Thursday, December 19, 2013

Happy Holidays

     Beyond Where You Stand is officially going on winter break.  A new post will appear on Thursday, January 9, 2014.  Until then, have a joyful holiday celebration and a very happy New Year.
 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Graphic Novels in Your School Library Reviews

     Guess I should be checking in more often, but I just recently stumbled across two reviews for Graphic Novels in Your School Library.   Kids & Books calls it "smart, accessible, and comprehensive."  The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy, meanwhile, says "[a] much needed book . . . accessible, to the point, and playful in its subtle humor."


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Art Spiegelman and the Jewish Museum (and Me)

     Responsible for defining an era in comics and redefining the medium itself, Art Spiegelman is the subject of an exhibition at the Jewish Museum in New York City.  I will be doing my small part by leading a discussion for educators called Literacy and the Graphic Novel, this coming Monday, December 9th at 4:00.  The discussion will be followed by a tour of the exhibition.  If you are an educator and are in the area, please join us.  You can still register here.
  

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanks 2013

     What with Thanksgiving coinciding with Hanukkah this year (Thanksgivukkah?), it seems like an especially good time to be thankful.  While there are always bigger things to be thankful for (and to not be so thankful for), as in posts past, here is a short list of some of the smaller things that can brighten a few hours or days and make life a little more interesting.

     Dracula by Bram Stoker - The idea of the vampire has become so diluted by their cultural ubiquity, having a look at the original is bound to feel all the more unexpected and powerful.  Written as an epistolary novel (people who have never read it are often surprised to hear it), the voices are engaging, the story pulls you right the heck in, and books just don't come more Gothic and atmospheric than this.

     Marvel Masterworks: Marvel Two-In-One - A collection of comics from the 1970s, featuring the Thing alongside an array of heroes including Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Daredevil and some other, delightfully obscure characters (ever heard of Man-Thing?  Valkyrie?).  This is a magical sample of an era when comics were not "kids' stuff" anymore, when the characters had distinct personalities and foibles, had genuine (if fleeting) conflicts with one another, possessed a semblance of actual human psychology; but at the same time, they retained a sense of innocence, wonder, and gee-whiz excitement that today's darker and more psychologically ambiguous and sophisticated comics lack.  The twelve stories contained in this volume require no greater knowledge of story or character than is on the page and are just a heaping load of plain old fun.

     Old Boy on Blu-ray - Not the Spike Lee version (which I haven't seen yet and could be excellent), but the Korean original.  An intricate mystery, an unrelenting thriller and a dark (very, very) study of love, obsession and vengeance.  Based on a quite clever manga, Old Boy goes places and does things that no movie made by a studio in the United States has (or maybe will ever) dare to go or do.  A jaw-dropping, harrowing, rivetingly entertaining film that will absolutely not let you forget it (in both the best and worst ways).  It also contains what must be the longest single-shot fight scene to ever appear in a movie, which is thrilling, if you can take how hard it hits.

     Happy Thanksgiving, and don't forget to have a good turkey joke with you at all times.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Cast, Part 2

     Last week, I cast the movie version of Those That Wake.  The same cast returns, of course, for What We become, with the following additions:
     As Aaron, Asa Butterfield
     As Rose, Seychelle Gabriel
     As Arielle Kliest, Nicole Kidman . . . or maybe Cate Blanchett
     As Roarke, Michael Shannon
     As Castillo, a younger, more muscular (but not angrier) R. Lee Ermey
     Now who would direct?  Ah, that's a whole other post.
    

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Cast

     Perhaps with the recent (and excellent) documentary Casting By in mind, someone asked me who I would cast for a movie version of Those That Wake.  With no limits on budget or scheduling (or era) in my imagination, my ideal cast would be:
     As Laura, Shailene Woodley
     As Remak, Michael Fassbender
     As Mike, Paul Giamatti
     And as Mal, a very young Charles Bronson.  I'm sure there's a current actor out there who understands the power of silence, who would serve the part very well, but from the moment of conception, Mal was always a young Charles Bronson in my head.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The "S" at 75

    Superman hit his 75th anniversary this year.  In celebration, two artists (Zach Snyder and Bruce Timm) produced this affectionate tribute, a soaring and meticulous homage to the character's visual and animated life.  Every second here counts, right down to a glimpse of the hero's pixelated Atari self.  A lovely and well-deserved salute.

