Posts Tagged ‘blog: musings’.

Holiday Comics from Years Past

Happy holidays! Whether you observe Christmas, Epiphany, the Reaving, the Festival of Mist, Sunreturn, the Great Earthburst, the Terror of King Absolution, Darknight Fortnight, or even something fake, I hope you spend the season happy, warm, and in the company of those you love.

Here are some of my favorite Wondermark holiday comics from years past:

#779; The Breakthrough
#897; In which it’s Too Late
#474; In which you better Watch Out
#582; In which George gets a Lute
#683; In which a Line of Questioning is halted
#476; In which Suffering was a Waste
#686; The Taylors leave a Shadow
#466; In which Everyone loves the Freak
#687; In which Santa appears at last
#363; In which Joy is mandated
#093; In which a Fortress is breached
#357; In which Mall Parking sucks
#141; In which the Son of God stands in queue
#081; In which a Confrontation occurs
#260; In which a Plan ends poorly
#069; In which the Canucks get a Pretty Good Idea
#475; In which Trouble is both avoided, and provoked

Celebrating Oktoberfesterdämmerung

I hope your Oktoberfesterdämmerung is going — ah, not well, exactly, because that would be beside the point, but tolerably.

Oktoberfesterdämmerung is, of course, on our list of new holidays for 2012. It’s a multi-week-long — well, not celebration exactly, more like acknowledgement that life has its gray moments, that beer and sausages are nice during the day, but that the night has its place as well.

Oktoberfesterdämmerung began in 1811, when Reinhold Cornhold, a minor duke of the Lesser Prussian Lowlands, drank a beer and ate a sausage and just sat on his minor estate watching the sun go down behind a forested mountain. “Huh,” he thought, in Lesser Prussian. “One hundred years from now, nobody will remember the cow I punched this morning for not yielding milk, nor how profusely I apologized to it. Two hundred years from now, this building where I am sitting might be a quarry, or a battlefield, or a space station, or a peanut factory. Three hundred years from now, my name will have faded from the lips of every man, woman, and child on the planet. Unless I do something now.”

Thus started the Prussian tradition of punching cows and apologizing to them, and then drinking some milk, and then later that day drinking beer and eating a sausage in the dark, citing Reinhold Cornhold’s name as the reason for it all. At first only Reinhold’s household observed the tradition — at his fierce insistence — but later, as the minor duke divorced* and married and divorced and married more and more equally-minor duchesses from the surrounding clandoms, the custom spread.

Unsurprisingly, cows eventually learned to avoid the Lesser Prussian Lowlands, and the territory was conquered by the French in 1848 thanks to the brittle bones of the undercalciumed Prussian army. Later, Reinhold Cornhold’s estate was bulldozed to build an Aldi supermarket.

*Can’t imagine why anyone would divorce such a charming fellow.

So, this Oktoberfesterdämmerung, have a beer, a sausage, a hearty nighttime-think, and a cow-punch (with apology) on me! And when you do, think of Reinhold Cornhold. He may have been fictional, but he gave us something all too real: RC Cola, which bears his initials to this day.

Obligatory reminder: Sunday, September 30 will be the last day to order Artist Editions of my new book!

Also, TopatoCo has just placed tons of older shirt designs on clearance, including a couple of mine! UPDATE: and this one too!

More on the ‘Based on Actual Events’ Idea

The idea outlined in Comic #864 is one I keep having, every time I watch a movie that purports to be based on actual events. I’m fascinated by the juxtaposition of real life with the fictionalizations of it — how well did the actors do at playing real people? What liberties had to be taken with the story? How close is that speech to the real speech, that was really delivered, and that we have on tape? I wish there was one central place I could go to find out!

In my perfect conception, it’d be a site that’s indexed by movie, by real-life person, and by event. So with a click I could see photos and clips of, say, all the different actors who’ve played Nixon (like Frank Langella, Anthony Hopkins, and Dan Hedaya, above), and compare them with the real Nixon. I could also see which stories about the life of the real Nixon took liberties with the facts, and in what ways.

I could also read about movies that feature Nixon that I might not have seen, and there’d be links to YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon — anyplace I could watch or buy them.

It would be a big undertaking as a standalone site, or it’d be neat if it was some branch-off of IMDb or Wikipedia. Wikipedia does sometimes address historical accuracy in their articles about individual movies (such as this one on The King’s Speech), and of course there are reviews and articles in the press about any big movie, but I’d have to go looking for that information specifically; it’s not centralized anywhere.

If such a site were to exist, and become popular, I wonder if filmmakers would get nervous that they were being fact-checked? Would it ruin the illusion that that’s really, say, Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland, if there’s a site dedicated to comparing Forest Whitaker’s portrayal to the real thing? I don’t know!

