In Celebration of Will Eisner Week: My Adopted Love of Graphic Novels

After reading on Tumblr that this week is Will Eisner Week in celebration of the man and all novels graphic, I decided it would be a great excuse to write about my adopted love of comics. I say adopted because, like any good kid of the ’80s-’90s I had always loved superhero cartoons (Batman: The Animated Series, X-men, and The Amazing Spiderman) but I was mostly unaware of any comic that wasn’t printed serially in The Morehead News. It wasn’t until I took a Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing elective while in Upward Bound that I ventured into Neil Gaiman’s Sandman #19 A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I was impressed that it had won major awards in categories traditionally restricted to prose formats. I was intrigued by the enhanced storytelling garnered from the combination of art and word and ink, and panel.

In college, a friend lent me my first superhero graphic novel, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. While it wasn’t the Batman I knew and loved from the Animated Series, I did appreciate the medium as a potential for exploration of grim dark futures and What-ifs. In the early post 9-11 years, grim dark wasn’t difficult to accept in entertainment. The two distinct Batmans, initially quite opposed in my mind, forced me to connect the plausible dots between continuity and conjecture. I realized for the first time that flawed heroes are more interesting than the perfect action figures from childhood. I didn’t learn these storytelling motifs from English class, I picked it up in a graphic novel.

I can’t remember if it was before or after Brad and I began dating that he introduced me to Marvel’s 1602, pretty much my favorite what- if of all time. How can super humans and super science in the Renaissance not win me over? The only timeline point I’m really certain of is that he probably started taking me seriously as a dating prospect when I asked him about Batman– I’m not sure what specifically, but it definitely changed things– conversations stretched on into hours and group superhero cartoon-viewing plans were made that eventually would involve only the two of us. Half a year of mutual pining could have probably been avoided if I’d been as interested in Dr. Doom as I was in Batman, but hey, we still both agreed to include the local White Crow Comics in the itinerary for our first date.

Despite taking the occasional advice of a co-worker and reading classics like Watchmen and V for Vendetta, I didn’t really start reading individual comic issues until DC’s Identity Crisis came out. I met the Question and Renee Montoya by following 52 and as a result began exploring Gotham’s other characters which led me to one of my current favorites Batwoman. The art style, intense color and ingenious use of alternative panel layouts makes for incredibly dynamic storytelling. I love that Batman deals with the themed human villains and Batwoman patrols the mythical/magical beat. The most recent story arc, World’s Finest was a team up with Wonder Woman to defeat Medusa and the Mother of all Monsters. I’m kind of wondering if the next story arc will have an Egyptian bent given the final spoiler in the last issue. Then maybe a return of Isis? Only time will tell, but I feel pretty confident I’m only reading too much into a single panel.

These days I also follow Captain Marvel and Kelly Sue Deconnick’s run on Avengers Assemble as well as most of the Adventure Time titles. My husband is the major collector but he keeps me in mind when planning his folder. I have had (male) friends tell me I only read the girl titles, and while they do speak to me first, I also like to support the need for the comic industry to at least think about female readers and creative teams. The only real miss I’ve had has been Sword of Sorcery. I love the world building of Gemworld but I think the story is just better suited for younger readers.

Obviously, comics and graphic novels are a major component of Brad and my entertainment diet and hopefully always will be. This week I’ll do a few more posts about recent comic news and next weekend will be the local Lexington Comic Con, of which there should be lots of Errant Easel coverage. I hope you’ll chime in with your thoughts as well. Looking forward to celebrating Will Eisner Week the Errant Easel way!

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T-Shirt Painting and the Dark Side

My Vader t-shirt painting

Well, I finished it – my first experiment with using a part of an old t-shirt in a painting.  I had first to decide which shirt to use.  I went through a plethora of Belfry t-shirts, followed by a few Monty Python tees, then I it came down to two: Ash and Vader.  In this instance, I chose Vader and essentially, the Dark Side. More

Peggle, why are you so much fun?!

As you are aware, I am currently working on a reduction print.  Between waiting on ink to dry on both the paper and the linoleum itself, I end up having some spare time to fill.  Yes, I could be preparing for the upcoming school year and the lessons I want to teach – and I do somewhat – but I usually find myself reading a book or enjoying the game Peggle on my PS3.

Well, I finished yet another book today (Thud! by Terry Pratchett, which was AWESOME) and I found myself drawn to Peggle for some mindless enjoyment.  For those of you who don’t know, I tend to get stressed out and over think things quite a bit.  Peggle is a nice way for me to just sit back, relax, listen to some interesting music, and look at some weird background art.

