Marvel’s Experiment

Nobody knows these guys. They’re D-list, no one’s gonna care about them. You can’t cast him! Look at him! He’s chubby, flabby, no one will take him seriously as the dashing hero. Those two muscle-bound meatheads can’t play a role with any substance. You can’t make this movie! What are you doing?

Such were the thoughts running through the minds of many when Marvel announced, produced, and released “Guardians of the Galaxy.” To make a long story short, doubters were wrong and the movie was spectacular. Almost universally beloved by all.

“Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2” was recently released, and again, people raised questions: Will it live up to the first? Can it live up to the first?

It did. It did live up to the first.

In fact, it’s probably fair to say GOTG2 is arguably the best film in the MCU. This statement stands, even considering the other juggernauts in the series like “The Avengers” and “Captain America: Winter Soldier.” Such a claim is supported by a simple fact. GOTG2 has stronger underlying themes than any of its Marvel predecessors.

It’s true that many of the films before had some pretty effective themes- Team-building in “The Avengers,” loyalty in “Winter Soldier,” and accountability in “Iron Man.” However, these themes each seemed coincidental to the plot, whereas GOTG2’s themes are the driving force behind the plot. None of these films are lessened because of this fact, but GOTG2 is certainly strengthened by it.

(SPOILERS AHEAD. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED)

Family

The major force driving the plot of this film is the idea that one’s family is not necessarily the one that they’re born into, but rather the people who choose to be there for him.

Star-Lord spends much of the movie struggling with this concept. In the beginning, he is shown to be a very effective member of his team, and they work well together. Then his biological father returns into his life, and he is left to wonder whether his loyalty lies with his team or with his newfound father. It looks as though he might choose his dad until it turns out pops was only using him the whole time. Finally, in one of the most heartbreaking scenes in the MCU to date, Star-Lord realizes he had a father all along in Yondu. He’s not the dad he wanted, but he’s the one who was always there for him. Peter reunites with his true family- his team.

Chris Pratt and Michael Rooker as Star-Lord and Yondu in “Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2”

Gamora  struggles with a similar conflict involving her sister. Both were raised in unimaginably harsh conditions. They could have eased each other’s pain all along, but they chose instead to compete. Each grew up hating the other. Finally, they were able to express their own perspectives and they recognized that the other was hurting just as much as they were. They chose to be there for each other instead. They chose to be a family.

Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillan as Gamora and Nebula in “Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2”

Secrets

The Gamora/Nebula subplot is a perfect example of another plot-driving theme- secrets. Each sister kept her own feelings to herself and this caused problems. It was only when they aired out these thoughts that they were abe to begin repairing their relationship.

Toward the beginning of the film, Rocket Raccoon secretly steals a few priceless items, setting an alien race on the warpath to destroy them recurrently throughout the movie. His secret caused a lot of turmoil for the rest of the team. Rocket only begins to recognize his selfishness when Yondu forces him to reveal his secret fear of failure and isolation.

Bradley Cooper (voice)/Sean Gunn (motion capture) and Michael Rooker as Rocket Raccoon and Yondu in “Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2”

Yondu was banished from his original team because he secretly transported and sold children.

Star-Lord’s dad hides a major secret from him throughout, cementing his role as the villain throughout the back half of the film.

Chris Pratt and Kurt Russell as Star-Lord and Ego in “Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2”

It seems the only two characters relatively removed from the conflict of the film are Drax and Mantis. With the exception of the secret Star-Lord’s father forces Mantis to keep, these two are the most honest characters in the movie. That is perhaps one of the reasons their interactions are so interesting. Neither one holds anything back. They say what’s on their mind without filter. Each blatantly tells the other that they find them repulsive, yet they still develop a friendship and platonic love for each other.

Dave Bautista and Pom Klementieff as Drax and Mantis in “Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2”

This film demonstrates through its characters that secrets invariably lead to trouble, and honesty is the most valuable virtue.

