Monday, 21 January 2013

Learning how to Write

It would seem that today I am using to finally clear out all of those books I started in a moment of excitement, but never finished.  The fourth book finished on the day is The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics by none other than Green Lantern and Green Arrow scribe, Denny O'neil.  I mainly purchased this book because of O'neil's attachment.

O'neil writes as a writer and an editor at DC, which puts him in a place to give advice.  Unfortunately the advice seemed regressive and harmful for any person wanting to write creatively.  He offers pragmatic advice by avoiding taking risks with stories and by following the comics formula.  This was written 12 years ago, but I imagine the safe story telling is still in vogue today, and may help explain the declining comic book market.  This period in mainstream media should be called the Age of Pragmatism because I am tired of art that plays it safe.  I don't want the sequel or the typical comic anymore.  O'neil seems content to preach the status quo.  I can't fault him too much because he is working within an industry where the status is maintained, and as an editor that doesn't want to lose his job he has to play it safe and only occasionally take a calculated risk.  I imagine the hardcore fans, much like the extreme teapartiers, will make themselves heard at an imagined misstep.

Reading this guide to writing has brought my frustrations to the surface with what I perceive as problems endemic in mainstream anything.  Guess if I want original and experimental I will have to keep reading independent publishers.

Holy Superheroes!

I started this book awhile and then stalled on it.  I couldn't really find much to value from it since it wasn't what I was looking for.  The book is about superheroes.  Or really I should say the book uses superheroes as a way to illuminate some of the more important lessons to be gained from Christianity.  This is a spiritual book disguised as a theory book.  Garrett would bring up a lesson from history like 9/11 and show how some (not all) superheroes reacted to that tragedy.  he would then show how those superheroes were behaving as though they asked WWJD.  This is the basic formula for each chapter.  Bring up pedestrian philosophical point and then show how superheroes follow said philosophic point.  I need to make a point to read Amazon reviews.  sigh.

Voyeurs - Gabrielle Bell Part II

I realize that the year is still young, and yet here is the second book I've read by Gabrielle Bell.  Titled The Voyeurs, the book is an autobiographical account of a thirty-something woman trying to make sense of the world and herself in it.  She is an artist that isn't sure what her purpose is and what she wants.  The character on the page is exceedingly complex and hard to define.  Maybe the complexity is what draws me to Bell's narratives.  The premise is not something that I am attracted to, but the execution makes all the difference.  I already have another of her books in the mail, and wouldn't be surprised if it doesn't appear in this blog in February.

In the meantime I need to focus my energies on theory.  I need to show restraint and save the next Bell book until I finish Metafiction.  Lets see how well I restrain myself.  Taking bets.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Green Lantern and Green Arrow

I finally got around to finishing this collection of Neal Adams (artist) and Dennis O'Neal (Writer) who paired the two green characters from DC to fight social problems like racism, drug abuse, environmental destruction, violence, and propaganda.  Some of the writing lacked subtlety and felt very heavy handed.  One of the characters was supposed to be a liberal and the other was a conservative, but they would often be confused in their varying approaches that neither seemed to fit any mold perfectly.  I think Green Lantern was supposed to be more liberal, but I am unsure.

Though I do enjoy Neal Adams rather evocative art.  He is the artist that was told that any book he illustrated would not receive the comic code of approval just by the way he drew his female figures.  They were not exceedingly curvy, but there faces often betrayed something sexual.  I imagine that threat came about by his handling of Dinah Lance (Black Canary).  It is easy to forget the majority of the comics here were written in 1970-72.

Friday, 11 January 2013

The Art of Amanda Connor

I wanted to have a better look at how a women in the mainstream comics industry drew superhero comics so I purchased a large folio/book that showed and also talked about the art of Amanda Connor, one of the top illustrators today.  I was really interested in how she would draw women, since she was a woman.  The zaftig females she draws are far more voluptuous and alluring than the ones drawn by men.  I have seen her pictures used in articles condemning comics for portraying women as sexual objects.  Though those articles failed to mention the pictures were drawn by a female.

Putting aside her female figures, her drawings also feel very human.  Her characters evoke charm, warmth, and emotion.  Connor's characters are not ultra realistic, but have a sort of cartoony quality.  I would place her art next to any artist working and show how her art better conveys the story than most other artists that take pride in their hyper realism.  I am a fan of hers, I just wish she would work with writers that I enjoy reading.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

What You See Is What You Get (wysiwyg)

It snowed about 6 inches today, so I was locked in all day.  But thankfully UPS delivers in all sorts of crazy weather.  Around 1pm today I received a package from Amazon containing this book about a prolific hacker.  I could not put it down today, well I did have an intermission for dinner and Inception.  But I picked it back up and finished it today.  Nearly 300 pages and just over four hours of reading here I am.  Piskor often details the steps that Kevin (hacker) takes when he was phreaking, or taking on new identities.  While reading I was wondering if some of these hacks still work.  I probably won't try and get a dead person's birth certificate, but it was fun reading about past hacks.  Though the main character did feel distant and without much personality.  So when he is being brutalized in prison I found myself not really caring about him.

This was a nice independent graphic novel.  I must remember to keep my eyes on the small publishers.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Beta Testing the Apocalypse

Mostly I was intrigued to purchase this collection of short stories based on the title alone.  Intriguing.  I was also intrigued that this was a collection of short stories written in sequential art.  What I didn't expect was a graphic narrative heavily laden with postmodern theory, architectural theory, and quantum theory.  The purpose controlled the plots of the stories, which tended to depict a cynical world where people are reified.  I will have to read this collection again to better grasp the concepts.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013


I'm trying to read more independent comic book artists/writers so that I don't get stuck reading about Batman and Superman all the time.  I especially want to read more female writers, who seem far too scarce in the medium.  First up this year is a semi-autobiographical account of Gabrielle Bell's introduction and rise in the art industry.  Well, that may be too simplistic a description of the book.  It also shows her insecurities, loves, failings, trials, and everything else that may seem to plague a twenty-something living in New York with little direction.

Her art is simple, yet eerily effective in its simplicity, and her stories are everyday, yet compellingly executed.  This is a gem of a book that chronicles three different periods in her twenties and how she was trying to be a professional artist.  Part of me did want her to explain her artistic choices as a sort of treatise of her style.  As is, this is a lovely graphic narrative with the occasional touch of humor.

Monday, 7 January 2013

First Post of 2013

So I fell short of 100 by about 10 books.  90 is not too bad.  I'm hoping I can do a little better, and hopefully my classes this semester will have me reading actual books and not a huge assortment of random essays like last semester.  I can't include essays in this blog, no matter how amazing.

So to start the new year I have read one of my books for the upcoming semester.  This is a slim book of nearly 180 pages about how some teachers excel where others fail miserably.  I couldn't help but constantly visualize myself as a teacher in Korea doing everything wrong.  Whenever Bain would point out poor practices of not-so-good teachers I remembered myself doing those exact same things in Korea.  Like the ever popular, "guess what the teacher is thinking" game.  Or the motivation through grades and exams routine.  How I wish I could go back and rectify my style.  I feel over the years that I have improved and was closer to what Bain was talking about, though not nearly as successful as the teachers he mentioned.  I know I still have miles to go before I am a good college teacher.  This was an great way to start the year.