Category Archives: Ramblings

Comic Book Wednesdays: Superheroes and ‘Literary Merit’

 

Welcome back, gals and pals, to another C0mic Book Wednesday! This week I’d like to talk about superhero stories as literature. I’ve been thinking about this a lot since Peabody’s excellent post on women and comics (which if you haven’t read, you really should). One of the conversations that popped up was about comics being considered “real literature”–a term that bothers me from the get-go–and questioning if comics really are a worthwhile art form. Now, obviously a lot of people stepped in and said their piece: comics are literature, comics are art, the term “real literature” is a load of crap. However, I was saddened by the number of people who said something like “Yeah, superhero comics aren’t at that level but…”. I understand that a lot of people feel that way, but the truth of the matter is, like every genre, there are superhero comics that are as complex and interesting as something like Sandman or Saga. 

So, what is Fishnets to do? Well, rather than gnash my teeth and be grumpy, I figured that I can share with everyone some great superhero books that I believe have literary merit.

But first I want to discuss the terms “literary merit” and “real literature”. I don’t like them. I don’t like using them. I hate that there’s this idea of entertainment versus art, or real versus fake. What does fake literature even mean? Does it mean that someone wrote it for a paycheck? Well, that doesn’t work. Plenty of people wrote for paychecks: Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Arthur Conan Doyle. Is it a genre thing? Nothing speculative? No, cause then we’ve got to cut out Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne, and H.G. Wells. Is it a time thing? Nah, I took a whole bunch of contemporary literature classes in college.

Classifying certain things as entertainment and certain things as art just serves to create an unnecessary divide, one that keeps people from remembering that art and entertainment need each other to exist. Michael Chabon wrote a fantastic article called “Trickster in a Suit of Light: Thoughts on the Modern Short Story” in which he discusses the relationship between art and entertainment. He writes:

No self-respecting literary genius, even an occasional maker of avowed entertainments like Graham Greene, would ever describe him- or herself as primarily an “entertainer.” An entertainer is a man in a sequined dinner jacket, singing “She’s a Lady” to a hall filled with women rubber-banding their underpants up onto the stage

Yet entertainment–as I define it, pleasure and all–remains the only sure means we have of bridging, or at least of feeling as if we have bridged, the gulf of consciousness that separates each of us from everybody else. The best response to those who would cheapen and exploit it is not to disparage or repudiate but to reclaim entertainment as a job fit for artists and for audiences, a two-way exchange of attention, experience, and the universal hunger for connection.

The truth of the matter is that really the only thing we can study about literature is the content and the craft. And when I say content, I don’t mean “is there a dude running around in his underoos?” I mean what is going on behind the text. What is the story really about? What is the author presenting here, and what can we take away from it? Art is all about objectivity and is entirely reliant on the audience and the response of the audience. So, if we think about literature this way, of course superhero comics can be literature. Anything can be literature. As long as it goes above and beyond telling a surface level story, then it’s worth a second look, regardless of genre.

There are some examples that are easily cited for superhero books as literature. Just look at Watchmen. That book is absolutely, one hundred precent a superhero book. I mean, for christ’s sake, it involves an evil mastermind plot involving a giant squid alien creature destroying Manhattan. Does that mean that it’s not absolutely brilliant and shouldn’t be on Time’s 100 Best Novels list? Of course not. Superhero comics are a genre, and while not all superhero books will stand the test of time, that same sentiment applies to n0n-superhero comics too, and to prose, and to music, and movies, and all of popular culture. Remember guys, while 90% of everything may be crap, there’s always that 10% worth engaging with.

So, lets look at three superhero comics that belong in that 10%, that are worth reading over and over, and that marry the concepts of art and entertainment.

1. “What’s so Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way?” (words by Joe Kelly, art by Doug Mahnke and Lee Bermejo)

 


This single issue Superman story is one of the best Superman books I’ve ever read. We all know about the big, blue boy scout. The good natured boy from Kansas (who’s really from space) who goes out of his way to fight for Truth, Justice, and the American Way. And the fact is that a lot of people make fun of the character for it. People say that Superman is boring, one dimensional, and overpowered, without realizing how juxtaposing that insane power level with a life amongst every day humans gives the character a beautiful depth. How do you remain human when it would be so easy to be a god? What does it mean to be human? How hard is it to always make the right decisions, rather than the easy ones?

