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The most recent book to return from Valiant, Shadowman started a second arc this week, with issue #5 from Justin Jordan and Patrick Zircher. The series has made an effective return, with some good character work and world-building – although the book is struggling to lift all the different storylines it has weighing it down. There are around four different ongoing storylines at the moment, all of which are currently working separate to one another.
This is only a setup issue for the second arc as a whole, but we have a lot of different things to keep track of here. Whilst lead character Jack Boniface learns a little more about the mantle of Shadowman, the villains make some moves – both on Earth and in a place known as ‘deadside’. Then there’s a new character, Dr Mirage, who also seems set to get involved in things somehow. The stories are starting to pile up, and it’s working fairly well so far.
Each section – Boniface, Dr Mirage, the villains on Earth and villains in Deadside – all have a different artist on them (I believe!), although there’s only one clearly different artistic style. That would be Roberto De La Torre, who is an inspired choice to draw the Deadside section. His work highlights something which has slowly come to dominate the book: the effectiveness of the villains. The fact the book is managing to deal with having several unconnected storylines at once is due to the way in which the villains are written. They plan against each other and with each other in unexplained and interesting ways, and are very hard to predict and track. That’s making for an unnerving effect on the book as a whole, and is the best part of this series so far. Here we get an opening section with one villain, bookended with a final sequence following a second villain, and tying him to the first.
It’s all very interesting, and the ways in which Jordan slowly connects bits of the story is making for a great ongoing narrative here. The book doesn’t get a chance to slow down, because so many people are involved in so many different things. The new character, Dr Mirage (who I’m told is a re-imagined classic character) gets a great showcase, with the best sequence of the book devoted to her. The writing doesn’t rely on readers recognising the name – we get to spend several pages with the character, to establish her role in the story going forward. There aren’t many character moments involved quite yet, but she fits so well into the overall tone of the series that it doesn’t really matter.
Characterisation is rather variable in this book so far. Some characters get to have fun and show off to the reader, while others are more restrained and held in place. Shadowman himself falls into the latter category, mainly filling a role rather than living as a fully dimensional character in his own right. After a first issue which built him into place very well, he’s mainly been stuck in an everyman loop, repeating his character definition issue after issue. He gets a few moments here, but is for the most part outpaced by the other characters. There’s a fairly abrupt sequence here which was designed to give him a bit more purpose and depth, but is cut off quickly by the need to fill in other stories – he’s the character most short-changed by the decision to stack so many plots on top of one another.
Actually, though, my only real concern with the book comes through in the colouring. Jack Boniface has been growing paler and paler in every issue of the series so far, to the point where he looks like a white man in this issue. Whilst Zircher is drawing a black character from New Orleans, the colourist doesn’t appear to be following through with that particularly well. I bring this up because Shadowman is one of the most well-known black characters in comics, and it seems a shame that he isn’t being represented as strongly as he could be. That aside, the work done in this issue is great, with some excellent work done in the Deadside setting in particular.
Shadowman is a fascinating series, with a brilliantly established central tone and style. The book is interesting, and three of the four stories here are great fun to follow. The lead character is struggling for space amongst the more interesting villains, but hopefully once he starts to cross over into the other storylines then things will spark up for him again. I’m really enjoying Shadowman as a whole, and it’s an excellent addition to the Valiant line. It’s wildly unpredictable, and very good fun.
She showed up in my sketchbook today. I imagine she hates eating bread crusts, keeps a pet snail in a jam jar and believes (correctly) that the neighbors are really spies.
The Panem Companion
Go deeper into the home of the Hunger Games with the creator of the best-known fan map of Panem
• What does Panem look like?
• How does Panem define race?
• How do Panem’s districts reflect the major themes of the trilogy?
• What allusions to our world are found in Panem names like Finnick, Johanna, Beetee, Cinna, Everdeen, and Mellark?
The Panem Companion gives fresh insight into Suzanne Collins’ trilogy by looking at the world of the Hunger Games and the forces that kept its citizens divided since the First Rebellion. With a blend of academic insight and true fan passion, V. Arrow explores how Panem could have evolved from the America we know today and uses textual clues to piece together Panem’s beliefs about class, ethnicity, culture, gender, sexuality, and more.
Includes an extensive name lexicon and color-illustrated unofficial map. Giveaway Details
1 copy of The Panem Companion
Open to US & Canada only
Ends 4/1/13a Rafflecopter giveaway
Renn is a brave, little boy spending some not-so-fun time at the hospital this week. Mom and I are writing a special blog post today just for him. You can read about Renn at The Brain of a Jedi.
Mom’s author friend, Susanna Leonard Hill has links to lots more well wishes for Renn on her blog. Take a look, and while you’re at it, send along some prayers and happy thoughts for a tough, smart little Jedi and his family.