Anyway this is a free startup idea! Somebody invest a ton of money into developing and researching this, and make it quick — I just watched Moneyball.

Some thoughts on Comic-Con

Flickr photo by marshponds

I’m back from the San Diego Comic-Con, and against all odds, I had a great time! I say “against all odds” kind of jokingly because the show can be extraordinarily wearing — for the attendees no less than for the exhibitors. Yet I got to meet lots of fun people, hung out with friends, did a bunch of cool sketches, and came home jazzed and inspired!

I’ve also been trying to sort out my feelings about Comic-Con as an entity. It’s big and loud and exhausting and expensive to participate in, but at the same time it’s this amazing passel of energy that assembles, charges itself up like a lightning storm, and then disassembles in the space of a week, leaving no trace. It’s like Burning Man in that way, except where Burning Man isn’t concerned with commerce, Comic-Con is exquisitely concerned with commerce. And it’s one of these things in life that’s now so big that it can only be appreciated in facets.

To that end I’ve been pleased to share some thoughts on the convention with friends and colleagues over the last few days. First, my fellow cartoonist Jeph Jacques wrote a bit here on a very real problem with Comic-Con, that it’s becoming completely inaccessible to the casual fan:

Part of the problem is that SDCC has run out of room. They can’t add any more booth space, and they can’t sell any more tickets than they already do. This means that the convention is a zero-sum game now — there is a set number of people who can attend, and a set number of people/companies/etc who can exhibit. Tickets for the convention sell out incredibly fast, which means that they’re mostly snapped up by the die-hard Comic Con fans who stay up all night hitting “refresh” in order to buy tickets. You can’t just casually decide to go check out the convention anymore — you have to commit to it months and months in advance.

In addition to the limited number of new people who can attend, every year there’s more to do outside of Comic-Con itself. It’s become something like a fair, full of attractions in neighboring parking lots and hotels. So the people who do come to the con don’t spend as much time on the floor. More fun for them, but it makes business tougher for the exhibitors who’ve paid a premium to get inside.

Still, I wrote a piece myself (in reaction to Jeph’s) about another advantage the Con still has:

Pro badges are non-ticketed badges supplied to industry professionals. Comic-Con’s definition of “industry professional” has been narrowing over the years as crowding becomes more and more of an issue, but it is still possible for a comic creator or (certain type of) film or gaming professional to get into the show without buying a ticket. That represents the ongoing role that Comic-Con plays in the life of a creator in terms of networking. My career is made from bits and pieces of all kinds of different projects, and Comic-Con contains a ton of people who can enable, encourage, patronize or collaborate on those projects.

In response to which Ryan North weighed in:

DC and Marvel’s monthly comic print sales are not what they used to be, and Hollywood licensing has filled that gap for a long time. But popular tastes aren’t going to be for superhero movies forever, and this current boom in superhero movies that started with X-Men in 2000 has to end sometime. Maybe that means in a few years Comic-Con shrinks a little, and with extra room, the casual comics fan can stop by on Saturday and check things out by buying a ticket at the door and without having to get a hotel in the city months and months in advance. That’d be nice!

After reading Ryan’s piece, I read some of Tom Spurgeon’s thoughts about the Con. Tom wrote an extensive series of recaps each day, a monumental feat I laud him for, and related tons of meetings with comics pros, and deals and announcements being struck and announced, and art being discussed and debated and purchased… and in a weird way, the whole thing made me feel a bit small, just a little tiny footnote in one little tiny corner of the giant convention hall, doing my doodles and selling my stickers while Real Comics Business was being conducted elsewhere.

But then I realized that that’s the point of Comic-Con, that while there are certainly celebrities and superstars and veterans looming about, the place is bigger than even them, and that even the people for whom comics itself is a giant afterthought can come to this strange event, this massive amusement park that’s only open five days a year, and it’s a thing they can enjoy exactly as much as anyone else.

This crystallized when I spoke to a few of my non-comics-industry friends who’d also made it down to the show, and I wrote up some more thoughts here:

I think the Renaissance Faire comparison is most apt. You don’t attend a Ren Faire necessarily with the aim of buying an ocarina or some kind of blown glass artifact; you go to see people in costume, watch a joust, and eat a turkey leg. You go for the spectacle and the experience, and you usually go with an open mind. I think that’s how lots of people attend SDCC — just to see what’s there to see. It’s an amusement park.