These questions are what writer Joe Kelly and artists Doug Mahnke and Lee Bermejo seek to tackle in this book. The premise is simple: a group of so-called heroes called The Elite appears on the scene, only they have no regard for life, safety, or the people they’re supposedly protecting. They have no problem racking up oodles of collateral damage and deem themselves judge, jury, and executioner. They find Superman, and those of his ilk, to be irrelevant and useless. In their minds, Superman and other heroes like him have all this power, so they should use it to mold the world’s view into what their version of right is. Superman is forced to evaluate if there is a place for his moral code in the ever-changing world. Through this book, Kelly asks readers to consider where the line should be drawn in terms of violence, especially in the face of comics like The Authority gaining popularity.

Many superhero books ruminate on power, how power should be used, and what it should be used for; but there’s something unique about What’s So Funny. It’s not just about power, but about how power goes hand and hand with an individual’s moral code and world view. Often, conflicts aren’t about who did what to who, but with how our views differ from each other. And like Superman, we often have to battle with figuring out which decisions are right and which are easy, and if they can ever be the same decision.

2. Spider-Man: Blue (words by Jeph Joeb, art by Tim Sale)

 

Now, we all know the themes that Spider-Man stories focus around, right? Power? Responsibility? Uh… clever remarks? More responsibility? Yes, these are the themes that are constantly addressed in Spider-Man books, and one of the really nice things about Spider-Man: Blue is that it doesn’t really do that. Instead, we find a Spidey book that’s full of themes on remembrance, grief, and love.

Spider-Man: Blue is part of a group of miniseries often referred to as “The Color Books” (the other two are Daredevil: Yellow and Hulk: Grey). These books, written by Jeph Loeb and drawn by Tim Sale, all take classic Marvel characters and focus on a specific part of their early days as a superhero, seeking to highlight why these characters are who they are. All of them are wonderful, but Spider-Man: Blue really stands out. Rather than take the obvious path and tell a story relating to Uncle-Ben’s death, Loeb and Sale instead decide to focus on the character of Gwen Stacy. Even more surprisingly, the book does not focus on her death scene (an issue for feminism and comics, as can be seen here), but rather on her life and how she and Peter fell in love.

The comic is brilliant for a number of reasons (it fits in perfectly with the original Stan Lee Spidey issues, it’s great for new readers and die-hard fans, etc.), but perhaps the reason it’s so fascinating from a literary standpoint is the use of the framing device. The whole story is actually Peter looking back and writing a letter to Gwen on Valentine’s Day, years after her death as well as years after his marriage to Mary Jane. The result is that this beautiful little love story has a wistful melancholy tone to it. We see Peter overjoyed with finally getting the girl he loves, but we know that one day he will lose her, one day she will die, and that’s heartbreaking. But it stresses the importance of how remembrance often breathes new life into those long gone, and how grief is not a thing that is there one day and gone the next, it comes and goes for our whole lives.

Is it worth remembering such beautiful things if they’re only going to hurt later? How does a person’s life leave a lasting impact after they’re gone? In the case of Gwen Stacy, does a life matter more than a death in the terms of a narrative? These are the questions that Spider-Man: Blue seeks to find answers for.

3. Starman (words by James Robinson, art by Tony Harris) 

 

A big theme in superhero books is legacy: Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman and Wonder Girl, Flash and Kid Flash, Black Canary and Black Canary. We love the story of the young pupil taking on the mantle, continuing the mission. But what happens when someone just doesn’t want to take on that mantle? What happens when someone wants to pull away from the family?

Family is the key theme in James Robinson and Tony Harris‘ Starman. Back in the golden age of superheroes, Ted Knight donned the costume of Starman and protected Opal City from the villains that threatened it. Now, he’s old and retired, and he has two sons: David, who jumps at the chance to be Starman, and Jack, who wants absolutely nothing to do with the whole thing. Jack wants to run his antique shop in peace, away from the capes and tights of the superhero world. He’s more than happy to let his brother go off and play hero. But then David is killed as part of a vendetta against Starman’s old nemesis The Mist, and Jack is forced to step into the hero role to save his father, his city, and himself. After this, Jack takes on the mantle of Starman (sans tights) and the rest of the series focuses on his unique way of being a hero, which often conflicts with his father’s way.

Starman goes all over the place with its stories and themes, but it always comes back to one thing: family, specifically Jack and his father. The two men are radically different, but at their core they’re the same, and that causes conflict between the two. The relationship between the the Knights asks the reader to consider numerous questions. How do we deal with family when our desires seem so different than their desires? What obligations do we owe our parents and their legacy? What obligations do they owe us? How do we reconcile with things that seem impossible? How do we step out of the shadow of family and become our own individual?

