Tags: fiction

the torch-ginger

My Comic Book Journey - Ex Machina - Wow!

I just finished reading "The First Hundred Days" compilation of Ex Machina. I actually put it down three or four times with weeks in between readings, thinking, "This is really good; I've gotta get back to this." I can't believe I set it down so often; that is no reflection on the quality of this graphic serial.

It has everything I could ask for in a comic series. It'll be easier for me to describe my affection in theatrical/film terms (and occasionally, overstretched culinary metaphors), and later you'll understand why. Each of the characters is so interesting, even the ones who have just a few "lines". The supernatural/super-hero aspect is only a portion of the story, and it often acts as just supernatural spice to the flavor of the "character soup". Mmmmm, characters. The dialogue is sharp and punchy and, in this television-perfected world, believable. The issues or sub-plots of the administration are totally believable, too.

But the artwork, oh my, the artwork, is incredible. It's not just that the drawings are beautifully rendered and perfectly saturated (because they are). It's the "direction" of the action within the artwork that is equally amazing. Since so much of the action and story are carried in the dialogue, those conversations had to do everything - provide exposition, create conflict, develop character, build to a climax, convey emotion, and conclude the plot. That's hard to do in moving pictures, much less still ones. But they did it; they did it so well that the even the most seemingly mundane of conversations was a page-turner.

The authors/artists included a few "behind the scenes" pictures at the end of the compilation, which gave me one of those "Oh.my.god. THAT'S why it works" epiphanies. The artists storyboarded this whole series with real models and took photographs. They then used those photographs as "studies" for each scene. They regularly used the same models for the same corresponding characters. In essence, they did a photo-based comic first before they drew it. And that's why characters look so much like real people; it's because they are based on them. The same poses, the same crooked noses, the same gestures of each person - that's why the rendered imagery is so believable, and ultimately beautiful. Sure, everything is a little stylized, but you get real body types and sneers and movements.

And that's SO FREAKIN' SMART. Most artists working on long-term pieces use a studies (sketches or photographs) to keep them on track, to make sure that their renderings don't get distorted during the course of all that manipulation of line and color and movement. In my mind, comic books are more closely kin to movies than to single pieces of artwork, so it makes sense that their studies would be serial. And why not storyboard it with real people? It is so much quicker to pose a model and click a photograph than to sit and sketch each panel before doing the real rendering. Plus, you have a nearly complete proof of concept to make sure you're getting what you want.

Not only will I (hopefully, if spiderknight has the rest) be finishing the series, I am also encouraged to try this myself. It means that working with an artist will be much easier (whether this artist is local or hundreds of miles away) should I decide to use this medium to tell one of my stories. It also means that I can probably block whole segments of the story work with several friends in just a day. Sure there will be hours upon hours of dialogue and story to write, but it means that I can put the action together quickly and convey instantly to the artist what I want my audience to see.

I am really blown away by this. If this is some kind of industry standard in the development process, it probably seems mundane to the rest of you. But to me, it removes one of the big obstacles to working with this medium.
the torch-ginger

Comic Book Questions

I'm trying to learn more about comic books as a storytelling method. I have read only one comic book series, Sandman by Neil Gaiman, long ago and which I loved. But honestly, none of the other comic book series to which I have been introduced (which are few) have interested me.

There is also something a little simplistic about using a series of images to communicate a story. It often seems as if the writers and artists have to be very literal or explicit and that all subtlety is lost. They seem like super hero soap operas. This is an opinion formulated through very little exposure and I would be extremely happy if someone would give me examples to the contrary.

Lately (as I recently discussed with spiderknight), I have started to visualize story ideas in still image form. This is fine, except that the images are not translating well to the written word. I don't know if this is because I am out of practice for writing fiction and the process comes with less ease to me, or if these stories are better suited for a still image method.

I know several of you are fans of comic books and possess a large store of knowledge to draw from. Would you mind answering a few questions for me? You may either leave a comment or email me at ginger.cox at gmail.com.

1. Other than the traditional super hero fare, what types of stories are best told through comics?

2. Do you think the method of serial images lends itself better to certain scenarios?

3. What stories would you not tell via comics?

4. What titles do you recommend of the non super hero variety (I like super heroes; those just aren't the stories I want to tell)?

5. Is there a market for comic novels that are not released serially in segments?
the torch-ginger

Audio Books versus Print Books; and Recommendations

zordac got me a Creative Zen Vision: M for Christmas, which so far I have used only for NPR Podcasts like This American Life, Fresh Air, the Car Talk Call of the Week, and Marketplace.

In addition to the mp3 player, zordac also got me a year's subscription to Audible.com. I have now banked five (5) credits and will start to lose my credits if I don't spend them after six months (i.e. I will lose the credit I earned in December if I have not used it by the middle of June).

So, I'm writing to find out if you, my literary coven of friends, have any recommendations on what titles I should spend these credits on.

Any fiction or non-fiction is fair game, although I would prefer to listen to something new to me (unless I MUST reread to progress to later installments, such as those endless masochistic works of of fantasy fiction). I would also prefer but by no means require that the performance of the narrator distiguishes the audiobook experience from the book itself.

I am afraid that the audio book will lack the function of quickly accessing information for reference. Historical non-fiction such as The Hero With a Thousand Faces and Sailing from Byzantium: How a Lost Empire Shaped the World, may lose some of its usefulness if I have to listen to the whole thing to find a tidbit of information that I may later want to reference or simply refresh in my mind.

The Red Tent

I loaned my mother my copy of Anita Diamant's The Red Tent many months ago. She just called to ask if it was me who had loaned it to her and wanted my permission to loan it to a friend.

She loved it and that fills me with such...contentedness.

My mother and I had opposing tastes in reading when I was growing up. We both read a lot, but she read paperback romance fluff to unwind at the end of the day and I read the classics, fantasy, and even gritty novels. I also enjoy non-fiction, which I've never seen in her hand.

Recently, in her retirement, my mother has started attending a book club. And with all of the Cold Mountain stuff they read, I knew that The Red Tent would be an enjoyable improvement.

I read it during a particularly challenging summer: in Atlanta at my first full time job as a dead-end executive assistant after I'd dropped out of school in April. I remember The Red Tent and Marion Zimmer Bradley's Mists of Avalon as the only moment that didn't shatter my faith in the real world, in work, in an already failing relationship.

My friend Elizabeth keeps asking me if I've ever read The Red Tent. She keeps forgetting who has and who hasn't, for its one of her favorites that she lends out to people. Before I loaned it to my mom, I put my copy in the hands of frolicswllamas and she in turn thrust it onto her mother's reading list. I also bought kesterly her own copy for Christmas and whose mother is reading it now.

It gets around. And for good reason. It's a damn good book.