Marshall Art Studio:

Web Development + Design, Graphic Design, Illustration, Comic Book Art

Skip to Content

Marshall Art Studio: Blogmatic

[Back to top]


Watching historical events expressed by Hollywood schtick ain't easy. It's kind of like when someone with a speech impediment tries to tell you something important. Much as they try, you need to get the message from some other source. Sitting through "American Gangster" was like watching a meat-grinder shove actual events into existing holes of cop-movie cliches.

The plot is a collection of sewn-together parts from better movies. Need to highlight the Heroic White Guy's honesty? Take this from "Serpico". Want to show Lucas' conflict on morality versus his job? Take the Michael Corleone baptism scene from "The Godfather". How would Frank Lucas handle family-job stress? Swipe the attempted hit on Michael Corleone from "Godfather 2". Wait, we need a scene where Frank Lucas uses racism to justify his violent, self-serving behavior. Here's a Denzel Washington speech from "Malcolm X". I'm not positive about this last one, but I think some of the action scenes came from "Starsky & Hutch".

From what homeless shelter did they dig up the "look-a-likes" of Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and Joe Louis? Needing to round up some last-minute negroes, our casting director must've used Denzel's line in Hurricane: any one will do. Seriously, police get in big trouble when they stray this far from "the description". Where's the justice?

The I-Spy Connection

The compelling reason to see the film is the story Frank Lucas, inventor of the "Cadaver Connection". Instead, Hollywood creates another "I-Spy" connection, which turns a black protagonist story into "Adventures of the Heroic White Guy". Similar films include "Cry Freedom" (Steven Biko dies halfway through the movie) and "The Last King of Scotland" (the entire film focused on the white doctor). Following this established tradition, Richie Roberts (our Heroic White Guy) is loaded with character traits that must've come from a focus group. He's in a custody battle; the real Roberts never had kids from his first marriage. Every white broad want to bang him; the real Roberts wasn't a womanizer.

To be fair, the Hollywood Bullshit Machine didn't stop its work on the cops. Among other inaccuracies, Lucas wasn't arrested at church, holding hands with his wife surrounded by cops with Richards posing like Hackman in "The French Connection". The real Lucas was arrested at home alone after the Mafia ratted him out.

Happy Days

During one of the many cliche tsunamis, I wondered if characters from other '70s New York films and shows were in the background. As Russell Crowe drove to save his partner, did Gene Hackman's Popeye Doyle pass him at an intersection? Did Serpico get shot next door to this film's final shootout scene? Is that Jimmy "JJ" Walker shouting "dyn-o-mite" while catching a free turkey from Bumpy Johnson? Was Joe Louis portrayed by Fat Albert?

Frank Lucas

Richie Roberts

Cry Freedom (starring Denzel Washington)

"Some criticized the film for focusing more on (white) newspaper editor Woods, on whose written accounts of Biko the film was based, than on Biko himself, whose life is told in the movie mostly through his interactions with Woods." wiki

Last King of Scotland

"Instead of presenting directly the Ugandan dictator, the movie is focused on a white doctor, who's eyes are the point of view on the story and of the events the movie tells." imdb


[Back to top]

My first full-time employer Gregory Fosella Associates. Fresh out of art school, I was hired as a production artist and junior graphic designer 1986. Making professional art was a lot more tactile back then. "Camera-ready art" meant building a "mechanical", which was a thick board with multiple layers of acetate, paste-up (typography or art glued to the acetate) and instructions for the offset printer. Sacrificing fingertips to the Exacto blade gods in production was considered a rite of passage, especially after being up for 36 hours on Jolt cola and hermit bars. Ah, the good old days.

The industry's technology hadn't changed in a century. Individual tools got more sophisticated, but the workflow process hadn't. Speculative mockups were hand-drawn (colored pencil or professional magic markers) and mounted on presentation boards. Typography was produced by paying a type house. Artwork was formatted with line screens on stat cameras. These elements were cut out and glued on acetate, which was then positioned by hand with registration marks. Graphic designers and illustrators handled the artistic expression. Proof readers were still considered a valuable asset. Account managers were responsible for client dialogue. Production artists built mechanicals from client-approved mockups.

Sometime around Black Monday, things changed. Computer companies, specifically the three-headed monster of Apple, Adobe and Microsoft, became more important than my killer paste-up skills. Inspired by John Lennon, employers "imagined a world" without production artists, stat cameras, proof readers, type houses and offset printers. This transition meant I was in danger of being washed-up at 26 years old.

Notes from the Underground

I borrowed an old friend's computer, an Apple Mac Plus ("loaded" with System 6). The machine had a ton of software, which allowed me to self-train at nights after work. With no printed manuals, the training moved slowly. At this time, as a broke-ass artsy dreamer, I lived in the Central Square neighborhood of Cambridge Massachusetts. About a mile away was Harvard Square's Wordsworth Books, which had a terrific computer section. Whenever I got stuck with a Photoshop or FreeHand problem at home, I'd:

  • write the problem on my pocket-sized notebook
  • bicycle to Wordsworth
  • research, write the solution
  • barrel down Massachusetts Avenue at a furious pace, trying to get back home before losing the solution (sometimes my handwriting sucked)

I built a portfolio that eventually landed some temp work. Back then, they were hiring anyone who could turn on a Mac. At this point, however, my desktop publishing skills weren't as strong as other designers. Evidently, some namby-pambies chose to learn in accredited schools, with books and qualified instructors. Feh!