   

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Final Descent

     Rick Yancey brings his masterful Monstrumologist series to a conclusion with The Final Descent, n a story with uncommonly mature themes for a Young Adult novel: alienating the people you love, letting your humanity slip away, the price of gazing long into the abyss.  Event-wise, there is plenty to entertain, regardless of age, as the doctor and his protege seek to recover the last specimen of what may be the world's very first monster.  But the examination of a young man plunging into his own heart of darkness offers a powerful and thoughtful read for teens and adults alike.
     This volume stands out, but the entire series makes for great reading, whether or not it's Halloween. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Over the Wall

     I receive comic books and graphic novels as a reviewer and as a librarian.  I serve on awards committees and I visit comic news websites and I visit comic stores and book stores on a weekly basis.  Even with all that, every now and then a book manages to slip under my radar until its sitting right in my lap.  And inside that every now and then, very occasionally the graphic novel in question turns out to be a little bit of a masterpiece.
     So it is with Over the Wall by Peter Wartman.  In his very first book, Wartman has managed to capture the eerie and the heroic and weave them seamlessly into the adventure of a girl who must leave her village and go over the massive wall that surrounds it to find her lost brother, even as her memory of him fades for dark and disturbing reasons.  The art and palate reflect this tone with a detailed cityscape and figures that, while realistic, retain a soft, accessible appeal.  A breathless, fast-paced and fast-to-read adventure, it nevertheless manages to build a compelling world and mythology, and ring some deeply resonating notes about love, loyalty and the importance of an unexpected helping hand. 
     A true treasure, not to be missed.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Sometimes You Have to Listen

     After weeks of sticking their fingers in their ears and shouting "I will not listen to you" at each other,  people who have a responsibility for the welfare of a vast number of lives finally seem to have paid attention.  While one might hope for more than "backing down" and "conceding," they did still manage to cooperate.
     Eighteenth Century writer and philosopher Voltaire said "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."  It's as fine a summation of democracy as I can imagine.  If you're going to devote your life and works to such a concept, as all those people with their fingers in their ears presumably have, it's a relief to know you can still honor the idea of cooperating for a bigger cause over the idea of just being right.
I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/v/voltaire109645.html#V5Df2iz03JwDhWHt.99

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Battling Boy

     If the world of comics has a Punk Rock God, it can only be Paul Pope.  Pope's newest book, Battling Boy, is a screaming, beating, roaring, blasting jam session between heroic myth, coming-of-age story, Japanese monster movie and manga.  Beneath Pope's dynamic, sinewy
art, he plays out compelling themes of growth, responsibility, fortitude and -- in keeping with an unexpected element of his oeuvre -- urban bureaucracy.  A rare graphic novel that captures the brazen, funky energy of early superhero comics in a truly modern vernacular, this is not to be missed.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Prisoners

     The movie Prisoners works extremely well on several levels, including as a well-crafted thriller and as a showcase for fine acting (Hugh Jackman's rage is powerful and disturbing, especially from such a likable and charismatic actor, and Jake Gyllenhaal creates a mainly opaque character and accomplishes the near impossible by also managing to make him sympathetic and compelling).  Most of all, though, Prisoners stands out because it offers a complex moral palette that you almost never find in mass entertainment any more and, what's more, it invites you to engage with it, it asks you to ask yourself some uncomfortable things.
     The darker and more morally complex the actual world becomes, the more there is an urge for our entertainment to not make these kinds of demands of us.  But doesn't it seem like there would be great value in having a dialog with these issues in the safe context of fiction so that we can return to the real world better prepared?  

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Drinking Problem

     Dasani bottled water, bottled and distributed by the Coca-Cola Company, includes as one of its listed ingredients salt.  It notes that negligible amounts of this are added for taste purposes and, though sodium is a primary constituent of salt,  the nutritional information on the label lists the sodium content as 0%.  Make of this what you will, but it does introduce a fascinating (or is that really the right word?) idea: water that makes you thirstier when you drink it.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

In a World . . .