Mom is afraid of Jedi warriors (No, she’s not. I am…). In fact, she’s afraid of warriors of all kinds (No, she’s not. I am…). Light sabers scare her (No, they don’t. They scare me…). And forget about Darth Vader’s voice. She’s terrified of that guy (No, she’s not. I am…).
So, we’ll have to work with what we have. My cuteness!!
Here I am dancing like a cute ballerina.
If you want to see how smart I am, here I am solving a problem while looking cute.
If you’ve never seen a dog eat Cheerios, watch how cute I am using my Cheerios machine.
And if you need a laugh, watch me tame the laughing mechanical dog (still while looking cute).
And when it’s time to sleep, stop by my booth for the cutest kiss you can get for a nickel…
Hang in there, buddy! xoxo
The Legend of Sarila (La légende de Sarila) is the first 3D CGI film produced entirely in Quebec. Drawing on Inuit culture and tradition, Sarila was directed by Nancy Florence Savard,= and animated in Montreal at Modus FX. Production companies involved were 10th Ave Productions and CarpeDiem Film & TV. Budget was $8.5 million (CAN).
Sarila opened last weekend in Quebec province on 32 screens, grossing a modest $64,622 and landing in 10th place at the Quebec box office. The film has been sold to 20 countries.
(Thanks, Nicola Lemay)
Comixology’s reeling servers have forced the end of the Marvel 1st promotions announced at SXSW where Marvel was making 700 of its first and landmark issues available for free from Comixology.
Comixology’s head David Steinberger offered this statement on the Comixology blog:
To our customers:
It’s been a whirlwind weekend, and we’re fresh from SXSW where Marvel Comics launched their Marvel #1 promotion featuring over 700 free comics distributed via our platform.
We expected a high degree of excitement for the Marvel initiative – and had believed ourselves prepared – but unfortunately we became overwhelmed by the immense response. We’re still struggling to keep our systems up.
The result is that you aren’t getting your comics when and where you want.
We don’t like letting you down. Our teams are working around the clock to resolve these issues so that you can have the experience you’ve come to expect.
To that end, we’re pausing the Marvel Comics #1 promotion for the time being. For those of you that want to take advantage of the offer – you will get your comics! Until we are able to reinstate this program in our systems, please click here and fill out this simple form, so you can be informed as soon as there is an update.
We’ll be communicating with you as often as we can and deeply appreciate the outpouring of support we’ve seen from our customers while we right the ship.
CEO and co-founder
The move seemed inevitable givent he crush. The support twitter feed is trying its best to keep up, but a lot of people want Marvel comics, it seems. Marvel’s Agent M was playing Kid to Comixology’s Captain Mifune in the attempts to defend
Zion Gate Comixology’s servers.
Meanwhile, Agent M, aka Ryan Panagos offered this:
Which sounded cool except based on what’s happening, even a longer period of availability might not result in greater access.
Our own efforts to pick up some free reading were stymied by…forgetting our Comixology password. No chance for resetting it under this strain.
While the promotion was definitely a success in terms of visibility for Marvel, it also stymied every other publisher who relies on Comixology — no one else’s digital books are going out either. And even retailer’s digital storefronts have been shut down.
The loop is a friend to animators everywhere, but Neil Sanders is a loop fanatic. He is one of the organizers of the monthly animation challenge, Loop de Loop, to which he regularly submits his own creations. The group screens the accepted micro-shorts regularly in Melbourne.
Neil’s sketchbook drawings, illustrations and design work can be found on his website. More recent work can be found on his blog and Vimeo account, where the serious loop connoisseur can get comfortable, right click on the loop videos and set them to loop forever.
I am tired of looking for it / tired of waiting for it too / tired of analysing the whys / the wherefores / and the whatnots / tired of trying to please / trying to look the part / tired of having ideas / and strength for two / tired of carrying / of consoling / of listening / of playing roles I shouldn't play / tired of thinking / of thinking deep into the night / tired of dealing with others' Centipedes / of shepherding / of making mistakes / of being on my own / tired of trudging where others run / of lagging behind / of the days without aim / of solitude / tired of averting my eyes / of the long hours of contemplation, tea in hand, at the outside world / tired of waiting for hours for a phone call or a text message which I know full well won't come / tired of the silence even music I love cannot dissipate / of the long sunrises, the fiery sunsets, the howling of the wind, the loud thunderclaps I cannot share / I am tired of masturbating / tired of the emotivity which plagues my interactions / tired of it all / tired of the long stretches of sand rolling under my feet / tired of staying put here / tired of living in a stagnant, one-horse town / tired of running desultorily / tired of the rain / of being out of breath / of this long, drenching-to-the-bones run
If any of you are old enough to remember the old Atari 2600 title, Adventure, you may or may not appreciate my updated version of some Adventure art. Adventure purists might not like that I messed with something perfect. Warning!! Answering in the affirmative to remembering this will really date you!! It was published in 1979.