I’ll be honest, I’m still in the middle of Starman, but from what I know from those who have read the series, the questions raised in the earlier issues carry all the way through, resulting in a book that tries it’s damned hardest to define what family is.

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While these three books were the ones I chose to write about, I considered a long list of possible stories to spend time babbling about. For those of you interested, this list includes: Batman: The Long Halloween, Kingdom Come, Planetary, Ex Machina, X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills, Death of Captain Marvel, Rising Stars, Green Arrow: The Archer’s Quest, and many, many more. For those of you who may have had doubts about the superhero genre, I hope you feel like there’s now something for you to explore. Superhero comics are indeed often about the “BAM! BOOM! POW!” but sometimes they can be about so much more. 

What about you guys? What are your favorite stories with strong literary themes? What are some of yours that are just awesome? What do you think about idea that some things are “real” literature and others aren’t?

See you all next Comic Book Wednesday!

This post originally appeared on GroupThink under my username fightinginfishnets.

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Comic Book Wednesdays: Spotlight on Emma Rios

Welcome back, gals and pals, to another Comic Book Wednesday! Last time I did a spotlight piece it was on a fairly well known and popular artist. I wish that all talented female creators could be as famous as Amanda Conner or Gail Simone, but that’s simply not the case right now. I’d like to see more creators gain that recognition though, and the only way to make someone well known is by talking about them and supporting their work.

So, without further ado, I’d like to shine the spotlight on one of the most talented artists in the industry: the incredible Emma Ríos!

 

What has she done? 

Emma Ríos is a Spanish artist who originated in the European comics scene and has crossed over to the American one. Early on, when she still had a day job as an architect, Ríos was working with the Galician comic collective Polaqia (their Spanish language website can be viewed here). She has done a lot of work with them, and still has a strong connection to the group. Her major works with Polaqia are contributions to the magazine Barsowia, which includes both cover art and interior work, and a very well-recieved sci-fi miniseries called A Prueba de Balas [Bulletproof].

Ríos began her career as a full-time comics artist when she landed a job with BOOM! Studios, illustrating the miniseries Hexed in 2008. The series was co-created with author Michael Alan Nelson, who continues to do work for BOOM!. The series was only four issues, but it was given good reviews, with no small thanks to the fantastic art by Emma Ríos. Her art had a fresh, unique feel to it, and it radically differed from the typical ‘house-style’ of American comics. Just the cover alone serves as an excellent hook for both the art and story inside. While the book reached a fairly small audience, it was enough for Ríos to get her foot in the door and begin her rise to the top of American comics.

After working with BOOM!, Ríos began working primarily for Marvel Comics. She has done lots of work for them over the past few years. Her artist credits include the Doctor Strange miniseries Strange, written by Mark Waid; the Spider-Island tie-in miniseries Cloak and Dagger, written by Nick Spencer; and the miniseries Osborn: Evil Incarcerated, written by Kelly Sue Deconnick.

She has also done numerous one-shots and guest artist appearances for Marvel Comics, including work on Captain Marvel, RunawaysAmazing Spider-Man, Elektra, Firestar, Heralds, and Girl Comics.

Her biggest project for Marvel has been the OGN (original graphic novel) Doctor Strange: Season One, written by Greg Pak. The Season One line is a series of graphic novels that are meant to retell and modernize the origin stories of popular Marvel characters. For the most part, I’ve found them to be pretty mediocre. However, Doctor Strange was a beautifully drawn and written diamond in the rough, and was one of the most well reviewed Season One books. And while it is a good story, the book would not be nearly half as good without Ríos’ art.

Ríos also has a new book coming out this fall, called Pretty Deadly, which I am extremely excited for.

So, let’s take a closer look at her art:

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Why Should I Love Her?

There are many reasons to love Emma Ríos. A major one is her style. Ríos manages to mix chaos and precision in each page she draws. Her pencils are angular and detailed but her pages, as whole pieces, are full of busy activity and kinetic motion. Yet, despite all the activity, Ríos always knows how to draw your eye to exactly where it needs to focus. She takes your hand and guides you through the delightful and frightening insanity of her world, and with each step you are able to enjoy every last, meticulously thought out detail. 

Ríos has worked with some really fantastic writers, but I’d argue that Ríos is able to tell a story all on her own without any help from a writer. She is amazing at conveying emotion, tone, and character just with a few strokes from her pencil. Let’s take a look at this page:

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I love this page (from her Cloak and Dagger miniseries). What words are needed here? Just by looking at the page you can tell who these characters are, what they’ve been through, how it has impacted who they are now, and how connected they are. There’s a real sense of loneliness here, but the kind of loneliness that drives you to seek out another person who has been through the same thing. With her intricate details and complex compositions, Ríos manages to convey a story in a way that many of us would never have dreamed up.

