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Avril Brown Presents:

This should come as no surprise, but I really like talking about comic books.

You know that little gleam a kid gets in his or her eye when you say the words ‘ice cream’? Or when you tell your teenager they have permission to go on an unsupervised co-ed camping trip? That’s the look on my face when I enlighten someone about the wonderful world of comics. I reached the semi-finals in the speech contest for my Communications class in college because of the speech I gave about comic books. For my senior year English project in high school I researched the history of the comic book and played the opening sequence to the 'X-Men Animated Series' for my audio-visual presentation. Nearly everyone in the classroom was grinning and bobbing their head to the music, and they all immediately (and loudly) educated her when my teacher said she had never heard of the 'X-Men.' My passion is so clearly evident when I talk about comics most people can't help but smile indulgently at my child-like enthusiasm, but on occasion I get to see my fire reflected in their eyes.

There is so much which goes into creating a comic book, from the birth of an idea to seeing it become a full-fledged and finished book. There is the creator, the imaginative mind behind the original plot, and the creator and the writer are not necessarily synonymous. There are many writers who have taken the reigns of ‘X-Men,’ but there are only two creators behind the original idea of teenage mutant superheroes.

The writer is the voice of the story, giving the plot and characters depth and meaning. Marvel once did a ‘Nuff said’ event where all of their books were without words, letting the art alone tell the story. Definitely an interesting idea; the stories ranged from a silent funeral for Deadpool to a trip through the sleeping minds of the Exiles, and while most of the books were a success in this alternative venture it is not a format I want to see too often in my X-books. I want to read Wolverine's latest graphic threat to his enemies and I want to 'hear' Gambit's dead-sexy Cajun accent.

There are a few lucky souls who can write and draw, but if your strong suit isn’t art, the penciler gives the story its visuals. Some artists do their own coloring, while others leave the colorist to fill in the lines and paint the characters and scenery with an expansive variety of hues. There are stories meant to be in black and white, and there are books which needs their colors to compliment the script and artwork. Yet even the black and white tales can use shades of grey to their infinite advantage. Being the talent-less void I am when it comes to drawing, I personally cannot understand why everyone who possesses this skill resists the urge to constantly utilize it. To take the mental pictures from your imagination and put them to paper making them take shape and become something tangible must be a heady feeling indeed.

The lettering used in a graphic novel also can make quite an influence on how the story is conveyed. In one of my favorite on-going series entitled ‘Chew,’ (a marvelous book about a cop who can see the entire life history of everything he puts in his mouth...except for beets) the passages filled with extreme sarcasm and cold fury were literally dripping with blue icicles. Another magnificent series entitled ‘Rotten’ (Old West meets zombies meets political satire) gets the point across nicely when a character calls out the name of his rescuer in rather large letters thrice their normal size: “William fucking Wade!”

The editors and publishers have the final say on what ends up in print, and the choice on what type of paper to print it on varies as well. Some stories are told on a dry, newspaper-like material, and some stories need a shiny, glossy paper to really stand out. A few publishers follow the Comics Code Authority 'age appropriate' rating system, and some are not meant for all age groups, printing material which falls far outside anything the CCA would deem safe for a child's eyes.

A great comic book has a flow, a unity to it where all the pieces come together perfectly, making that particular book stand apart from the others. We remember those stories, the ones which made us laugh, cry and think and there is a balance to them where the words and the art are completely in synch. Quite a few people do not understand the expansive creative process which goes into creating a comic and I consider it a mitzvah to educate them. Once in awhile my intensity becomes infectious and I aid in the production of another advocate of this ideally immortal form of entertainment, which allows me to feel like I have given something back to an art form that has given me so much.

Avril Brown 

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