Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mad Scientist Quarterly

If the Times group ever brought out a magazine targeted at Dr.Kalam and his weirder science buddies, it would probably look like this. They'd somehow manage to make even a science mag Bollywood-centric!

Click the thumbnail for the full image.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Filmfart - Issue 1

Filmfart is a spoof magazine I created for the now-defunct Gilfosia magazine. Though Sacred Cow is most definitely a comics blog, I thought visual humour along these lines is a good fit, too.

Dillekoo : Harry Potter and the half-wit greedy creator

Sometimes it's amazing how short-sighted and greedy billionaires can get. Check this link for the latest from JK Rowling - showing that she is truly a master of fantasy!

The below strip is a reaction. Click on it to enlarge.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Da Orks is Da Strongest

The Orks of Warhammer 40K have got to be the most fun faction in any RTS.

Sure, they're interesting to play, have their own unique strategies and all that jazz, but then so do all other RTS factions worth their salt.

But the Orks in WH40k ooze more personality than any other faction I've played in an RTS. From the unit names(Slugga Boyz, Shoota Boyz, Warboss, Wartrukk, Killa Kan), to the structures (Da Bigga Generator, Da Boyz Hut, Da Mek Shop),to their war cries, to the legendary Waaaaagh!, they are drop-dead funny and terrifying at the same time. Gotta love 'em.

In fact, WH40K is fast becoming my one of my favourite universes - I'm playing Dawn of War. I've already played Squad Command on the PSP and the strangely enjoyable Glory in Death for the now forgotten N-Gage. I'm planning on getting Mark of Chaos, and .of course, am eagerly awaiting DoW 2.

I'm also on the lookout for WH40k and Warhammer tabletop games and comics. To add to my prized collection of Hellbrandt Grimm graphic novels (Eat your heart out, koidy!)


The medium and the message

Scott McCloud continues to pioneer.

For those of you who haven't already suffered my enthusiastic recommendation of his seminal work 'Understanding Comics', here : "You really should read 'Understanding Comics'. It's essential for anyone even slightly interested in comics as a form."

Now, with this promotional/evangelistical comic for Google's Chrome, McCloud is again at the forefront of taking the medium to new places.

I have always believed, and often said aloud, that modern media like games and comics can, and indeed should, be used to deliver content other than pure entertainment. The medium is always separate from the message. Imagine if the visual medium was used purely for feature films (no advertisements, no funny YouTube clips, no fitness videos, no wildlife documentaries), or if the printed word was used only to deliver works of fiction (no Godel Escher Bach, no newspapers, no textbooks, no comics).

So why do we limit our perception of game engines and comics? 

Google's comic isn't the first instance of comics being used to convey instructional information, but it is in my memory one of the highest-profile efforts, and one of the better ones. Hopefully, it will help other people recognize the power of the comics medium to deliver any kind of non-fiction content.

Hey, maybe someone will use the Unreal engine to deliver an interactive product brochure. I don't think it's very far off.

Tendulkar, Rahman and Kunjumon are teh_pWnorz

In my opinion, these guys are the freedom fighters of modern India - they've liberated more Indians than anyone since Mahatma Gandhi and his band of brothers.

Sachin made us proud to be Indian. He enabled us to strut with chins up. Look Aussies and Englishmen in the eye. What a player. His lustre is much diminished now, yes, but let us never forget what he did, and how he made a difference in our lives. Thanks to him, we now have the incredible Dhoni, the dashing Yuvraj and the sensational Sehwag.

Kunjumon and A.R.Rahman, with Gentleman, suddenly made it hip to sway to teh_local flava. In my memory, 'ChikkuBukku Raile' was the first Indian movie song that hipsters weren't afraid to play in their cars and at their parties. It started a revolution - today, only n00bs and sn0bs insist that 'western' stuff is better somehow than out film grooves. Kunjumon faded away, thankfully, but ARR (no, not the Paaku), continues to make us proud. No longer are Indian language movies and music uncool - it's rather dramatically the other way around. The 'Peters' are the new nerdwads, the infra-digs, the losers.

Their contribution is way more important than is immediately obvious.

Thanks to the floodgates they opened, the average Indian on the street is confident, walks with a swagger. It's an amazing transformation - plainly visible to anyone who grew up earlier than the late eighties.

How crucial is this, in the view of India's place in the emerging new world order?

Give the gentlemen their medals. They do a lot more for India's freedom in today's world than many of our supposed leaders (Dr.Singh an honourable exception, of course)

Raj Comics is teh_pWnage!

