Finally: Understanding Comics

Sometimes I can’t decide where to write a post – here is one such. It belongs both places, so now here it is!

Comparative Geeks

Life being what it’s been, it’s taken me a while to finally finish reading Understanding Comics, by Scott McCloud. This had been recommended to me by several reliable sources, like GuestGeekBrian, and KazuKibuishi. And how long it took me to get to and read it should be no comment on this book either for how important it is nor how good it is.

[tweet https://twitter.com/compgeeksdavid/status/608305527031013377]

Because it is quite simply one of the best, most important books I have ever read.

In short, this 1992 book attempts to explore the art form of comics at the very core. What it is about comics that make them comics, and not just drawings, or picture books, or illustrated literature, or really any other medium or thing – they are their own thing, described in the singular and plural as “comics.”

Along the way, he argues against any thought that comics…

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If we were having coffee… Train of Thought Edition

“A thirst for the world’s knowledge.”

If we were having coffee, I’d talk about how I started listening to podcasts this week. There are some times at work where they just work great – I can be working on a task, and listening to that, and really actually get really efficient and in the zone. Of course, I’ve also found tasks where they’re a really bad idea… there’s always still listening to music, right?

Speaking of music, I’d ask if you’ve heard the new Florence & the Machine album… it’s pretty great.

I’d say I’ve been thinking about efficiency, about how to be doing things as quickly or effectively as possible, about finding the time again to do things like blog regularly, to work in new things like sketching. All around the Geek Baby, who is of course the priority. Podcasts are just one of those things, letting me double up my time.

And speaking of sketching, I’d mention that I’m thinking it’s time to step up what I’m doing with my Wordless Wednesdays. When they hit a year, it’s time to mix in some things I’ve drawn. And I’d mention I’m looking at taking some art classes.

I also finished reading Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud, and that really was one of the more important things I’ve ever read. It gave me a lot of perspective over things that I have more felt than really had words for. It also reminds me of my series on Science Fiction, Fantasy, and realistic versus romantic literature… it’s about exploring the art, explaining the art, such that it might actually be considered “art” by the establishment.

Which of course goes back to my history thesis, about William Hogarth. Who makes an appearance in Understanding Comics. So you can be sure I’ll be writing some blog posts about that! I think it’s always been comics for me. And I think that helps me finally understand why I haven’t been able to get going writing – because I think it’s comics I want to write, and not just words. We’ll see where that takes me.

I guess as I finish up my coffee I’d need to apologize for dumping so much… but we missed coffee last week, and there’s oh so much time for things to go through your head when you’re awake half the night… and oh so little time to get your thoughts organized.

How’re you? Have you heard Florence & the Machine’s new album? Read Understanding Comics?

Find more folks having coffee connected over on Part-Time Monster!

Z – Zines

ZRather than end the A to Z Challenge with a bang, I think I’m going to end it with a half-joke.

What the heck happened to Zines?

I mean, they seemed like a fad, I suppose, anyway, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised they’re gone. What were they, you ask? To merriam-webster.com!

Zine:

a small magazine that is written by people who are not professional writers and that usually has stories about a particular subject”

e-Zine:

an electronic magazine : a magazine that is on the Internet”

Oh… wait a minute… do they mean a blog?

Blog:

“a Web site on which someone writes about personal opinions, activities, and experiences”

So… kind of. Mostly. Maybe? There are probably a number of Blogs which might be more accurately Zines or e-Zines, maybe especially ones that have a specific subject, and which have multiple writers.

I didn’t end up going with my original plan for the letter M which was going to be Magazines… I felt like I was beating on them enough between Journalism and Newspapers. And because I knew eventually I would be writing about Zines… was it supposed to be the cool, hip, trendy, online word for a magazine? Was it supposed to catch on? Can you choose and control those sorts of things? Or do they just naturally happen – like the adoption of the word Blog instead.

I don’t know. But it seemed like a fun word to close out the A to Z Challenge with! Do you read any Zines? Or did you ever? Let me know in the comments below!

W – Writer’s Block

WAh, Writer’s Block. That scourge of writers the world over. I suppose. Is it though? What are some of the elements of Writer’s Block?

For me, the very first and major hurdle of Writer’s Block is how to start. I, like many writers I imagine, have a number of stories mapped out in my head, notes hidden around in margins, on smart phones, tablets, writing programs. When do you know enough? About your characters, your setting? Do you understand it all? Have you read enough to know that no one else has already written your story? And how do you hook your readers?

This is a hard wall to get past, for sure. As best I understand, at some point you just have to start. For me, that’s still a work in progress.

Once you’re going, maybe you started too soon! Oh no, how do you resolve this part? Describe this scene? How do you convey to your readers exactly what you feel when you think about it? Or maybe you know time needs to pass, but don’t know what might happen between where you’re coming from and where you’re going. Maybe you need to give another character some time in the sun, but aren’t sure what to have happen.

Or maybe Writer’s Block is just your excuse – your excuse for having a life, for letting time get away from you, for not being as diligent in writing as you feel like you ought to be. Because while the largest category is likely the books never written, there is still very likely a very large selection of books started but unfinished. It’s an easy trap to fall into. It’s life.

And then there’s towards the end, you have a written story! But you’re editing. Thinking it through, revising. Have you developed your voice enough? Have you used good language to convey your points and story? And is it something unique, something that hasn’t been written before? Is it something new under the sun?

