Monday, January 30, 2012

Parallelogram

 

     The older I get, the longer it takes an idea to get from my head onto a page.  Once it's on a page it takes even longer to congeal enough into a thing that can stand on its own among other paragraphs and thoughts.  As I've been working my way through my first comic story that will be given to an artist, I'm trying my damnedest to make sure that the work the artist receives won't be overladen with excessive dialogue and description.  In other words, I can't write sentences like the one you just read.  In college writing courses they always said "Show, don't tell," and that took some work to start to employ on a regular basis.  In a visual medium it's even more important.

     So I've been thinking a lot about imagery, and how wordless parallels between images can be a form of poetry.  I think the key has to be restraint.  For example, if I were to write a cliched image of a young boy looking at himself in a mirror on the first panel of page one, then if I opted to have the last panel of the last page feature an old man looking at himself in a mirror, there's probably not much need for any words.  Readers glean a specific feeling or meaning by the juxtaposition of those two images.  Gratuitous metaphor, or even inner monologue is moot at that point.

      There is always that ever present notion of cliche, though, as I mentioned.  In my last blog I talked about the idea that everything we know of as art is really the byproduct of centuries of storytelling, and thus most themes and structures of creative thought have already been watered down by the time they inform us.  If you're going to use comics as a means of direct storytelling, the use of parallels as a means of visual storytelling can work, but it probably relies heavily on both the writer and artist working in a way that can be subtly understood if it's not overt or heavy handed.

     There's also some level of confidence that creators must have in such use of parallels if they're going to work.  Less is more, but if the creators don't trust the imagery, or the unison between thought and execution, then it can't work.  And as with anything, parallels aren't something that should be overused.  It's really an exercise in allowing something to stand on its own, while letting seem self aware of exactly what it's doing.  That's where the skill of the creators comes into play.

     So why are parallels on my mind so much right now?  When I decided that my story wouldn't be told in completely linear way, it started to make sense that I could use parallels between images to not only cut down on over-writing, but to also be a form of poetry, flashback, and to a lesser degree, philosophical suggestion. Then the story can maintain a literary sensibility, but the metaphors unfold as images unencumbered by words.  This is far from novel, far from groundbreaking thought, but it is nonetheless a thought worth exploring.  How will it work?  Will it even make it into my comic?  Time will tell, but the journey from thought to concrete work is indeed a fascinating one, and I'm enjoying using Exile on Plain Street to document some of my thinking about process.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

MiniCon 2012 Report!

The 35th Charlotte MiniCon brought to you by Heroes Aren't Hard to Find has come and gone and man, was it a good time.  As usual, the MiniCon featured a floor full of vendors and a stage full of artists.  Seth and I came away with mostly art and prints.  Since we weren't busy shopping, we were busy taking photos and working the Heroes Booth (I was taking the photos and Seth was working the booth.)



I did pick up Rich Barrett's Animal Alphabet flash cards.  The Animal Alphabet started with Ben Towle and Rob Ullman challenging themselves and other artists to draw an animal each week from A-Z.  This challenge garnered a lot of contributions and interest and all their efforts can be found on their Tumblr, The Animal Alphabet Project.  The Animal Alphabet spawned the AlphaBeasts and the alpha challenge continues.  That's a long explanation to tell you about the nifty packaging of all of Rich's Animal Alphabet sketches bound together with a shiny ring in a handy bookmark size card.  I really want to use H is for Honey Badger to make my place in my current reading material.  


We also scored some awesome prints from Wappie Leader, J. Chris Campbell, who is commemorating his con travel this year with planetary themed prints for each con and from Dustin Harbin, who is establishing himself as quite the expert dinosaur artist.  His latest dinosaur print begs the question as why Batman never had such a happy T-Rex in his Bat Cave.  Clearly a failure in his decision making.


Speaking of prints, wow, did Heroes outdo themselves this year with special guest, Cliff Chiang's super musically themed MinCon print.  Cliff's art and Dustin's lettering combined to create a beautiful print and inspire one fan to dress in the image dominating the print.  If you weren't able to pick up the print at the MiniCon, never fear, just check the handy Heroes Web Store to which the print will be coming soon.