My preference was to get in situations way over my head, learn while trying my best, get fired, repeat. I always knew more leaving an assignment than I did going in. Eventually, the mistakes were smaller and less frequent, while the quality of my work got better. By 1990, I was known as a reliable deadline-hitter.

Didn't We Learn Anything from John Connor?

Like your friendly neighborhood drug dealer, corporations created a global dependency on their product. They correctly guessed that the short-term expense of the new technology would be offset by long-term profits. Several elements aligned to form the new dependency:

  • Apple Computer sucessfully promoted their "user-friendly" interface
  • storing data on disk consumed less space than colored file folders
  • shifting from a Fortune 500 model to individual consumers, hardware companies lowered their pricing

The end result: disguised as smiling servants, computers invaded our world. Somewhere, H.G. Wells and Nat Turner must be laughing.


[Back to top]

As part of their hit on Netscape, Microsoft installs Internet Explorer as the default Web browser of the Windows operating system. In addition, users can now export Office files as Web pages. Under the hood, this new functionality was embedded with bloatware tags for the sole purpose of breaking in non-IE browsers. See for yourself:

  1. Create a new Excel or Word document
  2. Save your new document as a Web page (File/"Save as Web Page ...")
  3. Open the new .HTML version in a HTML editor (BBEdit, Dreamweaver, .NET, whatever)
  4. Gaze upon the extra tags, as shown in the example below:
comparision graphic of HTML as expressed by Microsoft Word vs standards-compliant markup

Tale of the Tape: Source view of HTML from a Microsoft Word document. On the left, markup generated by Word's "Save as Web Page ..." tool. On the right, the same content with minimal, standards-compliant markup.

The only tags needed for web browsers are TABLE (TH, TD, TR) or HTML elements (BODY, HEAD, H1 - H4, P, UL/OL - LI, B/STRONG, I/EM, etc.) Yet Microsoft decides to add of proprietary tags that only display well in IE. These tags are inserted in a manner that impedes global "find-and-delete" editing.

Thus, saving your content with the Office "Save as Web Page" tool doesn't keep your web development costs down. Instead, save your content as raw text (Note Pad will do), then let the web geeks worry about the HTML tags.


[Back to top]

Me and 17 other cartoonists participated in this year's 24-Hour Comic Day, an international challenge to create an entire 24-page comic -- normally months of work -- in 24 straight hours. Here's Mine.


[Back to top]

Once again, gutted Current Projects in favor of a cleaner UI. Hopefully the new sorting is more useful for new visitors. The 3-or-2 column layout isn't as flexibile as I hoped, but the overall visual organization is the most logical solution in my grasp. The new design lists active projects, as well as ongoing and new releases.


[Back to top]

As someone who read the Ian Fleming novels this summer, I was disappointed by the 2006 film "Casino Royale". Like Microsoft's recent Internet Explorer 7 -- another long-overdue, huge-scale makeover of an international household name -- the film doesn't completely escape the burden of it's legacy elements.

Compared to the past films, this one's a lot more faithful to the overall feeling -- if not exact plot -- of Ian Fleming's novel. That much wouldn't be difficult. Most of the films deviate from the novels completely, only sharing the titles. Throughout my summer reading project, many people thought I was reading novelizations of those shitty movies.

In his first novels (anything before Thunderball), Fleming beat the pulp genre of action/espionage into his own image. His world is a physically violent, uniquely British, emotionally distant place. There are subtle indications that Bond, like most of his real-world contemporaries, didn't leave World War II with his mind intact. James thinks he's held in high regard by his employers. The exact opposite is revealed when Bond leaves the room. The quite moments reveal Bond's unstable state of mind. He wakes up in a cold sweat, can't keep track of his drinking or chain-smoking, and takes uppers to function. On a level beneath the action, there is a quiet, subversive indictment of battle fatigue syndrome.

"I meet more bitches, more 'ho'es. I don't wanna sleep so I keep poppin' No Doze."

-- Ice Cube, "Amerikkka's Most Wanted

Another important element in the books is how he and his contemporaries handle the mundane: they can't. In "Live and Let Die", Bond and Felix Leiter ponder retirement. Considering what happens to Leiter after this talk, retirement would've been a good idea. The thought of settling down with a spouse and day job, however, seemed like a death sentence. It's not so much that they're adrenalin junkies; they're simply incapable of living what we in the real world call normal life.

Like everything else in the novels, the women are also governed by mundane naturalism.

This is my long-winded way of proving how enthusiastic I was about this film. While disappointed, I can't say I was surprised. While they ported a lot of the cool elements from the novels, the film makers ignored some of the more subtle tones.

For instance, the movie Bond is part super-hero. In film's opening chase scene, Bond runs for nearly three miles with no signs of exhaustion. In real life, linebackers who run more than 40 yards on an interception look like they're dying.

Ian Fleming's Bond was never a great fist-fighter. Yet here, he could give Jet Li a thing or two. Maybe this film takes place in The Matrix and Bond's the seventh "One".

The book Bond wasn't a great thinker, detective or strategist. His critical errors have endangered himself and his friends. This year's film model is a computer whiz, breaks into M's home and deduces getting set up by Vesper.

If you've never seen a Bond film or read any of the novels, you'll probably think this is an okay action flick.


[Back to top]

[Back to top]


[Back to top]

Hero for Hire

Put this creative services expertise to work for you:

[Back to top]