Monday, May 19, 2008

The Saints - Night Meeting #1

Everyone had thought that Thomas was asleep when they met in the main room of the decrepit two-story building that they referred mockingly as "the shit-hole headquarters of failures." Derek had thought of it. The walls were dangling with falling strips of wallpaper and the floors had some kind of major water damage down to it years ago.

"We need a knew safe house," Thrill complained.

"Don't call it a safe house. Makes us sound like criminals," Derek said. Thrill laughed at his remark, muttered something about "pathetic" and then was quiet.

Saint gave them both a stern look. "Don't worry about the safehou-"(Derek glared at him)"...I mean, headquarters, right now. We have to find a full-time caretaker Guardian for Thomas. The three of us may need to fight in order to keep him safe, but we need someone to stick by him at all times, guaranteeing his safety. Do any of you know where we could find one?"

Derek and Thrill gave Saint blank looks. "Great," he said.

"I know where one is," said a young voice behind them. In the shadows of the main room, Thomas stood rather stoically. "She took care of me when I was young. Aunt Hestia said she would forever take care of me. Then she moved away and went to college. I haven't seen her sense."

"Your aunt Hestia said that?" asked Saint.

"Yeah. She said her power would be perfect for the Caretaker. She described all of my Guardians to me. And I know Purity is my Caretaker. It just fits."

The three Guardians looked at their dependent, stunned. "Well, I guess it's settled then," Saint finally said. "We go find Purity and appoint her Caretaker of Thomas."

"Who the fuck is Aunt Hestia?" Thrill asked.

"Language, Thrill!" Derek said, nudging his head in Thomas's direction.

"Whatever. Who is she?"

"She was Thomas's aunt, and she was a prophet. She could see things before they happened. And very well, I might add," Saint explained.

"So you've met her?" Derek asked.

"Yes, when I first met Thomas 10 years ago. She explained that I would be his main Guardian, and that Thomas was the most important person in the world and he must be kept alive. Her predictions never failed. So I'm going to trust this one," Saint finished and started heading toward his bedroom. "Let's all get sleep and find Purity in the morning."

"Why don't we just go to this Aunt Hestia and make her tell us who the other Guardians are?" Thrill suggested.

"Maybe," Saint answered. "We'll see." With that, he vanished in to his dark room, closing the door behind him.

"Good meeting, everyone. Have a good night!" Thomas said with a bright smile, then skipped into his room.

Thrill and Derek stood and looked at each other for a moment.

"This is getting more and more fucked up every day," Thrill replied.

"No shit," Derek said.

Then the two left for their rooms, and the old building was silent.


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

excerpts from a letter to him

You were not meant to read this whole letter, only he was. But here are parts of it I found to be incredibly self-realizing sentences.

"Part 1

My mind is lost. Lost forever.
Admittedly, it is the least of my problems.
You see, I'm the most important person in my life.
At least, right now, I am.
This stems back to years of trying to please
and, needless to say, I lost my mind.

Drugs were involved. (Lots of drugs.)
And my first true love rejecting me.
And my family finally revealing themselves.
I dated around, not very much.
But all ended on my terms, under my control.
When I decided to change myself,
Boys were pushed aside.
My friends were pushed aside.
My family were pushed aside.
Only I remained, scared shitless.
I had lost my mind.

The only thing left to do was rebuild.
I started remembering bits of me.
I took the bits and built upon them.
/I am an intelligent person./
/I am a loyal person./
/I am an observer./
/I am a great listener./
/I am a driven person./
/I am a stubborn prick./
/I am a talented mind./
/I deserve love./

As the bits returned and expanded,
A new mind was created.

  • A mind of knowledge, useful and useless.
  • A mind of emotion, sensitive and caring.
  • A mind of hopes, optimistic and grand.
  • A mind worthy of giving love to those who earn it and give it back
  • A mind capable of independence

I became someone who didn't need anyone.
It was scary, but I realized it was maturity.
The mind, forever lost, was now fixed.
I am the most important person in my life.

And then I met you."

"Part 2

Tonight I asked my love what he thought of you.
He looked at me straight in the eyes.
'You know I don't have the answer. What do you think?'
I was taken aback. 'But you are my love!
Certainly my love that I have inside me would know if I was
In love or not!'
He stared at me, smirking. Then he answered my question.
'It is too early to tell. But I do stir when he is around. It makes you
'Shut up,' I told my love, and left.

