Thursday, May 28, 2015

Toy Dinosaurs

    As the dinosaurs' bodies broke down over the course of millions of year, they created the deposits of oil which we dig deep into the ground for.  The oil has a wide range of uses, one of which is to make petroleum, which is the base of modern plastic.  Plastic is what they use to make toy dinosaurs.  So when we hold one of these objects, what we've got is a fake dinosaur made out of real dinosaurs.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Trembling Houses

     Referring to our "fragility of thought," the Bureau of Surrealist Research in their "Declaration of 27 January, 1925," noted "on what shifting foundations, what caverns we have built our trembling houses."
     When this fragility is brought to our attention, it can make us reassess who we are and what our world is in vital ways.  Because such reassessment can be such a keystone to our growth, it pays to set those houses trembling real good from time to time.
     Such an experience naturally disturbs as well as enlightens, but if you're interested in having it in a "safe" way, I would heartily recommend a tracking down the works of Thomas Ligotti or Shaun Tan or a browse through some of the visuals from the Art Institute of Chicago's "Shatter, Rupture, Break" exhibition, which you can see by clicking on the link above, though the show itself is unfortunately gone now.  The image below, "Eye and Barbed Wire" by Nathan Learner, is from that show and serves as an excellent way to whet the appetite. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Day of Dialog

     As a companion event to Book Expo America, School Library Journal is holding Day of Dialog on Wednesday, May 27th, from 8:30 AM to 6:00 PM.  Day of Dialog will feature panels and presentations on new books and trends in the publishing industry.  I will be moderating the panel Nonfiction Goes Graphic, a discussion about non-fiction graphic novels with Don Brown, Claudia D├ívila, Nathan Hale, Maggie Thrash and Maris Wicks, from 3:45-4:30.  The authors and illustrators will present some selections from their upcoming works and we'll get into the nitty-gritty of applying comics art to real world issues.  The event is for librarians only, but if you're in the area, please join us.  You can learn more about the event and register for it right here.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

When Darkness Presses

     Among the 2015 Eisner nominees is one of Emily Carroll's recent webcomics, When the Darkness Presses.  I first experienced her work during my own tenure as an Eisner judge and I've returned to it many times, using her story Margot's Room with my graduate students as an example of how well comics can exploit the potential of digital platforms.  When Darkness Presses is no exception.  Have a look at the comic here (just click on the door to start) and note, among other things, the way the "page" composition shifts when the characters are in the basement room, so that the reader is literally being pulled downward with them.
     Congratulations to Ms. Carroll.  The recognition is well deserved.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Hero at Large

     The much anticipated arrival of Avengers: Age of Ultron has put me in the mind of movies about heroes.  Hero at Large is a 1980 film that could not have been made today.  Struggling actor Steve Nichols (played by John Ritter) signs on to dress up as the comic book hero Captain Avenger and appear at movie theaters for the opening of the movie Captain Avenger.  On his way home, Steve stops in to his local deli for some milk and stumbles onto a robbery.  Still in his costume, Steve intervenes and sends the thieves scurrying.  Word of his deed spreads and New York starts wondering what this anonymous hero will do next.  Steve tries to live up to expectations, even as a PR genius employed by the mayor hatches his own plan for the flailing, would-be superhero.
     Part drama, part comedy, part romance with a little crime and political intrigue thrown in for good measure, Hero at Large benefits from 1970s cinema's penchant for marrying a sense of realism and honest questioning of larger issues even to what is ostensibly a simple entertainment.  Released just a couple of years after Superman, it was solidly part of an era that still saw superheroes as simple (if not simple-minded) children's' fare and the Captain Avenger movie depicted within Hero at Large goes out of its way to evoke Adam West's campy turn on the late 1960s TV show Batman.
     The current cinematic landscape is teeming with superheroes, or course, and yet their familiarity  robs the the idea of dressing up in an iconic costume of much of its power.  Somehow, with so many superheroes around, it's become harder to say something meaningful about heroism  But Hero at Large, stripped of fantasy elements, built unequivocally as a real world narrative, retains the power of its era and manages to ask more tangible questions about what a hero is than nearly anything available today.