A Dark Night’s Sorrow: An Addison Recorder Editorial

To begin, let me just say that, on behalf of all of us at the Addison Recorder, I would like to offer our condolences to all of the victims of the shooting that happened early this morning at the movie theatre in Aurora, CO. These murders are horrifying, a senseless act of violence that might seem like a vast impossibility, and because of the nature of this particular act, many of us around the nation, and the world, are in a deep state of mourning today.

There are many things to be said about this attack. I want to try and keep from politicizing the nature of the event, casting blame about, and making this into something more than it is. Lord knows that I want to rant about several things, and I’ve struggled with this in my mind as I sit down to write out my thoughts and feelings. Therefore, I apologize if this gets wordy, windy, or overly dramatic. If you wish to avoid such thoughts (though I’m trying to avoid getting preachy), close out now and you won’t have to suffer through my thoughts.

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Observing the Observers Verbal Portraits from the Comics: Philosophy & Practice Conference, University of Chicago, May 2012

The writer needs to think as visually as the artist.

This is especially true in my chosen medium, but even without the presence of graphic narrative’s pictures, any serious writer needs to have characters visible in the mind’s eye. The close watching of human behaviors, physical qualities, and similar traits is a source of detail to borrow and inspiration to run with; the mere imagining of a single physical attribute may lead to a character’s entire backstory being formed.

It took me many years to learn how to pay attention to people, and it is a skill I am still honing, but I will always remember the moment when it became apparent to me how clearly the lesson had been learned. I was interviewing a friend of mine about her life to get some psychological insight for a project I had conceived… which is now, in part thanks to her, taking on new proportions. While taking notes, various aspects of her presence became more and more apparent with time: when her eyes would shift at some memories and glow at others. When she would pick at a small scab on her pristine white skin. And when how, deep in thought, she would finger her necklace. Suddenly, much richer and more textured creations came into my mind than had been imagined before.

The writer needs to be as visual as the artist.

Although for artists the significance level ratchets up. Observation of life and people is the foundation of their entire existence. In particular, the artists whose work has so greatly influenced me, my colleagues in the world of graphic narrative, whose portraiture skills, ranging from the ultra-realistic to the fancifully grotesque, have reinvented the comics world from the DC and Marvel tradition of heroes and action to gripping, emotional stories which break the rules of genre.

There is a lot to be written about the Comics: Philosophy & Practice conference held at the Logan Arts Center of the University of Chicago last month. The archives will preserve all what was said, but when I decided this was something I had to document from my point of view, the idea of truly looking at these luminaries, scrutinizing them a little as they scrutinize others, latched on to me hard.

What follows are my notes from the field.

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David Boring and The Avengers

My quest to absorb every cultural artifact which piques my interest will occasionally lead to strange convergences. Like the first incredibly depressing night I ever had in Los Angeles, when reading the final chapters of Watchmen coincided with Netflix sending me Requiem for a Dream.

I never want to even REMEMBER that night again.

Most recently, on an enlightening and far more positive note, I watched Joss Whedon’s The Avengers.

(This is not going to be a review of The Avengers. There is not much to say regarding the picture except that any group or individual expectations for the film were met or surpassed. One could not have asked for a more perfect extravaganza, 21st-century style.)

The night before going to the cinema, I finished Daniel Clowes’s 2000 graphic novel David Boring. Written and drawn immediately after his much-revered Ghost World, David Boring is a shorter but denser, more ambitious story, taking on Ghost World’s themes of alienation, aimlessness, and the human desire for emotional commitment from a very different angle. In its medium, it is as much an aesthetic success as The Avengers.

Despite the vast dissimilarity of their works, Clowes and Whedon surprisingly use very similar plot elements, and when considering the novel and film in tandem, a single conclusion is reached.

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