Super Target Stalkers

Hey guys! In Christmas 2011, I wrote a Stick Guy comic series called Super Target Stalkers for my brother Hudson! After two years of having this shelved, I’ve finally decided to release them to the public! It’s cheesy, it’s stupid, but I think it’s a lot of fun. You can now read the first volume by clicking here, and I will release one volume a week for the next thirteen weeks. Enjoy!

Fan Communities And Church Families

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Recently, my youngest brother Hudson and our Dad went to go see The Day of The Doctor in 3D. As you can well imagine, the two were very excited to go see it. According to my Dad, there was a very decent crowd in the theater, some even wore costumes of the different doctors. There was also a pretty good variety of different aged people there too, but regardless, they all had something in common: they were all very happy to be there and very friendly too. When the 3D effect wasn’t working a few minutes into the film, the theater had to stop the movie and have a special technician fix the problem, but they were assured that the problem would be fixed and they would still get to watch the film. Instead of complaining though or walking out of the theater, the audience was just very happy to be there. One young woman even shouted “free popcorn!”
Hearing this makes ME happy, because it’s really nice to see a decent group of people get along with each other so well. That’s what a lot of fans do. They all have something in common that they really enjoy, so they get along with each other and talk. Walk into a Comic-Con convention or a Star Wars celebration some time and you will know what I’m talking about. It’s a very pleasant community. Sure they’ll have split opinions on certain aspects of what they enjoy, but they normally don’t allow it to make them get into heated arguments, at least not in public when they’re in a convention together. Now if we can just see this more often in church. I’m not saying that churches do a terrible job creating a community that gets along, I’m just saying that they can do better. When church families don’t get along with each other and constantly fight with each other, it creates division. You don’t have to be good at remembering the Bible to know the phrase “a house divided against itself cannot stand”. Disagreements and fights amidst a church community will affect the entire community until it completely falls apart unless it decides to work out its problems and get along. It’s okay to agree to disagree sometimes, but we can’t make it a big deal that can hurt others. Whatever we disagree with is normally not worth fighting about. We are entitled to our own opinions, and we need to respect that.
The bottom line definitely comes across then as “just get along”. Sometimes we need to be reminded of the simpler things. It’s what helps us grow. If the church families get along as much as a lot of fan communities out there, they would become much stronger, and our church communities will become like strong families just like God intended them to be.

My Interview With Ryan M. James

I recently had the honor of having an email interview with Ryan M. James, lead editor of games such as The Last Of Us, the Uncharted games, Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, and the still-remembered and still-loved Star Wars Battlefront games! He’s also the director of the web series A Clone Apart. Here is the interview below!

1. What was your first experience with Star Wars?

I was born after The Empire Strikes Back came out, and only 2 when Return of the Jedi was in theaters, so I saw all 3 on VHS at home while growing up. I was a fan, with a bunch of the Kenner toys courtesy of my mom.

2. What’s your favorite Star Wars movie and why?

Empire, for all the same reasons people who saw the original trilogy first loved it. Its tone, though still for families, was better than the others, including how it tried to really expand on threads after the first, neatly-structured A New Hope film.

3. You’ve worked with Pandemic Studios and Naughty Dog and helped them with the Star Wars Battlefront games, Mercenaries 2: World In Flames, Uncharted, and The Last Of Us. What was your favorite game to help work on, and why?

The Last of Us, mostly because I had the most creative involvement. Battlefront II has a special place in my heart of course, since that’s when we shot all the A Clone Apart footage.

4. I would love to touch on The Last Of Us for a moment. The Last Of Us was very well received by game critics and got a 10/10 from a lot of groups like IGN. What was your reaction like, and how do you feel about that, considering that your job editing the game is one of the important parts of making it a hit?

It took a lot of work from a ton of people to get everything as polished as it is, and we’re all glad it’s been as well received as it has. Being compared to Citizen Kane is a huge compliment, and we hope we’ve helped push things in terms of showing the character depth, tonal subtlety and moral complexities that games can explore.

The Last Of Us

5. How much creative control did you have over the game’s editing? Were you able to make a lot of decisions on your own, or were you given a very specific direction? How does that work?

I worked very closely with the Creative Director, Lead Cinematics Animator and Dialogue Supervisor to maintain consistency in the dialogue and camera/editing style throughout the game. The largest level of control I had was over dialogue in the cinematics, but everything was done with the Creative Director’s approval.

6. Considering that as the lead editor you were responsible for getting the music score edited into the game, what’s your favorite music track in the game?

I actually wasn’t responsible for the music, that was provided by our Composer Gustavo Santaolalla and Music Supervisors Scott Hanau and Jonathan Mayer. I played around with cutting a couple pieces into cinematics throughout the project but they provided me with everything and made better edits than I could for all the final stuff you hear.

My top 5 favorite pieces:
1) the one you hear during Joel’s Lie in the second to last cinematic
2) the simple, acoustic version of the main theme while Joel and Ellie have a moment in the apartment before Tess joins them
3) of course the Giraffes piece
4) the music when they say goodbye to Tommy
5) the ending piece

7. Editing anything be it games or videos can get exhausting, because it means repeatedly studying the same sequences over and over again. How did that feel for you considering that The Last Of Us is a very emotional game? Does the beginning still make you tear up?