Cliff Chiang, who is currently making his mark on DC's Wonder Woman, not only is a talented artist; he's an incredibly nice guy.  He was busy from the moment he sat down-signing prints, sketching, and chatting with all who stopped by his table.  I don't think his smile ever wavered despite a crazy weather related flight schedule.  If you missed Cliff this time, don't worry because he has scheduled a return trip to Charlotte for HeroesCon (June 22-24). Tickets are available now!


Seth also picked up a new piece of original art for his music room from Neil Bramlette of Out of Step Arts.  He couldn't resist the Luchador DJ by Alexis Ziritt, one of Neil's artists.  Neil is currently representing Andrew MacLean, Toby Cypress, Paul Maybury, and Greg Ruth.  The Out of Step Arts Collective will also be making an appearance at HeroesCon this June. 

The MiniCon was a great way to kick off the year of cons.  There's a lot coming up for us this year, from hotel shows to Fluke to HeroesCon with some side trips here and there.  There's a lot to look forward to in 2012!

Want to see more of the MiniCon? Click here for the full photo set. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Devil's in the Details

     Any time a birthday or new year occurs things seem ready made for reflection and introspection.  After all, it's not everyday that you get an opportunity to experience a day of literal transition in your life.  Of course, I'm all about reflection and introspection on any given day of the year, so how is this really any different for me?  Maybe it's the nagging impatience surrounding my injured hand, maybe it's just the desire to do something other than I've always done.  Who knows?  It just seems like I need to do more writing than I have in the past - or rather, more writing that actually gets shared with others.  In last week's post I mentioned how self doubt has been a long time gorilla on my back, so how does one go about addressing that in a productive way?
      The first thing to accept is that it's not likely any artistic person can really do anything completely novel anymore.  I can't remember the last time I encountered an artist who really reinvented my perception of an element of craft or genre.  This sounds grim, but it's really more an admittance of reality.  Think about it and you might see my point here.  We're centuries into what we think of as art, music, literature, and everything else contributing to our cultural awareness.  Many people probably fail to even start an artistic work because they're intimidated by the entire scope of what they've previously encountered.  If you think that every time you create something you're going to produce a timeless piece wherein great relevance for many exists, you're bound for self defeat.  If you begin to acknowledge the inevitability of getting lost in the shuffle, your mind starts seeing some value in thinking on a smaller scale.  It's the creative equivalent of learning to crawl before walking.
     The notion of scaling my thinking down a bit then led to an idea that many of the artists I've been influenced by are very much adding their own two cents to pre-existing forms or themes.  Part of why the works of Cormac McCarthy have been speaking to me so much recently is probably due to the fact that in my college days I enjoyed the work of William Faulkner.  McCarthy is adding his own stamp to stories of both Appalacia and the American Southwest, but he's also a writer with a clear understanding of Faulkner's contributions to literature.  Similarly is Tom Waits, who has spent a career adding his own mark to everything from jazz/standards to beat poetry, noise rock to blues.  Nobody ever sounds quite like Waits but he clearly creates his songs within acknowledged frameworks.  How he goes about crafting those songs is how his own personality gets injected into the cultural conversation. 
     In our present day, everything we partake of in art has been filtered down through centuries of influence, and admitting that in some small way makes things easier for us to begin to see our own contributions to fruition.  When we claim the reality that we won't be able to create anything truly new or original, we can then see how and why we've been influenced by certain artists.  Then we can start to see little angles where we might be able to inject our own specific voice. 
     In lieu of resolutions, I'm hoping that in my own creative endeavors I'll maintain this sense of understanding about the simple act of getting out of my own way and creating.

Are you reading Wolverine and the X-Men? (You should be!)

Confession time: Most of my X-Men knowledge comes from the movies.  With that being said, even I knew Wolverine: Origins was a bad example of this group of mutants.  Enter Wolverine and the X-Men on Seth's reserve list, not mine.  My pull list was currently occupied by the women of the New 52: Wonder Woman, Batgirl, and Justice League Dark (ok, that one's not a just woman centered title, but I totally picked it up for Zatanna) as well several female driven Dark Horse titles.  (Another side note: I really like Dark Horse's House of Night.)

