your voicebox, lungs, tongue and mouth create and project sound which is picked up by another's eardrum and auditory mechanisms while all of that is being translated into energy and reassembled at some distant endpoint? I cry foul.

-Is it bad that I wish for Kirk's son David's death during the entirety of each of his scenes?

-Hey, we get another space battle! That's two in one movie, compared to none in the previous movie! It's hide and seek in a swirling neon nebula! Here is where I found myself really pining for a STAR WARS type asteroid field chase. Kirk beat Khan due to Khan's "inexperience in three-dimensional combat"?! Seriously? This guy's a genetically engineered super-human genius and he can't get past the concept that spaceships can go up and down in addition to going forward and backward and left and right? Yes, we definitely should have had some asteroids.

-And Spock makes the ultimate sacrifice by exposing himself to fatal amounts of radiation to do... something that looks like taking the lid off the back of a space toilet to jiggle the plunger so the water will stop running. Plus it fixes the warp drive. He dies while reinforcing his friendship with Kirk and giving one last Vulcan high-sign, then he gets a cool space-funeral with a nifty black space-coffin with a send-off by space-bagpipes. Kirk's nearly tear-choked speech mentions that out of all the souls he's encountered in his journey, Spock's was the "most human". I have no idea what that means, and that has to be a slap in the face to his pal McCoy. "Wait a damned minute, James -- I've been your friend since the academy! We've chased skirts together, we drink Romulan Ale together, we talk about growing old together, you come to me for advice for every damned thing we do, but that emotionless alien stiff was the "most human" guy you've ever met? You know what, Kirk, #@&$ you!"

I'm surprised that Spock's death and funeral didn't pack nearly the emotional punch I thought it could have and should have. Something about the handling of the scenes just didn't bring it all the way home. Having the tacked-on ending with reshoots and voice overs to show Spock's coffin safe and sound in the jungle of the new planet born from the Genesis Device's explosion didn't help convey the permanence and impact of his death either. It was said that Nimoy, despite having to be cajoled into appearing in the film at all with the promise of his character's death, had such an enjoyable time filming this movie that he requested they provide an "out" so Spock could return if they decided to make another one. When test audiences reacted poorly to the final dark ending of Spock's death, the ending coffin scene was filmed and Spock's monologue voiceover was recorded to give some reassurance that Spock would be back. And so he was... but that's for the next post.

-So, my final thoughts are that Trek 2 is not nearly as tremendous a film as it's held up to be. It's a good solid movie, but it's still lacking in so many ways that I can't help but think about what it could have been. It's much better paced than the previous movie, and certainly has more action and drama, but it still leaves me wanting more, especially in the action scenes. There still really isn't a lot of action save for the couple of space battles, and even those seem very sluggish and tepid. I think much of the problems were due to them never really having a solid idea of what they wanted this movie to be about until nearly the last minute, and the extreme budget reduction in comparison to Trek 1. While the first movie's budget was reported at $46 million, only $11 million was budgeted for the sequel! That's quite staggering, especially given the propensity for today's blockbuster sequels to have far bigger budgets than that of their predecessors.

Still, Khan is great, even if he and Kirk never showed up in the same place together, the character interplay is much better, and Spock's death added some much needed drama and tragedy to the series.



Wednesday, April 22, 2009


In anticipation of J.J. Abrams' upcoming STAR TREK rejiggering, I thought I'd go back and give the entire run of original series movies one more spin on the old DVD player before the new film comes along with it's' fancy new looks and bedazzles the old ones right into quaint antiquity.

I'm sure I'm going to love the new take. Here's why. STAR TREK has been a part of my collective pop-consciousness for as long as STAR WARS has, and, while STAR TREK has never had such a drastic derailment leveled against it as did Lucas' tenaciously-gripped franchise with THE PHANTOM MENACE, STAR TREK has always existed in a rather sterile and tepid zone of enjoyment -- a "neutral zone" if you will. STAR WARS always had cool aliens and fantastic space battles, while STAR TREK had... phasers that stun, effortless teleporters, and aliens with odd foreheads or weird noses. And don't get me started on which franchise had the best toys -- I don't think I've ever owned a Star Trek action figure! I enjoy a lot of the philosophy and thoughtfulness of the Trek franchises, but it always seemed a bit stale. Not that TREK's qualities are bad -- I just always wanted more. One thing that I consistently enjoyed throughout the original series and most of the films was the interplay and relationships between Kirk, Spock and Bones. I won't go into the details of what made their relationships special, but I'll just say that STAR WARS never seemed to nail down quite as interesting a handle on character dynamics (there were hints of it with the Luke, Leia, Han trio, but it changed drastically from film to film).

There is, of course, a lot more of TREK to go around than there is WARS (though Lucas seems hellbent on catching up, mostly with CLONE WARS retreading), with many TV spinoffs and a few more theatrical outings. My favorite of the shows has to be STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION. It came along at that crucial middle/high school phase of my life and really captured my attention with its deft embracing of the original show's purpose and breaking of new ground. It still came off as too stiff, at times, and I don't think I'll ever like the TNG Starfleet uniforms, but you can't beat things like the introduction of the Borg and Data's quest to be more human. Anyway, multiple other spinoffs followed until the collective fanbase seemed to have had enough of Trek.

