As the Joker? Don't get me wrong, I adore Heath Ledger and have since "Ten Things I Hate About You." I thought he was a genius in "Brokeback Mountain," where he finally got to show his range (no pun intended). But is he nuts enough to play the Joker? I mean, Christian Bale is just creepy and psychopathic enough to make the perfect Batman: flawed, self-righteous, tormented. And casting Cillian Murphy as the villain the last time around was brilliant. But lovely Heath as one of the incarnations of evil in Gotham? I have to admit the trailer for "The Dark Knight" looks good, and the makeup is . . . interesting. I didn't recognize him before I went to the Imdb site. Even then I could barely see him beneath the makeup and the disguised voice. I'm willing to be convinced, though. Sadly, Maggie Gyllenhaal is back too; let's hope she can hold her own a little better this time with the likes of Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, and Morgan Freeman. But it's Heath I'm really worried about. Don't let me down, man.
I've mentioned before my interest in Japanese art and comics, so I was happy to stumble across the reminder of this now-online exhibit of Japanese books, "Ehon: The Artist and the Book in Japan," from the New York Public Library, courtesy of Intute. This was on a while ago and I can't imagine how I managed to miss it, but I did. Fortunately, it's online now.
Ehon are picture books, and included in the show are sutras, albums, instruction books, fiction and poetry, including a copy of Genji Monogatari, "The Tale of Genji," one of Japan's most popular stories, with a beautiful cover. NYPL's exhibit page describes ehon as "part of an incomparable 1,230-year-old Japanese tradition. Created by artists and craftsmen, most ehon also feature essays, poems, or other texts written in beautiful, distinctive calligraphy. They are by nature collaborations: visual artists, calligraphers, writers, and designers join forces with papermakers, binders, block cutters, and printers. The books they create are strikingly beautiful, highly charged microcosms of deep feeling, sharp intensity, and extraordinary intelligence."
See what I mean? Unlike modern manga, it's done mostly in spreads, rather than panels, and the style is very different, of course, but the story-telling-in-pictures thing is definitely there. The drawings in it are gorgeous, though the covers are quite plain. There are other early manga from Hokusai (one of my favorite early printmakers) as well.
The other books in the exhibit are just as detailed and lovely in completely different ways, though it's more the contents than the bindings that are so stunning. Go take a looks.
Just as an intertesting piece of trivia, I thought you might be interested to know that Hokusai coined the term "manga" which means "loose pictures" - i.e. sketches. His manga were the same as Renaissance "cartoons" - early sketches for later works. It always interested me that both words had a similar history.
The first manga as we know them were done post-WWII and they were origianlly called "redbooks" (Akahon) because of the cheap red paper that they were on.
Erica will be at Javits Center this weekend at the New York Anime Fair, Table 353. Drop in and say hello. And buy something while you're there.
When I first moved to New York, I worked at a legal publisher and learned the fine art of copy editing and proofreading. You'd think being a writer and English major would already be good preparation for that, and it is, but only to a certain extent. Copy editing and proofreading require an entirely different mindset than writing does. Proofreading, especially, means training your eye to focus on spelling and punctuation, on the way sentences look, rather than on extracting the information in them. Copy editing less so; you're still reading for sense, but only in a very superficial way. You're more worried about whether the sentence is clearly expressed and tightly constructed than about the overarching argument. Clearly, that depends on the level of copy editing, too, which can vary from slightly above proofreading to a substantive rewrite.
The trouble is, once you train your eye to see these things, you see them everywhere. It's a curse. The misplaced, overused apostrophe; the misspellings, the horrible grammar become a form of constant torture. Chinese take-out menus seem to be the worst, which is understandable. At least it's a translation from another language, and God knows English is an extremely confusing language with contradictory and absurd rules. But some of the worst offenders are (ready for it?) advertising copy writers. Advertising seems to have its own rules of grammar, and it's nigh unto impossible to save copy writers from their own cleverness sometimes. And punctuation? Merely decorative.
When I was still working for the legal publishers, there was a cartoon in The New Yorker that I cannot now find (and why is that? Why is it that the things I think are funny or the paintings I like never seem to be popular enough to reproduce? What do you mean, weird? What are you saying, here? Huh?) that showed a gang of people with red pens marauding across the city correcting the spelling, grammar, and punctuation of various public documents. The caption was "Rogue Copy Editors."