One of the other really amazing things about Ríos’ art is her incredible mastery of motion. Motion and creating the illusion of movement is essential to a good comic. How else can you convey the wonder of flying, the power of a punch, or the excitement of a chase? A good comic creates a kind of mental animation, so that you forget that you’re looking at a series of still images. A good comic will take your brain from panel to panel and from page to page without you ever even realizing it. Not every artist has the talent to do this, no matter how beautiful their art is (sorry, Alex Ross). Emma Ríos, however, is a master.

I don’t know if it’s a combination of the delicate pencils and super bold inks or if it’s the super attention to how motion affects everything, but Ríos’ art has some of the best kinetic motion I’ve ever seen in a comic. Maybe it’s the architect in her, but every last little detail that conveys motion is present in her work (how hair and clothing is affected, how the environment id affected. For example, in these Captain Marvel panels you can almost see the motorcycle barreling down the road or feel the tension as Carol leaps over the banister. It’s really difficult to pull of these poses with such fluidity, but Ríos does it.

I am thrilled that Emma Ríos has entered the American comics scene. I think she has the capacity to be a total superstar artist in time, along with other foreign artists like Oliver Copiel (French), Francis Lenil Yu (Filipino), Gabriel Bá (Brazilian), and Fabio Moon (Brazilian). I’d argue that we need more and more creators from different backgrounds in comics, that’s the only way that comics will evolve and change as an art form.

So, f you’re interested in Emma Ríos I recommend starting with her Doctor Strange work (both Strange and Doctor Strange: Season One) as well as her work on Cloak and Dagger, which can be found in the Spider-Island Companion book. I also recommend putting a reminder on your calendar that Pretty Deadly will be making its way to your local comic shop on October 23rd. Trust me, you want to be on the ground floor for this book. I’ve got a really good feeling that this book is going to be huge.

For more Emma Ríos art, you can check out her personal blog here. There was also a great interview she did with Multiversity Comics yesterday, which you can read here. Also, if any of you have cash to burn, you can buy (or at least browse) Ríos’ original art at Cadence Comic Art.

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I had a lot of fun writing this spotlight. Emma Ríos is one of my favorite artists, and I love seeing her get more and more attention each year. I’m curious how many people knew about her before this article. Also, who are some of your favorite artists (male or female)? Who would you like to read a spotlight on?

See you next Wednesday!

I would also like to give a shout-out to the colorist that Emma Ríos often works with, the fantastically talented Jordie Bellaire. Bellaire will also be working on Pretty Deadly!

Also, a big thank you from Mr. Fishnets for reading his article last week. You guys are the best!

This piece originally appeared on GroupThink under my username fightinginfishnets.

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Comic Book Wednesdays: Comics, Kids, and Literacy

 

Welcome back to Comic Book Wednesday, gals and pals! This week, I’d like to change things up from the usual recommendations and spotlights and instead have some good old fashioned musings. Today, I want to talk about something that matters a lot to me: kids learning to read through comic books.

First, a little story. About five years ago, when I was relatively new to the comic shop I work at, a mom and her daughter came in to the store. The girl was about six and, like most six year olds who walk in, immediately started running around looking at the toys. She started begging her mother to buy her a whole bunch of them. Her mother, completely unfazed, said “Okay. You can have one small toy or you can have as many comic books as you want.”

It was like a switch had been hit in the little girl. She did an about face and made a beeline towards the comic book racks. Her mother saw me watching and smiled at me. “I’m not spending a lot of money on toys,” she told me. “But if she’s reading? That I don’t mind spending money on.”

I ended up helping them find a big stack of books, and both mom and daughter left happy.

This story has always stuck with me, how this mom didn’t care so much what her daughter was reading but that she was reading. Comics have often gotten a bad rep in terms of literacy. Parents and teachers alike have considered them not “real” books, and have dismissed them, or worse have been adamantly against them. Type into google search “comics are bad”. The first auto-filled results are “comics are bad for children” and “comics are bad for kids.” Why is that? Why do we consider comic books to be so harmful?

The idea of comics being bad for kids is not anything new. One of the earliest examples is the psychologist Dr. Fredric Wertham whose crusade against comic books resulted in the book The Seduction of the Innocent, a text that is full of wild accusations about comics causing all of societies “ills”. Jamie Coville writes about this in a series of articles he did for Penn State:

 Dr. Wertham stated that in his studies with children, he found comic books to be a major cause of juvenile delinquency. This assertion was based mostly on guilt by association. The vast majority of kids in those days read comic books, including the ones who became delinquents. But according to Dr. Wertham, comic books caused the children to become delinquents.