Let's all take a moment to thank innovation and innovators and creative people everywhere for the advancement of digital arts since this era! This is what the art in Adventure looked like:
I've been super MIA over the past few months. I'm trying to do better and will hopefully be posting more regularly.
By John Jackson Miller via Comichron
DC’s Justice League of America #1 turned in the strongest single-issue sales performance for a comic book in the month of February since at least 1996 — and the biggest single-month number for a DC title since that time, as well. That’s based on Comichron’s estimates of retailer orders from Diamond Comic Distributors. Click to see the complete estimates for comics sales in February 2013.
Released with more than 50 variant covers featuring flags of the individual U.S. states, Justice League of America #1 had orders of nearly 308,000 copies. That’s more than 100,000 copies more than any DC relaunch issue reached in North America in a single month — and enough to rank it seventh on the list of top-selling comics of the 21st Century. (It could still go higher, with reorders.) The issue outranks any DC title in the Diamond Exclusive Era, including Superman: The Wedding Album back in November 1996.
The quantity is also higher than any February release since at least Marvel Vs. DC #3 in February 1996. We don’t know the actual sales for that issue, as it came during the Distribution Wars period when Marvel was self-distributing, but I would guess that its sales were likely competitive with the February 2013 release. Click to see my column on past best-sellers for the month.
Another interesting cross-time comparison: with the top 300 comics selling just over 7 million copies in February, the figure beats not just the five- and 10-year comparisons, but also the 15-year comparative, as well. Retailers ordered 6.6 million copies in February 1998. By 1998, however, we’re getting to the point where a 15-year beat isn’t as impressive — the February 1997 figure was 8 million copies.
Graphic novel sales were slightly off from a year ago — by less than 1% overall — although when you drill down to just the Top 300 graphic novels, sales were actually up 14% in both dollars and units. That would require, if the figure is correct, for the backlist titles in the “long tail” to have significantly underperformed. It’s within the range of differences we’ve seen between frontlist and backlist figures before. Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’sNemo: Heart of Ice hardcover from Top Shelf was the best-selling graphic novel.
By: Corey Godbey,
Blog: light night rains
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Spent some time today updating some of my various haunts around the internet (including some updates to this old blog).For the time being I've kept some older portfolio work archived there. Enjoy it while it lasts!
The main work I did was updating my Carbonmade portfolio site. I really enjoy the direct simplicity.
I also updated and tidied up my Behance.
The main changes around the blog here are updates to the About
pages. Refreshed illustrations, updated and newly worded bio, cleaned up tabs.
Speaking of the blog, these days it would seem that I only post for major events. To keep up with my day to day workings you can follow me on Twitter
and my Cory Godbey Illustration Facebook page
By: Cindy R. Williams,
Blog: Dragon Dreamer
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Busy times right? Here are some nuggets about happiness. I wish I could tell you who said these. Hey, if you know, write it in the comments.
"Life is good, if we live in such a way to make it so." I agree. "If it is to be . . . it is up to me."
"True happiness is a conscious decision." So true. I don't think you could make the decision to be happy, or any decision if you are unconscious.
"Happiness is a condition of the soul. This joyous state comes as a result of righteous living." Too true! Are you ever happy when you do bad things? Not me.
"A good life comes as a result of the way we do things, of the words we choose to say, and even of the kind of thoughts we choose to have." Looks like it all boils down to our choices. I work hard on making good choices. Sometimes I just need to slow down and look at the whole picture. I get myself in trouble sometimes when I rush into stuff before I really think about it.
"Be good to yourself. You are all you have got." Not sure about the grammar, but this is true. I like to be kind to others so why not be kind to myself. I mean, I am my toughest critique.
"I am worthy of respect. I don't have to do anything special to deserve it." Wow! That is an eye opener. Being the only dull grey dragon on this planet, I h ave always felt I need to prove myself. Hmmmmm . . . this is one I am going to work on.
Do you have a good quote about HAPPINESS? If so, write me a note in the comments section.
HAPPY FLYING!!!! (Flying makes me happy.)
I’m looking forward to seeing more from SF-based Chris Mann. His small but growing portfolio wonderfully showcases his range and capabilities as a designer. From personal experiments with forms and type to full-blown branding projects, Chris’s work is thoughtfully executed and a pleasure to view.
Also worth viewing:
Ken Leung Interview
Not signed up for the Grain Edit RSS Feed yet? Give it a try. Its free and yummy.
Featured Book: Matte Stephens: Selected Works
A Huge thanks to Squarespace for sponsoring this week’s RSS Feed!
Blog: the enchanted easel
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, original paintings
, nicole's nursery art
, nursery art
, name panels
, the enchanted easel
, polka dots
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while currently working on my mermaid series of paintings, i received a custom order (my first one in a while....)
about 5 years back, i did a nursery art set of paintings for a sweet baby girl named Fia. well mom loved everything so much that she approached me last week to do their baby boy's name panels as well (and two other coordinating paintings). of course i said YES! besides, cute little animals and bright colors?! right up my alley...;)
below are some peeks of the panels in progress. and a peek at baby Fia's paintings i did...5 years ago!