These themes intertwine with the plot and the characters in a magnificent way- in such a way that has not been seen quite so clearly in any MCU movie before it. One can only sit and anxiously wait for the day when “Volume 3” shines bright on the silver screen.

 

For more on how Director James Gunn turned his own painful upbringing into cinematic treasure, check out this article from the Washington Post.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/news/comic-riffs/wp/2017/05/05/how-guardians-of-the-galaxy-vol-2-reflects-its-directors-painful-childhood/

Emo Rich Kid Beats Up Mental Patients

Ladies and gents, be prepared. I am about to share with you a really unpopular opinion. Some of you may hate me for it, but try to have an open mind. Are you ready? Here goes…..

Batman is not really all that great.

(Also, Wall-E, Finding Nemo, and Nightmare Before Christmas are all super overrated, but that’s beside the point.)

Think about it. He’s not. I mean, there are some kind of cool aspects about him, but as a character, he’s moody, temperamental, and just so bleak! It’s like reading a comic an emo middle school kid wrote about an emo middle school kid! Not to mention, he hardly ever sticks absolutely to his “No Killing” policy except for the one insane clown he probably should just kill.

So why are people so obsessed with Batman in our modern day? I have a simple theory on this. See, though Batman himself is a relatively uninteresting character, he does have probably the best rogues gallery in all of comics. My theory is that the public has confused a love for Batman’s villains with a love for Batman himself.

So what, then, makes the villains so great? Why do they stand out compared to any and every other villain in comics?

Though they may often be a bit campy and cartoonish, somehow these villains always maintain a sense of reality, where many others fail to do so. Somehow, they feel like they can and do actually exist, which makes them even scarier. People may assume this is because they are well-rounded and fully-developed characters, but I’d like to propose another hypothesis, just the opposite: These characters are each representational of an idea, magnified and expanded into a being with a name and a backstory. They’re not developed characters, but, rather, each is a personification of a very real mental disorder.

Psychopathy

From psychologytoday.com, “[the psychopath] lacks conscience and empathy, making him manipulative, volatile and often (but by no means always) criminal.”

https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/psychopathy

In the real world, psychopathy can take a number of different forms, with some living they’re whole lives undiagnosed and unaware that the problem even exists within them. In comics, psychopathy looks like the Joker.

The Joker is most certainly volatile and manipulative, enacting countless plans to drive citizens of Gotham insane and fostering chaos just for the fun of it. He has no empathy for those lives he ruins- in fact, he finds an immense amount of joy in it. The Joker is psychopathy incarnate.

The Joker, from “Batman: Arkham City”

Stockholm Syndrome/Abusive Relationship

On the subject of the Joker’s manipulation, nowhere is this more apparent than in his relationship with Harley Quinn. During one of his many stays at Arkham Asylum, the Joker was analyzed by Dr. Harleen Quinzel. He manipulated her emotions to such a degree that she fell in love and became utterly devoted to him, no matter what he does or how much he hurts her. Incidentally, he really enjoys hurting her. She is the victim of an abusive relationship, and his willing captive– a perfect example of Stockholm Syndrome.

Harley Quinn, from “Batman: Arkham City”

Superiority Complex

A superiority complex is an innate belief that one is better, cleverer, or more important than everyone else. Often, this is a facade adopted to hide true feelings of inferiority. Edward Nigma, the Riddler, is fixated on proving his superiority. He believes he is the smartest being in Gotham, perhaps even the world, so when a figure like Batman happens along, with the capability to make him feel inferior, the Riddler must challenge him for supremacy. This need is so ingrained in Nigma’s mind that, even when he has the opportunity to simply kill his victims, he cannot bring himself to do it, opting instead to subject them to a carefully-devised death trap and offering them the possibility of life, should they be clever enough to survive it.

