Tag Archives: jeff smith

20 YEARS AGO: 1991

MUSIC

Primal Scream – Screamadelica

My Bloody Valentine – Loveless

Blur – Leisure

Nirvana – Nevermind

Pixies – Trompe Le Monde

FILM

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (dir. James Cameron)

Silence Of The Lambs (dir. Jonathan Demme)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (dir. Michael Pressman)

Barton Fink (dir. Joel Coen/Ethan Coen)

Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (dir. Peter Hewitt)

COMICS

– “The Hard Goodbye”, Frank Miller’s first Sin City story, begins its serialization in Dark Horse Presents #51.

X-Force #1 by Rob Liefeld & Fabian Nicieza sells 4 million copies, making it one of biggest-selling comics of all time.

Bone by Jeff Smith begins.

X-Men #1 by Chris Claremont & Jim Lee sells 8.1 million copies, making it the biggest-selling single issue from an American publisher, a record it still holds.

Sandman #19 by Neil Gaiman & Charles Vess becomes the first comic to win a World Fantasy Award; it remains the only comic to do so, as the rules for the award were changed soon after to disallow a comic from winning again.

TV

Twin Peaks airs its final episode on June 10, 1991.

– Greg

Comics in the classroom: an ongoing mission

In a couple of months I’ll be a certified K-6 teacher in the State of Florida and a year after that I will have my Master’s Degree and finally enter the workforce.  One of my private missions is to increase the acceptance and presence of comics in the classroom.  This issue has been coming up a lot lately as my ‘Reading in the Intermediate Grades’ professor is very open to the idea and I’ve been showing her examples from my own collection that I think would be well suited to the classroom.  Here are some of the books I’ve presented to her:

Paleo

Jim Lawson is my favorite illustrator ever but all biases aside this is a great book for a classroom because 1) it’s well-researched, 2) it’s meticulously illustrated, 3) kids love dinosaurs (especially boys, who supposedly don’t like to read as much as girls).

Magic Trixie

This book really feels like it was made for schools and it probably was. Most of the story takes place in an elementary classroom, the main character is an elementary student living with a non-nuclear family. The main twist is that all of the characters are monsters. This is part of a series of three books.

Usagi Yojimbo

I know a lot of libraries keep copies Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo series but I don’t think many schools do. However, this is a very intelligent, well-researched series with great art. The whole thing takes place shortly after the Tokugawa Shogunate took power in Japan, meaning the countryside is lousy with out-of-work soldiers that have nothing better to do than make mischief. A perfect series for boys in 4th grade and up but there are a lot of strong female characters for girls to relate to, as well.

Bone

Out of everything I’ll list in this post, Jeff Smiths’s Bone is the only property that’s made any actual headway into the classroom, thanks to its republication, in color, by Scholastic. The series starts out like Carl Barks Disney comics and ends up like a darker Lord of the Rings, all with great art. My professor already has a few of the books in her classroom-type library.

Victorian Murder

Rick Geary has made a career out of portraying horrific crimes in completely dispassionate and analytical ways. He has also created graphic adaptations of several classic novels and biographies. Almost all of his comics are ideal for the classroom given their detailed, thoughtful presentations. However, some of the Victorian Murder books describe rather graphic or REALLY FRIGHTENING situations (like the H.H. Holmes book) while others are rather ho-hum and nonthreatening (like the Death of the Abraham Lincoln book).

Dr. Seuss and Hitler

In the years leading up to World War II, Dr. Seuss was a political cartoonist and this book collects it all. It’s almost surreal to view illustrations of Hitler by Dr. Seuss but you’ll get over it. This book would be perfect for high school students that are studying the WWII era. I mean, talk about reactivating background knowledge, it’s Dr. Seuss, the guy that drew all of your favorite kids’ stories about cats, elephants and Loraxes!