     It is very easy to imagine the pitch for the small but wonderful movie In a World . . .  as "a romantic comedy set in the cut-throat world of voice-over casting."  The pitch might be easily accepted or dismissed, but the the movie itself proves to be charming and delightful in all the best ways, and also unexpectedly, powerfully (yet quietly) empowering.  It is clear writer, director and star Lake Bell has a savvy knack for using all the familiar Hollywood narrative peaks and valleys to get at a deeper point and more sincere emotions than in any ten run-of-the-mill rom-coms.  Nice to see that going off the beaten path can be such a rewarding and satisfying course sometimes.  

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Art on the Mind

     The Brooklyn Book Festival is hosting a discussion about comics and education on September 22nd.  What promises to be a worthwhile event given only on the subject matter becomes an unmissable opportunity based on some of the people involved, including Francois Mouly and Gene Yang, two luminaries of the sequential art world. 
     Here's the official rundown:

       5:00 P.M., Sunday, September 22nd - Art on the Mind: Comics and Education. Fran├žoise Mouly (Toon Books) in conversation with National Book Award finalist Gene Yang (Boxers & Saints), R. Kikuo Johnson (The Shark King) and Professor Barbara Tversky of Teachers College. In this era of high-stakes testing, comics aren't just a refreshing change of pace for students-they take on deep subjects and teach multimodal literacy, offering educators, librarians, and parents a new way to approach learning. Featuring screen projection.

      For more information about the festival, have a look here.  If you're in the area, this promises to be a deep and rewarding talk.
     
    

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Librarians Recommend

     Just in time to go back to school, here is a post on the International Reading Association's website, featuring an appropriate theme.  My own contribution is on the bottom of the page.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Have a Great August


     Posting will resume on Thursday, September 5th.  Have a great August.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Main Character

     Cartoonist Brian McLachlan, in his upcoming Draw Out the Story: Ten Secrets to Creating Your Own Comics, offers a story tip to his young readership.  Under the heading "Who's the main character?" he discusses a story involving an underdog sports team.  "Which team member is the main character?" he asks.  "The one who has the most at stake!"
     A simple observation that underpins the entire history of storytelling.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear

     The latest cinematic resurrection of The Lone Ranger is bloated beyond any degree of tolerance, but does have something worthwhile to offer.  The climactic twenty minutes is an extended train chase that begins with an echo of a grandly old-fashioned kind of heroism: the villains are escaping, a cry for help goes up, things look desperate and he appears, on his rearing white horse, bursting into action.  As the William Tell Overture swells, the tongue-in-cheek tone and subversive treatment of a somewhat creaky legend is completely done away with and the masked man is given his due.
     In an era when cinematic superheroes become increasingly dark, it is a little bit awe-inspiring to be reminded just what heroes are for and that they can still come charging out of the past to save the day just in time.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Number 29 Returns

      After being sent down to the minors to work on his swing, Ike Davis returned to the Mets roster last Friday.  Since then, he has proven himself a more disciplined and focused batter, consistently getting onto base and frequently driving runs in.  He's yet to blow one out of the park, but his increased comfort and ease at the plate inspire confidence.  It's a pleasure to see him back in the thick of things.
      A shout out is also due to Josh Satin, the Mets' new number 13, who was called in to replace Ike during his absence.  Satin's performance has been nothing short of sterling, with a twelve-game hitting streak and a .362 batting average.  Though Ike Davis has returned, Satin remains in the roster and is being given opportunities to show off his impressive skills.  Here's hoping the both players have a long, bright future with the team.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Ode to a Friend