. . . will be right here on September 26th. So send me your nominations by Wednesday September 19th. No restrictions on topics, other than that it should have something to do with feminism in all its many stripes and science fiction/fantasy/spec fic in its many-colored paisleys. Pieces on comics & manga, gaming, anime, and other media are not just welcome, but expected. It would hardly be a carnival without the variety. Posts written between August 13th and September 19th are eligible.
A little note: a while back, I was briefly involved in a plot to get middle school girls interested in science by developing a comic book or manga series with strong, smart, confident and cool sciencey heroines. Though I bowed out of the project, I'd gone pretty far down the road to mapping out one possible permutation and some of the characters are still floating around in my head. I wish they'd been there when I set off for college to major in biology. SF was one of the things that got me interested in doing science and keeps me interested in it. Anybody else have similar experiences? This isn't so much a suggested theme as an excuse to talk about why some of us really like the "hard" science titles as much as fantasy or spec fic, despite the fact that hard SF has always been seen as male territory for both writers and readers. Don't feel constrained by this idea though. If it's got SF/Fantasy/spec fic & feminism somewhere in the mix, send it along.
I love the way language, especially English, develops new terms to express new ideas. I just learned a new(ish) term today, via The International Journal of the Book's blog: blook. What's the difference between a blog and a blook? Well, blooks resemble books in some manner, either by having a continuous coherent narrative (a serialized story) or by mimicking the form of books in the physical world. A blog can turn into a blook but it's probably a one-way trip. For instance, if my friend Jennifer decided to publish pieces of her excellent blog, Cocktail Party Physics, as a physical collection of essays (something I think would be an excellent idea at some point), that would be a blook. There's even a quite nice prize for "books based on blogs or other websites, including webcomics."
I'm glad to see webcomics included in the mix, being a particular fan of many of them myself. Among my favorites: Dicebox, Girl Genius, Sluggy Freelance, Nothing Better. The web has been a great medium for comics, and it's great to see some of the really excellent work that's out there have a chance to see print, though I'm not sure that brings it a wider audience. There's still something about having a physical book in your hand that makes it seem like you've "made it." I think that has something to do with the fact that it's a collaborative, collective effort that involves validation of your work by professionals (although increasingly that means "marketing people," sadly). After all, any schmoe with some rudimentary knowledge of HTML can launch a website (witness mine) or self-publish, but professionally published books cost money and time and effort by a lot of people, so they have to think you actually have some talent to publish you. (Obviously, I'm not addressing the plethora of really bad books that get publish just as potboilers to feed both author and publishing company. But that's another post.)
I wonder if the flag book I'm planning would qualify as a blook? The pictures for it are digital (no text yet, if at all) and live on my Flickr account, from where they were made into Moo cards and will be put together by me. If so, that would make it an artist's blook. Maybe that's a whole new genre itself. Cool!
Cuz all you'll do is their laundry (and them, presumably). Once again, it's brought forcefully home to me that misogyny is not only alive and well, but still thriving, and being happily passed on to the next generation. I'm a little late to this party, but I just have to say WTF?! Whose brilliant idea was this piece of crap "action" figure?
Fortunately, it's been brilliantly counteracted by Logansrogue, who not only drew up the bitchin' prototype of Peter Parker in a posing pouch (say that fast five times) washing out MJ's lingerie, but had the ovaries to post it on the Marvel blog (from which it was summarily deleted. Chickenshits). Go read her post for the whole delicious guerrilla counteraction, with the sketch.
The topic has been pretty well worked over already, and really, it all seems so obvious. Why isn't it? Why does it have to be pointed out that this is not cute or funny or sexy, but demeaning? Why is this concept so hard to grasp? Because the obtuseness of producing something like this makes men seem either stupid or willfully ignorant. Or worse, that you just really don't care what we think. As one commenter on the Girl Wonder forum wrote, it may look sexy to you, but "the only thing I can think of is 'She's presenting like a mandrill!'" Repeat after me, boyz: Portraying women performing subservient acts in a sexually enticing pose is not flattering and it won't get you a date, let alone laid. Does this illustration from Logansrogue help get the point across?
Not so funny now that it's Bend Over Spidey, is it? All I can add is, Rock On, Logansrogue. And don't you idiots at Sideshow (and Marvel) have mothers, wives, daughters? And why haven't the former two whacked you upside the head for the sake of the latter? Is this the kind of image you want to give your adolescent girls? Is this what you really think of your wives? Ya'll could learn a thing or two from Joss Whedon.