But comics went much further than just turning kids into juvenile delinquents. According to Wertham, comic books were giving kids wrong ideas about the laws of physics, because Superman could fly! He also charged that comic books were implementing and re-enforcing homosexual thoughts because Robin was drawn with bare legs, that were often wide open, and that Robin seemed devoted and attached to only Batman. Dr. Wertham also stated that Wonder Woman was giving little girls the “wrong ideas” about a woman’s place in society.

Now, obviously most people don’t think like this anymore, but I would argue that a lot of the anti-comic frenzy that got whipped up in the late 40’s and in the 50’s has had a lasting effect on how people view comics and the way that kids read comics. We as a culture haven’t quite managed to shake this idea that comics aren’t “real books”. Sure, it’s easy to say that comics have violence and scary things and some sexuality, but isn’t it true that that stuff is contained in a lot of the prose-books that kids read? Just thinking back to my own childhood, teachers never seemed to scoff when a kid was reading a Goosebumps book in the library or a Star Wars novel. So let’s take the content stuff completely out of the equation when discussing literacy.

As far as I can see, there’s no good reason to stop kids from reading comics. In fact, comic books can often be used as an amazing tool to motivate kids who don’t like reading or who just struggle with reading.

Meet the Tiny TitansThese guys made a huge difference for me when I was an elementary school tutor. I was working with a fantastic program that tutored ESL students after school (since they would miss some of class for ESL lessons). I was assigned to a wonderful group of boys, with whom I worked starting in Kindergarten and going through First Grade. They were all smart kids, but none of them had really any interest in reading.

They always wanted to talk about cartoons or video games. Reading didn’t really hold much of an appeal for them, and they all seemed to struggle with it. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that a lot of this has to do with that this is the age in which kids are often learning how to read, but I noticed that there also wasn’t any real desire to read. It wasn’t fun for them. It was homework. I ended up going to the head of my program and asking if it was alright if I bought some comic books to bring in. She said okay, and a few weeks later I brought in a whole stack of Tiny Titans.

It really was the first time I had seen them interested in some kind of written material. After we finished working on homework, instead of begging to play with their toys or wanting to run around the room, the boys were happy to flip through the comics. For the most part, they didn’t really read them that first time. It was a lot of looking through the pages and going “That’s Robin! That’s Batgirl! That’s Flash! Who is that?” but they were engaging with material, and it didn’t feel like work.

At the end of the year, all of them were far more interested in reading, and I had, more than once, needed to staple the comics back together as they had been read so many times that they were falling apart. Again, this is not to say that comics were entirely responsible for their interest in reading or was what taught them to read, but I like to think that those Tiny Titans books helped. It showed my boys that there was material that they could engage with, that they liked, and in some ways was already familiar to them because they had some idea of who the characters were.

This experience is absolutely not unique to me and the boys that I worked with. In a New York Times article about comic books and education, the author sat down at an after-school comics making program and spoke with some of the kids:

Gabriel Cid, 10, agreed that “reading is kind of boring,” but said comics were different.

“Superheroes, comics, that’s when it gets interesting because you get to see all the cool stuff,” he said.

In the same article, several educators agree that comics are something that is good for literacy. Lisa Von Drasek, a children’s librarian, says:

“Not a semester goes by that not a parent or a teacher expresses a concern about a comic-format book that their child has taken out or is using for their reading time.” Usually, she said, the critics come around. “What we say is, ‘Whatever works.’”

And the then-superintendent of the Maryland schools, Nancy S. Grasmick, adds:

“We’re trying to open the eyes of teachers and educators to this as a possibility, this as something that might really help children and is good education.”

Comics can be a useful literacy tool for a lot of reasons, not just because comics are something that kids like to read. Comics are written in a way that it is easy for kids to comprehend elements like pacing, the movement of time, and other story factors that may go over their heads in a piece of traditional prose.

Andrew Miller, from the site Edutopia, talks about how comics can be used in the classroom and how comics can be used to develop Higher-Order Thinking Skills (HOTS), which are skills that much of standardized testing is based on. He writes:

Reading standards … can be built through the complex analysis and evaluation of graphic novels and comics. Have students look at how the authors and illustrators use colors, textures, words, text boxes, frames and camera angles; then make connections between these elements and evaluated their effectiveness.

