The Super Bowl happened this past Sunday night. As a football fan I enjoy the big game in general but as a fan of the New York Giants I was not particularly interested in this one. The New England Patriots played the Philadelphia Eagles. The Patriots are perennial winners and I’m as tired of seeing the Patriots and Tom Brady win as anyone so I had no interest in cheering for them. The Eagles are a rival of the Giants I had no interest in cheering for them either. So though I enjoyed the game I was emotionally distant from it as I watched. That’s just the way the Super Bowl is sometimes.

That distance made me ponder some of the aspects of the game that I might not usually ponder if I was caught up in the drama. Specifically the game got me thinking about how the NFL defines what a catch is. It sounds like a simple thing to define but in recent years a rules change and the advent of super slow motion high definition replays have changed things and made it so that no one knows if a catch is a catch until after the referees look at the replay and say so.

There were two instances in the Super Bowl when it came into play that the referees had to decide via replay if a catch was a catch. Both of the replays went the way of the Eagles and the referees confirmed that the Eagles receivers caught the ball. But it looked to me, and to the announcers of the game, that the call could easily have gone the other way and have it be declared that there was no catch. As a matter of fact the announcers were expecting it to go the other way.

It used to be that in order to make a catch the ball could not touch the ground. That makes sense. I like that rule. Any six year old knows that if you’re having a catch and the ball touches the ground that string of catches is over. You have to start again with one catch. The whole idea of a catch is to not let the ball touch the ground. But back in 2000 there was a playoff game where a Buccaneer’s wide receiver caught the ball but it scrapped the ground as he fell. On replay the referees declared it not a catch because of that. The Bucs and their fans were angry and thought the catch should count. They argued that the wide receiver had total control of the ball and it hitting the ground was incidental. The NFL must have agreed and changed the rule so that that the ball could touch the ground as long as the receiver maintains control of the ball. I never liked this new rule. I still think the ball should never touch the ground in order for it to be a catch. But that’s not the real problem.

The problem with the catch rule as it’s continued to be interpreted over the years is that notion of the ball being under the control of the receiver doesn’t hold water. The full rule is that the receiver has to get two feet in bounds, control the ball with his hands or arms, and maintain control of the ball long enough to make a football move. Plus the receiver has to maintain control of the ball if he falls on the ground. That’s an awful lot of rules about control. The problem as I see it is that the NFL’s notion of control defies all other sports notions of control and sometimes also the laws of physics.

First lets look at baseball. When a pitcher is doing really well and can throw the ball wherever he wants, in or out of the strike zone, they say he has great control. The ball ends up 90 feet away from the pitcher but it’s still seen as him controlling the ball. Why? Because the forces he enacts on the ball controls where the ball ends up. Unless some other force acts on the ball between when the pitcher throws it and when it hits the catcher’s mitt it’s considered to be a product of the pitcher’s control.

In basketball when someone can run and dribble the ball really well he’s considered to be a great ball handler. He controls the ball really well. Dribbling a basketball consists of dropping the ball, letting it bounce up to your hand. And pressing down on the ball again so it goes back to the floor. You’re not even allowed to hold the ball in your hand. Unless some other force acts upon the ball as you’re dribbling your considered to have control of the ball.

Jugglers are masters of controlling balls. Juggling consists of throwing at least three balls into the air with only two hands to manipulate them. In order for it to work at least one ball has to always be in the air. The juggler is considered to be in control of all three balls. Why? Because the balls have to follow the laws of physics. The juggler knows exactly when to throw and catch and exactly where the balls are and have to be. Even if the ball is in the air the juggler is still in control of it. But not in the NFL.

The NFL, with it’s hi-def, super slo-mo cameras now looks for any ball movement as a player is making a catch. If they see ball movement they could consider the ball not under the player’s control. The problem is that ball movement doesn’t mean the ball isn’t under the player’s control. First of all the ball is always moving. Catching a ball is an action. All of the other parts of what makes up a catch are also actions. The player is running, getting his feet down in bounds, and moving his hands to catch a moving ball. Then suddenly the rules call for inaction to define a catch. The ball has to not move within the context of a player’s arms and hands. That defies logic.

One play this year defines to me why the current interpretation of the rule drives people crazy. In a Jets’ game a player caught the ball. As he fell to the ground he, according to the NFL, lost control of the ball and failed to regain control before going out of bounds. What actually happened was that he caught the ball, his arms loosened for a moment, and then he tightened his grip again. With the hi-def, super slo-mo camera you could see the ball was “Loose” as it was between his arms but it was still between his arms. There was no place for it to go. Even though, for a fraction of a second, he wasn’t touching it he was still in control of it. The ball was a bird in a cage. We consider a bird in a cage under control even if it can still move around in the cage. Anything in a cage is considered under control but not in the NFL.

