Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Cartoon Sprints (with props to Mike Lynch)

A couple weeks ago I saw an item on ¡Journalista! about a cartoon exercise that Mike Lynch had given to students in a cartooning class: to draw 80 characters in 15 minutes. You can read about the exercise at that preceding link, or you can click here to go directly to the finished product.

I'd like to know more about Lynch's class than he reveals in this particular post: how old are the students, for instance, and--more relevant for this post--how many of them took part in this cartooning exercise? Because it appears to have been a collaborative eighty characters in fifteen minutes, and, you know, that wasn't what I was expecting when I saw the link at ¡Journalista!

No, what I expected to see was Mike Lynch's single-handed effort to crank out eighty characters in fifteen minutes--which averages to one character every eleven and a quarter seconds. Mind, I enjoy the drawings his students produced--no doubt about it, they're fun to look at--but I was hoping for something more, well, athletic, pell-mell, even desperate. So I did what I expected Lynch to have done, and I drew 80 characters in fifteen minutes. Here's the first dozen:

Now, it would be a real challenge indeed not just to draw eighty characters in fifteen minutes but to have to dream up eighty different characters along the way, so I decided to use Lynch's list, which he has thoughtfully included in his blog post. (You may note that two items--robot and hydrant--occur twice on his list. Lynch has already noted it himself, so there goes your No-Prize.) I also soon realized, after warming up with a few practice sketches, that there was no way I could draw eighty characters that quickly if I also had to read their names, so I enlisted the help of Becca Boggs, who read me the names of the characters in turn and warned me when I was taking too long (already with the cowgirl, #5) and reassured me when I had made up lost ground (by the skateboarder, #70). By the second dozen I was getting pretty sketchy indeed:

Lynch describes the exercise as a useful way to train cartoonists to draw lots of different kinds of things. It's true that I haven't spent much time drawing baseball players, truck drivers, businessmen, or angry waiters, as pictured in the third dozen:

On the other hand, I've drawn plenty bunnies, Martians, fish, and fire hydrants (really!) over the years, to say nothing of Batman. And one somewhat frustrating thing about this exercise is that eleven and a quarter seconds doesn't allow a lot of room for invention or witty rendering. That may sound like a somewhat feeble excuse for the resort to visual cliché in these sketches, but I think it's in keeping with what Will Eisner says about stereotypes in Graphic Storytelling: not every imaginable Martian is going to have attenae, say, but if you want to communicate the idea that a humanoid is an alien then a pair of attenae will get the idea across pretty quickly and pretty consistently--more so than a portrait of J'onn J'onzz would (for civilians, at least).

Most of the items in the fourth dozen were pretty straightforward:

It occurred to me while drawing the TV that the rabbit ears are another case of antennae functioning as reliable cliché: fewer televisions nowadays use them, what with cable, satellite, and such, but if you don't want your scrawl confused with a drawing of a microwave they're useful. I was thinking of Mr. Natural while drawing the guy with beard (#45), though that might not be apparent from the hasty result. Probably the trickiest item on this page was #47, specified as not just a car but a "cool car," which required both more thought and (barely) more drawing. (I almost made it the Batmobile, but time was a-wastin' and I figured fins would suffice without further Bat-paraphernalia.)

With the alien (#50), I faced the dilemma of not repeating my Martian. I still resorted to antennae, confound it. The penguin (#51) is dedicated to Carl Pyrdum in memory of Chilly Willy. The Presidential candidate (#53) surprised me somewhat by being influenced by Hillary Clinton (don't look too hard for a resemblance)--perhaps because she seems to be the most determined candidate of late. About the crook (#59) I will note the clichés of garb--dark cap, striped shirt--by way of observing that the reliance on stereotyped imagery caused me to draw a mugger (#8, first picture above) that looked nothing like the assailant who actually mugged me a year ago, save for being male and armed. In other words, even when I had real experience with one of these characters, cartoon convention prevailed over lifelike rendering. (I suppose the same could be said for the lightning bolt, come to think of it.)

Anyway, I'm almost done here. Sixty-one (a cactus; the label got cut off) through seventy-two:

Mike Lynch's students definitely draw a better Spongebob than I do, at any speed. I'm flat embarrassed by that ostrich; a much better one can be seen in Satisfactory Comics #1. And hydrant #2 (drawing #72) makes no effort to look any different from hydrant #1 (drawing #33). Snoring (#69) is dedicated to Alex Lifeson's wife. Paperboy (#72) is dedicated to Patrick Denker.