Because of the accessibility of the medium, it’s easy for kids to view and understand the different elements of a story, and even better: it’s easy for them to replicate that kind of storytelling. I know that I loved making comics when I was a kid. I would staple a bunch of printer paper together into a little book and fill it up with comics. I came up with characters that I used over and over. I learned how to develop a character without even realizing that I was doing it! Many schools and libraries now have comic book clubs, where students are encouraged to make their own comics, which means they get to practice their writing skills and storytelling skills at the same time that they’re practicing their reading skills.

Literacy is not just about learning how to read, it’s about writing too. And using comics as a literacy tool isn’t just about learning how to read and learning to love reading, it’s also a great tool to learn what storytelling is, how it works, and how it can be used. Comics are good for kids and they are good for literacy. I hope as time goes forward we see more and more comics in the library and in the classroom.

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So, what stories do you guys have about comics and literacy? Have you ever thought that comics were bad for people? Do you still think that? What do you think about how some people classify books as “real books” and others as “not real”?

As always, I look forward to your comments! Also a sincere thank you to everyone who understood why there was no CBW last week. Your support means a lot.

See you next Wednesday!

Art/Photo Credits:

Header photo found on this wordpress blog.

Tiny Titans art done by Art Baltazar.

Kid reading a comic in the classroom from Comics Beat.

This post was originally published on GroupThink under my username fightinginfishnets.

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Comic Book Wednesday: Spotlight on Amanda Conner

Hello, gals and pals, and welcome to another Comic Book Wednesday! Now, we all know that there are plenty of awesome ladies in comic books. According to Comic Vine, there are 16,985 female characters in their database (note: this database includes almost every character in comics, no matter how minor their roles are.) However, often it seems that despite the prevalence of female characters that there aren’t a lot of female creators. This is true, but also it seems that every year we’ve got more and more kick-ass women making comics, and we should honor them. Some of you know these ladies, and others are totally new to this game.

So, today, I’d like to take a break from the recommendations and talk about a bad-ass female creator: Amanda Conner.

Amanda Conner, in my personal opinion, is not only one of the most talented women working in comics, she’s also one of the most talented artists in the whole game. Conner has been involved with the industry since the late 80’s. She graduated from the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, and immediately set out to make her way into mainstream comics. Her first major break into Marvel Comics was a backup story in Solo Avengers #12.

What has she done?

In the 90’s she did a lot of various work. She worked on Vampirella. She illustrated some of the Gargoyles comics. She worked on Painkiller Jane

She’s done a couple of creator owned series, including Gatecrashers (with Mark Waid and husband Jimmy Palmiotti) and The Pro (with Garth Ennis and again Jimmy Palmiotti), which I’ll talk about a bit later. She’s also done work on Birds of Prey, Lois Lane, Codename: Knockout, Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre, Supergirl, Green Arrow/Black Canary, and Terra. She does covers for pretty much everyone, most recently the covers for Green Team and the variant cover for X-Men #2. She’s best known for her work on Power Girl.

Here’s some of her art:

Why Should I love her? 

 

I love Amanda Conner for a lot of reasons. The first is that she has an incredible talent for conveying who a character is with just a few pencil strokes. She is a master of facial expressions. In the introduction to DC Comics: The Sequential Art of Amanda Conner, artist Darwyn Cooke (and Conner’s collaborator on Silk Spectre), writes about how Conner has always described Chuck Jones as one of her big influences. Chuck Jones, for those who aren’t quite up on their pop culture knowledge, is the mastermind behind the best Looney Tunes cartoons, as well as other staples of your childhood like How the Grinch Stole Christmas. When I read this, it made perfect sense. Like Jones, Amanda Conner lets her art speak for itself and portray all of the elements of character that simple dialogue just can’t capture. Everything from posture to expression is thought out and meaningful, and the result is that Conner is so talented that she can tell you pretty much who a character is in one panel or sketch. Check out this Black Canary sketch she did for me at New York Comic Con 2010:

 That took Conner not even five minutes, but it’s such an amazing piece of art that I have it framed. For me, it sums up so much of who Dinah (Black Canary) is. She’s flirty and funny, but also super confident in who she is and what she stands for. She’ll smile at you, but if you give her a good reason, she’ll also kick your ass.

The second reason to love Conner is that she’s funny. She loves to poke fun at what she does, in the way that only someone who really loves comics can. For example: Power Girl, probably the character she is most well-known for drawing, has a crazy costume. Lots of people are dismissive of it, especially when they know very little about the character. But Conner (and others like myself) love it, despite the cheesiness and sexiness. Conner always makes jokes about it in a way that acknowledges the ridiculousness of sex in comics but also shows that there’s part of her that loves it too.