Lot’s of NFL fans and commentators have been complaining about the current interpretation of the rule. That’s because they say the rule doesn’t pass the “Eye test.” That’s when our eyes tell us that it’s a catch but the rules say it’s not. I say the rule doesn’t pass the eye test because we know from countless other sports that “Control” doesn’t need to be defined by being in constant contact with a ball. According to the NFL catch rules a juggler is not in control of the balls he’s juggling. The problem is that we all know he is. That’s what makes a juggler different than the rest of us.

I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got four new comics.

  • The Walking Dead – 176
  • The Savage Dragon – 231
  • Snotgirl – 9
  • Paper Girls – 20
  • The Wicked and the Divine 1923 A.D. – 1
  • Check them all out here:

    I haven’t done a cover analysis of a comic book cover in a while so I thought I do one again. I have a spot in my studio where I pile up comic books. Usually they’re ones I’ve recently bought. I put new comics in a magazine holder next to my chair, read them, and then move them a few feet away on top of my printer. There they sit for a couple of weeks until I read them a second time and then they get filled away for safekeeping. Also on top of my printer will be one old comic. A comic I pick out of my collection because I like the cover and want it to hang around for a little while so I can look at it. The comic book I just moved there today is “Creatures on the Loose” number twenty four starring Thonogor Warrior of Lost Lemuria. It has a July 1973 cover date. Forty five years old.

    When I looked at this cover this morning it looked to me like the inks were by Ernie Chan and the faces were by John Romita. I wasn’t sure if John Romita drew it as, during this period, he sometimes art corrected faces on comics that other people drew and inked. I looked it up on the Grand Comic Book Database (the entry) and sure enough they have John Romita listed as the penciller and Ernie Chan as the inker. They also have a credit for the cover lettering. It was done by Bullpenner Morrie Kuramoto. That’s good to know because lettering plays a big part in this cover.

    Let’s look at all the lettering. We get a logo (Thonogor), the comic’s title (Creatures on the Loose), a sub-title (Warrior of Lost Lemuria), a “Featuring”, and two pieces of hand drawn cover copy (Night-dark wings vs blood-red sword and Attack of the Lizard-Hawks). By the way that’s three compound words in two pieces of cover copy. That might be a record.

    I almost like the Thonogor logo. It’s kind of cool with its rock-like look but it also looks a little cartoony and unserious for such a serious looking cover. It’s not bad but seems like it should be the logo for a story about a caveman and not a sword and sorcery logo. Thonogor was a book that was trying to take advantage of Conan’s sword and sorcery popularity. I like the way the two pieces of more mechanical type, above and below the logo, frame the more wild letter forms of Thonogor. I think this makes me like the logo better. It grounds it and makes the logo a little more serious than it might be on its own.

    I’m a fan of 1970s Bronze Age cover copy. Cover copy, in general, fell out of fashion a long time ago but I still like it. I like titles, I like blurbs, and I like word balloons. This one has no word balloons but has one of each of the others. The one in the circle is the blurb. The cover copy is the part that’s hand lettered by Morrie Kuramoto. It’s just cool. It’s not perfectly mechanical like today’s computer type but it’s neat, precise, and nice looking.

    Over all in the color scheme the red logo over the yellow background really pops. The logo almost leaps off the page at us. The neutral gray background on the bottom of the cover also helps to move the central image forward in space. The green of the lizard-hawk is a little bit dense though. It flattens out the composition a bit but I’m not sure what color would be better. The bright yellow that helps the logo stand out so well is working against figure of the lizard-hawk. Sometimes it’s all a compromise and there is no path to perfection.

    The drawing itself is a lot of fun. We get a damsel in distress, a very Conan-looking sword wielding hero, a lizard-hawk, and a neat looking background monster. The orange haired woman, despite not having much to do, is in a nice twisting action pose. John Romita made her look interesting. That’s not something every artist can do with such little to work with. Thonogor himself is also in a good pose with legs and arms spread far apart and in action as he swings his mighty sword. The lizard hawk looks a little weird with his pink spikes but overall does a good job at being menacing. And for some reason I especially like the crocodile thing underneath them. My eye keeps being drawn to it.

    The main drawback of the cover is that weird metal boat they’re on. Is it flying? Is it floating? Is it falling? I have no idea. I’m not even sure what the exact shape of the boat is. Is it flat across the back and the woman is shoved over to one corner or does it come to a point in the back and she’s ll the way at the stern? I’m not sure. I think it had a flat back but it could be a teardrop shape. This lack of clarity confuses the composition.

    The Ernie Chan inks look good to me. His inks can overpower pencillers but I generally like them. He has an illustrative style with a lot of density to it. You can really see the density in the Lizard-hawk and he delineated Thonogor with a lot of weight, but kept the woman light. There levels of figure inking density on one cover. He didn’t do much with that boat though. It may have been a little doomed compositionally to begin with.

