Brie Hermelin, AKA Pickled Cheese

When I lived in the Czech Republic, I had the chance to try delicious Hermelin, or pickled cheese. It’s been a while since I’ve had it, and I no longer live in the Czech Republic, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it. Here is the recipe I used for brie hermelin (I used brie instead of Camembert because I couldn’t find the latter), in case you want to make your own without reading this blog post. I understand, nothing worse than those cooking sites that give you their life story before getting to the good stuff.

I do hope you stick around, though, because I took the time to write this post, and because I made mine a little different. Plus, there’s lots of pictures in this post, so you’ll have something pretty to look at.

Prepare the Brie Hermelin

I started by slicing the brie in half, of course. How else would you do it?

the picture shows four boxes of brie cheese for hermelin

the picture shows the brie sliced in two halves down the center

So far, so good and easy, but then that’s the thing about hermelin, whether it’s made from brie or Camembert it’s easy to make. After slicing the cheese width wise, I then added the garlic, chili powder, and salt. It looked like this.

this picture shows a round of brie sliced in two with garlic, chili powder, and salt on top of it

Doesn’t it look pretty? I told you there were going to be a lot of pictures in this post. After this, I put the two halves back together and stuck a toothpick in them in order to help them stay together. It kind of worked, though the first round I put in the mason jar split open a little bit. It’s fine, though, as the garlic and spices will just serve to season the whole batch.

Before I put the cheese in the jar, the jar, I put some bay leaves, ground black pepper, and ground szechuan pepper in the base of the jar. I didn’t have allspice, and I couldn’t find the suitable ingredients for a substitute. I am sure this will be fine, though. Then I placed the first prepared brie round in the jar. I repeated the process of preparing the brie for hermelin with the remaining three cheese rounds.

Don’t Forget the Onions and Peppers

After I put the first prepared round in the jar, I added the onions and hot peppers. I may have gone a little overboard on these things, but that’s okay. I think. I’ll have to wait to until it’s ready to eat to find out for sure.

I used both white onions and red onions because I like both, and I used a lot of hot peppers. I like spicy food, but this could be too spicy. Too spicy? Possible, but unlikely.

Add the Oil for Health Reasons

Not really. There isn’t much healthy about brie hermelin, or any hermelin for that matter. Sure, the onions and garlic add a little bit of health benefits, but we’re dealing with cheese here; cheese drowning in oil, to be exact.

this photo shows the final product, brie hermelin sitting in a jar filled with onions, bay leaves, hot peppers and sunflower oil

And that’s it. My homemade version of hermelin in China. I hate that I have to wait 3-5 days for to soak up the flavors and be ready. I want to eat it now. Oh well, good things come to those who wait, and all that. Also, I won’t be able to eat it with the rye style Czech bread because I couldn’t find that, either.

So, I hope you enjoyed reading this post, and if you have any pointers on how to improve my next batch, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment. Thanks for reading.

The Sinister Story of Mr Obdurate

The sinister story of Mr Obdurate; written by Juan Manuel Ponce @ElOzymandias, with art by Craig Cermak @craigcermak. Dee Cuniff @deezoid provides colors, and Micah Myers @MicahMyers letters. The four team members work together in seamless fashion to tell a story that is provocative, implicitly violent, and more than a little spooky.

The first page sets the stage nicely. As readers, we don’t know what is going on, but we know it’s no good. ‘Fuck.’ It can mean so many things, and evoke so many emotions. Here, placed in the darkness and coming from a solitary figure, we feel the badness of it. We sense the isolation of the man in the car, and his pain. Cermak’s art paints a picture, focusing on the man’s grimace and closed eyes. He has to do something he doesn’t want to.

The next panel continues to build the sinister feeling of the story of Mr Obdurate by showing us a small diner, Mel’s at night. Christmas decorations fill its windows. The man from the car approaches the diner. We still don’t know what’s going on, therefore, our sense of unease increases.

The bottom panel doesn’t provide much more information, only that the man is meeting someone. However, the caption blocks inform the reader that there is danger, and they belong to the sinister story of Mr Obdurate. In addition to building the suspense of the story, the bottom panel also lets us in on the twist of the comic. The man in the car who we watched enter the diner is not the main character.

Mr Obdurate page one, it shows a man in a car in top panel, a diner in a darkened parking lot in the second panel, and the inside of the diner in the third panel

Sinister Images Tell Compelling Story

Comic books are static works. They have no movement or motion, and thus they often require a lot of action to keep the reader’s interest. If they don’t have action, then they need snappy dialogue. Mr Obdurate leans heavily on the latter, and somehow makes it work.

The comic is a series of conversation snippets, told mostly in a nine panel grid that confines the artwork, and produces a sense of claustrophobia in the reader. This design choice serves to increase the uneasy feeling the story wants to establish in its readers due to the limits its places on the information we have.

