Archive for March, 2011

Images Do Speak Louder Than Words

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

In a paper titled “Narrative Visualization: Telling Stories with Data,” Edward Segel and Jeffrey Heer of Stanford University identified the comic strip as one of the seven genres of narrative visualization. Other genres include the flow chart and the partitioned poster. Infographics in general have become very popular on the web and in print, with The New York Times publishing multimedia content on topics such as the US Census, and sites like Information is Beautiful and GOOD specialize in creating graphics that are not only informative, but aesthetically-pleasing.

Perhaps it was only inevitable that people would take the art of creating comics and break it down, infographic-style. Well, that’s what Scott McCloud’s trilogy of nonfiction comics—Understanding Comics, Reinventing Comics, and Making Comics—were all about, but Damian Niolet has done one better and created a giant cheat sheet with all the things “a finished work of fiction in comic book form should demonstrate careful consideration of.”

Scott McCloud himself has called it “big, beautiful, and kinda terrifying” but for any established or aspiring comic creator, it’s worth a look.

An Animator’s Outlook on Tragedy

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Reports and stories continue to pour out of Japan in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11; many are heartbreaking but there is the occasional ray of hope that shines. Perhaps the most welcome news anyone could get is to find out a loved one is okay.

It was the next day when the staff behind Joe is Japanese received that very welcome news regarding their friend Koga Sato, an animator who is also the basis for their main character Joe McCunney. He took the time to write them an e-mail that not only affirmed he was okay, but relayed the events of the day, which were stunning, sad, and sometimes even a bit funny. That mix of emotions has been made into a special mini-comic, titled “Koga’s Email.”

Koga’s imagination and sense of  humor is really at work here, most evident in the fact that he makes quite a few odd pop culture references in his account, like saying that his office looked like “Mike Tyson fought with Rickson Gracie.”

The artists have put out a request that if you enjoy the comic, please donate to the Search Dog Foundation, whose dogs are currently searching for people in Fukushima. To help spread the word, they’ve released “Koga’s Email” under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-ND), so feel free to repost it.

(via The Webcomic Overlook)

Single Female Superhero

Monday, March 28th, 2011

David E. Kelley of The Practice and Boston Legal fame has been working on a new Wonder Woman television series for Fall 2011, and by now you’ve probably gawked at pictures of actress Adrienne Palicki in the new Wonder Woman costume, which multiple comic sites pointed out as resembling the latest costume in the comics, and Entertainment Weekly noted that it “de-emphasizes the patriotism and seems to play up the comic’s Greek mythology.”

In addition to those costume photos many sites have gotten their hands on an early draft script and have offered up their thoughts on it. All of them seem to have mixed feelings about it, though the things that stick out vary by writer. Comic creator Adam Warren also had a few things to say about the script, but rather than simply blog about it, he decided to have his character Empowered have a go at it:

(Part 1, part 2, and part 3)

She’s got kind of a point; how many “insecurity-plagued” superheroines do we need? Didn’t we already get an insecurity-plagued lawyer on Ally McBeal? And shouldn’t Wonder Woman be above that, being a literal goddess and all?

In this case, we’ll just have to wait until Fall and make our own judgments when the show premieres on NBC.

(via Bleeding Cool)

Food and Comics at C2E2

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

We’re still in recovery mode from C2E2, which just wrapped up in Chicago this past Sunday. Despite switching to a smaller hall at McCormick Place, attendance in the show’s sophomore year rose 24%, from 27,500 to 34,000 attendees. So things were looking up, and many artists we spoke to in the Artist Alley reported record sales and sell-outs. One title that sold out was the just-released Comic Book Comics #5, the all-lawsuit issue, so we weren’t able to procure a copy (yet).

One panel we neglected to mention in our highlight post was “Food and Comics.” Let’s take a peek at that description:

Food and Comics
Friday, March 18
4:30 pm – 5:30 pm

Join CB Cebulski, Rick Bayless and Chicago Tribune‘s James Beard award-winning food writer Kevin Pang as they discuss the art of food and comics, moderated by Ron Richards of iFanboy and “A Taste of Comics”.

Sound interesting? Well, it was, if you liked food and/or comics. They spoke about how the art of making a great dish was very similar to the art of making a great comic. The air was abound with similes such as how you can over-season the art on a comics page just as you can over-season a plate of food. Or how both young chefs and young pencilers are eager to use every technique in their toolbox when they first get started (leading to the mentioned over-seasoning).