In response to some of the input that I received on last week's post about helping parents to find quality books for their children, I've decided to start a new Growing Bookworms Facebook page. I'll be sharing tips and research results about growing bookworms, as well as book recommendations (my own and other people's). I think this page will provide a couple of benefits:
- People interested in encouraging young readers (parents, teachers, librarians, etc.) can follow the page without having to friend me on Facebook and clutter up their own news feeds.
- The visual Facebook page format will provide a much nicer archive for links and posts than, say, Twitter (and in a leaner format than on my blog).
I'll continue to share most links on Twitter, and will use the Growing Bookworms page only for the most relevant of articles. I'll also try to share relevant articles in my Google+ communities. I've changed my blog so that it won't automatically share all of my blog posts to my personal Facebook timeline. Instead, I'll decide for individual posts whether to share them on my personal timeline, the Growing Bookworms page, or neither. It will probably take me a little time to get into a groove with deciding what to share where, but I do hope to make the Growing Bookworms Facebook page a useful resource, particularly for parents. I hope that some of you will check it out, and I welcome your feedback. Thanks for reading!
This post © 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.
Last month author Laura Purdie Salas did a blog post called [my writing life] How Much Money Does a Writer Make? (2012 edition) in which she described her income breakdown. In the writer circles I've bumped around in, she's not doing badly. In fact, I know plenty of people who would think she did pretty well last year. What's interesting is how many different types of writing-related work she had to do in order to generate that income. Money from trade book sales, which is the way most people think writers make a living, was quite a small portion of her overall income. She has links to her income from several years back, and even in years when she's done better over all, it wasn't because of a lot of money coming in from trade. Even if you add what she made from work-for-hire books to the what she made for trade, so that we're counting all of what approaches "traditional" writer income, we're not even getting to half of her take for 2012.
She has done what seems to me to be a good job of going out and finding writing-related work. The time involved in managing all those different work tasks makes me want to curl up in a little ball.
Writers interested in the work-for-hire writing can find information on the subject at Rachelle Burke's Resources for Children's Writers (Scroll down to Item 14) and Evelyn B. Christensen's Educational Markets for Children's Writers. Both those sites were brought to my attention by Kathryn Lay in her article Writing for the Educational Market in the March/April 2011 SCBWI Bulletin.
Blog: Book Hooked
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Alice Humphrey has lived a privileged life as the daughter of a world-famous filmmaker. However, when she asks her father to stop supporting her and allow her to live on her own, she realizes that real life is harder than she imagines. So when she is approached with an offer to manage a brand-new art gallery, she overlooks the concerns of friends and family and eagerly accepts. It seems like a dream job until one morning when she unlocks the doors to discover the body of her benefactor and an otherwise empty art gallery. She becomes the number one suspect when the police discover that not only is the man's identity not who Alice claims, but the artist who art had been hanging in the gallery seems non-existent. Alice knows it's all a set up and sets out to prove her innocence.Writing
Fine. Not exceptionally good or exceptionally poor. Much more coincidence than I like in a thriller. Also, I felt like it was longer than necessary. I could have done with less detail and fewer plot trails and irrelevant story lines.Entertainment Value
This made up for the problems I had with the writing to some degree. Even though I felt like the coincidences were distracting, they still made for an interesting story. It did all fit together like a puzzle in the end and there were some moments that shocked me. The main problem is that I didn't really care about the characters. The story itself was interesting enough and kept me going even though the slower portions of the story.Narration
Ok. Nothing to write home (or on my blog) about. Not bad though.Overall
If you're really into the genre, I'd give it a try. Otherwise, I think there are better books for dipping your toes into the thriller pool.
By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
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, Top News
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Relish by Lucy Knisley
A few years ago, if you were told about the rise of the Internet and asked to predict one of the top things that people would blog and post about, can you honestly say food would have been up there as a contender? And by food, I don’t mean cookery, recipes and dedicated food sites, but Facebook statuses, Tweets, Instagram photos, all that jazz. Out of all the little banalities of life, who would’ve thunk that narrating what we eat would be the common denominator of web sharing, and in such a wholly ubiquitous fashion.
Telling strangers on the net what you’re eating isn’t groundbreaking, constructive or thrilling to others in any way- by and large it reflects a personal enjoyment of consumption that has or is about to take place, made more understandable, I think, if you’re of the view that food is one of life’s true pleasures, and not of my sister’s mindset; she who see food as fuel and a necessity to survive, not caring particularly about taste as long as it’s not detrimental to her health and fulfills her needs (yes, she really is my sister).