Wolverine and the X-Men wasn't a title that initially interested me.  I haven't read a lot of X-Men (as mentioned above), other than Joss Whedon's run on Astonishing X-Men and a mini series here and there.  Sometimes a long running series can be hard to jump into without a lot of prior knowledge.  While Wolverine and the X-Men is building from events in earlier runs, the storyline isn't difficult to follow with nothing more than a basic understanding of the who the X-Men are.  In fact, each issue has a handy key of characters to assist in your identification of the latest class of mutants.

Even if you have read a lot of X-Men, things have changed with the founding of the Jean Gray School for Higher Learning.  Our new headmasters are Wolverine and Kitty Pryde.  The new vice-principal is Beast with Iceman, Rachel Gray, Gambit and Husk making up part of the teaching staff.  A new school gives us new students to follow so you're not missing key details if you don't have a lot of prior knowledge.  While the teachers can't play favorites, there's no reason I can't, and I love the pink haired, smart ass, Quentin Quire.  Any student that tries to have a militant uprising due to the cafeteria's "draconian dietary restrictions regarding tater tots" is my kind of guy.  The class encompasses a true mix of teenagers regardless of their mutant talents.  There's even a sweet little brown noser in the adorably monstrous alien, Broo. 

My very favorite characters are the Bamfs.  I didn't read Uncanny X-Men so I hit wiki quickly to discover the history of the Bamfs.  The description only made me want to read Uncanny X-Men #153 so I can see the bedtime story that leads to the Bamfs.(If Seth doesn't have these issues, someone please lend them to me so I can have more Bamfs in my life.) They initially felt like a little Easter Egg for fans, but soon they became Easter Eggs full of giant chocolate bunnies for me.  They won my heart forever in the panel to the left in Issue #3 when they made off with Wolverine's whiskey.  Aren't they lovable little imps? I want at least three of them for pets. 

So if you like the X-Men or you like humorous comics, you should pick up Wolverine and the X-Men.  It's only four issues in so you're not far behind.  It does have the added benefit of reading four issues at once with no wait in between.  Then you can join me in long wait each month for the next issue to come out.  Various artists are taking on the interiors, with Chris Bachalo taking issues 1-3 and Nick Bradshaw taking the next arc.  While we can see differences in their styles, there's no disruption in the transition between the two.  The key for me is Jason Aaron's writing.  This is my first foray into one of his stories and it brings me pure happiness to read this book each month.  Seth and I actually have to take turns each month for who gets to read it first. I had first dibs this month and Seth was forced to listen to me read Wolverine's opening monologue out loud and then chuckle throughout my reading.  Jason Aaron, thank you for writing a comic that celebrates so much of what is fun about reading comics.  Your dialogue is interesting and witty.  Your storylines make me sad that I have to wait a month in between issues.  I hope February 8 gets here soon so I can dive into issue #5 (after Seth, of course). 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOPA and PIPA


If I knew how to black out our blog today without losing all our posts forever, I would have.  I know the basics of some tech stuff, but rely on my computer science major of a little brother to handle most things.  The little brother is the one who first informed me of SOPA and PIPA (the currently proposed bills before Congress that purport to prevent online piracy of American held copyrights) and he is passionate about both bills not passing.  When you hear people talk about Congress killing the internet, it seems like an exaggeration. How can the internet be killed? While it might be more accurate to say Congress is killing the freedom of the internet (and freedom of speech), but isn't the freedom of what we do here the essence of the internet?

I don't pirate music and movies.  I don't even know how to so.  I don't tell people how to pirate material on this blog.  In spite of all of that, this blog could come down if SOPA and/or PIPA pass as written.  Those bills give our government the power to pull down sites if they think copyright material is being used illegally.  I could link to a movie trailer I think is legally streaming and if it is not and they discover it, they can pull down my blog without warning and without a hearing.  If someone comments on this blog and links to something not properly obtained, my blog can be pulled down without warning and without a hearing.  I use images from comics when I review them, which could also get my blog taken down without warning and without a hearing.  It sounds like I am repeating myself which I am.  It cannot be said enough, Congress will be granting the power to shut down our freedom of speech on the internet WITHOUT a hearing.  Don't think for a minute that there will not be people trolling the internet looking for an excuse to pull down sites whether they're employeed by the government or the studios. 