Another example of this is her work on The Pro, which I mentioned earlier. The Pro is about a prostitute who is given super powers by an alien, and then is expected to join a clear satire of the Justice League. This is the book that involves The Saint (what? Superman? Who’s that?) taking out a plane accidentally with cum and The Pro using her powers to exact revenge for herself and a bunch of other ladies on a scummy john.

I still lose it whenever I see that panel. The Pro is one of those books that is so over-the-top ridiculous, that it can’t be anything other than a satire. Conner is unafraid of gross humor, especially when it serves as a way to point out how silly something is (like oversexualization in comic books). She can make a poop joke with the best of them, and she’ll still manage to draw it beautifully.

The third reason to love Amanda Conner is that she very much takes into consideration who she is drawing. She can do the buxom bombshell (Power Girl!) but she can also do the teenage girl, the awkward girl, the heavier guy, the skinny kid.

 

Lots of artists, some of whom I really love, draw everyone with the same body type and often draw them in a similar style. Conner does not. She takes into account who she’s drawing, where they are, and how they’re feeling. Are they in their street clothes? Well, then they aren’t standing the same way they would if they’re posed for battle. Are they depressed? Then their shoulders are probably slumped. Are they frustrated? Then they might not have the prettiest face going on. Conner puts character first and other factors like sex appeal and attractiveness second. If it’s not appropriate to the situation, she’s not going to sex-up her characters, and on the flip side if she feels appropriate then she’s not going to shy away with it.

For example, she designed the version of Black Canary’s costume where she went back to the leotard with the fishnets (adding in a new motorcycle jacket and combat boots). When asked about why she designed the costume she did, Conner replied:

I wanted to sort of bring Black Canary back to her origins (fishnets and all), costume-wise. Most of the time I try to think of super-hero costumes as something you could actually fight in. Also, I try to imagine what the character’s personality is, as if they were a real person. Dinah seems to be a woman who is very comfortable in her own skin, and, like many women in real life, likes to wear sexy clothes.

Conner’s careful consideration of her characters is a major reason why she’s such a stellar artist.

If you like Conner’s work then there are a few books I’d recommend picking up like The Sequential Art of Amanda Conner, Gatecrashers vol. 1, Terra, Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre, and The Pro. If you’re just interested in Conner’s art, there is also a great art book out there (simply called The Art of Amanda Conner) which has is a complete overview of her career.

So, thank you Amanda for making kick-ass comics and being an incredible artist (as well as being a super-sweetheart at conventions!), your spot on K.A.P.OW. is well deserved.

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My apologies for the lateness of this Comic Book Wednesday (now more like Comic Book Thursday), it’s been a bit of a hectic week for me. I hope you can forgive me!

This article was originally posted on GroupThink under my username fightinginfishnets.

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Oh man, Clare’s a bum.

Ugh. I’m so sorry guys, but I just got home and I’m too tired to do much of anything right now. I was at a wonderful party held by my good friend Marta, who you can check out at Tis A Pity Marla, a blog about the cutest pit bull ever. ❤

Writing Challenges will return, possibly not till Sunday since the boyfriend is taking me to HIS best friend’s party tomorrow, but dammit they will return. In the meantime, here is a picture of a sloth:

SO CUTE.

UPDATE:

Still a bum, but I’ve got the opening to today’s story prompt written. I’ll finish the rest of it in the morning.

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Writing Adventures: Story Prompts!

So lately, I’ve been feeling kind of bummed out about my writing. I haven’t really come up with any ideas I really feel attached to since my attempt at NaNoWriMo in November, and I’m just feeling really rusty. I’ve decided I need to fix that, and what better way to do that with a series of Story Prompt challenges!

I’ve decided I’m going to do one each day for the next 10 days. Sometimes they will be long, sometimes they will be a bit short. I’m going to post them all here, so I have proof that I’m doing it. I’m going to be using the Writing Challenge Generator on Seventh Sanctum’s website and see what happens.

Again, these will all be drafts and stuff written in one day, so I can’t promise they’ll be very good, but hopefully they’ll be fun to read. Right now, I need to go take care of some errands and the like, but the first Prompt should be up tonight. See you then!

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How Animals Eat Their Food

Best thing I saw on the internet all day by MisterEpicMan.

In other news, I do still exist.

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Kids Are Great.

I work at the Met (the museum, not the opera or the grocery store). It’s a good job. I like my department, the hours are pretty great, and I basically get to people watch all day.

