Vincent S. Moore Presents:
Some time away from it all this has been.
Howdy, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome once again to the Omnium Gatherum. Just in case you don’t know or this is your first time here, I’m your host and talker extraordinaire, Vince Moore.
I didn’t write a column for the last issue of Comics Waiting Room for this simple reason: the work on my computer crying out to be done was getting ridiculous.
Now, two weeks later, the work mountain is slowly being climbed. But one of the banes of my existence came to town for a quite few days: a murder of migraines.
If there are two things I love to do most, they are shoot my mouth off about any and every thing under the sun, and think. When the migraines arrive, thinking goes out the window and my babble becomes even more so as I try to deal with the man with the jackhammer behind my eyes.
But don’t worry about sympathy for this devil of the internets. The tide is turning and the man with the jackhammer is slowly moving on to other demolition projects. Hopefully for a long time.
In the meantime, I must soldier on lest you folks and the man behind the curtain here at CWR, Marc Mason, forget about me.
As if that were possible.
And so, on to . . .
OUR TOP STORY TONIGHT
Are You In It To Win It?
It’s that most wonderful time of the year. No, I don’t mean the approach of Spring. I mean it’s comics convention season yet again, when the comics industry in all its varied forms crawls across this beautiful country of ours, showing their wares and looking at the samples of seemingly endless numbers of aspiring hopefuls to find those who might join the ranks of comics creators.
Geez, I make it sound so idyllic and hopeful, don’t I?
However, very often, the floor of these conventions are littered in part with the bodies of many of these same hopefuls, crushed by the harsh realities of the comics industry and what it requires from those who wish to toil in its fields, pardon the pun.
It’s not for lack of enthusiasm, to be sure. I can attest to this as I’ve been on both sides of the table, as it were. I’ve handed pitches to editors and I’ve been shown samples as an editor. I’ve seen the bored and tired faces of editors staring at me as if I were a specimen on a slide under the microscope. Memory of that look reminds me to smile when I’m talking with other hopefuls, to answer their questions to the best of my ability in addition to being as honest as I can be.
Yet I often feel that the decision to create comics isn’t usually thought through very well. I mean, we’re all fans here, right? And it’s in that arena that most of us who want to create comics come from. (I’m discounting the new fangled Hollywood route that’s all the vogue these days; this one is for my fanboy and fangirl peeps.) We get together with our fellow fans and show each other our stories or drawings and receive all the Ooos and Awws we can, dressing ourselves and our egos in these clothes and we think we are making the best comics we can.
Then we hit that portfolio review line and are hit by the brick of criticism from a professional artist or editor. Cut to the quick quickly and moved out of line to make room for the next poor slob. Maybe we are crushed. And maybe we are motivated. Or maybe we just ignore what we heard and continue on our way, doing what we think is right but wondering why no one besides our friends like what we do.
Because we aren’t in it to win it.
This idea from the realm of hip hop, of being in the game to win it, is something I don’t see in some but not all people who want to create comics.
Of wanting to be the best at the game you want to play, in order to go as far you can. To win the game. In this case, the game is comics.
Now, some of you out there may be wondering just who am I to be talking about this and where do I get off acting as if I were some grand master of all things comics. And the truth be told, you would be quite right to think and feel that way. I’m not one of the big players in the game. In many ways, I’m still trying to break in, still trying to establish myself within the comics industry.
Still, I am someone who has given this some thought. And I often find myself--whether it is when I am sitting in behind the counter at Comics Ink or sitting at a booth at a convention or at a meeting of the Comicbook Artists Guild--in the position of telling someone else what they need to do to break into comics.
Plus, I just like shooting off my mouth.
That is what qualifies me for what I am about to do.
Namely, share some ideas and sources of information and inspiration that could help those nameless, faceless comics aspirants out there reading this. Because that is something I do well. And because, despite attitudes within the industry to the contrary, I want to see people succeed in fulfilling their dreams.
Now, just remember, these are my opinions and ideas and choices from my own library of books and resources.