Congress and state legislatures have never been able to keep up with the internet in their law making.  There's bad content on the internet.  People use the internet for insidious purposes, like child porn and bullying, and yes, people steal copyright material.  Laws can be crafted to address all of those items and more without such a broad grant of power.  No one needs a kill switch on the internet.  In fact, of the three examples, all have laws that make those acts illegal (bullying is dealt with in terms of hate speech and privacy).  Enforce the laws we have on the books.

You don't have to take my word for what's going on with SOPA and PIPA.  Research it yourself.  Google is not down today, but has blacked out their logo in show of support with the sites that are black today.  If you think SOPA and PIPA are a bad idea, then you can take simple steps without even stepping away from your computer.  Sign petitions.  Email your senators and representatives. 

Thank you Reddit and Wikipedia for being such a great source of information of the dangers of SOPA and PIPA for the courage to go black today. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Upcoming Event: Charlotte Mini-Con

On Sunday, January 22, 2012, the best one day show in Charlotte will take place at the Palmer Building in Fireman's Hall, the Charlotte Mini-Con brought to you by Heroes Aren't Hard to Find.  The Mini-Con has a lot to offer from vendors with great deals to a sweet location and super creators.  2012 also marks the 35th Anniversary of the Mini-Con

This year's featured guest is Cliff Chang.  Cliff's foray into DC's New 52 with Wonder Woman has been beautiful. I find the story interesting, but it is Cliff's art that brings me back each month.  His body of work is quite vast and includes loads of pretty ladies.  In addition to being a great artist, Cliff is also a super nice guy.  Not only does the Mini-Con present you with the opportunity to meet him, but you can also pick up an awesome print of the image on the left and have Cliff sign it while you're there.  This 16 x 24 silk screened print is available for only $10 the day of the show. 

Cliff's not the only great creator who will be in attendance.  A couple of our local favorites will be there.  Rich Barrett, Dusty Harbin, Jason Latour, Eraklis "Herc" Petmezas, Heroes' own Bridgit Scheide, Andy Smith, and Budd Root. The South Carolina contingent includes J. Chris Campbell and Sanford Greene.

If all of those great artists aren't enough there is a building full of vendors with great deals on comics from all Ages, trade paperbacks and hardcovers.  There's so much to choose from!

The location of the Mini-Con is the Palmer Building at Fireman's Hall which is a very neat old building.  It features hardwood floors, molding and lots of cool architectural details.  It's great place full of characters which makes it perfect for all the comic characters that will be bursting from short and long boxes for your purchasing pleasure. The Palmer Building is also conveniently located just down the street from Heroes which will be open the normal Sunday hours from 1pm-6pm, and possibly even earlier.  

If you're visiting from elsewhere and looking for somewhere to pick up lunch and/or dinner, there are a number of yummy local places nearby.  Unfortunately, Lupie's (which is right across the street) is closed on Sundays.  A short trip over to Central Avenue gives you two great choices for brunch: Zada Jane's and Bistro la Bon.  If you're looking for something lighter, just one shop over from Heroes is Crisp which features salads and sandwiches.  If a sweet treat or a fresh baked cheese biscuit is more your thing, then Sun Flour Bakery is the place for you.  Sun Flour also serves sandwiches, coffee, and ice cream. On the other hand if diner food is what you're seeking, then The Diamond is a must. 

The Charlotte Mini-Con takes place January 22, 2012 from 11am-5pm.  The Palmer Building at Fireman's Hall is located at 2601 East 7th Street, Charlotte, NC 28204.  Admission is only $3!  Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Heather's Comical Resolutions Revisited

Last year, I posted my resolutions for the comics in my life and as 2011 is coming to a close and 2012 is fast upon us, I thought this would be a good time to revisit how I did this year.  The original resolutions are posted just as I wrote them a whole LONG year ago with my evaluations in bold.