I have, sadly, bought my last action figure from you jerks, which is too bad, cuz your Obi & Qui rock. This is just too egregious to let slide. Can you spell boycott? Or in this case, girlcott, mofos. Oh wait, you might take that last a little too literally. My bad.
Update: This just gets better and better, actually, or worse and worse, depending on your viewpoint. Here's the perpetrator, er, artist, Adam Hughes, on the MJ figure's genesis:
Also, if it was Mary Jane doing the laundry, there would’ve been suds everywhere, and I would’ve done a better job of doing it, so there would be no question – that would be Mary Jane doing the laundry. I thought it was a kind of cute, funny, “discovery” moment with a classic pin-up feel. That’s pretty much all I was shooting for. Yeah, she’s sexy, yeah, she’s dressed like a sexy chick…but look at her history – that’s how she’s been portrayed for years, even when she’s not doing chores. Mary Jane is a bit of a bimbo. She’s been a supermodel and a dancer, an actress and a model…so I gave her a cute, sexy moment.
If she's not doing the laundry, what is she doing? Just posing with Spidey's wet duds? Oh please. No woman thinks housework, espcially hand laundry, is arousing or sexy.
So the "Classic pin-up feel" makes it somehow excuseable? What part of "objectification" does he not understand?
MJ is really a bimbo, so it's okay to objectify her? Model, dancer, actress, they're not serious careers. She's just playing around. Isn't that cute?
Phew! So I'm done guest blogging for Jen, which has generated some nice hits for this blog. <Shout out to all my new readers—all six of you!> Great opportunity and lots of fun, but wow! Lots of work, too. Jen's blog is so focused that it's much more like writing magazines pieces than blogging. There's much more research involved, more fact-checking, more editing, less spontaneity all around. Each piece takes several hours to write and research and that's more time than I have right now. There was a period when I was doing this for my own blog(s), but with a part-time job, it meant that that was pretty much all I was doing with my free time: no social life, no other writing, just blog, blog, blog. For someone like me, it's not sustainable. That's kind of a shame, because it's both interesting and fun, and you never know what you're going to stumble across while doing research. Things I Learned While Looking Up Other Things.
Aside from the job projects that are kicking my butt (but not worth mentioning in their boringness), I'm in the early stages of submitting a proposal to the Feminist Press for a graphic novel/manga/comic book (we haven't decided on the final form yet) that will help interest girls in science and encourage them to pursue it. It's due in October, so I've got my work cut out for me, just getting the proposal ready: character outlines, story outlines, finding an artist. I've got some good ideas for both characters and plots but they need quite a lot of fleshing out. The two hardest things, I think are going to be lining up projects for my intrepid field scientists, and finding an artist I can work with. This is a totally new genre for me, also, and I'm going to have to learn how to strip everything down to the bare minimum and still tell a story in conjunction with the art. I daresay this can only be good for my innate tendency to verbosity.
It would also be, if I get the contract, something of a dream fulfilled. I've always thought writing for comics would be a fab job, a bit like being paid to do fanfic, if one wound up writing for a series one liked. Imagine working on the X-Men or (shiver!) Batman! And yet this project excites me just as much, because it presents an opportunity to do something about the abysmal way women are treated and portrayed in the comics, and to do some double duty in making science seem really exciting as a career for girls.
I'll keep you all posted on the project and where it's going. Stay, uh, "tooned."
Went to the MoCCA (Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art) Art Festival at the Puck Building today with Erica, which was both business and pleasure. We were both looking for pretty much the same thing—women comic artists—so it was a good excuse to see each other, and it was interesting on several levels. She introduced me to a couple of artists she knows from Yuricon, and we both handed out either business cards or advertisements (in Erica's case). I haven't been to a comic con before, and I suspect this one is a bit different from the New York Comicon or the standard ones elsewhere in that it was mostly independents. Top Shelf was the biggest outfit there. I half expected to see Dark Horse too, but I guess once you've sold your soul to signed on with Lucasfilm, you're not really an independent anymore. Nor were Marvel or DC anywhere to be seen. Houghton Mifflin was there, as were Pantheon Books (a Random House division), Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly, Alternative Comics, and Ad House Books, but that was it for the "big" houses. The rest was refreshingly independent.