I’m actually the only person who doesn’t tear up during the beginning. It’s due to the fact that when we capture the actors on the stage, there’s a bunch of velcro noise that can happen when two people touch–like, say, someone holding another in their arms. So that whole sequence to me was a “cleanup job” to preserve great performances, and so each time I hear it I still feel like I’m working on it. So strange, ’cause every other scene I’m separated from and can just watch & enjoy!

8. Now about A Clone Apart. How did the idea for the show come to you?

There’s plenty of info on that in our website’s FAQ, but the shortened version goes like this:

As we were saying earlier, we always loved Star Wars while growing up, but the prequels really threw us, the way they threw a lot of people. We were in a unique position:

When we were working on the Star Wars: Battlefront II filming the cutscenes in-game, my brother Jeff and I thought it’d be fun to get some extra footage and to something similar to Red vs Blue, but in the Star Wars universe. Many crunch-time lunches were spent talking about it, until we realized we’d never seen time travel in the Star Wars universe, and if we took a lone, awkward clone and transported him to the “present” of the Original Trilogy, he could point out everything in the Prequel Trilogies that just didn’t add up, among other gags.

9. I’m very curious about what your inspirations for Teflin McBomb and Percy might’ve been. Was there anything that inspired you to make these characters or did the ideas just come to you?

Percy (Or as we call him most of the time, “Scout”) was really inspired partly by the friend who voices him. Whitney Baron, who has since been co-writing all post-Episode-03 episodes with us, naturally has a very long-winded, verbose way of speaking, so we decided to have him voice the character and amp things up. Whitney never sounds quite like that, but the gist was inspired by him.

Teflin McBomb comes from two places: one, a Scottish accent is one of the only ones I feel I can do passably well–though for the series I purposefully make it over-the-top. Second, I knew a guy in college who played an RPG character named Tic Tac that always liked to blow things up, no matter what circumstance, and when we realized–to keep the characters distinct–that we had to use a Rocket Trooper class for the character, we looked at the bazooka he always carries and said, “Why not make him like Tic Tac?”

10. Can you say anything about what ACA fans can expect to see in Season Two?

Well, first I should say that if there are any fans left after this second hiatus, we’re grateful for their patience. Making The Last of Us took 3.5 years and after the first year-ish, during which I released the rest of ACA Season 1, I realized I was just too exhausted form moonlight-editing the series after a full days work editing TLOU. So the series has been waiting for me to be done. Now TLOU is done, though the single-player DLC we’re making is still taking my time, but never fear, it will be over soon!

That being said, the biggest thing we have in store for fans is… all I can say is it’s my favorite thing we’ve ever wanted to do on the show. It beats Rook killing the Jawa, Alpha’s “believe” speech, and even the Scooby-Doo-like sequence in the Death Star Prison Block, all of which are my other favorite bits we’ve ever done. If you want a hint, look at the shot in the trailer that involves fireworks. Now, if we can only get the *recording* needed for that section to actually happen, that will be the real trick, as it requires efforts we’ve never had to go to before. Once that recording has happened, and I know we’re solid, then–and only then–will I be able to confidently announce that the series last season can come to the light of day.

11. And finally, where can people find out what you’re up to, and are there any projects you’re working on that we’ll get to see in the future?

I’ve been remiss about posting on www.illusive-entertainment.com, so find me on my Facebook Page (the.Ryan.M.James) or follow me on Twitter (@RMJames).

Thank you for your time, Ryan! It was a great honor to ask you these questions!

It was an honor to answer them, I’m just sorry it took me so long to get around to them!

You can visit Ryan M. James’ website featuring full episodes of A Clone Apart at illusive-entertainment.com

Special Contest: Red vs Blue

Hello all! I am feeling very happy right now, so I want to give somebody a copy of Red vs Blue Season 8 Revelation. All you have to do to win is post a comment on this post that says what you’re favorite moment in Red vs Blue is. The drawing will be held on October 26th and the winner will be announced on the same day. I will send you an email announcing you’re the winner and all you’ll have to do in return is send me your mailing address so that I can have the DVD delivered to you! Zotte Man out!

Revival

NOTE: This is a piece I submitted to the River Cities’ Reader to participate in a Short-Fiction Contest they were having. I was supposed to select three or four different prompts, and this was the result. I won second prize in the contest, and I’m pretty sure my piece is in their newest issue (#814). So, without further ado, here it is:

Revival

My friends may not see it, but there is a soft side in me despite my abhorrent behavior. I had risked my reputation with my friends by letting her go. I never saw her again, but I’ll always remember that face. The one with a look of sheer terror, yet unspeakable beauty. Those soft, blue eyes would never gaze upon me again. I long to see that face and those eyes again, but I never got another chance. My anger was taken out on everybody else at the banks that I robbed, and the innocents that I mugged, never giving myself a moment to hesitate, or to reconsider.