The term 'boyfriend' doesn't agree with me. When I have a boyfriend, I'm usually unhappy and eager to end the relationship. Every boyfriend I've had, I've been focusing on their flaws and little annoying quirks. I become this over-analytical grumpy mess until I break up with the guy. I have avoided having a boyfriend for a year and four months now. The experience has been rewarding, reassuring myself that I am a person who doesn't need to lean on others to get by. I had decided I don't want a boyfriend. Not unless I fell in love, of course. And that'll never happen, right? RIGHT?"

The rest of the letter was not meant for your eyes. Only his.


Thursday, May 1, 2008

Final paper in W131

(It may be hard to understand without the appendixes (spelling?) but here's my final research paper for my English class. Read if care.)

If someone were to approach you with a stack of comic books or graphic novels and said, “You should really read these,” you might laugh at such a childish suggestion. Why bother with dumb superheroes when you can watch a movie, read a novel, or go see a play just as easily for a good story? Instead of reading Batman or The Incredible Hulk, you might prefer the tales found in The Great Gatsby, Huck Finn, or The Catcher In The Rye. Sure, those novels are intriguing, thought provoking, and entertaining reads. But there might be something about comic books that you could be overlooking. Behind the glossy cover page, the pictures and words found within create a reading experience that is utterly unique. Comics has gained a legion of followers that consider Superman’s triumphs over Lex Luthor to be more fulfilling than Huck Finn’s journey down the Mississippi River. Some people prefer the adventures of the teenage superhero Invincible to the teenage cynic Holden Caulfield. Why would that select few comic book “geeks” prefer such frivolous things? What do comics do to create a different experience from all other mediums?

Comic books and graphic novels have been a growing medium since the 1940’s. Characters like Superman and Captain America stood for the American dreams and freedoms during World War II, and years later, superheroes such as Batman, Iron Man, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, the X-Men, and the Fantastic Four were flying off the racks and into popular culture. For decades, capes, catch phrases, and women in peril were common vernacular in successful comic books, but the market would soon change. In 1941, Will Eisner, pioneer of graphic literature, described comic books as, “…embryo of a new art form…an illustrated novel. It is new and raw in form just now, but material for limitless intelligent development. And eventually and inevitably it will be a legitimate medium for the best writers and artists” (Eisner 17). Comics would soon become much more than just superheroes, but explorations of humanity, of what is to be a hero and what it takes, of concepts unimaginable in modern day reality, and sometimes explorations on what reality really means to us. Comics became a mirror to the world such as novels and poetry, art, movies, and theatre, but in its own unique way.

As Mark Siegal, publisher of First Second Books, an all-graphic imprint of Roaring Brook, explains, “In any other medium, they (movies, prose, or theatre) might tell the same story, but they would never be able to give you the same experience. And the reading experience is the key. You read a graphic novel with a different part of your brain, it elicits a different mental circuitry and a different emotional possibility than movies or prose or theatre…When people tell me they don’t ‘get’ how to read comics, it’s often because they aren’t actively joining in the storytelling – at some level, you have to tell yourself what you’re seeing in the pictures, as well as read the words. And let the two do their dance in your mind” (quoted in “The Art Of Graphic Literature”). The dance Siegal is referring to is between the visible and the invisible. It is unique to the comic book form, using only the sense of sight to convey all the experiences and emotions that may actually exist in the scene or scenes (McCloud 89-92).

There are a number of examples in popular comic series today that show the dance between the visible and invisible. In the series Fables, the first page of issue #5 is an excellent start of how one page can set an entire atmosphere as well as set up the action (Appendix A). The reader sees the cityscape against a dark night as the background for the first panel. Dialogue (from the character Detective Bigby Wolf) seems to float over the city while a square panel to the right focuses on Bigby’s hand selecting a match out of a matchbook, informing the reader of what action is taking place during the dialogue. The next panel down is still the cityscape, only closer to the rooftop where a party is being held, the same party Bigby is attending. His dialogue continues to float down toward the rooftop to his position while another square panel to the right depicts Bigby striking the match on the matchbook, igniting it with a “sssstrrrcchh” sound effect written over the action. Already, the reader reads the words, sees the location, and also sees what Bigby is doing while he explains how life as a cop isn’t as exciting as it may show you in the media. The last panel at the bottom is a very close view of the rooftop party, and the reader sees Bigby surrounded by the main characters featured in the series. The last square panel to the right shows Bigby lighting his cigarette, finally finished with his verbal tirade. On that page, in those three panels, the reader is made aware of all the necessary action, the location and atmosphere, the other characters present, while giving an insight into Bigby’s views on his law-enforcement duties (Willigham 98).