Lucy Knisley, it’s safe to say is, is firmly in the former camp. Knisley’s Relish, a book that follows her through various periods and moments in her life framing them in relation to her culinary experiences, has been one of the most anticipated releases of the year for many- not least myself. For Knisley, these ‘taste-memories’ are no tenuous associations: she has been immersed in food culture in some form or manner since she was born- her mother a chef, her father himself a cook and discerning consoeur, her uncle owner of a food-shop selling gourmet comestibles and homemade food- and has generally been raised in an environment filled with ‘cooks and bakers, eaters and critics.’
Growing up, food remained a strong presence in different ways; working in cheese shops, farmer’s markets, growing and sourcing ingredients, getting involved in the business side of things. So Knisley’s relationship with food is much deeper than your average persons, and despite feeling a little different for being a cartoonist, it’s a theme that turns up naturally and with happy regularity in her work. They marry well, do food and comics.
The book is divided into chapters, with each one recounting a specific food-related memory and a recipe for that food then given at chapter’s close. Both the experiences and foods are diverse in range, from a trip to Mexico where her friend Drew learns about the penalties for smuggling porn across the border, backpacking through Europe and discovering the world’s best croissants in Venice and feverishly attempting to recreate them to no avail, to navigating horrible lemonade chicken cooked by good friends.
As someone who salivated over Enid Blyton’s terse descriptions of hard-boiled eggs and cold ginger beer, Knisley’s recollections paired with her drawings are almost a sensory overload (her move to the country with its ripe, colourful fruits and freshly plucked produce left me feeling a little light-headed). That said, what I particularly enjoyed here wasn’t what I expected. And that’s the way in which each memory, each anecdote genuinely tells you a little about the author and her life- it’s not just ‘hey, delicious food art!’, it’s much more thoughtful and reflective than the bright colours and subject matter belie. In between food chopped and dishes cooked, there are insights into her close relationship with her mother, attempts at bonding with her father over dinners, queasy coming of age experiences shared with friends who are still friends, the developing of a cook’s resilience and tenacity.
Having said that (paradoxically) -and this is my sole criticism of the book- there is a strange sense of remove and disconnect of Knisley as a character. The reader is reading about her without any strong emotional investment or relatability on her behalf. Relish arrived in the post the same day I got Christophe Blain’s In The Kitchen with Alain Passard; in that book, a charming and effusive Blain slings an arm around the readers shoulder and guides him around, managing to thoroughly absorb him, as a novice, into the life of a Michelin-starred chef. This may have something to do with the first person narration, planted in the present but talking about the past, making it difficult to get a sense of Knisley as a person today.
I’ve always been a big fan of Knisleys cartooning and it’s as accomplished and attractive as ever here, with line and expression on point. To my mind, she’s the only cartoonist who controls the art so deftly in terms of what it conveys emotionally, perfectly straddling the realms of cartoony while maintaining an aspect of brevity. Make no mistake, Relish is a great achievement, pulling off a truly tricky combination of genres and tones to produce a book that will not only make you want to get into the kitchen and fondling food at the farmer’s market, but one I am confident will be a highlight of the comics year.
Oh, and a top tip for when you’re reading this: surround yourself with tasty snacks because you will be needing them.
By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
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Big Two Comics
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, Web-Spinning Heroics: Critical Essays on the History and Meaning of Spider-Man
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Spider-Man is hands down one of the most popular characters ever to leap from the pages of Marvel Comics, and is even a strong contender for one of the most popular comic characters produced by any comics publisher. He’s also displayed a particular trademark flexibility in successfully taking to the silver screen and flourishing through merchandizing. It may come as a surprise that it’s taken this long for a collection of scholarly essays on Spider-Man to make it onto the shelves, but it’s here at last with WEB-SPINNING HEROICS: Critical Essays on the History and Meaning of Spider-Man, edited by Robert Moses Peaslee and Robert G. Weiner, both pillars of the scholarly community when it comes to getting books and essays about comics into print, and colleagues at Texas Tech University. The field of comics scholarship is taking off at colleges and universities world-wide, introducing courses and even degrees in comics studies, prompting a need for texts about comics and models for approaching comics scholarship with attention to detailed analysis, historical context, and solid research methods.
[Dr. Robert Moses Peaslee and Robert G. Weiner. Photo taken by Isaac Villalobos, used courtesy of The Daily Toreador]
Peaslee and Weiner have quite an impressive track record in laying out that foundation for the future appreciation and celebration of comics while engaging with comics in an approachable way that can speak to the savvy fan and the graduate student alike. Their most recent project gives the Web-Slinger the attention he deserves while pondering some of the questions that have made him so fascinating for over 50 years. The essay collection WEB-SPINNING HEROICS contains contributions from over 20 scholars, ranging from both established writers to newer enthusiasts and explores topics such as Spidey’s cultural and historical context, issues of gender in Spider-Man comics, and in-depth studies of particular Spidey texts from comics to films, many of them “under-examined” by readers and scholars alike. The collection contains an impressive array of perspectives and suggests the diversity of interest out there today about Spider-Man’s ever-evolving role in the history of comics. Editors Rob Peaslee and Rob Weiner took the time to answer some questions for The Beat about their experiences putting the book together, and also on their own fascination with Spider-Man’s legacy.