First off, in the area of programming oneself for success, there is only one book I turn to again and again for inspiration. That magic book is Think And Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. Yes, I know, this is an old book and it might be easy to say that its advice is so old hat as to be useless. However, I can’t think of any other work that implores the reader to be willing to dream his or her dreams, to have and build faith in that dream, to utilize imagination and desire as engines for the fulfillment of that dream, etc., etc. I don’t care what kind of comics you want to make, the end desire is to sell them to some kind and size of audience. That is the very definition of success, pure and simple. So why not choose to arm yourself with the proven weapons of success?
Later on I will suggest works that specifically focus on the business of comics. For now, Hill’s book is the perfect starting point.
Naturally, you are a reader of comics. You’d have to be in order to want to create comics. But, are you a student of comics? Of the medium itself and its many tools?
Well, here are some of the seminal works on the medium of comics that help to illuminate its many possibilities.
Starting with the late, great Will Eisner and his books, Comics And Sequential Art and Graphic Storytelling. These are the true textbooks of comics. In Comics And Sequential Art, Eisner breaks down and analyzes the medium in a way only a true master can. Seeing the hows and whys of his own work shows the reader how to make his own comics better. The demonstration of what Eisner calls expressive anatomy with a hippie Hamlet is worth the price of the book alone. And Graphic Storytelling is the perfect follow-up, delving into the very craft of story and storytelling itself in the modern world.
If Eisner is the great teacher, Scott McCloud is the practical philosopher. With his trilogy--Understanding Comics, Reinventing Comics, and Making Comics--McCloud has invited readers and fans alike along his own journey to understand the medium he loves and pursues. Whether it is dissecting the modes of transitions within comics or analyzing the different ways people create and deliver comics to readers, McCloud shows that comics can be more than mere lines on a piece of paper, more than simply words and pictures mixed together.
There is only one other comics creator I suggest reading alongside Eisner and McCloud, and that is Dave Sim.
Sim is a figure of some controversy within certain circles of the comics industry for his views on women and religion. I personally think those beliefs don’t matter. Not when the bulk of his comics work, the massive graphic novel Cerebus, shows such a range of development and willingness to experiment with the medium, even if the experiment turned out to be a dismal failure. Along with Cerebus, Sim’s own handbook on self publishing, the obviously titled Cerebus Guide To Self Publishing, is filled with practical information any aspiring cartoonist--that is, writer/artist primarily--can use. It isn’t perfect, and Sim would be the first to say that it isn’t, but it is advice from someone who has fought in the trenches and won his own victories. I urge you readers to check out Sim’s work and make up your own minds.
And I’m just getting started with this.
In the second part of this series, I’ll focus my attention to the art and craft of writing.
Tune in then.
BOOK(S) OF THE WEEK
What, are you kidding me? After talking about all those different books in the above section? I would hope y’all don’t want to read about another one.
There’s nothing to see here this time, folks. Move along to . . .
ALBUM(S) OF THE WEEK
When the man with the jackhammer comes to town and goes to town behind my eyes, there is only one album I want to listen to. I drown my pains and sorrows in the one, the only . . .
Dark Side Of The Moon by Pink Floyd.
The seminal album by the classic British progressive, psychedelic rock band that spent more than 700 weeks in the Billboard Top 200 Album charts. The one album car dealers consistently used to demonstrate and test out car stereo systems. This album alone has the power to take my mind away when the migraines attack.
Dark Side finds Pink Floyd coming into their full powers as an ensemble. With David Gilmour on lead guitar, Roger Waters on bass, Nick Mason on drums and percussion, and Richard Wright on keyboards, Pink Floyd is the very definition of progressive rock of the 1970s. Along with Waters providing the all of the lyrics and most of the music, Dark Side seeks to explore just that, the dark sides within us all.
Songs such as “Breathe” that discuss the trials and tribulations of the rat race in which we all run and run and “Time” that put into perspective where all that running might leads us seek to throw some light on that dark side of the moon. Plus, purely sonic landscapes as “On The Run” provide a kind of filled yet empty space into which one’s weary mind can sink down into and drown in the music.
Although many people would put Floyd’s music into a proto-emo category, I wouldn’t. There is always a catharsis in Roger Waters’ music and lyrics, a redemption of body, mind, and soul. If one were to seek after it, that is.