And that’s something smaller creators like myself sometimes forget, because for us it’s very specifically a business…

I can sometimes feel very jaded about conventions, especially when the logistics are complicated or the revenues aren’t what I hoped for, but I have to remind myself that these events were created and labored over for the express purpose of human connection, and that’s a worthy goal unto itself. Anyway, I’m happy to have had the opportunity to think about the whole experience from a new angle, and I hope you click through to read our thoughts at greater length!

As a final note, I should add that there do remain many problems with Comic-Con as it exists now, the biggest being what Jeph outlined; that is, how difficult it is to attend for the casual fan. Not only is it expensive, but the tickets sell out so quickly, and if you don’t have an industry connection that can bring you in on a different type of badge, you may be aced out.

Luckily I have a solution: the Emerald City Comicon. Held in Seattle every March, ECCC isn’t as huge as Comic-Con, but it still has a great mix of comics pros, folks in costumes, celebrity panels, and games and events. Plus, it’s in beautiful Seattle! And I am willing to wager that even if you live in Southern California, the cost of travel to + lodging in Seattle will be cheaper than the cost of travel to + lodging in San Diego. Come check it out next spring, it’s one of my favorite cons!

Finally — I enjoyed getting the perspective of my friends about Comic-Con, but what about you? Have you been to any cons, and if so, what did you enjoy? What made you decide to go, and how did you like it once you got there? Or if you haven’t been, what kind of event would you go to? Leave a comment on this post, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

BONUS LINK: If you’re new to Wondermark, you may not have seen my video from a few years ago, “Me Vs. Comic-Con: Who’s Better?” I recommend CHECKING IT OUT THOROUGHLY

Remembering Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury passed away the other week. He was one of the first writers I had a cognizant appreciation of as a writer, as someone who deliberately made choices as to which words should go in which order to achieve a desired effect. My first art mentor, John Arthur, introduced me and my fellow students to Ray at an impressionable age, and we idolized him. I devoured Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man, although as time went on I choked a bit on some of his other short stories — the language was so thick. I blame myself, however, not Ray.

John took us to see Ray speak at a signing — it must have been about 1999 or so. I brought a friend’s copy of Fahrenheit 451 and my mom’s battered The Illustrated Man. When it was my turn to have my books signed, all I could stammer out was “You…uh…write very good.”

And that’s the picture up above: he smacked my face with his hand and said “Thank God!”

He signed both my books with an exclamation mark: “Ray Bradbury!” This was, shall we say, an instructive moment for me. I haven’t seen evidence that he signs his name like that often — I wish I could scan those books and show you how he did that day, but the Illustrated Man is somewhere in my mom’s house and the friend whose 451 I’d held onto for months suddenly became very interested in getting it back once I’d had it signed. Here’s a similar example I found online:

Anyway, the weird energy imparted by that exclamation mark in the signature stayed with me.

It’s after midnight as I write this. I’ve always felt comfortable at night; my own writing seems to come more easily at night. I remembered an old journal entry, just now, and looked it up and found the following:

Ray’s words crackle like ball lightning, never settling, dancing alight each concept, daring you to comprehend before they press on into the night. I’m listening to Something Wicked This Way Comes on CD, in my car, and when I concentrate and listen it’s like standing in a waterfall, weight pouring on me, trying to drink, feeling heavy and elated together.

Oddly, it’s very easy to get distracted from this book, sitting in traffic, realizing suddenly that I’ve been thinking about the chemical composition of jet contrails and a paragraph’s gone by and I’ve missed it. The words are oil-slick, loose and wriggling, and they have to be clutched and examined and tasted, or they slide off and flip away.

When I listen, they crush me, steamrolling with imagery. When I glance away, they pass by; but I glance quickly after and think back and still see the faint afterimage behind my lids. I hear the ringing echo and feel the warmth left in the air from their presence, like Montag in Fahrenheit 451. Even when I don’t hear them, they pass through me, speaking directly to my dreams. I drive, late on an empty freeway:

“Three in the morning,” thought Charles Halloway, seated on the edge of his bed, “why did the train come at that hour?”

For, he thought, it’s a special hour; women never awake, then, do they? They sleep the sleep of babes and children. But men, in middle age: they know that hour well. Oh, God!

Midnight’s not bad; you wake, and go back to sleep. One or two’s not bad; you toss, but sleep again. Five or six in the morning; there’s hope, for dawn’s just under the horizon.

But three, now, Christ. Three A.M.

Doctors say the body’s at low tide then. The soul is out, the blood moves slow; you’re the closest to dead you’ll ever be, save dying. Sleep is a patch of death. But three in the morn, full, wide-eyed staring, is living death. You dream with your eyes open. God, if you had strength to rise up, you’d slaughter your half-dreams with buckshot; but no, you lie, pinned to a deep well-bottom that’s bone dry.

You write very good, Ray. Thanks for everything.