Thursday, December 13, 2018

Struggle for the Human Spirit

     Checking back in with the Internet as I do from time to time, I found this much more recent review of Those That Wake, gratifyingly headlined by the epic (and timely) title above.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving 2018

     Well, there's still plenty of turmoil in the world, but it's embracing the things we value that helps us get through it.  Hopefully, you have a few big things to be thankful for (for me, it's always about the people in my life).  As in years past, here's a list of some small things that I'm enjoying and that are helping me explore some of my favorite art forms more deeply.

The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton - The world's first conspiracy thriller?  Published in 1908, it's about a poet recruited by Scotland Yard to infiltrate a group of anarchists (the terrorists of the time) and finds himself on their Council of Days, where he comes up against the terrifying man who is Sunday.  It's sinister and hilarious by turns, but flat out nutso from beginning to end.  Centered on dueling philosophies (sometimes literally dueling) and obsessed with disguises (the kind that hide, but also the kind that reveal), the esteemed British author Kingsley Amis called it "the most thrilling book I have ever read."

Mazeworld by Alan Grant and Arthur Ranson - The story of convicted murderer Adam Cadman who is hanged for his crime, only to awaken in the fantasy realm of Mazeworld, where he's forced into battle with dark forces, including the ones he harbors inside himself.  Back on Earth, though, his not-quite-dead body is being carefully studied by dark forces of yet another kind.  The story is epic yet moves at breakneck speed, but it's Ranson's jaw-dropping visuals - gritty, grainy photorealism deepened with tactile surfaces and atmospheric lighting -- that elevates this work.

Room 207 Press - Howard David Ingham's website is a deep analytical dive into many of cinema's greatest cult movies (among other things).  Some of his pieces are trenchant and humorous, like the one on An American Werewolf in London; others are deeply personal and meaningful like the one on Possession.  All of them touch on what lies beneath the stories we see and know, and make an old favorite seem like a new experience

     And, of course, don't leave without your free turkey joke.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Nature of Argument

     In their book, Metaphors We Live By, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson discuss the ways a few basic human experiences formed our language and the way our language forms our understanding of the world.  Their first example they use is about the way we think of arguments.  The fact that argument is steeped in metaphorical terms like winning and losing, defending your position, attacking your opponent's case, shooting down your opponent's points and going in with the right strategy deeply ingrains in us the idea that argument is warfare.
     What if, I've been wondering, instead of looking at argument as warfare, we understood it as a way to cooperatively solve a problem?  What if, instead of battle, it was a way we helped each other fix things?
     Particularly in light of recent events, just an idea I thought might be apropos to our imminent elections.

Thursday, September 6, 2018


     Stanley Kubrick, director of many classic and pivotal movies, was once approached by an actor after a take, who commented that he was pleased with how real the scene felt.  Mr. Kubrick responded, "Real is good.  Interesting is better."
     Feels like, as long as your emotional core is accessible and honest, the more unusual, the more bizarre, the more imaginative -- the more interesting -- every piece of your story is, the better.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The 4th of July

     At dinner last night, I asked my family what the Fourth of July meant to them.  Unfortunately but not surprisingly, like much of our demographic, my daughters reported that it didn't mean terribly much to them.  My twelve-year-old commented that it was difficult to celebrate the country right now, which is perfectly understandable considering how harshly her belief system is being assailed (by both ends of the political spectrum -- her belief system puts a premium on cooperation).  It does raise the question, what do we honor when we celebrate "the country"?  Is it the country's history?  It's philosophy?  It's reigning political party or president?  It's future?  Even within any of these categories, we must then determine what any of those things actually means to us.
     My fourteen-year-old said that, apart from the country's birthday, the Fourth of July was the day she must powerfully remembered her grandfather.  It would have made her grandfather very happy to know that he was associated with that day.  A World War II veteran and life-long democrat, he never lost faith in his country though he lived through some particularly faith-threatening times (Richard Nixon comes most directly to mind).  One of the few times I ever saw him shed tears was the day the United States elected its first president of color.  He once noted that he was proud of his children (one a social worker, one a teacher and one an art dealer like he was) because they were "good for the country."
     Maybe my older daughter's idea was the right one, that we can honor the country by honoring people who exemplify characteristics of great Americans.  My father's patriotic idealism was quiet but undaunted, and in retrospect that unflagging ability to believe in the best possibilities is perhaps the things I most admire about him.  It is without a doubt one of the many things I wish I could ask him for some advice on today. 