There was just about everything else too, from fanboys and fangirls to the struggling pros on the verge of the big time, many in both categories producing some really fine work. And it was really heartening to see that about a quarter to a third of the tables were occupied by women—and not just chicks there supporting their boyfriends, either. Here's a couple of my new favorites, including a print & webcomic I'm now totally hooked on:
Tyler Page's Nothing Better—What happens when an atheist punk party chick and a straight-laced religious girl wind up as roomies at a Christian college (Jen Ouellette can probably answer this too)? Really nice art and a pretty realistic portrayal of those undergraduate beer and big questions nights. The story in the first comic is a dead ringer for the first night of my sophomore year, when my new roommate got completely trashed on on the trashcan punch.
The Devil's Panties: "It's not Satanic Porn! Honest!"—But it's fun. And you have to love it just for the title.
Miriam Libicki's Jobnik—Her semi-autobiographical comic about a Jewish American girl in the Israeli Army. Plus a fascinating essay on Israeli women soldiers as fetish objects.
One of the things I was thinking about and actually observed in looking at so many women comic artists, is the how differently women portray themselves from the way men portray women in comics. When they're not drawing stick-figured fashion models (which the illustrators seem to do more than the women who call themselves comic artists) or big-eyed manga characters, most of the "cartoon" women drawn by women are much more realistic. Miriam Libicki is a great example. Her Jobnik soldier looks solid in her army fatigues. Tyler Page's college girls (and guys) look as normal as anyone you know. "Coffee" Ozker's Fragile Ego characters are just people too. Now click on over to the Foglio's Girl Genius (a comic I adore, BTW). Agatha dresses very modestly, but half the time in the early comic the poor girl's running around in her (equally modest Victorian) underwear with lots of cleavage showing. To be fair, Agatha's probably the least offensive example I could name. She's cute and smart, but it's mostly about the smarts, which is not true in general of other female characters drawn by men. The acronym BBB (Big Breasted Bimbo) may have been coined to describe the covers of pulp SF books, but it applied equally to most comicbook women. So it's refreshing to see more authentic portrayals.
I'm also a little tempted to go back tomorrow and browse around just looking at the zines alone. As a bookmaker, it's always cool to see what other people are doing. One of the little treasures I found was a handmade piece for which I coughed up forty bucks to a very shy young woman named Molly Goldbloom (I may have spelled it wrong since she could hardly bear to speak up to tell me how), who'd made this fabulous bat book. It's printed on both sides and made specifically with feathered edges to look like a bat; the wings unfold to reveal a compartment on the body that opens out into an accordion fold covered in death's head moths. It's a sort of ghoulish little book, but really clever, and worth the money, since it meant hand making the paper bats as well as all the gluing and folding and drawing. Lots of work.
And catching up with Erica was, of course, lots of fun, though we seemed to be having a bad food day somehow. I won't go into the specifics, but it was a little odd that the wait staff in the Noho Star managed to drop more crockery in the hour we were there than probably happens in a week. At the very least, though, it was a pretty successful schmoozing trip and a way fun afternoon.
This cartoon (click the thumbnail for full size popup), sent to me today by Em, appeals in so many ways I can hardly enumerate them: the Trekkie, the blogger, the comic/cartoon fan, the 9-5 grunt, the free speech advocate, the shit-stirrer. Not to mention that it's a geek comic to start with. It's nearly the perfect cartoon.
Then there's this one, sent to me by Michelle Levy a while ago, which is laughable because it's just the opposite for me. Not that I'm making any money blogging, mind you, but I love the irony of it.
Poetry Links: Where to hear it, see it, perform it
Academy of American Poets Sponsors National Poetry Month in April and has a huge audio archive of readings, much of it available online. They even have an iPhone app!
City Lore City Lore is the co-sponsor (with Poets House) of the biennial poetry festival in downtown Manhattan showcasing the nation’s – and the world’s – literary and folk poetry traditions with special attention to poetry’s oral roots.
Howl Festival The annual Poetry, Theater, Performance Art, Film Comedy and Dance festival in the East Village, usually in September. Named after Allen Ginsberg’s poem.
Nuyorican Poets Cafe Slams, literary events, readings, music, theater. Founded ca. 1973, originally as a home salon by lit professor Miguel Algarin. Old School slammin'. Don't miss it.
Poets House: A Place for Poetry Newly renovated and fantastically beautiful: a vast library of poetry books; literary center for readings and performances.
St. Mark's Poetry Project Started in 1966, the Poetry Project was one of the inspirations for the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. In addition to weekly readings and workshops, they hold a 24-hour poetry reading on New Year’s Day each year.