     Superman: the Movie is the template and high-water mark for the modern superhero movie, for its (mostly) serious treatment of story, its epic scale, its concentration on character and, primarily, for the performance of its star Christopher Reeve.  Reeve said that he based his interpretation of Superman on a particular line of dialog which has him answer Lois Lane's "Who are you?" with the simple reply, "A Friend."  Reeve's Superman was warm and kind and filled with heart, as if he were all of humanity's best friend, and his interpretation reshaped this American archetype forever.
     The subtlety and power of Reeve's performance is never on better display than in a scene where, after feeling an extraordinary connection with Lois during their fly-over of Metropolis, Clark Kent arrives at her apartment and decides he will tell her the truth of his identity.  He removes his glasses, his posture straightens, his chest expands, his chin sets, his voice drops several octaves and right before your eyes, a sniveling boob becomes a demigod.  More than any other moment in any Superman (or superhero) movie, this encapsulates the power of the man and his secret burden and turns the demigod into an accessible human being.
     Since Superman, the prime candidate for this legacy of humanity in superheroism is Chris Evans, who played the title role in the surprisingly great Captain America.  After all, power balanced with humanity is the American ideal upon which the superhero was founded.
     On that fitting note, have a happy 4th of July.    

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Top Titles

     It's hard enough to come up with a good name for a post (which I haven't quite managed to do this time), let alone coming up with a good name for a book.  A good title, naturally enough, has nothing to do necessarily with the quality of the book itself.  Some authors just have a talent for it.  These are the three best titles I've come across (the books they belong to happen to be worthwhile, too):

1. The Devil Is Jones by Lester Dent
2. Anna to the Infinite Power by Mildred Ames
3. The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The "S"

     Superman could be the most recognizable character on the face of the planet.  I'm not sure who could compete at this point.  Pokemon?  Maybe Mickey Mouse if it were twenty-five years ago.  Batman?  Put on a Superman T-shirt sometime and walk down the street and marvel at the friendly acknowledgement you get, more notoriety I would bet than for any other symbol you could find on a T-shirt.  The new Man of Steel notwithstanding (a giant lumbering mess of a film that is sorely lacking in the characteristic most crucial to Superman: humanity), the "S" means something.  It is, one must admit, owned by a corporation.  But unlike a Nike swoosh, for instance, or the Target bulls-eye, or even the logo of a local sports team, the "S" means something universal and positive and not specifically about the corporation that owns it.  It represents the idea that the actions of a good person can help make a finer world, whether you can lift really heavy stuff or not.  In an era inundated with messages, this seems like it wouldn't be such a bad one to wear around on your chest.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

More Complex Than Any One Mind

     In the June 2nd, 2013 issue of the New York Times Book Review, there is an interview with Walter Mosley, author of the Easy Rawlins novels (among many other things).  When asked what his favorite books were as a child, he responded, in part, "the truth is that the most beloved and the most formative books of my childhood were comic books, specifically Marvel Comics . . . These combinations of art and writing presented to me the complexities of character and the pure joy of imagining adventure. They taught me about writing dialect and how a monster can also be a hero. They lauded science and fostered the understanding that the world was more complex than any one mind, or indeed the history of all human minds, could comprehend."
     In the last few years, comics and the heroes that sprang out of them have become a ubiquitous part of the pop culture landscape.  This is a process that has tended to homogenize powerful and subversive ideas to make them more palatable to mass market tastes.   It's nice to hear somebody talk about their deeper consequence and the way they have (and still can) resonate on many intellectual and emotional levels.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Number 29 Goes Down

     Just as I finish lauding Mets' First baseman Ike Davis for his wherewithal and team spirit, the management has sent him down to the minors, optioning him to their Triple-A team in Las Vegas (along with two other players).  Apparently, he wasn't finding his way back fast enough.  The Mets say that this will give Ike the chance to find his confidence and his swing again without so much attention and pressure on him.  Here's hoping they're right about that and, before long, number 29 finds his place back in the Mets' starting line up. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Ode to Number 29

     Athletes have long served as heroes and role models, usually on account of their skill and accomplishment on the field.  Ike Davis, First Baseman for the New York Mets, has been having an extremely hard time.  With only two hits in forty-four at bats, word of his demotion to the minors was starting to spread.  Nevertheless, according to his teammates, Ike never sank into despair in the dugout, always remaining a staunchly supportive of his fellow players, and spent hours after the game practicing, honing and experimenting with his swing.
     After several hideous losses to the Atlanta Braves, Ike's hit drove home two runs in the ninth inning to win the final game in that series against the league's most powerful team.  A few nights later, his base hit brought in two runs to give his team an early lead against the Yankees (in a game the Mets eventually won).  Since then, Ike has had several solid at-bats, including a home run, against the Nationals.
      So, not without effort and not without a fair amount of emotional and physical pain, Ike seems to be finding his way back.  He didn't give up and he never forgot that he was a member of a team, and that is as much a mark of heroism as skill and achievement any day.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Kiss the Book

     About What We Become, Kiss the Book said "I never felt like I had to go back and catch up to enjoy what I was reading – and that is a rare thing with so many sequels."