I think these books are great and don’t require an excuse to be included in the classroom, however if I were forced to justify including them I would say that they can be used to entice reluctant readers into actually giving it a shot. Additionally, they can be used for students that have difficulty with comprehension and visualizing what they read. You don’t want to hold their hands all the time and always use illustrated materials but comics are like movies on paper, sort of a transition between picture books and text-only books (although they can certainly be as sophisticated as a text-only book).

The End (for now)

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-AM- LucasArts adventure games

In the 1980s, the adventure genre was dominated by Sierra On-Line. In 1986 they earned a competitor: LucasArts. Forget what you know about the current company that is LucasArts – there was a time when they were actually a very innovative and respected developer. Unlike Sierra, which cranked out adventure games by the dozens on a series/franchise basis, LucasArts averaged about one a year.  AdventureGamers.com maintains a “Top 20 Adventure Games” list and 8 of them are by LucasArts.  That’s pretty dominant considering they only made 15 of them.  I’m just getting into these games myself so I’m not an expert at all but here they are!

Part 1: The Labyrinth Era (1986)
LucasArts, then known as Lucasfilm Games, entered the adventure gaming market with an adaptation of the Jim Henson film, Labyrinth. In a Wizard of Oz move, the game begins strictly as a text-based game but when the main character enters the labyrinth it becomes a graphical adventure.

Part 2: The SCUMM Era (1987-1997)
This era makes up most of LucasArts’ adventuring career. SCUMM was the name of a very flexible game engine that allowed for other engines: audio, graphical, text, etc. to be inserted. LucasArts would use this engine for a decade. This era comprised a few short series and several stand-alone games.  It began with Maniac Mansion and was soon followed by Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders.  These games established the LucasArts style of using quirky characters and cheesy (bad?) humor.  Mansion was followed years later by Maniac Mansion: Day of the TentacleSam and Max Hit the Road, based on the comic of the same name by LucasArts artist Steve Purcell, continued in this vein in the early 90s.

LucasArts made more serious games, as well, starting with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, a very well-received game that closely follows the plot of the movie.  A few years later it was followed by Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis.  An original game, Loom, used an apocalyptic, fantasy setting and used music for all of its commands.  In the mid-90s, The Dig feature a pan-planetary sci-fi adventure.  Full Throttle featured MOTORCYCLEZ.


In 1990, the company released their biggest hit and the beginning of their only long-running adventure series with The Secret of Monkey Island, followed only a year later by Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge.  Several years later, the SCUMM engine was retired with the 3rd game, The Curse of Monkey Island.


Part 3: The GrimE Era (1998-2000)
In 1998, LucasArts decided to modernize and created a brand new, 3D engine, debuting with Grim Fandango, which has gone on to become perhaps the most critically acclaimed adventure game from LucasArts.  It featured the “humor” they were best known for and dealth with themes of the AFTERLIFE.  The imagery is heavily inspired by the Mexican Day of the Dead.  The entire adventuring journey came to an end with the release of Escape From Monkey Island.  After that LucasArts began a new Sam and Max game but eventually cancelled it and fired all their employees and took a bath in Star Wars money.

Part 4: Legacy
Several LucasArts adventure developers eventually started a new company, Telltale Games. They have had surprising success, utilizing online distribution. Unfortunately, all of their games have used licenses, a couple of which are HORRIBLE licenses. For example, they have made two CSI games and have an upcoming Strongbad game in the works.  Thankfully, they’ve also worked with a genuinely cool license: Jeff Smith’s Bone.  They made games based on the first two books but have decided their current focus is on “episodic” content, which Bone is apparently not compatible with.  In other words, they’re sellouts.  Yes, I hope someone searches in Google for “Telltale are sellouts” or “Telltale Games are sellouts” so they can see this and cry over the horrid truth.  Telltale is best known for their current revival of the Sam and Max series, which is released in “episodes”.  Jeez.

LucasArts stalwart Tim Schaeffer went on to create the lauded and beloved platformer Psychonauts and he has a very cool-looking new game in the works featuring bikers and roadies, much like the LucasArts game Full Throttle.

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