And finally, the last eight, including robot #2:

So that's it. It's an instructive exercise, that's for sure. For more attractive visual results, I think it might be worthwhile trying to fit eighty characters not into a confined period of time but into a confined space: how small can you draw eighty characters while keeping them recognizable and attractive? My model here would be the amazing Tom Gauld, who has already pulled off this stunt in various ways. Maybe Isaac would like to give that one a try?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Matteu (1-3)

Back in the summer of 2005, Mike and I started drawing two stories that both involve a scholar named Matteu. In both stories, set ten years apart, he travels to a walled city somewhere in the hinterlands. That's as much as we knew about the stories when we started, and I don't want to spoil any future revelations (or revisions) by trying to describe what he discovers there.

This project has been really slow in the making. Although we were originally planning to draw one strip of each story each week, swapping stories every week, a lot of other things have come higher on our list of priorities, and Matteu keeps getting postponed. (If we had kept up with the original plan, we'd have about a hundred pages of story now. As it is, we have almost ten.)

Because we're both a little embarrassed about the glacial pace at which this piece has been moving, we've decided to create a spur for ourselves with the blog here. We'll be posting one of the stories (the first visit to the town) here in weekly installments. The other story will continue to grow at the same pace, but will remain invisible to the internet for now. Until we catch up with new work, I'll post the story in pages instead of in individual strips. (The weekly unit of progress is a strip or a tier, not a page.)

Here are the first three strips:

(I recommend clicking to enhance legibility.)

The inspiration for this form of collaboration, by the way, was the Josh Neufeld / Dean Haspiel concoction Lionel's Lament, for which the pair of collaborators alternated two-panel tiers in a six-panel grid, working on the story in two halves simultaneously. It's a pretty fun jam, and Matteu's story has been a lot of fun for Mike and me, as well, though I don't think you'd ever guess that Matteu and Lionel shared much in their origins.

I hope you'll enjoy getting up to speed on Matteu's travels, and that you'll stick with us long enough to see the new material, which is just a few pages away.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Old Kirby-Character Doodles

I pulled out an old notebook (from 2004) the other day, so I could hunt up some details about the apartment I used to keep on Long Island. As I was flipping through the notebook, whom did I see but my old favorite superhero from childhood, Scott Free?

There he is, among notes for a verse essay on escapism. (I've written the poem, but haven't found a place to publish it yet. I keep sending it out.)

I wasn't sure whether I was remembering this right, but I dug out a notebook from the spring of 1995 (the first year I was in New Haven, while I was still taking courses in graduate school), and sure enough, there's Scott Free in pencil, on his aero-discs, sailing among doodles drawn from a discussion of The Tempest. I think the bug-eyed guy on the left is one version of Caliban.

You see, when I was just five or six years old (if I remember right), a friend of my father gave me a big collection of Kirby's work at DC: almost every issue of Forever People and Mister Miracle; lots of New Gods and Kamandi and Jimmy Olsen and The Demon. It was a huge influence on my young mind, I think. Kirby's design sense permeated my childhood head, and his characters seemed to me more "real" than Marvel's characters, in the way that Hercules and Odysseus are more real than characters in a novel or on TV.

A few pages earlier in the 2004 notebook, just goofing around on a page with a to-do list, here's Etrigan:

Yarva Demonicus Etrigan, people!

Something about this doodle got me thinking: where have I seen something like that recently? A Kirbyesque physique, in celebratory contortions? Swagger and strut with blocky fingertips?

A-ha, I realized: Casey and Scioli's Godland! Friedrich Nickelhead, dancing in celebration, taunting Basil Cronos!

Yep, that's Dylan he's listening to. It's a trippy, trippy book.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Last Week at Long Island University

I had meant to say something about this sooner, but as I mentioned last week, April is particularly cruel for those of us on an academic schedule: as the end of the term gets closer, all those postponed and delayed things start coming in... Plus, I've got a move to Vermont to prepare for. But enough excuses: here's what I was going to say.