The Riddler, from “Batman: Arkham City”

Dissociative Identity Disorder

More commonly known as “Split-Personality or Multiple-Personality Disorder,” dissociative identity disorder is, according to psychologytoday.com, “a severe condition in which two or more distinct identities, or personality states, are present in—and alternately take control of—an individual.”

https://www.psychologytoday.com/conditions/dissociative-identity-disorder-multiple-personality-disorder

Even before his disfigurement, Harvey Dent showed signs of this disorder. Occasionally, he would appear to lose his temper, becoming spontaneously violent and aggressive. This was his second personality emerging. The event that caused his disfigurement was traumatic, loosening his control over the second identity and, at the same time, giving it a face of its own. Two-Face was born. Both of Two-Face’s identities exist at the surface simultaneously, which, according to a first-hand account on Quora.com, actually isn’t all that far-fetched. https://www.quora.com/With-multiple-personality-disorders-can-more-than-one-alter-be-in-front-at-once-Can-you-talk-to-both-of-the-alters-in-front-and-be-up-front-with-them

In any case, it is quite apparent Harvey Dent is the comic book personification of Dissociative Identity Disorder.

Two-Face, from “Batman: Arkham City”

These are just four examples of how the translation of real-world problems can create fascinating character designs. Someday, I may revisit this topic and explore grief and depression through Mr. Freeze or how environmentalism can be taken to a violent extreme through Poison Ivy, but for now, I’ll just leave you with this one final reason why Batman should not be so universally celebrated: These are some obviously disturbed individuals, and Arkham Asylum is clearly ineffective at treating or even containing them. Wouldn’t Mr. Wayne’s money be much better spent improving the mental hospital to help these unbalanced patients, rather than devising new ways to punch them?

Until next time, all the best. Thanks for reading.

Loving Others with Different Values

These past two weeks in Visual Design class at BYU-Idaho have been devoted to the creation of a three-page magazine spread using Adobe In-Design. The instructions and requirements were relatively simple– We were to find a 600+ word article on either LDS.org or BYUIScroll.org, and design a magazine spread surrounding this article. Some specific requirements for the spread include a two or more column layout, a pull quote (where a sentence or quote is copied from the article and placed  the page elsewhere to draw extra attention to it), two or more relevant photographs we shot ourselves, three or more subheadings, and a text-wrap (Where the text in the article wraps around a picture or shape). Following are the three pages I designed for this project.

Target Audience

The article I found on lds.org was about the author and their struggle to accept a family member who had made some life choices contrary to the ideals of the LDS church. The article is entitled “Loving Others with Different Values,” and the author’s name was withheld. After reading the article, I decided I would design the spread with BYU-Idaho college students in mind– specifically, college-aged church members who are struggling with similar concerns like how to consolidate their own belief system with that of the rest of the world, and questions like how to forgive someone you perceive has done you wrong. Essentially, the target audience boils down to 18-30 year-old LDS members with questions or issues regarding their faith.

I believe this design appeals to this target audience because the photograph and relevant scripture quote on the first page grab their attention and get them interested to read it. After that, they notice how the article is broken up– the paragraphs are short, and each section (at least until the final page) is relatively small, so the task of reading is not daunting. The color schemes appeal to this age group and relate to the message being expressed (more on that later) and the dove is an easily recognized symbol of the topic at hand.

 

Design Analysis

One of the predominant themes in this story is that of forgiveness and acceptance. I tried to keep that in mind while designing this spread. I began with the background color. the first page is all black, because at this point in the story, the author has only just recognized a problem and hasn’t learned anything yet. Over the next two pages, the background gradually fades to white, symbolizing the author’s and the reader’s increased understanding and path toward forgiveness and a Christ-like life.

The dove is also a symbol for forgiveness, acceptance, and purity. I thought that might be a nice reminder of the themes as the reader continues. The picture and scripture quote on the first page remind the reader that we are not to judge others when we are not perfect ourselves. All of this hearkens back to the predominant theme.