1. Step outside of my comic reading comfort zone. I admit it. I have a comic type. It involves cute animals and chick characters. Thor the Mighty Avenger was my toe in the water stepping out of my type and Marvel responded by cancelling it. (Yes, Ted, I’m still complaining about that. Damn it, people, put down the Deadpool and read TMA.) Thanks to the lending library of Brandon (Big Dog), I have read more comics outside by type, the Walking Dead for example. However my purchases for 2010 stayed clearly within my comfort zone. In 2011, I will make an effort to add different comics to my personal library.  I knocked this resolution out of the park.  It helps to be married to the warehouse manager of Heroes Aren't Hard to Find, who is always bringing home comics for me to read.  It also helps to have friends who are happy to reach into their own collections and lend me books like Blacksad by Juan D√≠az Canales and Juanjo Guarnido (Thanks, Brunner, that book is awesome, in fact, so awesome I added it to my own collection).  I also picked up a lot of independent comics at Fluke and SPX this year. My pull list at Heroes has grown from just Buffy to include titles from DC's New 52, Roger Langridge's Snarked, as well as several Dark Horse titles. Wolverine and the X-Men is on Seth's pull list, but it is becoming one of my favorite titles. 

2. Write more reviews for the Dollar Bin. I read a number of comics in 2010 that I really enjoyed and fully intended to review so I could share stories that I enjoyed. Like Cragmore by Pat Lewis. I will finish that review and post it along with others this year. (I am revising this resolution to posting reviews here as well as the Dollar Bin.)  I didn't do quite as well on this resolution.  I did review a few books more on here and the Dollar Bin, but not as many I would have liked.  This just leaves more room for improvement in 2012 as there are a lot of comics I truly enjoy.    Look for new reviews here in 2012.  

3. Do more interviews. I love talking to artists and writers. Off the record, I have some truly ridiculous conversations with creative people. I want to channel that into interviews. Interviews get me interested in reading new comics which will be very helpful for resolution number one.  I totally bombed on this one, but I can blame Adam, right? He's the one with all the recording equipment! Of course, that doesn't mean that I couldn't have changed mediums to do written interviews like the great ones you can find over on the Heroes blog which feature artists and writers from the comic industry.  

4. Go to more conventions. To date, I have only been to Heroes Con and SPX. This year the Heroes Mini Con (January 22 in Charlotte, NC), Fluke (April 23 in Athens, GA) Fanaticon (May 21 in Asheville, NC) are all on my calendar. My con ventures are still on the smaller side, but perhaps I will attempt some of the larger cons as well. If this was an actual list with little boxes, it would be full of check marks.  I started the year the Heroes Mini Con which is a great one day show and followed it with Fluke, Fanaticon, Heroes Con, SPX, and ended the year with a one day hotel show in Atlanta, Georgia that I spent most of the day working at the Heroes booth.  It's a good experience to see shows from both sides of the table.  It's interesting to watch people dig through boxes looking for comic treasure.  I plan to hit all the above cons and maybe some new ones this year as well. 

5. Venture out to more comic shops. Granted this venture may have me scurrying back to Heroes, but it can’t hurt (or can it?) to check out some of the other shops. I did enjoy my visit to Richard’s in Greenville, SC for the Chrissie Zullo signing, but my few other non-Heroes experience have been less positive. I can’t possibly be the first chick in some of these places, right?  Heroes is still very much my home shop, but I did enjoy visiting a few new places this year.  Most of my visits were contained to the South.  If you're in North Carolina, you should check out Ssalefish Comics in Winston-Salem.  If you're in South Carolina, check out Borderlands and Apocalypse Comics.  In Georgia, do not miss Bizarro Wuxtry.  In Maryland, while it's not a just comic shop, hit Atomic Books

6. Write more lists. Who doesn’t love a good list? They have numbers and some times a heading. Everything is nice and orderly. My comic goals for 2011 are laid out for me to check off. I shall have a feeling of accomplishment come December.  There's no such thing as too many lists! The end of a year is the perfect time for lists like which comics you enjoyed the most, the events you're looking forward to in the coming year.  There are so many possibilities!