Hannah Means-Shannon: What made you want to put together a Spider-Man based collection of comics scholarship? What’s your own personal history with Spider-Man comics and Spidey in pop culture?
Robert Moses Peaslee: It was really just a great opportunity for us to work together for the first time. We’d been looking for an excuse to collaborate on an edited volume, and a character like Spidey presented a perfect focus for our respective foci in comics and films. Rob’s background in comic scholarship is well known, and I’d done some analysis over superhero film characters – and Spidey in particular – previously.
Robert G. Weiner: I agree with Rob Peaslee here. It was a terrific excuse to work on something together. I’d previously done an edited volume on Captain America and with the new Spider-Man movie reboot, doing a scholarly book on the character seemed like an appropriate thing to do. I’d read a bunch of Spider-Man graphic novels while working on my Marvel Graphic Novels Annotated Guide so I was very familiar with the character and the surrounding mythos. I realized how compelling Spider-Man is as a character.
HM-S: Obviously, there was plenty of interest in participating in the collection, with over 20 essays in the book. Did the level of interest surprise you?
RP: Personally, no…I think the academy being what it is, you can do put out a call for an edited volume on the Performativity of Pancake Eating and get a fair amount of interest. And Spidey is of much greater interest in than pancakes…or almost any other pop culture icon for that matter. I’d say he’s top-10 globally in terms of most recognizable fictional characters.
RW: No, the level of interest was not surprising! I consider Spider-Man to be one of the big three of the most recognizable sequential art characters in the world (those being Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man). The one thing I was disappointed with was that we didn’t get much in the way of extended Spidey family Universe analysis (Spider-Woman, Spider-Girl, Cosmic Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2099, Scarlett Spider etc.). By the way, I consider Tom DeFalco’s writing on Spider-Girl to be some of the best comics writing period. That series was great.
We do have some well-known contributors working in the field of sequential art scholarship, media studies, film, education, journalism, business, and history among others.
HM-S: Does Spider-Man, or other mainstream, long-running superheroes get enough attention in comics scholarship? What do you see as still needed when addressing super-heroes in comics scholarship?
RP: From my perspective, the big black hole in sequential art study is engagement with the audience…what meaning is derived from these forms, characters, and narratives? How do readers/viewers/gamers incorporate them into their sense of self, worldview, etc.? Spider-Man, as a character ostensibly “more like us” than his superhero colleagues, would seem especially pertinent in this regard.
RW: I agree with Rob Peaslee here. One of the important questions to answer is how have the comic companies producing superhero “products” engaged with their audience historically? While there are good works out there on comic culture, there is still so much related to fandom that could be studied and understood from all kinds of angles. Comic conventions are a goldmine for scholars wanting to see how superheroes have impacted our ethos. What causes someone to dress up like Spidey, Batman, Green Lantern, the Flash or villains like, Poison Ivy, Bane, Doc Ock, Green Goblin, Venom? Is it more than just fun? There is something that fans identify with in the character that it becomes personal.
HM-S: The book has a foreword by Tom DeFalco. What was his reaction when you initially approached him about putting together the collection?
RW: Actually, one of our contributors was corresponding with J.M. DeMatteis, and somehow Tom De Falco found out through J.M. about the project. He contacted me initially. We are so grateful he contributed and gave his blessing to the project. I consider him one of the best (along with J.M. of course) in the long line of Spidey scribes. He was a delight to work with. It is always nice to have someone who has actually written or drawn the character get involved with an academic tome like ours.
HM-S: I have seen WEB-SPINNING HEROICS on the shelf in comic book shops. Do you think casual comic fans are likely to pick it up? Would it be accessible for all levels of readership?
RP: Most of it, yeah. There are a few essays that deal with some pretty formidable theory, but that’s as it should be. Spider-Man and his universe tap into some areas that we believe require some substantially sophisticated thinking to truly unpack. But we built the book to have something for the fans, the creators, the historians, and the scholars. Hopefully, that comes through.
RW: Yes I think there is enough there that all types of readers could get something from the volume. As Rob Peaslee says, there are a few weighty pieces in the volume, but there is also material anyone into Spidey could enjoy.
HM-S: Why do you think Spider-Man comics have endured so long in the popular imagination and in print?
RP: I think it’s the radical reliability of Peter Parker. Spider-Man is the disguise that enables him to be the Peter he feels he needs to be in order to live authentically.
RW: I agree with Rob Peaslee here. Peter Parker really was a different kind of superhero and the character resonated with the comic reading public in 1962-63. Peter/Spider-Man has never really waned since then. Despite having this “wonderful” power, Peter has lots personal problems and angst (and continues to do so). The supporting characters are all interesting and the villains are fascinating. Whether in red/blue, black, or even white, the Spidey costume is just plain cool.