If you have never listened to Pink Floyd before, this is the perfect stepping on point.
And if you have listened to this album many times, like myself, just put the disc in your CD player or download it onto your iPod, and listen. And let the magic of the music take you away.
FEAR AND LOATHING, HOPE AND WONDER ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL 2008
As Barack Obama said himself a few weeks ago, we are in the midst of the silly season in American politics. And I’m just about sick of it.
Have we voted for a new president yet? Damn.
If it’s isn’t the infighting going on as Obama and Clinton (or should that be The Clintons, the battling couple of American politics?) jockey for a position of being the first whatever to run for and become president of these (vaguely) United States, then it’s watching big daddy John McCain tell us over and over again in a voice perfectly pitched to put the majority of Americans to sleep that everything will be alright as soon as the collective we realize that he’s the right man (man? white man? who knows what he’s saying?) for the highest office in this land.
Oh, brother, my aching back.
Yet it is fascinating to watch the Clintons pick apart Obama. For nothing else, it’s telling. After having been beaten up by 12 straight losses to the neophyte senator from Illinois, Hillary won and won big in Texas, Ohio, and Rhode Island. That seeming has stopped the Obama march from sea to shining sea and put her campaign back on the political map. It also shows that Hillary and her pet husband Bill will stop at nothing to make her the president.
It was very telling on the evening of March 4th, that when the victory and concessions speeches were being made by Clinton and Obama the vast difference in tone and possibly intent. While Obama’s supporters more calmly answered his speech with the now familiar chants of “Yes, we can”, Hillary’s followers could only respond to her speech with an incantation of “Yes, She can.” Now, the question that comes to my mind is, are we to elect Hillary so she can help us and help us help ourselves or are we to elect her for herself? A leader leads and inspires. Something Obama has been doing and is doing very well. But a princess or a queen or a goddess made flesh wants and needs to be worshipped. On March 4th, listening to Hillary felt as though she were being deified. Maybe she already has been and I simply missed the memo.
So we are settling into the thought that this thing will go on and on until one of them quits or “wises up” and takes the number two position to the other. Naturally, what Hillary wants and needs to be on top, with Obama as her number two. (Okay, I just reread that last sentence and none of the obvious puns are meant, but pardon them anyway.) I mean, it would be the complete magnanimous thing to do, right? When one is the first women candidate for president, it is only fitting and proper to offer such a worthy opponent the chance to be the first black vice president. Right? Right. If putting Obama in the veep spot helps out Hillary (just another example of affirmative action at work, folks), the converse isn’t necessarily true. Obama has run on a philosophical platform of change and putting to bed the politics of the last two decades. How can he continue to promote himself as the candidate of change with Hillary Clinton as his veep nominee? I mean, for some of us, the last eight years have been a nightmare and we have had only our fond memories of Bill Clinton as prez to keep us warm, but seriously, Hillary as vice president? Not a chance. She doesn’t want it, isn’t running for number two, and would be pushing 70 if she waits her turn. For Obama, there are much better choices for veep. People like Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who would balance Obama’s brashness with experience. Anybody but Hillary Clinton, please!
Because, not only would such a choice spoil Obama’s touch with his supporters, it would reward Hillary and Bill for playing to the politics of fear and the gutter.
We’ve had 16 years of the politics of fear and the gutter. Fear of the terrorists. Fear of the welfare recipients. Fear of tax cuts and of fair taxes for all. Fear of the budget deficit. Fear of business run amok and of markets not being free. Fear of going out at night or of going out of your way to help others. Fear, fear, and still more fear.
I don’t know about you people reading this but I’m sick and tired of being afraid. Of feeling that anyone could be my enemy, whether she is wearing a veil or he is driving a BMW. Of wars both military and economic.
One can only be afraid for so long before it either drives them crazy or they become numb.
For all of his naivety and brashness and freshness, Barack Obama wants and needs to play the game on a different level, in different ways. He sees where the balance between opposing forces can be, because he was born of opposing forces, black and white.