With all the talent on the stage (Rick Bayless is a PBS and Top Chef alum and Cebulski writes the Eataku blog), there was plenty of discussion of food or comics, but not really of the two together. Bayless and Beard didn’t talk about comics at all, responding more to questions asked of them by the other panelists or members of the audience. No plans were announced for say, a collaboration between the food guys and the comics guys, similar to Anthony Bourdain’s upcoming graphic novel Get Jiro!. In fact, no food comics were mentioned at all until an audience member asked why John Layman of Chew wasn’t on the panel. The basic answer was that he wasn’t at the con, but with all the great personalities that were at the con, they couldn’t find someone else to tie it all together?

Overall, it wasn’t a bad panel, but it wasn’t very filling either.

Teeth and Consequences

Friday, March 18th, 2011

When I was a kid my mother used to constantly mention my crooked teeth, never sparing an opportunity to say I would probably need to get braces. That day never came—though my brother did have to get them—but I know I was incredibly lucky. However, even if I did have to get braces, I’d still be far luckier than Raina Telgemeier, who lost her two front teeth in sixth grade and then suffered the consequences for the next four years. She chronicles this journey of braces, retainers, false teeth, and more in her graphic memoir Smile, published by the Graphix imprint of Scholastic Books.

Raina is careful to explain every step of the process, showing her various visits to the dentist and orthodontist (and an unfortunate periodontist) and illustrating exactly what is happening to her teeth at that given point in time. It takes a lot of anxiety out of dental visits, making this ideal for pediatric dentists to give to their first-time patients, or any child patient about to undergo a major procedure.

Even removed from the dental context, the book has a lot of value for kids and tweens. The story of Raina’s toothy escapades is really just a framing device for those formidable years of her life, where she’s navigating that line between child and adult and figuring out what kind of person she wants to be. As Raina struggles with each new development in her mouth, she’s also making the transition from junior high to high school and reaching a point where she can actually choose her friends. The book has a lot to say about peer pressure, as her friends and classmates react to her teeth and other parts of her appearance with varying degrees of kindness and cruelty.

Raina Telgemeier is also the illustrator for The Baby-sitter’s Club Graphix line, so she’s well accustomed to drawing the trials of preteen girls, and this book continues that standard of excellence. The characters are cute and expressive, each panel crackling with life. The colors by Stephanie Yue are simple but bright, the background shades creating atmosphere despite a lack of detail.

Smile has proven to be very popular among the kid crowd, and why not? It’s got humor, hope, friendship, and love—all the things that should make you smile.

Smile
by Raina Telgemeier
colors by Stephanie Yue
published by Scholastic (New York, 2010)
ISBN 978-0-545-13206-0

Out and About: C2E2

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Just a heads up that Ian and I will be in Chicago for C2E2 this weekend. You’ll find us wandering around the convention center Friday–Sunday, and perhaps Ian will stop by Podcast Alley for a bit, so just ask around if you need us.

Nonfiction comic panels of interest:

Departing the Text: Teaching Inference with Graphic Novels
Friday, March 18
12:15 pm – 1:15 pm

This presentation will demonstrate why graphic novels should be included in middle and high school curriculum to build and support teaching inference, metaphor, and abstract thinking. It will also provide suggested lesson plans and classroom discussion forums using selected/recommended graphic novels.

CSC: Representing Science and Medicine in Comics
Saturday, March 19
3:30 pm – 4:30 pm

MK Czerwiec (Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine) provides a detailed summary of the growing field of “Graphic Medicine,” the inclusion of graphic narratives as text and method in medical school humanities programs. David E. Beard (University of Minnesota Duluth) explores the undertheorization of the use of the graphic literary form for the evocation and inculcation of values—specifically, values about science.

CSC: The Difficulty of Definition: Autobiographical Comics, Black Sci-Fi, Comics in the Classroom
Saturday, March 19
5:30 pm – 7:00 pm

Ji-Hyae Park (Roosevelt University) examines how Julie Doucet’s 365 and Lynda Barry’s What It Is challenge the critique of autobiographical comics as navel gazing and elitist by reframing the creation of art as an everyday experience. Jiba Molei Anderson (Illinois Institute of Art–Schaumburg) explains what “Black Sci-Fi” is. Christina Blanch (Ball State University) looks at anthropology students’ attitudes regarding comics and their use in the classroom with Y: The Last Man as the sample.

Drawing Fire: Editorial Cartooning in a Partisan Age
Sunday, March 20
12:45 pm – 1:45 pm

There was a time when the loudest and strongest voice heard above the din on any political issue was the editorial cartoon, jumping off the page in dramatic black and white. In today’s climate of vitriolic banter and self-righteous talking heads, where does the editorial cartoon fit in? A panel of internationally known editorial cartoonists discuss their genre of cartooning in today’s changing media and political landscape. They will discuss how new media is reshaping how they reach an audience. They will share some of their recent more controversial cartoons, talk about reader reaction and impact, and share some cartoons that were killed by the editor because they were too controversial to print. Listen closely. Despite the decline of newspapers, editorial cartoonists can still be heard above the din.