As mentioned previously, another theme in this story is how to maintain a belief system such as the LDS faith in a world that is constantly trying to pull us away from it. For this theme, I used the photograph on the third page to symbolize the connection between our world and our Heavenly Father’s. The building symbolized our world, while the sky is our God’s world. The green of the grass in the stone picture seemed like a natural sort of blend between the two ideals, so I used a dark green as a recurring theme for the title and subheadings.

So far as the Design Principles go, I did my best to align each element on the page with other elements. this is most easily seen in the text, where there are clear lines of alignment along the left sides, as well as the top and bottom for the most part. I contrasted the white and green writing over the black background so that it stands out. I also contrasted the size and color of the subheadings with the size and color of the text to ensure they were seen separately. I contrasted the fonts as well. the majority of the text is written in a sans-serif font to make it easy for the reader to follow, while the subheadings and pull quote are written in a serif font to draw attention. there are a couple of repeated elements– as stated before, the color scheme is repeated throughout. Also, the shapes containing the photographs are both softly curved ovals– with the theme, again, being forgiveness, I tried to avoid any angled shapes with hard, sharp edges.

 

Photography

These photographs were taken by me at Brigham Young University- Idaho. The building featured is the Eliza R. Snow building. The hand is mine, holding a BYU-Idaho rock in the quad in front of the Jacob Spori building. The dove is a stencil found on Google from Donna Dewberry Free Stencils.

Donna Dewberry Free Stencils

So, as you can see, this magazine spread was designed to capture the attention of an LDS youth and reinforce the ideals of acceptance, forgiveness, and maintaining faith in a carnal world. Each element of the design complements and contrasts each other, with the most important ones repeating throughout. Overall, I am satisfied that this design effectively promotes the desired message, and I’m proud to present it.

4 Archetypes

As movies continue to jet in and out of theaters, I’ve noticed something more and more in team-based films. Quite a few teams in pop culture adhere to a set of archetypes. Not all groups, mind you, but in films and comics like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the A-Team, the Fantastic Four, and even the Penguins of Madagascar, members of these teams seem to fit quite nicely into four character types that, from here on out, I’ll dub “the Head, the Brain, the Muscle, and the Heart.”

The Head

The Head is typically a brash, yet charming character. He might be a bit quick to rush into battle, without considering all of the alternatives, but he certainly isn’t stupid. Oftentimes, the Head is the leader of the group, though this is not necessarily a requirement, as we’ll see with the Fantastic Four and the A-Team. The Head is generally pretty well- rounded and serves as a lynch pin of sorts, bringing the rest of the team together. From the four groups I will focus on throughout this post, Head characters include Leonardo from TMNT, Skipper from the Penguins of Madagascar, Face from the A-Team, and Human Torch from the Fantastic Four (One might expect Hannibal and Mr. Fantastic to be the Head characters, as they are the leaders of their respective groups, but it is my belief that they fit better into the Brain archetype).

Leonardo in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”

The Brain

The rest of the archetypes from here on out are pretty simple and self-explanatory. The Brain, as the name might suggest, is the smart one of the group. They are technologically proficient, gifted at the art of invention, and they excel in finding research and intelligence information. They often create the plans and strategies the team follows, and can sometimes be a bit slow to adapt to change. However, when they realize that their team is depending on them to figure a solution, they set to work and end up saving the day. Examples of the Brain include the aforementioned Mr. Fantastic, and Hannibal of the A-Team, as well as Donatello of TMNT and the Penguin Kowalski.

Ioan Gruffud as Mr. Fantastic, in “The Fantastic Four”

The Muscle

Again, the name of this archetype gives it away. The Muscle is the tough guy of the group. He is not necessarily stupid (though he can be portrayed that way if the author or screenwriter wishes), but he certainly is not the brightest of the four. He is there to do the heavy-lifting for the team (often literally), and he will fearlessly run headfirst into battle, sometimes to the detriment of the team.(LEEEEERROOOOYYYY…… JEEEENNNKKIIINNNSSS!!!) The muscle will sometimes feel underutilized or unappreciated, and so will challenge the leader’s authority, losing each time to the leader’s superior strategy. Examples of the muscle are Rico the Penguin, B.A. Baracus of the A-Team, Raphael the Turtle, and The Thing, of the FF.