Another affect of the panel construction is we don’t get to see the narrator as he meets and speaks with his victims, making him difficult to connect with, and creating distance. The only time we see him is at the bottom of page one, so we have a sense of who he is, but only. We know he has a beard, and a creepy smile. We also know he wears his hat low to hide his eyes.

Part of the success of the sinister story of Mr Obdurate is how well it flows, even though we only see one half of the participants.

This page shows a series of panels in a 9X9 grid of people speaking with the sinister Mr Obdurate. We see a slim man, a bald man, a woman, and a man with a baby.

We don’t know who these people are, but that doesn’t matter. We see and read their reactions, and know they are nervous, jumpy, unsure of themselves. Only Mr Obdurate seems sure of himself in this sinister story, which makes sense as he is in control. His viewpoint is ours. He tells the people what to do, and they listen. The nine panel grid contributes to this, perfectly illustrating the absolute sense of control he has.

Slow Build Up to a Sinister and Satisfying End

The third page continues the panel construction, and amps up the tension. Mr Obdurate mentions that the people knew this was coming, and that they will try to stop it. Some of them, like the woman, beg. The bald man says he’s sorry and can’t do this. As readers, we still don’t know what is happening, and for that reason we are scared, too. The questions raised have no easy answers. However, rather than harming the work, these unanswered questions only build the mystery of the sinister story of Mr Obdurate.

We witness the desperation of these players as they realize their time is coming to an end. We don’t know how they will die, and it is unclear if they know that either. However, they are going to die.

Who is Mr Odburate? Is he death incarnate? A serial killer? A hired man sent to collect people? The question is left unanswered, and it doesn’t matter. What matters is that he has his role to play, as do we all.

I really enjoyed how this sinister story of Mr Obdurate doesn’t leave the reader with easy answers. Another thing that stood out to me was the creators’ ability to tell this creepy and atmospheric story without putting a lot of big action on the page. Despite the lack of big motion, there is still a definite sense of forward momentum along with the feeling of moving inexorably toward the ending.

If you enjoyed this comic, find the creators through their twitter links above and give them a follow and a shout out. And if you liked this post, leave a comment and let me know. Thank you for reading.

If you want to read more of my writing about comics, click here.

Edit

Juan Manuel Ponce contacted me on Twitter, and while he loved what I wrote about his and the team’s comic, he told me I was wrong. The character at the end of the first page in the diner is not Mr. Obdurate. He did think it would have been a cool twist, though. So, I got that one wrong, but what I said about how the nine panel grids gives the narrator absolute control still stands.

New Hellboy Trailer Leaves Me Cold

Much like books, we shouldn’t judge movies by their trailers, but I have to say the new Hellboy trailer leaves me cold and wanting. Contrary to what you might think, it’s not because of David Harbour replacing Ron Perlman as Anung Un Rama. Perlman was spectacular as Big Red, but Harbour looks like he will do a fine job.


No, what bothers me about the new Hellboy trailer, and possibly the movie is that I can’t get excited about it no matter how much I try. I love Hellboy and the Mignolaverse. It is weird and scary and fun and funny, and full of heart. To me, that’s what’s missing from this trailer, and why my feelings are luke-warm to cold about it.

Too Much Action

Trailers are supposed to get audiences excited and sell the movie. I understand that, and I understand this reasoning is probably why the new look at the movie is full of action, however, Hellboy is more than action. He is heart and pathos and ethos and a connection to the audience. Audience connection is essential, no matter what movie or character you are presenting.

For Hellboy, though, that connection is essential. He bears the Right Hand of Doom, but he rejects his destiny. As audience members, we need to feel that connection to him immediately. We need to understand that he denies the pre0ordained and forges his own path. If you tell that story with too much action, you run the risk of losing sight of what makes Hellboy work as a character.

Yes, a Hellboy movie needs action, but it needs more than that. Constant stabbings and explosions get boring and tedious. Audiences need more.

New Hellboy Trailer Same Generic Feeling

My biggest issue with the trailer, I think, it the generic feeling. It looks and feels and sounds the same as so many other superhero/action movies. It’s got the standard blue/gray color template, and lots of CGI that calls attention to itself.

Telling a Hellboy story without CGI is nearly impossible, even Del Toro used it in his movies. However, in Del Toro’s vision, the graphics seemed a little more integrated into the world. They felt like they were a part of it rather than apart from it.

A Hellboy movie can be many things: action-packed, scary, weird, funny; but it should never feel like something else. It should be its own entity with its own identity, and this trailer doesn’t communicate that idea to me.

I hope I am wrong, though because want this movie to be good, and I want it to succeed. I love Hellboy, and I want many more good movies to come.