Last Wednesday, I was pleased to host a comics-related event at my campus of Long Island University, with Matt Madden and Jessica Abel:

It went really well. Matt and Jessica came to my graphic-novel seminar and talked with my students about their recent books (which we had read in the class), the creative process more generally, and their books that are about to come out. In the evening they gave a slideshow presentation for a more general university audience, and I think the students really enjoyed it. The creatively inclined students in my afternoon class really seemed glad to be able to talk with some working writers. One of my students who is interested in writing fiction told me that listening to the presentation made her more interested in making comics, and that she was planning to buy Jessica and Matt's textbook when it comes out later this year.

This brings me to one of the most exciting parts of the visit for me: Matt and Jessica brought in an early copy of their forthcoming Drawing Words and Writing Pictures, which looks like it will be the best book yet released on how to make comics. I had high hopes for Scott McCloud's Making Comics when it came out—despite all my quibbles and arguments with the stuff in Understanding Comics, I think McCloud is a really smart thinker about how comics are put together—but it turned out not to be all that useful in the classroom when I taught my first class on how to make comics.

This book, on the other hand, looks like it will be perfect for that class, if I ever get to teach it again. It has a friendly, open approach:

Not all of the book is narrated in comics format like this—just the introduction and a few other parts—but this moment really does seem exemplary of the book's tone. (I scanned these images from the latest issue of The Comics Journal. The actual book has color in it, but I'm not sure whether these pages are grayscale or color.)

Having taught comics-making once now, I can also see signs all over this book of Matt and Jessica's years of experience teaching at SVA and elsewhere.

Can't draw hands? Have problems with perspective? Sounds like a lot of my students last year. Heck, that sounds like me when I was first teaching myself how to cartoon. (I remember asking Mike to set up the perspective for me in one panel of my first mini. I couldn't figure out how to make it look right. And I was having trouble with hands all the way through our Demonstration mini in 2004.)

To my mind, though, this moment in the introduction hits precisely the right note: being an expert draftsman can sure help you make good-looking comics, but if you learn the way the language of comics works, you can teach yourself to draw more beautifully (or more to your own aesthetic, whatever it is) as you make comics. Almost every cartoonist goes through a learning period, sometimes lasting a decade or more. Someone once told Mike that you have to draw a thousand pages of terrible comics before you can make one good one—so, as I now tell my students, you might as well get started on the bad ones. But I'm guessing that having a guide like Drawing Words and Writing Pictures would help to accelerate the learning curve, maybe trimming off a couple hundred from the count.

I am really excited about the release of this book, and I hope anyone who is interested in making comics will pick up a copy.

One final note about the visit: Jessica and Matt brought their baby daughter Aldara along with them, and she is one amazingly beautiful and sweet-tempered little girl. She charmed both of the students who babysat her while the cartoonists were presenting, and I swore (and will stand behind it, even never having seen Eli and Oliver in person) that Aldara is cuter than both of the Kochalka sons put together.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

He Seems to Be a Happy Camper

As long as we're posting odd cartoon mascots for tasty sweets, here's something I saw recently in my local grocery store. I believe this pale-faced fellow is the current avatar of Campfire Marshmallows.

(Pardon the cameraphone photo. At least it's clearer than my last one.)

So, apparently this cheery, puffy young camper, made of marshmallows himself, is wearing a t-shirt that shows a flaming marshmallow.

I can't decide whether that is meant to imply a lack of self-awareness (or foodchain-awareness) or whether he's just totally Metal.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Café Cartoon Curiosity

While in Paris, I came across this curious cartoon image on the wrapper of some sugar for my coffee:

Maybe I'm just too ignorant of the mechanics of grinding and brewing coffee, since a cafetière is about as advanced as I get, but I find this image perplexing. I get that the sweating trio must be coffee beans in flight from the deadly grinder (or whatever that device is), even though they don't look much like the far smaller beans being jolted around in the grinder's cranial cavity. But really, that grinder and its cranium confuse me. The join between the open black hatch and its counterpart doesn't seem right--is it hinged at a corner only?--and I can't help seeing a resemblance on the one hand to Mickey Mouse's ears and on the other to the caps worn by Huey, Dewey, and Louie. But whatever, that's my own hangup, clearly. Still: can someone explain to me what on earth is emanating from the drawer below the grinder's eyes? Is that supposed to be an ineffectual word balloon, with but a limp red stripe for speech? Or, god help me, is that supposed to be its tongue (and if so, a vile and disgusting tongue it is, reason enough for the legged beans to flee)?