Mr. T as B.A. Baracus, in “The A-Team”

The Heart

The Heart cares most about the team’s well-being and their overall togetherness. They are most likely to set aside their own feelings and desires if it means they can solve inner conflict and bring peace to the other members of the group. Oftentimes, the heart is the one who brings interest and personality to the audience– otherwise we are just watching three intense and focused characters solving external problems with no joy or fun. The Heart is usually the glue that holds the team together. Sometimes, however, the heart serves this purpose in a different way– by being so ridiculous or goofy that the team needs to unite to reign him in- as with the case of “Howling Mad” Murdock of the A-Team. Other examples of the Heart include the Invisible Woman, Michaelangelo the Turtle, and Private the Penguin.

Private, in “The Penguins of Madagascar”

 

This concludes my analysis is of the archetypes of Comic and Pop-Culture teams of four. Next time you watch a movie of this kind, watch it with this in mind and see if you can pick out the individual characteristics. You’ll be surprised how often you see it. Until next time, all the best.

(By the way, in case you were wondering about the feature image on this post, Ron Burgundy is the Head, Brian Fantana is the Brain, Champ Kind is the Muscle, and Brick Tamland is the Heart.)

 

If you’re interested to see another theory on archetypes within teams of four, check out this video.

http://wolfcrow.com/blog/the-four-major-group-character-archetypes/

The narrator of the video explains his own take on the archetypes, including the Lynchpin, the Thinker, the Rebel, and the Odd One, which roughly equate to my own Head, Brain, Muscle, and Heart respectively. He lists a lot more examples, and places each into their categories as he would. They don’t completely mesh with my own placement (for example, he places Mr. Fantastic as the Lynchpin, Invisible Woman as the Thinker, Human Torch as the Rebel, and the Thing as the Odd One) but I understand his reasoning.

Thanks for reading. Farewell!

 

Design on the Line

Photography is a keystone in visual design. Few things can capture a reader’s interest quite like an engaging photograph. Pictures draw a reader’s eye and, if done effectively, can direct attention to any point on a page the designer desires. Professional photographers have developed several techniques and standards to help beginners like me master the art.

The Rule of Thirds

 

 

It has been scientifically proven that pictures adhering to “the Rule of Thirds” are naturally more interesting to viewers. The rule of thirds is simple. We divide a photograph horizontally and vertically into thirds. The lines that divide these sections are effective focal points for viewers. The points where these lines intersect are the most attractive focal points of the photos.

Above is a photo that I took of the North Quad at Brigham Young University Idaho. Now take a quick look at the division of the photograph into the rule of thirds.

As you can see, I did my best to position the objects in the photo onto the division lines. The tree in the original photo is placed directly on the left vertical line, while the center of the table was placed as best I could on the intersection of the right vertical and the lower horizontal lines. This draws a viewer’s attention to those objects.

Below is a photograph taken by Simon Powell, a professional photographer. See how he positions his model along the right vertical division to draw your attention to her.

Photograph by Simon Powell

Leading Lines

Leading lines are imaginary guides within our photographs directing us toward a focal object. Above is a picture I took in the Spori Art Museum. There are certainly better and more effective demonstrations of leading lines, but I am only learning, so forgive my incompetence.

See how the corners of the podium and the left edge of the informational poster direct your attention toward the guest book, and the corner of the floor guides you leftward toward the red exhibit.

Below is another photograph by professional, Simon Powell. Notice how the edges of the fields, the grass, the shore, and even some of the ripples on the sand all guide your eyes from the center of the photograph to the gazebo on the right. Mr. Powell is better at photography than I.