Both John McCain and Hillary Clinton share in this trait: they need to play the old game, to play to the politics of fear and loathing. As long as they can do and succeed, we as Americans will circle the drain of history before our time. If we allow either of these two into office as president, even if the surface appearances change, what lies beneath the surface will remain the same. And it will continue to rot and kill us from within.
Obama is fresh and new and shiny.
He is just what this country and this world needs at this point in time. A dreamer daring enough to dream for all of us. A leader who charges his followers to take responsibility for themselves.
For without a vision, you cannot have a direction. You need to see the target before you can hit it.
McCain and Clinton both see neither the target or have an idea of new places to take aim. They both are politics as usual, the politics we already know. Rich versus poor, America versus the terrorists, Democrat versus Republican.
Obama sees a new target. He sees that Democrats and Republicans need each other in order to function. He sees that America isn’t alone in the world. He sees that the citizens should be involved in a new politics of hope and wonder. A politics that really isn’t that new. It’s just that we haven’t seen it in a while.
It’s the silly season in politics. The mud is flying just as the flowers are blooming. Let’s just hope that whoever blossoms during this time can lead America out of the darkness and into the light.
COMICS OF THE WEEK
I did manage to look at some comics in the last few weeks. It wasn’t all doom and gloom in my head, you know.
First up, Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.’s Kick-Ass didn’t.
Yep, just that simple. If I say anything more, it will only show I’ve spent more time thinking about this idea than the creators did.
Speaking of juvenile comics, I was turned on to a new manga by reading a post from Post Modern Barney. It’s Ral Ω Grad (according to Amazon.com, it’s pronounced Ral & Grad) by Tsuneo Takano and Takeshi Obata, the artist of the dismal Death Note. Ral Ω Grad finds us transported to a world where living shadows are threatening the world. Our young hero Ral was possessed by one of these shadows as an infant but kept in darkness until his teenage years. Ral and the shadow Grad have become allies over the years, just in time to help save the world. All typical boy’s manga sorts of goings on. What makes this particular book evil fun is its high level of manga decadence. Or as it’s more commonly called fanservice. Our hero Ral is only interested in saving the world as long as it means saving women. Of which there are plenty, all nubile and young and willing to allow him to feel them all up. Sheesh, and some people complain about oversexed superhero comics! But it was fun and I’m looking forward to the next volume.
MOVIE(S) OF THE WEEK
Through the pain and haze of the past few days, I was able to pay attention to at least one movie on DVD.
Now, I’m a sucker for a good mystery or caper flick, particularly if there’s some good action. Chaos, from Lionsgate and written and directed by Tony Giglio, fit the bill on both fronts.
Chaos stars the very busy Jason Statham as Detective Quentin Conners, a cop on the outs with the police force of Seattle after a botched hostage situation. When a group of thieves storm a major bank and create a dangerous hostage situation, it turns out the leader of the group will only deal with, you guessed it, Detective Conners. And we are off to the races in a big way.
Costarring Ryan Phillippe as the son of a hero cop trying to make his own way, and Wesley Snipes as, well, that would spoil it for you now, wouldn’t it? Chaos lives up to its title in many ways, which is just one part of the series of mysteries forming the story.
I was very entertained and kept guessing throughout the whole film. A task that is very difficult to accomplish. Do yourselves a favor and go rent this movie. You deserve to see at least one film this year that won’t insult your intelligence. And Chaos is just that film.
THE TEMPEST IN A TEAPOT THIS TIME
I’m sure there are plenty of silly season complaints going on across the internets, but I’m not in the mood to pick on one or two of them this time around.
Y’all get a pass from me this time.
Be warned, though, I’ll find someone to bitch slap next time out.
GOOD DAY, GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK
That’s all, folks.
I have a man with a jackhammer to wrestle with, along with work a’plenty to keep me busy until next time.
In the weeks to come, I hope to make announcements as to what’s been happening with me. Stay tuned to CWR and the Omnium Gatherum for details.
Oh, and go out and find UVC #5. I wrote a couple of articles in this issue. Go bug your local comics retailer for a copy. There are tons of good articles in the issue.
See y’all later, folks.
Copyright 2006- 2010 Marc Mason/Comics Waiting Room. All rights reserved