The Secret Ingredient is Mustache Hairs

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

It’s time to head back to simpler times in the DC Universe. Back before Ollie Queen was divorced, living behind prison bars after killing a villain. Back when Roy Harper still had both arms and had yet to hug a cat, believing it was his dead daughter while he was high on drugs. Back before Star City had its own Central Park in the shape of a star. The memories. And yes, I am well aware that the geek scale just went over 9,000 there. To bring us back down to Earth, have a chili recipe.

My mouth, it burns! Ollie’s Chili has appeared many times over the years. Interestingly enough, as is pointed out in this post on the Comic Book Resources forums, it first showed up in the same issue of Green Arrow where Speedy was revealed to have a drug addiction back in the ’70s. Since then it has become a recurring gag and eventually received a complete recipe printed in Green Arrow Secret Files & Origins #1. It appears to be hot enough to melt metal and yet I am still tempted to make a batch. Does that make me a masochist? Green Arrow also appears to have shown his culinary chops at least one other time in the pages of DC Comics. This was years earlier when they decided to put out a cookbook for some reason. I am still unsure what the market is for such a thing. Still, I give you “My Secret Pizza”:

The secret is that it’s barely a pizza. More like a pita pocket. Either way, I hear Green Arrow caters weddings and Bar Mitzvahs in his spare time.

Grammar Isn’t Just a Word

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Learning a language is about more than just learning what words mean what; it’s also about learning how those words work together. This is the essence of grammar, a subject that even native speakers have trouble grasping at times. Jack Krumb, a teacher of English in Scotland has started working on his own “guide to grammar,” posting it one page at a time online.

The comic is taking a very nuts-and-bolts approach to the subject, and he only started last month, so we haven’t gotten past the concept of nouns. Even so, each page is chock-full of information: a definition of morphology, concrete and abstract nouns, and count and mass nouns. For so few pages, it feels like a lot of ground has been covered, without any sense of rushing through each topic. He’s also introducing a supporting cast which includes his son, daughter, and a cute cat.

Though the art isn’t the most polished, to focus on it would be missing the point, as it gets the job done. This project looks promising, and I’ve learned so much already. Hopefully he’ll see it through to the end.

(via Comics Worth Reading)

A Comic Proposal

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

For that special lady, men often try to find a special way to propose marriage. Some do it on the JumboTron at sports games, others hire planes to carry the message across the sky via banner or skywriting. Many just simply wait for the perfect moment, where the lighting and music are just right and everything is just picturesque. For cute comics couple Dave Roman (Agnes Quill) and Raina Telgemeier (Smile), there was really only one way Dave could have proposed to his love, and that’s through the medium they both love.

The comic tells an abbreviated version of their entire relationship, leading up to the fateful moment when he presents his comic to her and then pops the question in real life. Raina then fills out the rest, illustrating her acceptance as well as some key details that Dave didn’t mention. It’s completely sweet and adorable, and hopefully you’ll see them sharing booth space at the next convention you attend.

Cap Does Suicide Prevention

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Continuing off of their previous effort where Spider-Man helps New Yorkers get a job in these tough economic times, Marvel is now handling an issue that exists independent of the economy, education, or politics. That issue is suicide—specifically teen suicide. Teen suicide has been in the news in recent months as a number of students, both gay and straight, took their lives for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is bullying, depression, trouble at home, lack of friends, a combination of these three, or something else (which may not be readily apparent). So Marvel Comics put out a Captain America comic to try and put the issue out there, and perhaps get people considering suicide to look for help.

Captain America: A Little Help is an 11-page story written by psychologist Tim Ursiny and penciled by Nick Dragotta. The comic is mostly wordless but tells the tale of a teen named Zach who is dealing with some major issues. While we do not get the full story, his mother is dating a new guy who may or may not be the one. Zach also recently went through a breakup with his girlfriend and is not handling it very well. With no one around to talk to, he decides to head to the roof and jump. Luckily, Captain America provides a good distraction as a fight begins on the adjacent rooftop between him and some nondescript terrorists with giant mechs.

When Cap tries to battle one of the giant mechs his mighty shield goes flying across the street to Zach’s rooftop. At a moment’s notice, Zach flings the shield back to Captain America and assists in the victory.

In return, Zach receives a thumbs up and a new lease on life. He immediately returns inside, heads to the Yellow Pages and calls the Suicide Prevention Hotline to get some help. What struck me about this issue was the art did a wonderful job of telling the story it needed to tell. Even on the iOS version there was a story flow that gave you enough of what was going on where words were indeed unnecessary. Captain America: A Little Help is available for free on Marvel’s iOS app as well as on Marvel.com. It also appears in I Am An Avenger #5, still available for purchase in local comic shops.