Thursday, May 23, 2013

What It's About

     I was on an author panel a few weeks ago and someone asked the question "how do you decide what to write next?"  There are a number of factors that go into this (a good idea for a story really helps, for instance) but a crucial element, and my answer to the question was, I write a story because a feel like I have something important I need to say in it.  We are in an era when more and more of our stories are about escaping what is going on in our lives and in the world, and God knows, there's plenty a person wouldn't want to think about these days.  But doesn't that mean that our stories should make us think about the world more carefully rather than less?  Shouldn't our stories make us consider things in a new way that could -- oh, I don't know -- help make the world better?
     Star Trek always tried to do that.  Star Trek Into Darkness gets some things right (charming performances and strong characterizations) and some things wrong (it draws on only a single Star Trek "text" as its entire inspiration -- spoiler alert: don't click on the last link if you don't want to know what that text is).  But it's about something, something that is directly relevant to the world we live in.  Whether you leave the theater thrilled with all the fun you've had or frustrated by its flaws, at least it offers you something important to consider, if you choose to.  And that's Star Trek

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Stories

     Phillip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials Trilogy, said "after nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world."
     This one doesn't feel like it requires any further comment. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Librarian Manifesto

     Here is everything the world needs to know about librarians and libraries. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Captain America, Bonkers Version

     Captain America is hitting a high-water mark in its history with the current run by writer Rick Remender and artist John Romita, Jr.  They have taken the Captain out of his standard mileu and dropped him into the utterly bonkers Dimension Z.  As weird as it is, this bizarre, monster-infested, war-torn environment is proving ideal for exploring the character's greatest strength, namely, his ironclad refusal to ever lay down and die.  This has always been Captain America's defining and most compelling characteristic, and Mr. Remender takes us even deeper into the formation of this extraordinary willpower by exploring the character's early history in greater detail than ever before.  Meanwhile, Mr. Romtia Jr.'s artwork captures the terror of Dimension Z, even as it evokes the desperate but more innocent days of the Depression for the flashback sequences.  Despite the fact that he is the son of John Romita (one of the industry's defining talents), Mr. Romita, Jr. captures the dynamisim of Jack Kirby unlike any other artist working today (which is particularly appropriate for this run, which is itself an homage to the King's 1970's work on the character).
     The first arc of this series will be collected in June, but in the meantime, individual issues arrive monthly at your local comic store and are well worth a read.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

High-Flying History

There is no shortage of excellent books on the history and cultural impact of comic books.  Comic Book Nation by Bradford W. Wright and Men of Tomorrow by Gerard Jones come immediately to mind).  However, Larry Tye's recent offering Superman: The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero has taken a spot among the very top.  By looking at the quintessential hero and tracing his history from preconception to near future, he not only manages to explore what makes the character so much a part of our cultural psyche, but also uses the enduring hero as a lense through which to examine the history of the comic book form and even the last eighty years of culture itself.  Perhaps most importantly, he tells the story of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the two Cleveland just-barely-grow-ups that created the Man of Steel, in a more balanced, intimate and complete narrative then anyone has ever managed.  Mr. Tye's research is unrivaled.  His endnotes alone are thirty-five pages long and make for as fascinating a read as the rest of the book.
  

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Comic Book Club Live Podcast

     The podcast of my recent appearance on the web talk show Comic Book Club Live is now available here.
    

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Fantastic Teen Reads for Spring

      Books of Wonder, located at 18 West 18th Street in New York City, will be hosting "Fantastic Teen Reads for Spring" on Sunday, April 14th from 1 PM to 3 PM.  I will be appearing there to talk about What We Become, alongside a panel of other YA authors, presenting their own efforts.  If you happen to be in the area, please stop by.
 