So, I came along at just the right time to be able to see all the STAR TREK movies during their theatrical release, and this one in particular was viewed multiple times thanks to my grandparents having HBO during my summer stays with them. I remember the summer following STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE's release (and doesn't that seem quaint and old-fashioned now: having the phrase "motion picture" in the actual title of the film?) it seems like I watched TREK's initial theatrical outing (or pieces of it) just about every day for a month! Id wake up early, turn on the TV, and there was TREK again (or CLASH OF THE TITANS)! I haven't watched the entire movie in one sitting for many years and it certainly isn't as spooky and enthralling as it seemed to me at the tender age of 5, which is odd given the slow pace and lack of action -- try sitting a modern kid in front of this flick and count on one hand the number of minutes before they get antsy and throw in the towel!

The thing that strikes me immediately about this movie is how different it feels from the only type of TREK we were used to upon it's release: the original TV series. I've heard tales of the massive spending surrounding this movie, and it certainly shows -- the sets are all large-scale and beefed-up and the effects and miniature work is still quite outstanding. They were obviously trying to milk every penny and were proud of their work, as evidenced by the long, lingering "beauty passes" of the new Enterprise and the colossal, eerie V'Ger ship. It's interesting that they chose to strip the Starfleet uniforms of the traditional primary color palette that was featured in the original series. I appreciate the additional detailing of the uniforms to the point where they look more like ship crew outfits than stage play shirts and slacks, but the leeching of color seems to do more harm than good -- not only is the movie long and slow, but the interior shots are sometimes maddeningly monochromatic in comparison to the TV series. I'm also reminded that the new opening theme score for this new theatrical Trek is exactly the same score that was later used as the theme for the STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION tv series -- seems like they should have fiddled with the theme at least a bit to move it into the future with TNG instead of immediately recalling so blatantly and exactly from whence they came.

Old and Colorful...

New and drab...

I had forgotten that legendary Sci-Fi master Isaac Aasimov lent his skills as a consultant (which could mean anything), and may have enhanced the hard sf plotting, but the absolute dearth of action really hurts this film overall. I mean, there's not a single fistfight or starship battle to be found in the entire film! No one even so much as fingers their phaser, and the only time the Enterprise fires off a shot is to blast a pesky asteroid that is in their path within a wormhole tunnel! This lack of action combined with the film's long running time makes for a somewhat tedious and tepid journey, despite the often fantastic and beautiful images of the V'Ger ship and it's surrounding energy cloud.

As an aside, it's amusing how many times Dr. McCoy pops back and forth from the bridge to the infirmary during the course of the Enterprise's mission. I guess since McCoy serves more as Kirk's conscience than an actual doctor (and the fact that there isn't much "doctory" stuff to do), he's better served hovering over Kirk's shoulder the entire time. McCoy often has to get shoehorned into the action so he can play off of Spock and Kirk, when he should ideally just be chilling out in the infirmary. He seems to get away with a lot more than a traditional Starfleet doctor would given his standing with Kirk. I can't imagine the ship's doctor on any other vessel being so free to come and go from the bridge as McCoy.

Might as well be wearing red shirts...

Two new "crewmates" are introduced in this movie, Cmdr Decker and Ilia, though they seem to be merely glorified redshirts inserted into the storyline to provide important sacrifices/deaths where none of the permanent cast could be spared. The end result, however, is that none of the regular crew ends up doing anything particularly heroic or necessary, and the only one that even seems to undergo any sort of change is Spock, though it's a step backwards for his character (in Vulcan terms). Kirk actually manages to act somewhat of a twit, competing with and bullying Decker so he can resume command of his precious ship. It seems hard to believe this guy has actually made Admiral.

One thing that hampered most of the ST movie series was the ages of the actors playing the crew. By the time the 6th movie rolled around, most of them were positively ancient, and no one wants to see a cool sci-fi movie where the heroes are all over the age of 60. Even in this first outing, it's apparent that many of them are already beginning to show advanced signs of aging with their drooping features, graying (or balding) hair, and rounding physiques. They've already begun to lose that young adult slickness they had in the TV series, and, as the film series progresses, it becomes harder to believe these people are actually still holding the same positions on the same ship that they held 20 years ago.

So, the movie ends with the sacrifice of the two new cast members, who end up merging into a new life form... I guess. It's a good thing Decker and Ilia had a previous hot and heavy relationship so we could get rid of them both in one fell swoop as Ilia (who has been taken over by V'Ger) needs to merge with her "creator" (of whom Decker is a willing and able representative), and the two get naked and "merge" into a blizzard of super-intelligent life... or something. While the movie was completely actionless (I still can't believe a phaser doesn't even get brandished threateningly by anyone), it did have some thoughtful elements in the plot, and I do like the notion of a super-rational entity realizing that rationality is not the be-all and end-all of existence as it strives to search for a creator and a purpose to life (take that, Rationistas!) -- a lesson that I think resonates well with even Spock acknowledging that there is a sense of fulfillment and necessity in the belief in the existence of "something more" than what ration dictates.