Lots of Raj Comics action of late, their web site is amazing :

Do not miss the following, which count among the greatest comics creations ever. Take that, Alan Moore!

  • Anthony (Best superhero name ever. Until someone comes up with one named Bhaskar)
  • Bhanja (Best super-villain of all time. If the late Mr.Ledger had seen this guy, he'd have passed on the Joker role in order to play Bhanja)
  • Fighter Toads (Masterr, Computerr, Shooterr and Cutterr! Sheer genius!)

This is Bhanja. Heath Ledger would never have bothered with playing the Joker if he had the chance to play this guy. But maybe Kevin Spacey would have pipped him to the role.

However, don't do yourself the disservice of limiting yourself to these suggestions alone. As you browse the site, you're certain to find other rich treasures and gems to treasure.

Also worth a visit is the Nagraj page on Wikipedia. Some extracts :

Gorakhnath operated & removed the capsule from Nagraj's head setting Nagraj free who became his disciple & vowed to eliminate crime & terror from the Earth. Since then Nagraj has thrice toured the World & defeated many villains & terrorists.

Toured??!!?? I can't help thinking of Nagraj, camera in hand, pointing excitedly at the Eiffel Tower or The Sphinx, while kicking the crap out of baddies in between coach rides. Brilliant! I also love the gratuitous use of the &.

The thin line between horror and comedy. Nobody does it better. The original caption, by the way, says "Nagpasha as Kroorpasha in Nagayana".

Another one :

It is notable, and perhaps ironic, that Nagraj has now been transformed into a mythical-magical creature facing fantastical creatures as his enemies, with elements of sorcery/magic and even time and space travel. Many cite this as a reason for the continuous , meteoritic rise in popularity of Nagraj Comics. However, purists still claim that they prefer the more realistic, more practical stories that Nagraj began with.

Realistic? Nagraj? Deliciously delusional.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Game Invader - Braid and Casual Gaming

Playing the astonishing Braid makes me wonder about the lines between hardcore and casual gaming. It's really one of the most breathtaking titles I've played in recent times - no game except Portal has wowed me this much in the past couple of years. You have got to play it. Seriously.

Anyway - more on my thoughts on the casual-hardcore gaming debate.

Game Invader - Be afraid. Be very Afraid.

This article first appeared in my Game Invader column for the New Indian Express.

One emotion that games can claim they deliver as well as the movies do is fear.

A very large percentage of the most memorable gaming moments and sequences in my memory are instances where a game has scared me beyond belief.

My favourite recent memory is when I was playing the Ravenholm bit in Half Life 2, lights turned out, volume cranked to the max, soaking in every bit of the very scary atmosphere. Suddenly, I hear a voice call 'Anand'. I shrieked, thinking that Father i, or worse, one of the zombies, had broken through the fourth wall and addressed me in person. The truth, of course, was nothing so fanciful, my wife's Dad had just ambled in to ask me where he could find a glass of water. His deep voice didn't help either.

Bioshock's eerie, bloody fun-fair world was one of the finest horror settings in recent gaming memory.

On reflection, it's actually quite a range of frights that games have managed to give us over the years. There's the straightforward darkened rooms-weird noises-horrific creatures kind that we enjoy from Silent Hill or Resident Evil or scores of other action oriented games. There's the more literary kind of thrills delivered by titles like Call of Chthulhu or Planescape : Torment. Bioshock (and it's spiritual predecessor System Shock 2) were delightful horror experiences, delivering a kind of thrill I've not even seen in films. Bioshock, in particular, with its bizarre and colourful fun-fair elements contrasting with the darker, more bloody aspects, managed to create a horror space that will linger long in the memories of those who've played it.

Younger gamers may not believe it, but these are the images that had a generation of gamers peeing in their pants back in the early nineties.

It's natural to think that today's realistic graphics and sound help games be scarier than ever, but let's stop and look at things for a minute. If you can get your hands on a copy of the original Doom (or even look at a few screenshots on the web), you'll likely laugh out loud at the monsters, blood and gore. Yet, these were the same graphics that scared the pants off an entire generation of gamers, who would discuss playing Doom in the same reverential tones that today's gamers discuss Bioshock. Taking it even further, the text-only Zork Adventures had some really tense and frightening moments ( I still remember the troll chasing me from room to room as I desperately looked for a weapon, for anything) and they didn't even have graphics!

In fact, many of the finest horror games were classic adventures such as I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream (the title itself is fairly scary, actually), DarkSeed, and Sanatorium. Though these titles did have good graphics for the time that they came out, it was the writing that made them truly disturbing.