At some point you have to let it go, have to decide it’s good enough. Not everyone can be J.K. Rowling or George Lucas and edit their works after they’re already published. But before you reach that point, you can likely hit the hardest road blocks, the most doubt: is it good enough? Will anyone, in their right mind – or at least the mind they bring to the table on the day they’re making the decision – publish it? Would you even self-publish it yourself? As you might be your hardest critic, after all.

I can see a lot of things we might mean by Writer’s Block. Once I get going, in a single session, I tend not to stop when writing – I tend to flow. For me, the trouble is getting started, is having the time, is taking the time. How about you? Any Writer’s Block stories or tips to share? Venture forth to the comments below! Can’t think of what to comment about? Writer’s Block strikes again!

R – Realism

RI recently hit back upon the literary terms Realistic and Romantic literature. It was the topic of what is maybe the best blog post I have written. I thought it would be good to consider them a moment here with the A to Z Challenge.

Realistic fiction is, to me, set here in our real world, or very near to it. Here we see people a little like us, or maybe a little not like us, handling situations we might find ourselves in. For me, reading something like this is kind of like playing a sports video game: something that, if I wanted to experience it myself, I would just go out and do it. However, there are plenty of people who read these sorts of works, who love them, all that.

Romantic fiction, meanwhile, is the sort of fiction full of experiences outside of the ordinary. Be it sword and sorcery, space and aliens, steam and gears, angels and demons… You can do whatever you want in romantic literature. This is the realm where geeks live and thrive, and if my other blog Comparative Geeks didn’t give it away, I would definitely call myself a geek. This is my stuff – this is what I consume, what I hope to create, and what I defend when I write posts like this.

And by defend, I mean that there are often cases where large parts of romantic literature are discounted – in academic scholarship, in the “canon” and what is taught in schools, etc. Some of my main frustration, though, comes when dealing with someone who does not *get* the idea of romantic literature, of fantasy and science fiction and fiction in general. The sort of person who is the opposite of me, who reads only realistic works.

Because while I can wholly understand what realistic literature is, what sorts of experiences it might contain within it, and what sorts of characters, that doesn’t mean I have to read it. However, for the person who doesn’t really touch romantic literature – they may not wholly get the idea of it, or the appeal. They often, in my opinion, miss out on the very idea of imagination and fiction in writing. My favorite example is still probably the Da Vinci Code, which had people up in arms against it, as though it was presenting truth. It’s fiction, everybody.

I guess I technically chose the term Realism, so let me close by saying that realism is important in either type of writing. Realism can be created by following realistic chains of cause and effect, or the laws of physics, or a solid understanding of how people act and react, or any number of other subtle or overt measures. And, by removing elements of the real world, it is often even more important that there are elements which hold down realism – like having internally-consistent rules for how magic works within a fantasy universe.

It stands out when realism is thrown out the window, and if done, should be done on purpose. Whether it’s magical realism or adult animated TV shows (The Simpsons, Family Guy, South Park… realism tells us Kenny is assuredly dead), the lack of realism can stand out, and can be used purposefully to tell a story as well.

Oh, and Romantic Literature need not have a romance in it, though that doesn’t seem to stop it from happening…

I feel like I should have a question and I don’t. What are your thoughts on these two large groupings of literature? Let me know!

O – Onomatopoeia

OAfter some heavier posts, I am glad I set myself aside a nice, light, fun topic to discuss. Onomatopoeia. Not only a fiendishly difficult word to spell, it is a great element of writing, and language in general. Not remembering what it is from school? To the dictionary!

“The naming of a thing or action by a vocal imitation of the sound associated with it.”

Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online

And would you look at that? According to Merriam-Webster,

Onomatopoeia is currently in the top 1% of lookups and is the 29th most popular word on Merriam-Webster.com.”

What makes this word so popular? Is it the fact that it seems to be taught in classes all around? Is it because the idea of it is so interesting, and everyone is looking for examples? Is it because people are just trying to figure out how the heck to spell it?

I don’t have the answer, but one of my favorite uses of onomatopoeia would have to actually be the Adam West Batman show, where they would cut away to scenes that just read POW or BAM. Like this!

How about you? What’s your favorite use of Onomatopoeia? And what do you think leads to its popularity in the dictionary? Let me know in the comments below!

A – Author

A

To kick off the A to Z Challenge, I gave myself an easy one. My topic for the challenge (as you can check out here) is writing, and the world of writing, and so there is not much more critical to this than the author. Books don’t write themselves, as I’m sure someone in the history of the world has said before, and so it goes.

The question often comes up: at what point can you call yourself a writer? The answer tends to have to do with writing – do you write? And in a lot of ways, a lot of the time, there are folks who are writers who are not paid for it, or not paid yet, not published yet, what have you. Take most bloggers, for instance. A consistent blogger might not be paid – and power to those who are! – but they are writing.

However, is there a difference between this and being an author? Is Author, perhaps, the concept that goes along with Being Published? Being paid for your writing? Or maybe it has to do more with something specific, about writing specific sorts of things. Authors write novels. Or wait, are those novelists? Authors can write short stories, after all. Or what about screenplays? Plays plays? Poetry? Or are there other words for these sorts of people – playwrights and poets?

Clearly, this seemingly simple term needs some help. How about Merriam-Webster?

A person who has written something; especially : a person who has written a book or who writes many books.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/author

So I don’t know if that’s the answer. One who has written something is an author; they might also be a more specific sort of author, like a blogger or a poet. But still an author.

What about you – what do you think of if someone were to tell you they were an author? What would your assumption be about their work, or what questions would you ask them? Let me know in the comment section down below!

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