Surely I have made too much of what is, after all, merely a scribble on a sugar wrapper. But the image is strangely menacing by design, and more so by the accident of its incomprehensibility. Ils sont fous, ces français!

Lewis Trondheim's Diablotus (1995)

So, three weeks ago I was in Paris for Easter weekend (though strictly speaking I went for Purim), and while there a friend of a friend directed me to a terrific comics shop near the Bastille called OpéraBD. Please, if you are in Paris and you enjoy comics, go to this store. They're open 'til midnight seven days a week, the staff are friendly, and they have ways of emptying your wallet. Just look what they did to me:

Okay, to be fair: not all of these books and comics were purchased at OpéraBD, though I probably could have found most of them there; and to defend myself: they're not all for me! My lovely wife personally chose about a third of these items, and a few are intended as gifts. But all are fair game for blogging comment, and I'd like to say a few words about the tiniest comic of the lot, which I just put in the mail to Isaac as a present (sorry for the spoiler, Kaiser, but it's for the cause!).

The comic in question is a 22-page story from the prolific master of modern BD, Lewis Trondheim, and it's the tale of a little demon whose name is probably the same as the title:

Visually, it's drawn in much the same style as Le Pays des trois sourires (The Country of the Three Smiles), possibly my favorite Trondheim comic, which employs spare but clean black-and-white doodles and which likewise features the occasional walking skeleton. Unlike Le Pays des trois sourires but like Mister O (also possibly my favorite Trondheim comic), Diablotus is a wordless pantomime. Unlike either of those works, which are formally quite constrained (Le Pays reads like one hundred episodes of a daily comic strip, Mister O adheres to a rigid many-panel grid for a series of single-page gags), Diablotus unfolds like an improvisation, one weird thing after another. It's not entirely devoid of plot, inasmuch as certain strands of incident get wound back into the thread of the story after being set aside for a while, but mostly Diablotus is a kind of comic bagatelle, a brief exercise in invention and style that probably shouldn't be asked to bear too much interpretive weight. Take, for example, this two-page sequence (you'll want to click to enlarge, but take care not to read across the whole page by mistake):

Now, if I wanted to get all "lit crit" about it, I could say something about how the dealing out of punishment in this work inevitably implicates both would-be punisher and would-be victim in an exchange of roles and suffering, and I could make a lot of hay out of the way identities are exchanged and reshaped as characters literally try on different skins or resculpt their familiar faces (as at the end of this sequence). But, you know, that kind of reading just doesn't seem suitably playful for a work as gleefully violent and innocent of consequence as this one. Even when ghosts eat each other in this comic, it's good more for a laugh than a meditation on mortality. At least I hope Isaac laughs when he finally gets to read his copy.

Meanwhile, if you'd like to see a single-page, doodly pantomime strip that shows Isaac and me at our most Trondheim-like, please check out "Because of This, I Cannot Love" in Elm City Jams #3 (the strip is included at that link). And if you want to see the sorts of demons we've turned out on occasion, Demonstration also is but a click away...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Girls Comics in Old Blighty, part 2: An Editor Speaks

You may recall my previous post (ages ago) about the British comics annual Mandy from 1984. I expressed some perplexity at the kinds of stories on display, especially given their ostensible appeal to girls, and friend and reader Darcy offered some interesting explanations and challenges in the comments, which I commend to your attention (with apologies for my longwindedness).

I'm pleased now to offer further comments on Mandy and her ilk that are probably more authoritative than the remarks by yours truly and Darcy, though whether "more authoritative" means "more convincing" is up to you. Click here for a link to an interview on the UK comics website Down the Tubes with Bill Graham, an editor from D.C. Thomson, the publishers of Mandy way back when and of Wendy today.

Much of what the editor has to say concerns his long-term involvement with boys' comics, but here he is confirming that the girl-aimed "About Horses" feature in Mandy was no fluke:

Early in the 1980's DC Thomson had started syndicating stories from our girls' papers like Bunty and Judy to a group of publishers in Europe. These were all about girls and their ponies. There was a big market for those types of stories there. These were stories which had appeared as weekly serials/series and they were just cobbled together into comp[l]ete stories of 30-36 pages.