Thursday, May 24, 2018


     A writer hopes to contribute something relevant to the world, by way of social, political or basic human insight.  However, recently I've observed that my insights might not be completely welcome, based on my being a white male.  I write (and live) under the assumption that all humans draw from the same reservoir of emotions.  Some humans, most unfortunately, have had occasion to experience certain emotions much more deeply and more often.  Should I not attempt a projection of that experience in an effort to offer insight?  If not, then I'm trapped into either offending or rendering my efforts irrelevant.
     It's not lost on me that perhaps being silenced when I feel I need to speak is an experience I'm long overdue in having (along with the other white males).  I'm just terrified at the idea that art is no longer something we can all, at some level, share.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Superhero at 80

     A one-day-belated birthday to the Man of Steel, whose first appearance in Action Comics 1, though cover-dated June, hit newsstands on April 18th, 1938.  Eighty years later to the day, Action Comics 1000 hit comic stores yesterday.  From two-fisted, tough talking champion of social justice, defender of the oppressed and scourge of corrupt politicians to iconic symbol of humanity's best values and hopes, Superman seems as necessary a symbol now as ever before. 
     An eightieth birthday makes a fine time to revisit, or experience for the first time, what makes the character great.  This New York Times article is quite helpful in that regard.
     Not incidentally to all this, it's good to see that eighty years after their invention, superheroes are still leaders in a particular field of specialty: breaking down walls, in this country and all across the world.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

American Social Discourse

     As reported in the New York Times, Ta-Nehisi Coates, "one of the country's best known intellectuals" and recent writer for the Black Panther comic, will be taking over writing on Captain America in July.  So, to sum up, one of our preeminent social thinkers is consistently choosing the form of comics to hold a discourse with the American people.  In the immortal words of Stan Lee, "'nuff said."

Thursday, February 22, 2018


     I got a look at Library Quarterly's full review of Graphic Novels in Your School Library recently, a review I'd only ever seen the first page of previously.  Written by Rebecca Oxley, it's an extended, scholarly take on the book, satisfyingly cogent in both it's praise and it's criticism.  While I must concede that she's got me on my relatively small amount of attention paid to manga and to dealing with challenges to graphic novels in libraries, she also said "Karp is cognizant of diversity throughout the selected works, supporting representation of multiple racial, ethnic, disability, gender, and sexual orientation groups and identities. . . His lessons of how to read, make, and evaluate GN not only legitimize them as invaluable tools, but they teach a new generation of stakeholders that the ability to negotiate within this esteemed art form is itself an emerging twenty-first-century skill."
     Though my book was written only a relatively short time ago, we're are now living in a profoundly different era when it comes to diversity and gender identity.  I'm very happy to know that my messages in those areas remain relevant and useful today, but I'll also say that, having gone back through my book after a number of years, it's bracing just how much is in there that I've completely forgotten about.  There's an assumption, perhaps, that having constructed a book from within your own mind, it sticks with you always.  But I found rereading the book like having a conversation with another man, my younger self, who retains ideas I've long since assimilated into my practice and thus given little thought to.  It's somewhat alarming to find out that my younger self still has plenty to teach me.     

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Comics Literature
From Set to Sea by Drew Weing
     Recently assigned to review the magnificent The Vision by Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta, I got to thinking about what could be considered literature in comics form.  If literature is "writings having excellence of form or expression and expressing ideas of permanent or universal interest" (according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary), then let us say that graphic literature does the same, but in the form of sequential art; not simply excellence of expression in the writing and the art, but also in the power of their synthesis to express those ideas of permanent or universal interest.
     So, this is a list of ten pieces of graphic literature.  By no means complete (shouldn't something from Crumb, Pekar, Hernandez or Morrison be here?  Doesn't Black Hole by Charles Burns deserve a spot? Was "Corpse on the Imjin" by Harvey Kurtzman perhaps the earliest example of graphic literature?  What about more work from other countries?), these are what I reckon to be the core titles of graphic literature, extraordinary works that have been, for the most part, culturally embraced.  The list is in chronological order.

Maus by Art Spiegelman
The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller
Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud
Ghost World by Daniel Clowes
Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Allison Bechdel
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
The Arrival by Shaun Tan