In fact, I believe that audio is even more important than graphics in delivering spine-chilling frights. A recent indie adventure called Penumbra managed to scare me for more than an hour – without anything actually happening, purely by creepy, distant noises interrupting the creepier silence. Most excellent – you must try it if you're on the lookout for something off the beaten path.

Games have a long way to go before they approach the visual and audio quality we get in movies, but, thanks to the interactive nature of the medium, deliver a horror experience that matches, and sometimes even surpasses the motion picture medium.

Is it only a matter of time before developers find a way to match the movies in delivering other emotional experiences as well? A debate for another day.

Game Invader - The name of the game.

This article first appeared in my Game Invader column for the New Indian Express.

Divine Divinity. There's a game called Divine Divinity.

If you go by names alone, it should be horrible. It should convey supreme suckAge. But is doesn't, it's actually rather good.

Like good books that hide behind bad covers, there are plenty of good games that have names so bad, you don't ever want to fire them up. Every generation has some examples of these.

Look at coin-op classics like Donkey Kong or Pac Man. While they now sound sorta retro-cool, let's face it, they're plain silly. True, they may be translations from Japanese, but that's no excuse. The truly cool sounding names from the arcade generation were plenty – Space Invaders. Defender. Galaxian. And, oooh – Xevious. Xevious is my favourite – try saying it out loud a few times, and you'll instantly become a little cooler! But if I came across two machines, one named Tempest, and the other one named Donkey Kong, I'd go for the former every time. And miss out on one of the greatest games ever. Good thing that didn't happen.

A lot of games names, in fact, sound silly because they suffer when being translated from the Japanese. I've always thought Final Fantasy is an idiotic name that does nothing to describe, or even indicate, the quality of the great titles that bear it. Even Metal Gear Solid is a clunky, clumsy name that is only redeemed because the series protagonist Solid Snake is so damn awesome.

However, some Japanese titles actually seem to benefit, and become weirdly cool in English. 'Elite Beat Agents' sounds so much nicer than its Japanese equivalent Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! What's that? It doesn't? Well, it takes all kinds, I guess. Katamari Damacy is another bizarre yet appealing title that makes the transition.

My favoured genre, role-playing, is more liable than most to fall into naming cliches, both in the high-fantasy and science fiction settings. Bioware, the greatest developer of them all, has given us two of the clumsier names in Mass Effect and the unfortunately abbreviated Knights Of The Old Republic (KOTOR – try saying this aloud). They did give us the cooler sounding Jade Empire, though, which is ironically an inferior game to those earlier mentioned. And Neverwinter Nights. I also thought the Elder Scrolls games have got progressively worse from Daggerfall (strong, distinctive) to Morrowind (mysterious, enigmatic) to Oblivion (bland, unimaginative).

Blizzard rarely fails to come up with good ones. Warcraft (think about this, the craft of war) is almost the perfect game name. Diablo isn't too shabby either – the single word instantly conjuring up imagery and atmosphere that a less skilled writer would try and call 'The Dark Dungeons of Death and Demons' or something like that. Brilliant name, brilliant game.

Shooters of course, have given us perhaps the greatest game name of all time in DOOM. If I have to explain any further, you're too young or disconnected to understand. DOOM brought coolness to gaming. It made FPS hip. DOOM is a game that wears sunglasses and sips cocktails. Trust me. It spawned a genre that would give us more great monikers like Halo, or Bioshock, or Metroid Prime.

Which begs the question – why do game developers who spend millions on creating a high-quality videogame decide to dump on it by calling it something inane and predictable like 'Guild Wars' or 'Dragon Age' or 'Cyber Warrior' or whatever? I guess they're just trying to remind us that we must – all together now – 'Never judge a book by its cover'. Nice. Toffees for all.

Game Invader - Diablo and Addiction

Jeez. Remember the Diablo days? When your click-finger would continue twitching long after you stopped playing (assuming you could stop, of course. I never could.)

Here's a tribute to the addictiveness that was Diablo.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The 12th Man

Most of you have seen this strip before - I wrote and drew it for the Kolkata Knight Riders during the first IPL season. But since this blog is supposed to be a collection of my comics work, and I've been to lazy to draw any new stuff, I'll compile the entire season 1 here. Hope you like em.

[you can click the images for a slightly larger pic, in case you're finding it hard to read the text]

Drawing a regular strip was a great experience for me - you actually get to know your characters better as you go along, It's like hanging out with new friends. Great fun. We hope to revive the strip as we get closer to season 2 of the IPL, so that would be nice.