It was Graham's task to turn these stories into more polished works and to improve the pony package, as it were. The result is a magazine called Wendy that is now produced in Britain but sold on the Continent, where it has quite the following, apparently. To see a current sample of the Wendy comic, click here (and break out your German dictionary; "Pferde sind mein Leben," indeed!). You might also want to go straight to the home page,, just to see the astonishing variety of horse-related material gathered under the Wendy rubric. Be sure to watch the banner for a few moments, and make sure the volume is turned up on your computer!

Graham also briefly discusses the character Ebony Jones, "a black female secret agent," in answer to a question about whether introducing Ebony to the boys' comic The Crunch in the 1970s was an effort at "boosting a female readership" ("boosting" rather than "creating," because the letters pages of The Crunch already testify to its female readership--hardly surprising, but I mention it out of my loyalty to the late, lamented lettercol as an unparalleled ethnographical resource for comics).

Anyway, Graham says:

In the mid 1970's I had been involved in the development of a new girls' paper for DC Thomson. This was going to be totally different from the likes of Bunty and Judy - no ballerinas and ponies, the heroines were going to [be] all-action characters. One of these characters was Ebony Jones.

The paper was abandoned but Ebony was too good to waste, so I brought her into The Crunch. It wasn't a conscious effort to attract girls as readers.

It's a pity he doesn't say more about why the "paper" was abandoned; did market research suggest that girls just weren't interested in reading "all-action characters," even if female? For that matter, did Ebony attract girls as readers of The Crunch, even if unintentionally? Finally, given the effort to hook girl readers on boys' fare, why no mention of any attempt to market horse comics to boys? (After all, what's good for the goose is good for the gander, right?)

Happily, Graham is a bit more forthcoming on the subject of the older boys comics and girls comics (before the late 80s or so), finding the latter to be sub-par by comparison. He notes that a lot of writers and artists worked on both kinds of comic (again, not really surprising), but he also alleges that Wendy is superior to its predecessors (like Mandy, I imagine) precisely because the staff who got Wendy off the ground had honed their skills in the boys' comics. This sounds a bit contradictory to me (if the same writers were involved, why did they forget their storytelling skills when writing about poverty and ponies?), but here he is, responding to the allegation that "girls' comics were better written than boys' comics because the former could rely less on violence to move a story forward":

No. Since I started editing Wendy I have read quite a few of the girl's stories published over the years. They are often mind-numbingly repetitive and the plots are full of holes and amazing coincidences.

Here's the typical girls' story plot. Girl is happy. Circumstances change and girl is miserable. Unexpected benefactor appears and girl is happy again. That's why I think Wendy has been so successful. I, and many of the staff in the early years, were trained on boys' papers. The stories are better plotted with two or three story lines in each episode - and there is very little violence.

If what Graham says is true, it suggests that one lesson that the boys' comics could learn from Wendy is that their multi-storyline plots might benefit occasionally from a reduction in violence, if only for variety. (In fact, what broke me of the superhero-comics habit in my teens--before my recent recidivism--was precisely the "mind-numbingly repetitive" nature of the stories month after month--though the plot holes and amazing coincidences didn't bother me as much.) At any rate, I would be even more interested now to hear from a woman artist, writer, or editor at DC Thomson, let alone a woman reader of Bunty (or The Crunch!)--so if anybody turns up more online interviews of that sort, please do pass them along.

Thing vs. Hyperion: Four Remarks

I've been away from the blog a lot lately, which may have something to do with the usual cruelty of April in an academic schedule. In fact, I still don't really have time to be posting, but I also don't want to let the blog wither. And so, armed as I am with a stack of crummy comics sold to me cheap by the guy who runs my local comic store, I will dip once again into the lame comics of my youth.

For example, here's Marvel Two-in-One #67, from 1980, which guest-stars Hyperion and Thundra alongside the Thing. It's also got cameos by Quasar and Giant-Man, because it's in the middle of that run where Two-in-One was mostly concerned with Project Pegasus. Anyway, I've got three remarks about this cover:

(You can click to enlarge it.)

1.) There sure are a lot of words on this cover. The Two-in-One logo is always busy, because it puts the Thing's logo above someone else's, but this one's also got a title, an editorial talking arrow, and a banner ad for the "Mighty Marvel Win-Yourself-Some-Big-Bucks Contest" (which might deserve a post of its own some day). That just leaves half of the space of the cover for a dynamic fight scene. And it is dynamic, isn't it? Check out that dynamic three-point perspective!