FANTASTIC TEEN READS FOR SPRING!
JESSE KARP     What We Become
NOVA REN SUMA    17 & Gone
ALAYA DAWN JOHNSON     The Summer Prince
SUZANNE WEYN     Dr. Frankenstein’s Daughters 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Booklinks Article

The April issue of Booklinks has an article by me titled "Graphic Novels for Beginning Reads."  Have a look at it here.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Clever/Wise

     In addition to having a hand in two of the scariest things I've ever seen, Rod Serling -- creator of the Twilight Zone, among many other accomplishments -- said "too often a man will become clever without becoming wise."
     We are a young culture and are fascinated by the clever, while actual wisdom is, by its nature, somewhat less seductive.  It's relatively easy to acquire knowledge.  Learning how to employ that knowledge responsibly and beneficially, and let it expand our perspective and understanding, is damned hard.  Laura, a character in What We Become, more or less says this, but Mr. Serling got there first.  His body of work contains many fine examples of how to be both clever and wise at the same time.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Red Handed

     I wrote about Matt Kindt's fantastic monthly comic Mind Mgmt last thanksgiving.  Mr. Kindt's newest graphic novel, Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes, comes out in May and should absolutely not be missed.  Filled with vignettes that chronicle the bizarre crimes perpetrated in the small town of Red Wheelbarrow and the investigations of the maddeningly unfailing Detective Gould, Mr. Kindt produces something both strange and insightful, something that is filled with compelling psychological truth and a mounting and insurmountable sadness.
     A single glance at one of his gorgeously conceived pages offers a major clue to his success.  Figures are incredibly distinctive as visual characters and yet their outlines feel hazy and rough.  They look both achingly human, but are also slightly warped and unreal.  Foregrounded action is clear and attention-grabbing, while tiny mysteries are often scattered in the background.  Few storytellers working in the form are able to create such full engaging genre narratives while also exploring the nuances of human truth so powerfully. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Books That Glow

     Books that Glow is an event focusing on YA books coming out in 2013, hosted by the websites City of Books and Confessions of a Readaholic.  You can find a review of What We Become here.  There is also an interview with some fun and unusual questions here.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Teen Writer's Bloc Guest Blog

     The fine folks at Teen Writer's Bloc invited me by for a guest blog.  Check it out here.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Comic Book Club Live Appearance

     I will be appearing on the Internet talk show Comic Book Club Live this Tuesday, March 12th, at 7:00 p.m. to discuss comic books, education and my YA novels.  The show will be recorded live at Fontana's  in New York City.  If you're in the area, please stop by.
   

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Review

     Regarding What We Become, Booklist had this to say: "compelling . . . Karp’s characters remain charismatic, the plot percolates briskly, and the world, it turns out, is worth saving."

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What We Become

     I'm so pleased and proud to say that my second novel, What We Become, is released today.  It is available here, as well as in actual bookstores.  Please check your local independent bookstore, if you want to have a look.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Tease VI

     With less than a week before its release, here is a final tease from What We Become.  This is a line spoken by the Old Man, the story's main antagonist, in a climactic moment.

      "Yes, run.  Run if you want to live just a little longer.  Soon, I will be everywhere." 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Human Emotion

     In his autobiography, Tony and Me, the always compelling, always engaging and always lovable Jack Klugman noted that he hoped young actors and writers were reading what he had to say.  Why?  He had one major lesson to impart: “The most basic unit of any successful dramatic truth is human feeling. Not a quick joke, not a clever premise, not a multimillion dollar explosion can outperform a single human emotion.”
     It's that human emotion he's talking about which gives an audience that essential connection to any truly successful piece of expression.  To find that emotion, to make it accessible and universal, that's what can make the writer or actor in question great.  A greatness Mr. Klugman himself more than achieved.  