Photograph by Simon Powell

Range of Focus

Have you ever taken a photograph and the darn camera just makes everything blurry? It’s a common occurrence, and it can be very frustrating. Cameras use various mechanisms to focus in on subjects– sometimes the intended subject and sometimes, frustratingly, anything but the subject. However, the focus can be manipulated to great effect, creating some very very interesting pictures. This occurs more often than one might believe, even in movies. An effective use of this in film can be found in the recent release, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. During the opening credits, the Guardians fight an epic battle against an interdimensional space beast– entirely in the background. The camera chooses instead to focus on baby Groot, merrily dancing to a fun, bouncy 70’s hit. Groot remains in focus through the scene, while the intense fight rages behind him, blurry and out of focus.

Above is the photograph that, of the three posted, I’m most proud of (or perhaps least ashamed of). Taken, again, in the Spori Art Gallery at BYU-Idaho, the subject of the photograph is bold and in focus, while the background, including another exhibit further back, is blurred.

Following is yet another photograph by Simon Powell, utilizing the range of focus to maximum effect. Notice first that the cliffs in the background are completely out of focus. Then try to find the subject of the photo. Oddly enough, it’s not the model, but the shoes he is wearing. The shoes are crystal clear, while the model is a bit blurry- not overly so, but subtly.

Photograph by Simon Powell

Summary

So you see, these techniques can be used in every photograph you take to capture and direct your viewer’s attention. Even more astounding is that these techniques do not have to be used alone. Take a look back at the photo of the woman in the white dress. I used that picture to demonstrate the rule of thirds, but now that we’ve discussed range of focus, you can easily see that photograph utilizes this technique as well. Master these tools to help maximize your pictures’ effectiveness and interest, and you’re well on your way to becoming a professional designer!

A Comic Who Comments on Comics

Over the next couple of months, I’m going to explore the psychology and personalities of some of the most famous and most popular characters from comics and pop-culture. Although I am very excited to begin, I feel I should take this opportunity to introduce myself.

My name is Benjamin Emley. I am a Communications-Advertising student at BYU-Idaho, though I’m originally from Orange County, California. Here in Idaho, I perform with a BYU-I campus comedy group (hence the name of this blog post). I’m an avid fan of Marvel Comics and, to a lesser extent, DC, and I am absolutely thrilled that superhero blockbusters are currently the popular trend. To help you get to know me even better and to give you a little taste of what’s to come in later posts, let me tell you about a couple of my favorite characters.

My Favorite Superheroine

Just recently, I was with a small group of friends, asking each other about our favorite superheroes. I was surprised to find that each of our favorites, even those of the women present, was a male hero. Though they have been, admittedly, a bit underrepresented in the cinematic universes thus far, there is a wealth of strong and inspiring female characters written in the pages of comics and graphic novels; So I posed a new question to the group: Who is your favorite superheroine? Most of the answers were somewhat typical– Supergirl, Catwoman, Black Widow– and mostly for the simple reason that these are the only characters they have been exposed to. These are the most recognizable ones. My choice was also a recognizable character who has been portrayed in movies, but there are deeper reasons she is my favorite.

Marvel Civil War #4

Susan Storm, or “The Invisible Woman,” is a member of the Marvel team, The Fantastic Four. She has been portrayed in film four times: Once in a forgotten 1994 movie so bad it wasn’t ever released, twice by Jessica Alba, and once more in a horrendous performance by Kate Mara in the recent flop reboot. Suffice it to say, I’m not a great fan of the way she’s been played on-screen (Jessica Alba got the closest, but that’s not saying much).

So what is it that makes this character so great, and why have her portrayals been so bad? Susan Storm is arguably the most powerful member of the Fantastic Four. She could easily overpower any of her teammates, and even take down some of the strongest characters in the Marvel universe. Yet, despite her enormous potential, her most defining characteristic is easily her empathy. Sue is one of the most empathetic characters in all of comics. She can relate to just about anyone, including her genius, socially inept husband Reed, the king of Atlantis, and the god of thunder. She could use her power and her will to stand toe-to-toe with just about anyone, but she chooses instead to talk through the conflict whenever possible, resolving issues peacefully rather than violently.

