I was surprised today when an outspoken friend expressed embarrassment about liking something. I suppose I’m so used to people openly lambasting the comic books, movies and TV shows which they don’t like, that I didn’t know that they felt inhibited to share their positive opinions. Personally I like all kinds of ridiculous things and I’m used to people laughing at me for it (if you read this column you’re probably used to me agreeing that comic books or movies are flawed and still finding a way to enjoy them). I hope that you feel comfortable to come out and share your joy, no matter how ridiculous or dorky it might feel… after all, there was a time when everything comic book-related was deemed embarrassing and we were all in this together.
This being the day before Thanksgiving, you’re all going to be far too busy to read this today and so I’m going to write whatever I feel like (even more so than usual). I was brought up as British and we don’t exactly celebrate losing you guys, however, I do appreciate the little pre-Xmas steam valve the holiday provides as well as the opportunity to take a moment to express gratitude for all of the good things in our lives. With that in mind, and feeling the weirdly liberating effects of knowing none of you are really looking, I’m going to give thanks for a few things that are really working for me.
Growing up, I didn’t always have access to comic books but if I looked hard enough, even the most boring adult’s book cases or magazine racks contained at least one classic book, packed full of strange illustrations. Works like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Salome, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas are still as well-known for their art as for their stories, and the writers’ words have become inextricably linked with their illustrating collaborators’ imagery. While they weren’t comic books, they used pictures to develop and enhance the stories to such an extent that they transformed them. Those drawings shaped the way the world perceives and celebrates these stories. Continue Reading »
One great thing about watching dorky, ancient reruns of The Addams Family on some forgotten TV channel at 3am is the commercials. (Aside: I’m sure it’ll come as no surprise that Morticia Addams was one of my earliest female role models.) Very few of these cheapo late night commercials are for anything very good, mostly for gadgets no one wants or needs. However, when I was decompressing from working too late and thoroughly enjoying The Addams Family in all it’s monochrome glory, I caught a commercial for the library and I suddenly realized that in over a year of living in LA I’d forgotten all about the incredible resource of the library.
As a (supposedly) lightweight medium, over the years comic books have managed to provide us with a safe space to look at some very difficult aspects of human existence. One of our most fundamental fears is death, the fear of our own and of the loss of people we love. It is tough to say which is the worst or most complicated to confront, but suffice to say that dealing with death isn’t really at the top of the list of accepted smalltalk. It is a difficult experience to broach or express, and exploring the broad range of experiences of death isn’t something we generally choose to discuss or share in our daily life. But within comic books, the mourning ritual has been dealt with in some very personal, evocative stories, often providing us with unexpected opportunities to meditate on loss and impermanence. In the instances below, (picked at random out of the many comic book funerals which have touched me), there are three very different depictions of the fall-out of loss, from the very intimate moments of mourning to the actions which spur change and growth. Continue Reading »
According to this show I’m trying to watch, S.H.I.E.L.D. is “a giant bureaucratic organization that is tracking your every move.” This is interesting, (or rather it isn’t), because we already have the NSA. This most recent comic book inspired television show is unfortunately less exciting or exhilarating than the comic book and worse – it is even more tedious than real life. Like most comic book readers, I’m constantly asked by friends and family who (meaning well) think the television and movie adaptations of superhero comics will appeal to me, operating under the assumption that this is the “kind of thing I like”. It is frustrating and embarrassing to be associated with this endless parade of mediocrity, and I’m finding it increasingly difficult not to lecture them about how little these disappointing offerings have to do with the power and potential of comic books.
It’s hard for me to describe my excitement about Peter Bagge’s newest offering Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story (published by Drawn & Quarterly) without underplaying it somehow. For months I anticipated it, wondering if it would be as good as it promised, as good as I hoped. I had no way of knowing how Bagge would handle or approach telling the story of this pioneer of women’s rights and birth control, or if he would be up to the task, but I dearly hoped he would. Today I was finally able to read it and it does not disappoint. I am absolutely delighted to be able to write about this book and grateful to Peter Bagge for providing a fantastic depiction of a female (and human) role model, and an excellent example of the kind of complexity and excitement which the comic book genre is so very suited to. Continue Reading »
As part of my job as a graphic designer, I created a infographic for comiXology based on information gathered in their recent reader survey. Some of the results were quite surprising (and others weren’t), enjoy!