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Airlies

     Did you know that many airlines now tack on thirty to forty minutes to their flight time estimates?  Their statistics of on time take-offs and arrivals were getting so bad that they decided to covertly lower our expectations by telling us the flights would be longer than they actually need to be.  So, if you pull away from the gate and end up taxiing on the runway for a half an hour and are still, somehow, miraculously on time, it is not because they made up the time in the air.  It is because they kind-of, sort-of didn't exactly tell the truth to begin with.
     It's still faster than taking the train or the bus, naturally, but there's something about slipping that in without simply telling their customers they were doing it or why that smacks of the old corporate secret-world-domination agenda. 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Luke Pearson

     Luke Pearson is an English comic author and artist whose work has made its way over here slowly but surely.  In his lone work for adults, Everything We Miss, he shows us the slow and harsh dissolution of a relationship between a young man and woman, even as he makes us privy to the world that exists just outside their sight and knowledge.  As they argue fiercely in their kitchen, just out of their peripheral vision are weird little spider-like creatures that silently observe the unfolding drama of humanity.  As the man drives forlornly down a dark country road, he just misses a pine tree uproot itself and dance.  Neither of them see the dark figure that lowers itself down and twist ethereal fingers around the man's tongue and jaw, controlling his every word.  This is a surreal world that is both disturbingly eerie and deeply emotional.
     Mr. Pearson, somewhat miraculously, brings this same sense of the eerie life that exists outside our normal perceptions, to a series for children featuring one of the great, plucky, big-hearted heroines of all time.  Hilda has the uncanny ability to befriend anyone, whether it's a giant as tall as a mountain who appears only at midnight, or a talking bird who has forgotten how to fly.  Her adventures take her wandering through a countryside populated by miniature, invisible elves who want to get rid of her (as in Hilda and the Midnight Giant) and through a painstakingly designed and unbelievably evocative city where the denizens prepare for their annual parade to honor a great, God-like raven (as in Hilda and the Bird Parade).  Hilda herself, who first appeared in Mr. Pearson's Hildafolk, is an irresistible character, with a bottomless sense of adventure and a natural instinct for empathy and friendship.
     Mr. Pearson's gentle cartoonish characters and meticulously conceived environments create melancholy worlds filled with mysterious nooks and crannies that manage to work beautifully in stories for both adults and children.  This is a rare gift and, as he branches out into things like the short piece he has in First Second's upcoming Fairy Tale Comics, hopefully we will be seeing a great deal more of his imagination on display.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Comic Book Club Live

     I will be appearing on the Internet talk show Comic Book Club Live on the evening of Tuesday, March 12th to discuss comic books, education and the publication of What We Become.  They shoot the show live at various spots in New York City.  If you happen to be in the area please stop by.
     I'll post more details as the date nears.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Solid Idea

     Jim Holt, author of the fascinating Why Does the World Exist?:  An Existential Detective Story, was a recent guest on NPR's Radiolab.  The subject of the short episode is nothing less than the very nature of existence, which is not bad for a podcast that runs less than fifteen minutes.  The discussion centers on how solid reality is at its most basic level or whether it is actually comprised of fields or rules.  Essentially, it is asking the question, is reality made of stuff or is it made of idea?  This, of course, is a subject of great interest to me, as Those That Wake will attest.
     You can hear the entire episode here.
    

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Questions

     "Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple."
     Pontificating on the deeper meaning here would belie the wisdom of the quote itself.  Just want to mention that these words were said by the Doctor himself, Theodore Geisel.  Apparently, the cat behind the hat didn't need an entire book to get a solid point across.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Emily Carroll

     As 2013 gets underway and I prepare for the Spring semester at Pratt, I'm revisiting certain materials I plan to use for the graphic novel course I teach, and I came across the sublimely eerie webcomic Margot's Room.  I posted about it once before, but in this second pass I rediscovered all the offerings at the website of creator Emily Carroll.  She has seven webcomics for view there and, while none are quite as ambitious as Margot's Room, they all have a lot to offer.  From the myth-inspired Anu-Anulan and Yir's Daughter to the format-teasing Death of Jose Arcadio to her unsettling Dream Journals, they are by turns experimental, melancholy, creepy and beautiful.  She has produced very little by way of traditionally published material that I can find, but her work s reminiscent of the fantastic Secret of Kells, an animated film which also weaves together fairy tale elements into a lyrical and melancholy tapestry.