(This is one of the reasons Kate Mara’s performance was so terrible. She played Sue as this work-focused, antisocial loner who valued independence over love and friendship.)

Check out ScreenRant’s list on how to make a great Fantastic Four movie. Susan has her own section in #4.

http://screenrant.com/ways-to-make-great-fantastic-four-movie/

(ScreenRant is a website devoted to movies, TV, and all things geeky. ScreenRant writers publish news stories, opinions, and reviews, all devoted to films, comics, and series.)

My Favorite Hero

My favorite Hero of all is a bit of a simpler choice. He’s not one whose comics I’ve read more than any other, nor is he the most popular or most prolific in the cinematic universes. Rather, I chose this character because I relate to him on a deeper level than I do other heroes. My favorite superhero is…

Kelsey Grammer as Beast in X-Men: The Last Stand

… X-Men’s Beast.

At first glance, Hank Mccoy is an imposing figure. At face value, he is a terrifying blue lion man, ready to beat you into submission or eat your face off. However, underneath Beast’s exterior is a genius mind and a gentle heart. Those who know me in person know that I, too, am a very large, imposing person, leading many to assume I might be rough and mean. Even worse than that prejudice is the one held by those who judge my appearance and assume I’ve got an enormous head with nothing inside it. Sometimes I’m reminded of the quote from the first “Shrek” film, when Shrek tells Donkey “People take one look at me and go ‘Aargh! Help! Run! A big stupid ugly ogre!’ They judge me before they even know me.” I often feel the same sentiment. I may be large in stature, but my mind is greater, and my heart is even bigger than that. That is why Beast is my favorite hero of all.

 

Anyway, ladies and gentlemen, I look forward to these next couple of months, discussing and analyzing some of my favorite characters and dynamics from pop-culture. Thanks for reading. Farewell.

Typography at the Book Festival

Design By
Studio Ace of Spade

Above is a poster for a book festival in 2014. I’m not exactly sure what happens at a book festival. I’ve never been invited. Anyway, today, I’ll be analyzing the typography in the poster above. It features a couple of different categories of typefaces to draw attention first to the title and then to the information below.

Slab Serif

The title on the poster– “The Book Festival”– is written in, I believe, a Slab Serif font. The letters are large and thick, with no transition from thin to thick like one might find in a Modern or an OldStyle font. Now the Serifs do have a bit of diagonal slant, pointing toward an Oldstyle font, but the fact that the serifs are generally the same size and thickness as the letters, paired with the aforementioned lack of thickness transition, I am inclined to believe this is, for the most part, a Slab Serif.

 

Sans Serif

Now that the audience’s attention has been grabbed by the title, the designers need to draw the attention further to find out when and where. The information is in relatively close proximity to the title, but is inherently very different. changing the color of the text alone provides some contrast, changing the text size provides even more– one further way to differentiate this text from the text above is to change the font type. The typeface used for the information appears to be a simple Sans Serif font. Sans means “without,” and serifs are the tiny little decorative bits you see on the ends of the letters in the title. As you can see, the information text is without the tiny decorative bits. This doesn’t draw as much attention as the Serif text does, but it is easier for the audience to read. This is particularly effective for this passage, as there are quite a lot of small words to read.

 

Conclusion

And so we see this poster is a great example of effective typography. The information below is clearly different from the title above, while the couple of small passages to the right of the information use a repetition of the Slab Serif category of typeface to differentiate it further from the dates and places. Overall, this poster uses principles of good design to direct our attention where the designers determine we should look and what information to absorb in what order.

Designs of Future Past

Designed by BLT Communications, LLC
Photography by Michael Muller
Released in May of 2014, “X-Men: Days of Future Past” was an entertaining return not only to the rebooted X-Men universe– established in 2011 with “X-Men: First class,” but also to the original X-Men universe– established in 2000 with “X-Men.” Reviews of the film were mixed, but at the very least, the advertising campaign gave us these two brilliantly designed movie posters featuring four of the film’s stars– Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Patrick Stewart, Michael Fassbender, and James McAvoy.