2.) Well, actually, the linear perspective in this image is pretty terrible. Looking at it one way, it's a useful study in what sorts of imprecision you can get away with if you're trying to make an evocative or bombastic image; looking at it another way, it's just sloppy. Here are a couple of detail views so you can see what I mean:

Thundra (the barbarian woman with big hair and an asymmetrical belly-shirt) is depicted in the comic as being pretty tall -- nearly a head taller than Hyperion -- but compared to those people across the street from her, she's a giant, isn't she? They look like they'd come up to her waist.

Maybe that's supposed to be like a little camper-trailer under the Thing's toes, not a full-sized truck. But it sure is dwarfed by the bystanders in the negative space between his arm and his leg, just a few yards up the street.

It's also interesting to compare the height of the first floor of the central building to the heights of the six floors above it.

I know it's sort of unfair to nitpick perspective on a hacked-out drawing like this. As I said, in some ways, this is a study in what distortions can still "work," because the image certainly looks okay at first glance. Mainly I ramble on about this for the sake of anyone who is still working on his or her perspective skills: I invite such folks to look at the sort of mistakes that are easy to make, if not necessarily easy to avoid.

3.) You could always tell when the guest "star" in Two-in-One wasn't a major player in the Marvel Universe, if his or her logo was dull or if the headshot portrait in the upper left corner of the cover looked like a rush job.

Judging by the lines in his hair, Hyperion's portrait is just traced from the picture of him on the cover. Compare:

I also have one remark from inside the comic:

4.) It's fairly common knowledge (among the people who follow this sort of thing) that Hyperion is a semi-satirical Marvel version of DC's Superman. The two barrel-chested heroes have similar names, similar powers, and even a similar origin story. All of those Squadron Sinister / Squadron Supreme characters have their Justice League analogues, though this particular comic predates the Squadron Supreme series by a couple of years.

Anyway, while Hyperion is fighting with Thundra in Two-in-One #67, there's a nod to his status as a Superman knock-off:

If I'd read this comic as a nine-year-old, would I have understood that? Would I have been more likely to see what was going on in Squadron Supreme when I bought and read that series? Because I vaguely remember thinking how ironic it was that all these different superhero universes all had one guy with trick arrows, and one guy with wings, and maybe a warrior woman from a faraway island or a guy who can run really, really fast... I'm not sure why I didn't put the parallels together sooner.

Anyway, those are my four remarks about this issue of Marvel Two-in-One.

I leave it to you to speculate on why Hyperion, who is clearly ginger-haired himself, would mock Thundra's fab rufous locks. Why, the two could almost be siblings, if they weren't from different alternate Earths.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

RipRollerz at Walgreens

One of the small amusements that I allow myself from time to time is a look at the toys in the toy aisle at the drugstore. They're mostly pretty cheap, and pretty garish, and I think it has been a long time since I was tempted to buy one. (I did buy a sticker activity book featuring the Hulk and the Abomination; I'll have to blog about that some time.)

The last time I was at the drugstore, I found one of the worst licensed Marvel superhero products I'd ever seen. It was so lame, and had such amusing mistakes, that I snapped a quick picture with my cameraphone. If I were a real pop-culture blogger, I probably would have bought the decorated plastic ball* to bring it home and make a proper scan of the packaging. As it is, I may have to do a little interpretation of this blurry closeup from the back of the package.

What you're looking at, there, are a handful of the characters available on the various individual balls. This one was Wolverine, I think. Notice that all of those fellows have been in Hollywood movies lately. Clockwise from lower left, there's Wolverine, that scrappy Canadian, and Spider-Man, one of the two times he appears in the dramatis personae. And then there's this famous guy...

You know, the, uh, ... something to do with fire.

And then you have this well-known hero, coming soon to a theater near you:

It's not easy to read, but I assure you, that drawing is labeled "Iron Man." (As played by Ben Affleck.)

Probably they're all just Skrulls anyway, right? Isn't that where this is heading?

* Yes, as far as I can tell, RipRollerz are balls with the image of a superhero decorating them and sort of puffing out from the sides. I think you play with them by pulling a ripcord that makes them spin. I'm not sure how that works, exactly.