The game of Peggle is very simple: you start off with 10 shots, shoot the ball, hit the orange pegs, get points, win stage….wash, rinse, and repeat.  After you go through 40 levels, you unlock all the masters (with names like Bjorn the Unicorn and Master Hu – an owl, what’s not to enjoy right?!), and can play the Master’s Challenge levels.  Beyond that, there are various challenges that one can complete that involve scoring the most points, getting rid of the orange pegs with a specific number of shots, etc.

What keeps bringing me back to this game?  Like I said, it’s really simple, the music repeats, and when you do hit all the orange pegs, you get “Extreme Fever” and Ode to Joy starts blaring out of the TV.  That’s it, over and over again the same thing.  So why keep coming back to it?  Doesn’t it get old?  Not for me it doesn’t!

Peggle started off as a game my brother shared with me a little over a month ago when I was visiting home.  We played it until close to 2am, even though he had to go to work the next day (we did this all week!).  It was always, “one more time,” because over time, one realizes it’s not really just that simple.  You have to start thinking about angles and how to shoot the ball to hit the peg that just had to be out of your line of sight.  You have to decide which master is the best to use for this level.  It starts to become a thinking man’s game more than just shooting a ball and hoping.

Now, is it a great brain teaser?  No, it’s not.  It IS a lot of fun to play both alone or with someone..or a crowd!  It’s really just an addictive game that really doesn’t cause anyone to get THAT angry.  I like that, because and I freely admit this, I’m the world’s worst when it comes to getting aggravated at a game.

That’s being said, and since I’m now waiting for the print, I’m off to play the add-on to Peggle, Peggle Nights.  Same characters, new levels, new background art – which, by the way, is a lot of fun to look at!

Have a great evening and don’t let everything get too overwhelming.  Sometimes we all need a good book, a good laugh, or just a good time.

Just an example of a level - looks fun right!

Little Golden Books Exhibit

I always love going to the Central Library here in Lexington, but I knew I would make a special trip for nostalgia’s sake to check out The Little Golden Books Exhibit at the Central Library Gallery. I was surprised to learn that the popular Little Golden Books we all know and love resulted from concentrated efforts to produce quality books that were more affordable and readily available to the general public. At inception, masterfully illustrated books were available for a quarter, were durably produced, and sold not only in bookstores but also in department stores. The project was initiated in 1942 and has held the attention of young readers at story time for nearly 70 years.

Of the 60 original prints showcased at the Central Library Gallery, many are signed by familiar names including Richard Scarry, author of the Busytown books, and Peggy Parrish, author of the Amelia Bedelia books, another personal elementary school staple. Familiar scenes detail the adventures of the Pokey Little Puppy and the Tawny Scrawny Lion.

What makes this exhibit so appropriate for an Errant Easel post is the philosophy I feel it shares with D3Z, Staci, and myself. (I feel I can speak for the group here) That philosophy dictates that awesome things happen when art is made available to the public. Because it became a priority to create quality art that everyone could access we now have these collective memories of the Pokey Little Puppy and Scruffy the Tugboat. While I realize that these books are incredibly lucrative, I love that they got their start embodying art as a public service while at the same time becoming launchpads for rising illustrative talent. With the limited funding for Arts in school and the deemphasis of it’s importance in the classroom, it seems like pop art remains today a very powerful tool for introducing art to children who might not otherwise be exposed.

Comics and Art – One in the Same

I love doing drawings of my friends in a cartoon style – not caricature, cartoon.  While I have thought of making a web comic, I don’t think, at this time anyways, I have enough stories for those characters.  I’m more of a single panel kinda gal I guess.  I would love to include these characters in some of my paintings.  Why can’t comics and paintings be combined?  I mean, aren’t a lot of paintings just single panel comics?  Yeah, I’m looking at you specifically pop art movement.

literally a comic panel painting

I guess it just really depends on your point of view.  Lichtenstein, with his large panels directly inspired by comic book art, and Rembrandt, with his richly detailed figures and scenes, aren’t really different from one another in the sense that they are trying to tell a story. As viewers,  we don’t have to know the story they are specifically trying to tell – we just have to be willing to look at it.  It’s then that we put our own view, our own experiences, into what we see and the story becomes ours to an – extent.

"What's that officer? What are we doing? Well, umm...nothing, we're just...uh, waiting on..a friend! Yeah, we're waiting on a friend!"

That’s what I want to do – tell stories that others can see and make their own, using characters and scenarios from my life.

So, as I look for a character to use, I wanted to show a few examples of the figures I’ve already created.  I’ll update as I add new characters and figure out who I want to be the “star” of my paintings.

Mittens - Manga style

No evil shall escape my sight!