My days became bitter as I became obsessed with the thought of her. My pistol eventually became horrendous to look upon, and I couldn’t stand to be with my friends anymore, who insisted on following their own dark desires. I will never forget that face, the way she looked when I threatened her for the belongings she had with her, and how it pained me like a knife driven into my heart. My friends became distant, and I eventually left them for good, never to participate in their repulsive deeds again. I never saw her again, but I always thanked her inside for jolting me back into a life that was free of fear, even when I was found and arrested, and this time, I didn’t fight back.

Lost and Found

NOTE: This is a piece that I got published in the seventh volume of a magazine called The Atlas. You could pre-order it at the Barnes and Noble website, and eventually, the Amazon website. WARNING: Contains explicit content (none from me of course!)

I don’t force anybody to do anything, and maybe that was my greatest mistake when I allowed you to run away, never to look back and never to return. The eleven years of your life had been pressured by grief and separation. Your anguish of our father’s departure drove you to leave.
Your room, which used to be bright and reflect your once cheerful, once happy character, now feels gloomy and hollow. Your smashed guitar lies on the ground, your unread books are scattered across your unmade bed, and your special photograph of the whole family lies torn on your pillow. The part of the photo that had our father on it had been sheared off. I assumed you took it.
I didn’t encourage you to go, but I let you go. The seventeen years of my life, and the eleven years that I had known you should have been enough time for me to learn that an older sibling needs to watch out for his younger brother. And now that I’ve realized my mistake, I will leave and I will find you. I don’t care how long it takes. You deserve better than to be out there by yourself. I will find you, and I will bring you back, because as long as the two of us are together, even if our parents are not, we are still family. I may have not been the best brother to you, but you were the best brother to me.
Out in the country, there are not a lot of places for you to hide. My regret is that you had left an entire day ago, so I assume you had covered a lot of ground. But that’s not going to stop me. In my head, a fierce joy begins to bubble in my mind, because I feel that I’m going in the right direction. When I find you, I will wrap my arms around you and tell you how sorry I am for allowing you to leave. I will beg you for a new start, because I know that we can still be family together, even though our father is gone.
As I look out at the field ahead of me, I believed I saw a small, moving figure far off into the distance. My feet quickened their pace as I began to run towards the figure, which was hard to recognize from the distance I was at, but I believed it was you. I was already pleading to you before I got to you.

Where To Now Marvel?

I will confess that I haven’t ever seen The Incredible Hulk movie (though I saw the original HULK, which was awful), though I have seen Iron Man 2, Captain America, and Thor. I will admit I’m not a comic book fan, so these movies don’t quite appeal to me as well as they probably should. I just look at these as good superhero films, nothing really more. Thor was excellent, Captain America was good enough to ask for Christmas last year, and Iron Man 2 is a lot of fun, but then came The Avengers.

I’m not sure what happened. DON’T GET ME WRONG, I REALLY LIKED THE MOVIE, but it wasn’t the best movie I’ve ever seen, or even the best superhero movie I’ve ever seen. I remember going to see it with my youth pastor and his kids, and whenever a fight scene would begin, the pastor’s youngest kid got really pumped up next to me while I was sitting there thinking: did we really need this? I’ve drawn a lot of comparisons with this film over two different things. One was character development, which sorely lacked in this film besides a small thing for Iron Man (Tony Stark), and then there was the action. I recently took this film and what I think is the best Narnia film Prince Caspian, and realized that there are a lot of differences. In the end, there was a big difference. I’m not going to go very in-depth with it, but if you watch those two films in a row, I’m sure you’ll see those differences too.

Every time I saw a fight scene in The Avengers, I kept thinking back to the fight scenes in the newer Red vs Blue fights (thinking from Seasons 8-10), and realizing that RvB still won. I found any fights with Black Widow to be quite impressive, and I think her and Agent Texas would get along very well. I believe that too many special effects made the fights look so fake and unbelievable. I thought the plot was confusing too, with a lot of loose ends that aren’t tied up in the end, which just shows that the action was given too much focus, even becoming a little too repetitive.

Anyway, that’s basically an Avengers review for you there, but I still really liked the movie. The word “fun” came to mind for me. It’s a good film if all you want to see is excellent special effects and engaging fight scenes, and yes, there is the fact that these are superheroes we’re watching. The cliffhanger ending however didn’t really get me pumped for what’s to come, I’m a little more pumped for The Hobbit this December right now. Hopefully Captain America 2 will expand on Cap’s personality in a way that they didn’t get to do in The Avengers. I also have high expectations for Thor: The Dark World next November.

Next Saturday, I will be posting a piece of mine called Lost and Found!

Public Reading

Unfortunately, I just have an announcement as a blog post this week. On August 8, at the Midwest Writers’ Center in Davenport, there will be a public party celebrating the release of The Atlas Volume 7 which is a collection of short stories and poems written by young writers, and I was fortunate to get a few of my own pieces in there. I will be publicly reading one of my pieces to everybody during the party. It’s on August 8 at 7 P.M. Hope you can come!