Over the last month, I embarked on a mission to find some great new comic books aimed very specifically at children (but still engaging for my adult self). The books I chose were Greg Ruth’s The Lost Boy, Gene Luen Yang’s Boxers & Saints, Paul Pope’s Battling Boy, Steve Niles and Dave Wachter’s Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem, and the ongoing anthology Cartozia Tales. I wanted to find works which would be effective at entertaining both young children and adults (no small feat), drawing in a young audience to enjoy the medium, without alienating existing readers. While all of the books I chose do function very effectively as all-ages books, there is absolutely nothing childish about them, these are great comic books by any standard. Continue Reading »
Rian Hughes is arguably one of the most multi-talented men currently working in communication design. His comic books are just the tip of the iceberg, with his current redesign of the Valiant logo making comic shop shelves a little sleeker, and his recent work organizing the Image Duplicator exhibition displaying his passion for original comic book art. When I was in London, I was lucky enough to a get a glimpse at the projects currently cluttering Rian Hughes’ desk and it proved an enlightening afternoon.
A lot of the time, people who work in comic books and design are self-employed, working alone in our offices and communicating with our teams via email, phone, chat, and skype. As a result of this, the camaraderie of colleagues and peers can become a distant, virtual experience. Outside of conventions once or twice a year, we rarely actually manage to see each other in meat space, making do instead with sending files back and forth. That’s why, when I went to London last month I had to make sure to meet up with comic book author and groundbreaking graphic designer; Rian Hughes. Hughes is one of the most interesting and engaging graphic designers working with comic books today and I am always inspired and excited by his take on things. When he invited me to visit him at his studio in Kew Gardens, I leapt at the chance to get a sneak peek at where the design magic happens. Hughes shares his bright and sunny studio with a group of freelance designers and a small graphic design company, which combines to create a quietly bustling creative atmosphere. Initially, my intention was to conduct some sort of interview, but instead we jumped right in to chatting about all of the interesting things lying about on his desk, and it proved to be quite the treasure trove… Continue Reading »
Earlier this week I was asked to take part in a group discussion on Huffington Post Live about whether there is a market for a female superhero movie. It was a short conversation, but in the pre-interview I was asked to refute practically every possible reason why someone might feel that a female superhero movie can’t be made. I thought you might be interested, so here are the arguments for making a female superhero movie.
Arguing Against the Classic Arguments Against a Female Superhero Movie
(sorry about the confusing title, but it seemed the most accurate description).
1. Female superhero costumes are too revealing.
So are men’s costumes. Skin tight is a universal problem in comic books. Nudity is only equated with vulnerability when the subject is a normal human. No one looks at a lion and asks why it has no pants, and in fact putting clothing on an animal is a way to make it appear less threatening. Similarly there is a certain kind of woman who could never be perceived as a merely ornamentation, no matter how she dresses. While implausible costumes have long been an excuse for not making a film about a female superhero, this never held back any of their male counterparts. In the end, it didn’t matter that Spider-Man and Superman wore bright colors, that Thor dressed like a pro-wrestler, or that Batman was dressed like a giant rodent, they still kicked ass and they still got people to watch. Continue Reading »
Like many creative superheroes, Christian Ward leads a double life. Half the time he teaches children about art, leading them in experimental projects to learn about the tools and capabilities at their disposal. The other half of the time, he is creating unique and beautiful comic books.
Three years ago I met Ward in a comic shop when he was on vacation in San Francisco. We immediately bonded over our shared love of comic books and art, and have been friends ever since. At the time, Christian had just begun work on his first comic book; Olympus, a psychedelic journey of colorful gods which looked like no other comic book. His bold, colorful watercolors and his stylish characters are incredibly distinctive, and when he began work on Infinite Vacation it was great to see his work receiving a wider audience. When I visited London last month, we met up to talk about what projects are next. Continue Reading »
Last night I got back from London late, exhausted from a 12 hour flight and happy to be home in balmy Los Angeles. Then early this morning I woke up to a panicked client request for help in creating an extremely complex mapping of various types of information they needed to present. While this isn’t the relaxing first day back home I had envisioned, the work was actually fun in a very weird way… Continue Reading »
My first summer in London in many years is turning up a bounty of comic book appreciation. With beautiful exhibitions and events springing up all over the city, it seems like this is a pretty perfect time for lovers of visual communication to visit.
Since I’m in the middle of traveling from London to Cornwall today, this week my column is a teaser a full-on article next week. I wish I had a moment to write about it all now, I cannot wait to tell you about all of the incredible comic book-related things which I’m stumbling on, (I had no idea that London culture had become openly engaged with comic books to this level). For now I’m taking plenty of notes and photos to give you a full run-down next week. Until then, here are three photos to whet your appetite:
Continue Reading »