Tag Archive: Canada


Haphead

Maxine (Elysia White), Haphead Production Still, photo by Brandon Adam-Zwelling. Copyright 2015, Postopian Pictures

In 1982, a little film called Blade Runner had a such a strong visual design concept, by Syd Mead, that it’s been difficult for science fiction to shake the dark, dreary aesthetic look for the future. No, not every sci-fi movie or TV series copied it, but its influence is still felt in what the genre considers dystopia of the not-too-distant future. It’s difficult to shake such a defined look and attempts to do so result in varying degree of success. Back To The Future – Part II (picking up the original story from 1985) went in the other direction and gave us a bright-looking, pop culture-saturated, colourful then-future of 2015. As I write this, it’s January of 2015 and there are no flying cars, self-lacing Nikes or commercially available hoverboards. Blade Runner is set in the still-future 2019 and thankfully it looks like Mead’s vision won’t come to fruition either.

And that brings us to Haphead, a new science fiction webseries set in 2025. The series comes from creator and writer Jim Munroe, who launched a Kickstarter campaign to crowd fund the production. You can find out more about the production history here, but it’s important to note that the budget was a mere $4,000.

And it shows…

In the best possible way! A massive budget or blistering special effects do not a great work make. This is proven time and again, and not just in science fiction, though sci-fi may fall victim to it more because visual effects are a staple of the genre. What Haphead shows us is a world not far removed from our own. The skyline of Toronto is enhanced, but is still recognizable. It’s also worth noting that this is a proudly Canadian production, where the action takes place in both Toronto and Hamilton and both are noted as such in dialogue. An Ontario government sign appears prominently in an establishing shot of the gaming factory in the first episode. Being Canadian and living in Toronto, it’s refreshing to see my city as my city, not doubling as New York, Chicago or just a generic metropolis.

The visual effects support the story, which is always the best approach (and often where the aforementioned failures come from, the mistake of putting spectacle above all else). The story is of Maxine and her father, both living and working in this different kind of dystopian future. Times are hard, but not so bleak as to feel hopeless. The sun shines, kids skateboard and chat in lush green parks. The economic rift has grown between the upper and lower class. There are Special Economic Zones where employees work for below minimum wage. Maxine takes a job in one of these Zones at the gaming factory of Aster*sk, who develop the software and hardware of totally immersive video games. The players plug in via the back of the neck and experience what the avatar experiences, moving as they do and fighting as they must. The players are the titular Hapheads and Maxine cannot resist this new approach to gaming, which is still in the beta testing stage as she starts her factory job. A side effect of this gaming is that Hapheads retain the muscle memory of the combat skills acquired in the game, which means they can learn hand-to-hand combat and use it outside the game world.

I was fortunate to see the entire series start to finish, with the episodes edited together, at the January 22nd premier at The Royal in Toronto. During the introduction to the viewing, a phrase was said of the production company’s motto, “blurring the line between dystopia and utopia,” which partly sums up the world we see in Haphead. Then as now, it’s not a perfect world, but it’s not all bad. We see real people, ones we can relate to and identify with, living their lives and doing what most of us do day in, day out, like argue about money and hang out with friends. It’s the characters that drive the story, which kicks in when Maxine is forced to grow up in a hurry in the face of her new-found gaming skills and the harsh realities of her father’s job.

The relationship between Maxine and her father is the core of the story, both their motivations stem from this, and the story grows from it organically. The series avoids painting their relationship in simple terms or stereotypes. The performances of Elysia White (Maxine) and David Straus (her father, Simon) are spot on in all their scenes together and gives the series the essential emotional anchor, so we care about what they’re doing and why.

The series delivers what it promises, a dynamic, engaging story with believable characters, is well-produced and beautifully acted.

You can watch the trailer here.

Advertisements

Here is the original first issue, picking up a short time after the events of the “Prequel” issue. You’ll immediately notice the rougher quality of the art. At the time, I’d never tried anything like this, writing and drawing a comic, so I was sort of making it up as I went, with only a vague idea of where I was going. I did settle on a direction and an overall story arc halfway through writing this issue, but lacked the patience to refine the art before I started, nor did I script the story. I wrote it as I did the pencils and only occasionally changed things as I inked the pages. In retrospect, it was probably not the best way to write the tightest story, but it let me explore whichever directions I felt like taking it. If I plotted the entire thing out before I put pencil to paper, I fear it would’ve become stale to me by the time it came to do it. I also didn’t know that was how most comics did it. Again, impatience took over and I just dove right in.

[In 2012 I experimented with completely re-doing the text. I felt the original was pretty illegible. I didn’t alter the content, just fixed mistakes and made it clearer for the reader.]

Also included are two later strips whose events proceed the first issue.

Enjoy.


“The Date”
A strip which ran in the Eyeopener in 1996.

“Stress”
A page-long strip I used as a test for the comic.









(Horizon Line & Apex Comics, characters and events depicted therein are copyright 2012 Patrick Lemieux. All rights reserved. Registered with the National Library Of Canada)

Back in my last year of high school and through university, I wrote and drew a small-press comic series titled Horizon Line. It ran for about 6 years and issues were published quarterly. There were also one-off strips in various publications (school newspapers, magazines, etc.) and a second volume of idependent issues that were written late in the series’ history, which told side stories and back stories of various characters.