This film was largely successful at the box office upon it's release, probably due to the sheer novelty of a STAR TREK theatrical feature hot on the heels of STAR WARS, but it was pretty much a flop with critics who derided it for its plodding pace and lack of action. I was struck upon this repeated viewing with just what a wrongheaded misstep this movie was in its sheer unfriendliness to viewers who may be new to TREK. It seems to never even be considered that folks watching this movie might be unfamiliar with the characters or the staples of TREK, especially when so many common aspects of the TV show are neglected altogether. I've already gone on long enough, so I won't go into detail with a checklist of what went wrong, but I would love to watch this with someone who has no familiarity with TREK and witness their reaction and response to it. I'll probably end up showing this to my daughter one day and see how long it takes her to call it quits.



Saturday, April 18, 2009


I received my official letter from SPECTRUM the other day notifying me which of my entered illustrations were selected for publication and I thought I'd post them here. The book itself won't drop until sometime in the fall. I'm quite excited to get my copy, not only because this is the first year I'll be published, but it's always a thrill to look through an entire year's worth of fantastic illustration.

The pieces selected were:


Thursday, April 9, 2009


Well, I've bemoaned the narcissistic, trivial novelty of Twitter and the Twits who Tweet thereupon, but... I've begun to accept the possible benefits of using Twitter as a publicity/hype machine. I created an account many months ago out of curiosity to see what it was about, and quickly abandoned it, thinking it pointless and dumb. Then I realized that when you look past all the knuckleheads who use it to post every mind-numbingly boring detail of their lives in an attempt to capture some fleeting sensation of celebrity (no offense to all the knuckleheads out there who do that very thing), it has it's uses, especially for an artist who is trying to develop a following and stir up jobs and buyers of his stuff.

So... anyone who is interested in following me on Twitter, may now do so. I'm listed as popmonkey, of course. I have commenced posting updates. But, rest assured, I will not be posting things like what I am eating/just ate/about to eat, that I just stepped out of the shower, that I'm going to bed, that I just walked the dog, etc. I will only be posting work/project updates and perhaps bizarre and inexplicable meanderings.

On the work side of things, I just wrapped up what has been a grueling round of color finals for my secret project I have been working on with my new favorite client (and some of their "friends"). I did many color variations on the design, and the one they ended up going with was not my favorite, but whatcanyoudo? It's tricky sending things back and forth for approval with two sets of clients who are running on California time, while I'm 3 hours ahead of them. By the time I'm ready to wrap it up for the day, they're just getting things finalized and ready to provide feedback and further instructions. I do get several hours head start on them in the mornings, though. I am wishing they would just hire me to work in-house, which may be a possibility, though it would be a heck of a move.

Anyway, I'm hoping I'll be able to show the work I've done, soon! It's probably the biggest profile project I've worked on to date, but I've been sworn to secrecy so far.

Monday, April 6, 2009


For the handful of you left who AREN'T sick of hearing about this shirt yet, one of my daily web-stops EMPTEES has selected ZOMBAMA: BRAINS as their "Tee of the Day" for today! Emptees is "a place where the world’s best designers and tee enthusiasts can come together on common ground to show off, talk about, and love tees", and I use it as a great source of inspiration and promotion. A lot of professional tee designers (and hopeful professionals) post there, and it's a very well-constructed site with a nice "voting" system, artist info and links to where you can buy each design, if it's on sale, or vote for it at whatever respective t-shirt site it's up for voting at (Threadless, Teextile, etc.).

Thanks, Emptees-folk!


I believe I forgot to post about this amidst all the Zombama-mania lately, but I was stunned and thrilled to discover that I was selected as one of the artists to be featured in this year's SPECTRUM annual art book! I can only surmise that SPECTRUM had a dearth of entries this year and they just needed filler material to round out the page count.

SPECTRUM is (in a quote from their website) an annual publication "established in 1993 by Cathy Fenner and Arnie Fenner with the intent of providing creators with a regular showcase for the best fantasy, science fiction, horror, and otherwise uncategorizable artwork created each year." I've been a fan of SPECTRUM for many many years, and their annual book release is eagerly anticipated by myself and many other artists. I remember back in art school, the day after SPECTRUM hit the shelves, the students would be swarming around whomever brought their copy to class, eager to see if any of their peers made it in, or just looking for some exciting inspiration.

I was always a bit envious of my fellows who were accepted for publication each year. Some of them had such wonderful painted pieces, and painting just isn't my forte yet. The reason I hadn't submitted before was not only that the deadline seemed to sneak up on me too quickly (or go completely unnoticed), but that I really never felt that my work was up to par for consideration. I still don't feel that way, but at least this year, I had plenty of notice (it helps to actually get on their mailing list), and a (very) few pieces that I wouldn't be absolutely embarrassed to send in. I ended up submitting 3 pieces, and I'm not sure which one made it or if more than one made it (NOTE: the attached illustration was NOT done by me, that's the Call For Entries poster painted by industry darling Peter de Seve). I guess I'll find out soon! The book is due to be published later this year.