Color

One of the most prevalent aspects of the original poster is the use of color. As such, color is a wonderful place to begin our analysis of the design. Color is used in this design for a few important reasons. First is the fact that in movies and much of pop-culture, red typically signifies a villain or antagonist or otherwise unsavory character, while blue typically signifies a hero or protagonist (For another example, compare the colors of lightsabers in the “Star Wars” series). From a single glance, it is clear to us through the use of color that Michael Fassbender’s and Ian McKellen’s character(s) are generally antagonistic, while James McAvoy’s and Patrick Stewart’s are generally heroic. Another way the color contributes to these posters’ designs is the fact that it helps our eyes transition to the different actors’ faces and consolidate them into one character. Take a look at the posters below. When the red is removed from Fassbender’s face, it becomes much clearer than in the posters above that we are looking at two different actors. It even becomes clearer that some of the alignment of their facial features is off (see the transition from the bridge of McKellen’s nose to Fassbender’s? Or their cheekbones toward the bottom left of the poster?). Finally, the use of color helps us recognize that the way the faces are overlaid forms the letter “X.” It’s much simpler to see the “X” in the poster on the right than in the one on the left.

Contrast

Another aspect the color adds to the posters, not mentioned above, is its contribution to contrast in the design. In each poster, we are looking at the same character, played by two different actors, living in two different time periods. This plot point is demonstrated in this poster by the use of contrast. Sirs McKellen and Stewart are featured in black-and-white. They originated the roles and feature in this film to provide context for the rest of the film. The new actors, Fassbender and McAvoy, are featured in vibrant color, as they are the “new guard” and the focus for the majority of the film. We can tell easily which set of actors the film will focus on. Take a look below. Without any contrast, the meaning behind the overlay of Fassbender’s face is completely lost, and we, as the viewers, are confused and unsure where to turn our attention. With too much contrast, McAvoy’s face is lost, along with any intention the poster had.

Repetition

Any repetition in a single one of these posters would be rather difficult to discern, but the repetition becomes quite clear when the other poster is involved. This is a simple case of repetition across multiple pages. The colored “X” overlays are in the same position in each poster, as are the release dates in the bottom right corners. Additionally, these posters feature a bit of conceptual repetition. Notice that Sirs McKellen and Stewart are clean shaven, while Fassbender is sporting a bit of scruff around his upper lip, and McAvoy has a full-grown beard. This connects the older and younger actors with each other in our minds in a subtle, unspoken way.

Alignment

There is a subtle alignment in and between these posters. The intersection of the “X” creates some interesting alignment lines for our eyes to follow. See the picture below. The horizontal line created by the intersection follows just above each actor’s eye-line, drawing our attention to the eyes that are staring intensely at us from the page. The vertical lines created by the intersection draw our attention downward to see who made the film and when we can expect to see it in theaters.

Proximity

As has been mentioned several times thus far, Sir Mckellen and Fassbender portray the same character in this film, as do Sir Stewart and McAvoy. This is demonstrated in the poster by the actors’ proximity to each other– ie. directly on top of one another. Because the faces are overlaid, we can tell quickly and simply that each set of actors is a single character. In the picture below, I’ve marked some places where the picture overlay is remarkably aligned, making the proximity all the more clear. (Note: It was easier to find these spots on the red poster, as Stewart’s clean-shaven face and bald head made it difficult to match up with McAvoy’s full head of hair and beard.)

Conclusion

When each aspect of design is taken into effect, they are combined to make some quite stunning movie posters. The colored, overlaid “X’s” provided most of the interest surrounding the posters– telling us who the film would focus on, giving us context clues and exposition, and telling us which set of actors to support and which set to condemn. Though the posters are by no means perfect, I think it’s fair to say that BLT Communications, LLC did a (dare I say it?) MARVEL-ous job with the design.

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