HM-S: Why do you think Spider-Man has translated so well to the silver screen? What do you think film versions bring to Spider-Man mythology?
RP: Clearly, superhero texts are tailor-made for film. There’s the hero’s journey story-structure that fits so well in the dominant American cinematic mode of three-acts and climax. There’s the potential for fantastical or sci-fi-driven storylines that both maximize Hollywood’s potential for creating CGI and satisfy the audience’s desire for escape and spectacle. But what’s made Spider-Man and Batman successful on screen to a much greater degree than their peers, I think, is their flaws, which lead to much more compelling character arcs. People think they’re going for the explosions and the web-slinging, but what ultimately brings them value is a compelling inner story.
RW: I think the technology has gotten up to speed to make a believable Spider-Man movie. One only has to compare the 1970s live action Spider-Man television series with the films to see the difference. One of the things that the Spider-Man films have done right is the seamless way they combine CGI with live action. When Spidey is bouncing around New York it looks good and not “cheesy.” (Grant Morrison said it was “dreamlike”). One of the big problems with the Hulk films is that the audience is always aware it is watching a big green CGI creature and it looks that way. The Avengers did the best version of the character so far As Rob Peaslee mentions above, the “inner story” is what is compelling about Spider-Man. The relationships he has with the supporting characters combined with the villains.
HM-S: Rob Weiner, what motivated you to write about the romance between Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Mary Jane for the collection? Why did this relationship catch your attention particularly?
RW: Well I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of romance in superhero comics. For example, a lot of readers don’t realize that even Professor X once considered Jean Grey a “love” interest when she first joined the X-Men (along with the other X-guys). In particular, those early Marvel stories usually written by Stan Lee always had this anxiety concerning romance. Matt Murdock and Foggy always pining for Karen, Peter Parker getting turned down on dates, Sub-Mariner always chasing Sue Storm, Captain America always keeping his distance, Wasp/Janet always flirting with all the other heroes in her attempts to get Hank/Ant-Man’s attention.
Spider-Man presents an interesting case. I had original thought of the concept for the 2010 Film & History conference which had romance as its theme. One of the reasons the Spider-Man movies are so successful is that at their core the films are romances rather than action films. The opening narration in the first film sets this up as Parker discusses his love for Mary Jane. I thought it would be interesting to compare and contrast the three films with three important events in their relationship from the comics from different eras. I found it amusing that Parker was always trying to avoid meeting Mary Jane in those early comics (which was a great plot device). In both the comics and films Mary Jane is a strong woman who demands respect, equality, and Peter’s loyalty. Even though in all of the films she gets taken by the villain and Spidey has to rescue her, she knows the risks of being Spider-Man’s partner and accepts it. She makes the choice despite the danger. I also thought it would be interesting to explore from the comics the marriage and subsequent erasing of their relationship. Peter Parker/Spider-Man doesn’t often get a “break” when it comes to romance, but there have been a few moments of happiness and joy.
HM-S: Rob Peaslee, what do you think that psychoanalysis can bring to an understanding of Spider-Man comics or Peter Parker/Spider-Man particularly? Why did you choose this topic to explore in the collection?
RP: This article was actually a reprint of a piece I published in a journal several years ago, and Rob Weiner convinced me that it had a place here. I think psychoanalysis is a rich theoretical framework not only for approaching Spidey, but for understanding the structure, content, and reception of the superhero text more generally. It’s not the only way to look at the superhero, obviously, but when we consider Freud’s ideas about the id, wish-fulfillment, degradation, etc., it’s hard not to see these notions on display in nearly every superhero story.
[A psychologically transforming moment in AMAZING FANTASY #15]
HM-S: What other heroes or topics could benefit from further study and discussion these days?
RP: Funny you should ask, Hannah! We’re working on another collection about a prominent character from the comics universe, but as that is under review right now and we don’t want to steal our own thunder just yet, we’ll have to leave you to speculate.
RW: Oh I think the field is STILL wide open. There is so much history and many heroes and villains that deserve the academic treatment. As I’ve argued before, I see comics as a form a social history. They are documents of the time in the same way movies and novels are. I’d love to see more analysis of the darker heroes like Spawn, Punisher, The Demon, Ghost Rider, Blazing Skull, Creeper, Deadman, Man Thing, Sub-Mariner, Moon Knight, Deathlok, and the Phantom Stranger not to mention those wacky superhero stories from the 1950s. I know there has been scholarship on these characters but there is always room for more. So much comics scholarship focuses on the last 30 years, but as someone trained as a historian, I like to know what do the earlier (Golden Age) comics say about our world past and present?
HM-S: What got you into comics scholarship and writing about comics?
RP: I came in the back door, as it were, from the movie theater. I’ve only recently begun reading comics…in fact, I’ve probably read more scholarship about comics than I’ve read actual comics. Rob Weiner has been a significant mentor in this regard.