And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the four months I’ve been at the museum, it’s this: Kids. Are. Awesome.

I mean, yes. It’s true that sometimes they run, and sometimes they throw tantrums, and sometimes they are unbearably obnoxious; but to be fair, most adults can be like that too. The thing that makes interacting with the tiny visitors so much fun is that they are incredibly honest. They say exactly what they mean.

A lot of the time when adults are around other adults, there’s a drive to impress each other, especially in a setting like a museum. You might want to show off to your date or friends about how much you know about Impressionism. Or you might just want to prove to your parents that the Art History class you took in college wasn’t a waste of your money. This isn’t a bad thing. We want people to like us, we want to give them a reason to keep spending time with us. It happens naturally. We all care about what the people around us think.

Kids? Not so much. They will say exactly what they feel, what they want, or whatever delightfully insane thing pops into their minds. They want to go see Egypt. They want to see the knights. They like this painting. They like that sculpture. The guy in that painting looks silly.  Sometimes, it is just really refreshing to have such a straight, honest reaction to art. Kids are good at that.

They’re also great at saying the best things. So, here’s two stories from my encounters with kids at work.

Underpants

It’s a quiet day, and I’m near the ground floor entrance. We tend to see most of the real little visitors come through this entrance because parents don’t have to drag their strollers up the main steps of the museum. Today is no exception.

A little girl and her mom approach me. The little girl is all of three years old, and is just insanely cute. She’s also incredibly shy, and she’s very intentionally not looking at me. Her mom says to her. “Here, she works here. You can tell her.”

The little girl says nothing. I squat down so I’m on her eye level. She gives me a glance and then shies away. “What is it, sweetie?” I ask.

She mumbles something at me.

“What’s that?” I ask her.

She looks me in the eye, and says with obvious distress: “They don’t have any underpants!”

“What?”

My mind is racing. Every horrible scenario is going through me head. Someone upstairs in the galleries has finally snapped, and has taken off their pants and is running through the museum. Oh god. This is not going to end well.

“They don’t have panties at all!” she insists. I look to the mom in confusion. The mom smiles at me.

“She means the statues in the Greek galleries.”

My day is officially made. I try to keep from laughing, but I can’t help but giggle a bit. Thankfully, the mom laughs too, but the little girl is still looking at the two of us very seriously. I tell her that I’ll talk to someone about it, and I can’t promise they’ll give the statues underpants but I’ll try. That seemed to help. I hope she isn’t too upset when she returns to the museum to find the Greeks and Romans still in their birthday suits, but every time I walk through those galleries, I crack a smile.

Which leads me to…

Boy Bits

I’m going through the museum towards the Great Hall and decide to head through the Greek and Roman galleries. This is a favorite spot for families to bring their kids. I adore these galleries. They are laid out beautifully, the lighting is stunning, and the majority of the pieces are openly displayed (rather than behind glass).

I’m almost through the hall when I hear a seven year old speaking in that matter-of-fact way that only elementary school kids can.

“Those are boy bits, and those are boy bits,” she says, pointing to two different statues. “And they’re broken.”

I speed up to keep from laughing out loud, but I definitely spent the rest of the day giggling to myself. To be fair. She was right. They were broken.

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So thank you kids, for being awesome. Thank you parents, for having awesome kids. And thank you museum, for being there so all this can happen.

Good night, everybody.

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In which I pretend I know what I’m doing.

I am currently in the same boat as around 1.5 million people: I’m seven months out of college and I have no real clue about what the hell I’m doing. It’s a really big boat, but it’s also really crowded. Someone’s currently stepping on my toe, and I’d really appreciate it if the person who ripped one just came out and admitted it. You’re in a safe place here. 

But it’s all good guys! We’re all armed with pieces of paper that may have cost up to 200,000 dollars. Hell, mine is even in latin, which I think makes it extra effective. People will get so hung up trying to read it that they won’t even realize that I have no idea what I’m doing. But, the reality is we’re all a little bit at sea (nope, not shutting up about boats yet). The sense of structure that defined many of us is gone. We don’t have deadlines, or exams, or room draw, or any of the other things that made college feel like real life, but in the ‘contained-in-a-giant-bubble’ kind of way. 

Okay, maybe it’s not so safe on my imaginary post-college boat. 

In fact, so far the voyage has sort of resembled this: 

 

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So, what was brilliant idea to calm my nerves and try to feel like a productive member of society again? 

Well. I guess I’ll start a blog. 

Cue the laugh track. 

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