    Overall I find this one a solid Bronze Age cover. That’s the era of the 1970s when I was a kid and first discovered comics so there is a little bit of nostalgia mixed in it for me too but I’m not a huge nostalgia person. Everything is of it’s time and this cover is too. I’m happy it also happens to be a pretty cool piece from its time.

    I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got five new comics.

  • Kaijumax: Season Three – 6 (of 6)
  • Outcast – 33
  • The Beauty – 19
  • Strangers in Paradise: Volume 4 – 1
  • Uber: Invasion – 11
  • Check them all out here:

    Its time again for me to pull an old painting out of storage and give it a look. I have recently been writing about my current work but sometimes I like to look at old stuff and examine it. For this week I’m looking at and eight by ten inch acrylic on canvas painting from April 24, 2008 called “Stay Ahead.” That name has no special meaning to me so I’m guessing it’s one of the ones I randomly chose. I name things that way all the time. I guess it’s not really random but I look a piece and try to make a name out of the first words that come to mind. Sometimes the names are inspired by the piece and sometimes they’re just words that float across to my conscious mind.

    Though the painting is eight by ten inches it also has some depth to it. It’s a pre-stretched canvas that I bought form Dick Blick. Most canvases are made with stretcher bars that are three quarters of an inch thick but this canvas is made with stretcher bars an inch and half thick. I like the extra heft the thick bars give a painting but I haven’t used them in a while. I remember getting those thick canvases for fairly cheap but then the price went up on them. It didn’t make any sense to me to spend twice the price on a small canvas just for a little extra thickness. Plus they take up twice the room on my shelf.

    The first thing I notice about this painting is the color red. Before I can even figure out what the image is I perceive the red. That’s unusual for my work. Normally it’s the image that I grasp first and then the color. Or maybe both at the same time if they’re inseparable. But with this one it’s that red. In looking at it I think that’s because of the shape of the green man’s body. It’s not a shape that says “Human figure.” It’s more like a triangle. The shape also takes up about half of the painting so it’s the dominant form but it’s visually behind everything making the shape sit back in space but it’s red color come forward demanding to be noticed. It’s an odd combination.

    The bright red of the body almost makes a bullseye. A human figure is usually a positive shape but in this case since the yellow arrow is in front and the red body is in back, plus the body is obscured but the stuff in front of it, the yellow arrow becomes the positive shape. It’s what we see as solid object. This makes the red around the arrow, particularly the red to the arrow’s right, become a negative shape. I refer to it as a negative shape as opposed to negative space because it’s not “Empty” space as negative space normally is. The blue behind him is negative space the red between the arrow, the collar, and the green hand is a negative shape.

    The second thing I find odd about this painting is the lack of face. There is only part of a face here. I like faces and like working with them and I cheated myself out of one here. I don’t know why. The color covering his face has a swirl in it, which is one of my favorite shapes, but is still not the most interesting thing in the world. I want him to pull down that collar so I can see what he looks like. Maybe that was the point. Any way I slice it I still want to see more of his face. I find the mystery a little annoying.

    The second most dominant color, and it’s a distant second, is the blue in the background. It’s a tint of blue, which means it is blue mixed with white, and tinted blue almost always works as a background color. You can thank the sky for that because were used the the blue sky being behind things. The blue behaves nicely with the red. It lets the red be the star of the show but still makes its presence known. I like that about that blue. It’s a bit tricky finding the right tint of blue to do this. Often if there is too much white in the blue it sits to far back in space or if the blue has two much violet in it can move forward in space too much. I can’t remember which color blue I mixed this one from but I bet I mixed a lot of it and used it in a few paintings at the time.

    The green adds a bit of mystery to the painting. It’s a dark color. Not quite as dark as the purple but since there is more green than purple the green is the dark color with the most influence. It draws my eye in as I look at the painting. I think it would be too dark without those light green stokes that are along the edges of the black line. The lines help the keep the dark green from receding too much and disappearing from our consciousness.

    The collar and purple scarf confuse me. I’m not sure why they’re there. Neither the shapes nor the colors are particularly pleasing and they’re obscuring the face. Why? I don’t know. It’s also a different fashion than I usually draw. That part just leaves me cold but I’m not sure exactly why.

    The part that makes me smile is the fake writing along the edges of the red. It’s something I don’t notice at first, it just reads as some yellow at a glance, but as my eyes move across the painting and I discover the writing it brings a smile to my face. I have a fascination with history and read about it all the time and I like ancient art and writing. Even if I can’t read the writing I find ti fascinating that it exists. Seeing the yellow pseudo-writing is like discovering and ancient text. So what if I can’t read it.

    So there you go. This one is a mixed bag for me. I like it but there are parts that don’t do it for me. That’s how life is I guess.