RW: Comics have always been a part of my life off and on since I was a little. I started to write and study comics while I was working as a public librarian over 15 years ago. I started obtaining graphic novels for the library collection and began reading them. I wrote an article about collecting graphic novels for the Texas Library Journal and then it just took off from there. However, I always thought there was something “deeper” in sequential art storytelling. When I first read WATCHMEN in 1990, I remember thinking this could be used in a philosophy or political science class. I spent six years reading and writing for the Marvel Graphic Novels Annotated Guide, which was my trial by fire.
HM-S: Are there any upcoming projects you’re working on that you all would like to spread the word about?
RP: The piece we’re working on fills a void in the scholarship so large and obvious, that until we’re under contract, we don’t want to say too much. Somebody else might slap their forehead and beat us to it. Stay tuned…
RW: Ditto above! I do have a volume that I co-edited with my librarian colleague Carrye Syma on the educational power of sequential art (Comics and Education) forthcoming from McFarland.
HM-S: Flipping through WEB-SPINNING HEROICS, I have to confess, opened my eyes to how many great topics are worth discussing in-depth when it comes to Spider-Man, and also made me think of new directions for exploring Spider-Man as a cultural phenomenon. That’s certainly the role of good scholarship, providing springboards for the imagination of readers, so thanks for the tireless work, Rob Peaslee and Rob Weiner, in putting the collection together. Looking forward to all your mysterious projects yet to come documenting the role and significance of comics!
Hannah Means-Shannon writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress.
Yesterday I was at Books of Wonder in Manhattan for the first signing of Bear and Bee and Have You Seen My New Blue Socks? Thanks to all the nice people who came by and to all the staff! If you want to get a signed and doodled copy, you can get it from BoW’s website, clicking on the titles of the books in this post, above. Here’s what I saw as I entered the store.
The ongoing broccoli battle in our house is, I believe, finally won. No, it wasn’t over whether or not certain people will eat it. The kids don’t love it, but they’ll eat it without much of a fuss. The battle is over the best way to cook it.
Hubs prefers stir-frying with soy sauce, but I find that time-consuming and too hands-on to do all the time. For a long time my favorite method was steaming, then rolling in olive oil, garlic, and breadcrumbs. Hubs ate this broccoli dutifully but missed the stir-fry texture.
Enter Mollie Katzen’s vegetable roasting guide from Vegetable Heaven. I’ve used the roasting guide so much that the book naturally opens to that page. It’s great for many a veggie, but at our house, it’s helped us find the broccoli method that results in the perfect texture + flavor+ easy-ness.
Add a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette, and you have us battling again, over seconds.
So, here’s my adaptation of the original Mollie Katzen recipe. It’s less of a recipe, more of an idea for you:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Slice your broccoli florets in half. I find this helps things cook a little faster and more evenly.
Brush a cookie tray with olive oil, and arrange the florets on it.
I usually cook about 20 minutes, but check at 15 minutes to see how it’s going. Personally, I like the broccoli still firm but tender, with some brown edges.
Serve with your favorite vinaigrette. Here’s what we use:
In a jar or bottle, combine:
about an inch Balsamic Vinegar
about an inch and a half, maybe more, Olive Oil
a big squirt/ soup spoonful Dijon Mustard (you can use powdered mustard here as a substitute)
small squirt of Honey, to taste
freshly ground Pepper
dusting to half a handful freshly grated Parmesan (*optional)
I always taste the dressing and adjust seasonings to suit.
Enjoy! For more of my cooking posts, click here or on the “Food” category.
Do NOT forget to join the giveaway for a gorgeous Dawn Hanna print. There’s no downside here, people. You won’t be added to a mailing list. Just check out her gorgeous work and decide which is your fave, then comment on it. You do not have to live in the U.S. to enter.
So, with that in mind, I'm going to point you back to my review of Meg Rosoff's There is No Dog—the only book I've read in a long, long time that came anywhere close to giving me the same feeling as a Douglas Adams book:
It wasn't just the tone that reminded me of Douglas Adams. It was the warmth—it was how Meg Rosoff was able to poke fun at (and sometimes skewer) humankind (and our mythology), while also conveying a sense of never-ending affection, wonder, and empathy. There's a sense of hope, too, but it's a realist's sort of hope—one that takes the past into account—so while there are brief, perfect moments of beauty, everything is tempered with a cheerful sort of pessimism.
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Our friends at the Ohioana Library have just announced a new series of events you won’t want to miss. They have organized day trips around Ohio they are calling “On the Road” with Ohioana Saturday Literary Adventure Series of 2013. Each trip focuses on a different literary topic or author – you will meet authors and visit the places that inspired them!
The series begins on April 13 in Dayton with a celebration of National Poetry Month. And our fans won’t want to miss the November 2 event – “James Thurber and his Columbus Haunts.” Mark your calendars!
For the full listing of trips and to purchase tickets, visit the Ohioana Library website here.