Some comic books can create very comedic scenes through the use of this unique medium. Take, for example, Invincible issue #8 (Appendix B). As the reader sees in the top three panels, the teenage superhero Invincible (also known as Mark) is consoling his superheroine friend, Atom Eve, after she has discovered her boyfriend has been cheating on her with a fellow superhero on their superteam. By the middle panel, she has laid her head on Mark’s lap when he starts to say all the right things. In the bottom left panel, Mark’s mother has walked into the room, and from her position, the whole scene seems a little provocative. The following two panels are obviously humorous due to the misunderstanding. This scene might have been easily pulled off in a movie or TV show, but accomplishing it just through art and words makes it somehow more funny and you feel almost as humiliated as Invincible does (Kirkman 78).

Really, it’s not that difficult to achieve any genre of storytelling in comic books and graphic novels. A popular genre in comics is horror, and one of the shining achievements of the horror/fantasy genre is Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. In issue #6 entitled “24 Hours,” an insane, homicidal villain named Johnny Dee has taken a small-town diner and its occupants hostage for twenty four hours, controlling their actions and torturing their minds and bodies. Johnny Dee uses the power of a mystical crystal to do this, a mystical crystal that rightly belongs to Dream, the Sandman, and one of the seven Endless siblings. The scenes of focus (Appendix C) are of hour fifteen and sixteen. The top four panels, hour fifteen, Johnny Dee decides to give the victims their rational minds back for a moment. They plead with him, beg him to explain why he is causing such terror, but he scoffs at their questions. His simple response of, “Because I can,” juxtaposed with the frightening image of Johnny Dee’s barely visible skeletal face sends shivers down the reader’s back. The bottom four panels are of hour sixteen, which is entitled “Party Games.” “Murder in the dark…” is the only clue the caption in the first panel gives us, against a pitch-black square, signifying that all the lights are off in the diner. The second panel is still dark, but now eerily quiet. In the third scene in the left bottom panel, a scream rings out in the darkness. In the last panel, we “hear” Johnny Dee giggling manically. Whatever happened in those four black panels are up to the reader to figure out with the few clues that were given. The end result can terrorize your imagination (Gaiman 175).

One of the most innovative, critically acclaimed, and award-winning graphic novels thus far is Watchmen, written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons. The dark, intricate, political, and almost satirical tale of superheroes and the real-world issues they face became an instant classic in the comic book community when released between 1986 and 1987, as well as becoming respected by literary readers and critics. One of the most fascinating and innovative chapters in the twelve issue series is issue #5 entitled “Fearful Symmetry,” a nod to the William Blake poem, Tyger. The first page of the issue (Appendix D) is sectioned into nine panels, each differently colored due to the flashing of a sign hanging off-page. The last page of the issue is sectioned exactly the same (Appendix E). The interesting thing that comes into play is the skewed symmetry of this entire issue. The first panel on the first page directly mirrors the last panel on the last page. The second panel on the top of the first page, depicting the character Rorschach’s foot stepping into a puddle, directly mirrors the second to the last panel at the bottom of the last page, which shows Rorschach’s feet lying in the puddle. The trend continues throughout the issue, meeting in the middle for a glorious splash page (Appendix F and G) showing Ozymandias taking down an assassin who has attempted to take his life. Each side of the pages directly mirrors each other in action and intent. The technique of this “fearful symmetry” is one that could never be truly captured in any other medium (Moore Chapter V 1, 14, 15, and 28).

These examples are to illustrate the stories, concepts, ideas, and emotions that could not be as easily accomplished in other mediums such as TV, movies, prose, art, or stage production. These certain contextual and visual clues are only available in comic books and graphic novels, making it an innovative medium for any creative and artistic persona. It is still hard to perceive comic books and graphic novels as young and still developing, but that only leaves room for more talented artists and writers to tell us stories and excite our minds. The innovation of the medium is only improving, and there is such much more that could be achieved. Some may say it’s never going to replace the classics mentioned at the beginning of this discussion, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be given a glance. Comic books and graphic novels will steer your mind into a direction of storytelling you may have never experienced before, and that alone is worth a look. It is a completely different reading experience, one that you should cherish. So pick up that stack of comics you’ve been asked to read. You may be pleasantly surprised.


“The Art Of Graphic Literature.” Kirkus Reviews 01 December 2007: page 18

Eisner, Will. Life, In Pictures. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, INC, 2007.

Gaiman, Neil. The Sandman – Volume 1: Preludes & Nocturnes. New York: DC Comics, 1995.

Kirkman, Robert. Invincible – Volume 2: Eight Is Enough. Orange, California: Image Comics, 2004.

McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, INC, 1994.

Moore, Alan. Watchmen. New York: DC Comics, 1986-1987.

Willingham, Bill. Fables – Volume 1: Legends In Exile. New York: DC Comics, 2002.