What are your thoughts on the new hellboy trailer? Do you want to see the new movie? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading.



Coloring of Wizard Beach is Wonderful

When people think of comic book creators, they usually think of pencillers and inkers. But, another important member of the team is the colorist. Color helps inform the emotional status and general atmosphere of the page. Wizard Beach from Boom Studios is an example of how coloring helps to dictate the mood by enhancing the artwork.

Colorist as Composer

Comics is a silent medium. But, in a sense, the colorist acts as a musical composer, adding emotional heft and connection to the page. A good colorist brings out the emotional beats of the story, adding boldness where necessary, and softness where appropriate.

Wizard Beach is a great example of how the colorist helps to dictate the mood through enhancement of the artwork.

The first issue opens on an icy plain with snow covered mountains in the background. The art demonstrates that we are in a cold and desolate land, and Meg Casey’s colors reinforce the idea.

The pale blue, the dark green, and the charcoal gray set a chilly scene. The splashes of color, indicate life and heat in this wasteland; this place is not as deserted as it appears.

The coloring on this page does a lot of work in a little bit of space. We feel both the cold of the land and the heat of the energy bolts crashing together. Casey’s colors elicit an immediate emotional response from the reader. Thinking of colorist as composer, you can almost hear the music swelling as the battle begins.

The next page is where we reach the full crescendo of the battle. Hot and cold colors combine and bring the battle to life. There are no sound effects on the page, but we can still hear the zap of energy bolts. We can still feel the heat of the phoenix and the icy air of the mountains.

The battle is hectic. Pegasi fight dragons. Giants swing large hammers. Giant bats dropping foes to their deaths. There is and magic galore, all of which the color helps bring together.

Coloring Makes Details Pop

If Casey’s coloring were not so precise, the reader could easily lose track of the events of the fight, which would make Wizard Beach a chore to read. However, the splashes of hot color show us the violence and its consequences, and it helps guide the reader’s eye. The skeleton engulfed in yellow electricity is a prime example of this.

That leads us to the darker, and colder, image of the purple foot coming down on the wizard. Finally, at the end of that panel progression we see the black bats dropping the warriors to their doom. We go from hot to cooler to cold in those three panels, which help to tell the story of the battle itself. It starts of hot and passionate, and becomes colder and bleaker as it progresses. The other colors on the page also help us to process the chaos of the battle.

The snaking red of the fallen dragon. the fiery orange phoenix in the background battling a gray elemental. The cool reds and purples in the foreground all tell the story of the ebb and flow of the fight that the artwork alone cannot quite accomplish.

The coloring in Wizard Beach makes the artwork pop, emphasizing and highlighting linework that may otherwise be hard to see.

Emotional Color

In addition to helping convey the story of the battle, the colors also inform the reader’s emotional response, an idea especially apparent in the foreground. Looking at the left side of the page, we see people dressed colorfully in green. In our minds, they are immediately the good guys because green is the color of life and the forest, and it stands in stark contrast not only to the cold blues and purples of the setting, but also to that of their opponents, monstrous looking humanoids robed in purple , blue, and black on the right hand side of the page.

These darker colors mimic those of the setting, and are opposite to the vibrant and vital green on the other side of the page. Thanks to the colorist’s choices, we know at a glance who is on the side of life and who isn’t.

Quieter Moments of Wizard Beach Coloring

The importance of coloring to the mood and story of Wizard Beach is not limited to the battle that opens the issue.  When we first meet Hex, the series’ protagonist, he is sitting in a small hut, the interior of which is bathed in warm light, and the color choices reflect this warmth. Yellow and brown are warm, earthy colors meant to evoke a sense of calm and comfort, which is exactly how the hut feels, especially in comparison to what came before.

Not everything is perfectly cozy in the hut, though, as evidenced by the snowy wasteland in the top panel. We are near where the battle is raging, indicating that while we may be safe for the moment, we won’t stay that way.

The idea of temporary safety is further reinforced by the purple shadows in the foreground and background of the middle panel. There is warmth and safety in the cottage, but also tension and unease. The artists tell us that with the look on Hux’s face, and the colors, straightforward and simple as they may appear, drive the point home.

More Examples

There are several other instances of the coloring in Wizard Beach enhancing the artwork. One such example is the dinginess of the train station, which is conveyed through muted browns and light grays. The place looks dirty, thanks to the artwork, and it feels dirty thanks to the palette choices.

Another example of the coloring bringing out the best in the art is when Hex reaches Wizard Beach itself. As to be expected, the scene is bright and sunny, and the colors reflect that. Even on the beach, though, there are darker shades and cooler colors, indicating that not everything is peachy keen in paradise.

If you have something to say about this post let me know in the comments. I am always delighted to hear from readers, but please if you’re going to be a jerk, just keep your thoughts to yourself.