“Prequel” was one such back story. It’s presented here first, for the sake of telling the story more or less in chronological order. There will be points where artistic need requires flashbacks and slight deviations from the chronological order, so for story purposes, those moments will be preserved. Otherwise, the releases (strips and supplemental issues) will be placed within the regular flow of the comic in order to tell the most linear version of the story. It’ll make the most sense that way. Consider it my Director’s Cut, with re-instated scenes and bonus footage to enhance the story.

If the reprinting of the series here is popular, I’ll keep posting the original issues, perhaps once a month.

I’ll also warn you that the earlier-drawn material varies in technical quality from the later issues, as I improved as an artist. I hope you’ll forgive the roughness of the forthcoming Issues 1 to about 3 or 4. Issue 0 “Prequel” shows you how good the art became fairly quickly, so you have that to look forward too, if nothing else.

Enjoy…

(Horizon Line & Apex Comics, characters and events depicted therein are copyright 2012 Patrick Lemieux. All rights reserved. Registered with the National Library Of Canada)

The Selwyn Fireball

On Monday, Dec. 12th, at approximately 6:04 or 6:05 PM EST, I saw the Selwyn Fireball in the sky! Researchers at the University of Western Ontario named it based on the probable location of debris from the meteorite, which they estimated as near the community of Selwyn, Ontario, Canada.

In the days after I saw the spectacle, I found out Prof. Peter Brown was looking for eyewitnesses. They have camera footage from equipment set up around Ontario for just such events, but obviously with science, the more knowledge the better. So I emailed Prof. Brown the following account:

(I XXXed out my street details here, because I don’t people tracking me down for autographs 🙂

***

My cousin sent me a link to the CBC news article where it says your department wants to hear from anyone who witnessed the event.

Well, I did.

Here’s my story (I’ll try to be as detailed as possible):

I live near the corner of XXX and XXX in the heart of Toronto, Ontario. At about 5:40 PM I placed an order for a pizza at the Pizza Hut around the corner on XXX, just west of my apartment. I picked the pizza up around 6 PM and was walking east on XXX towards XXX. I’d just crossed the street and was on the south side when a I saw a brilliant light in the sky ahead of me. The street is well-lit at night with buildings, signs and streetlights, so that gives you an idea of the intensity of the light of the fireball. It was travelling north/northeast as far as I could tell and I stopped in my tracks, mesmerized. The core of the fireball was white and breaking apart into smaller pieces. It was that piercing white like you get from igniting magnesium and almost looked like a giant roman candle. Its tail was a gold and orange shower glittering behind it and behind the fragments. The buildings are low in that area and as it reached the other side, I jogged ahead, not taking my eyes off it, not wanting to lose it behind the buildings. The white light faded into yellow, then orange, then disappeared completely. The tail dissipated a moment later and I stood looking up to see if there was anymore fragments coming in, but there was not as far as I could see. No one else was around in my immediate vicinity, so I stood alone with my pizza pondering what I’d just witnessed in the span of about ten seconds. It was thrilling and all I could muster was “wow”. I walked home, hopped on Facebook and posted the following:

” Just saw a shooting star tear across sky! It was unlike any I’d seen before. It was a like a brilliant silver and gold firecracker, with tail that stretched for ten seconds. I’m still in awe! That was amazing! No wonder the ancients thought these were signs from above. That was just dazzling! “

Like ·  · Monday at 6:15pm

Given it took about ten minutes to get back to my apartment, put the pizza down and compose this message, hitting “Post” at 6:15 PM, I have no doubt what I saw was the fireball you’re researching and that my immediate recollection was as fresh in my mind as it ever would be. I spent the walk home picturing it in my mind, trying not to lose the image. As an artist, I have an eye for detail and something as exquisite as seeing that fireball was important for me to accurately relate. I haven’t watched any footage and have only read a few other descriptions, which vary a little from my own sighting. I did not see any other colours (blue or green or red) as it came down, which other observers I’ve read describe. Maybe it was my vantage point (among city lights) or the timing of what I saw. I don’t rightly know. I do remember thinking, “This is a meteor! There’re no buildings high enough out here to shoot a firework off like this!” Then, as I saw it fragment, I thought, “Those pieces are going to come down in a populated area!” I could not gauge the distances and sizes well, as it in the sky and not knowing the size of the object, I couldn’t tell how high it was. I thought in the moment that it was lower then the news is reporting, that the fragments would hit north of the city somewhere. I pictured someone finding the smoking rock in their backyard. I also thought about the Tunguska Blast of 1908, that devastated rural Russia and thought, “If that had been a rock *that* size, the destruction would be incredible.” I hope someone finds a piece of it.

I saw the little orange dots continuing on their trajectory as the fireball itself died. I have no doubt those super-heated fragments survived the descent somewhere.

If you have any questions about what I saw, please don’t hesitate to ask. I’m more than happy to answer anything. You can reach me at this email.

Patrick Lemieux, BAA

***

I’ve since learned that a fragment hit an SUV in Grimsby, Ontario, in the Niagara region, which was along the flight path of the fireball, but south of where I saw it, which means that bit broke off before passed over Toronto.

I can still picture the meteorite coming in over the city. It really was quite a sight.

I’m glad I ordered that pizza.