Parents: Make your kids read comics!

•March 5, 2015 • Leave a Comment

In the last couple of months I had the pleasure of enjoying the company of lots of kids in my immediate surroundings.

These kids ranged in ages between 2 and 10, and they were a riot and a hoot.

The main thing that got to me was the clear distinction of attitudes between the kids that belonged to parents who were invested in reading and the ones who spend more time with TV on tablets.

KIDS.5f5v1

Here are the things I need to make you aware of, things I concluded after this hands on experience:

  • Children shouldn’t watch more than 1 hour a day of TV. I’ll make an exception to this: If you live with parents that are illiterate and the sum of culture you may obtain from TV surpasses the amount of culture and life lessons your parents can give you…then please, have those kids watch a lot of TV, preferably PBS programs.
  • Not watching TV goes hand in hand with spending interactive time with them, preferably doing enjoyable learning activities.
  • Children spending time on tablets receive a similar negative effect as watching TV. It is not as bad but almost.
  • Children have to spend time with different types of personalities to learn people skills. Not just dad and mom. Preferably other kids, and even better from other cultures and backgrounds.

I enjoyed witnessing a very young toddler getting into the habit of having her parent read comics to her, while a friend of the same age  had the TV on all the time and the parents kept pushing her towards tv shows and nikelodeon.

The first child enjoys comics, and loves pictures. Now 6 months into reading to her, she grabs comics on her own and makes up stories and reads to herself. You can find her in the living room while the TV is glaring in the background and she doesn’t even care, and she is making up stories and “reading” to herself, exercising her imagination. She actually makes comparative analogies in her surroundings because she has her horizons expanded wide open… she knows different races, and understands the concepts of different languages, and understands that the graphic narrative flows from left to right and from top to bottom.

She understands anger, consequences, violence, laughter and a bunch of other emotions based on how it reflects on others.

The second kid is showing signs of not being able to stayed focused on a task for too long. The first kid likes to complete her tasks to her liking. The second child is able to move much faster and has stronger body coordination, though. But seems to keep repeating the same task, and I am afraid she doesn’t process the concept that “not by repeating the same task you will change the result”.

KIDS.5v621

Reading, even if it is just comics (as opposed to big-boy-books) is showing secondary positive results:

She understands things like the driving mechanics of a car, from reading a comic;

she understands reactions of animals from the comics;

she understands planes and their interiors from comics, same goes for airports; the list goes on.

she understands different causes for conflict and understands need for conflict resolution.

The point being that reading to your kid teaches them focus. And reading them comics gives them an incentive to understand the values of stories. Also, you can’t drop a stack of comic books and expect her to start reading. It is a process, and the parents/mentors are an intrinsic and important part of it.

I also want to share another realization:

Leaving the kid with a tablet (Be it an iPad, or Android device) is less harmful to their intellectual stimulation than TV. But not by much. So you should avoid it.

BOTTOM LINE: Your kids are mostly a blank slate. There are exceptions to these rules: It is said that Mozart was playing like a virtuoso by age 6, but it is not stated how much his father pushed him to start playing, maybe he abused the poor kid into that profession. Maybe your kid is more like a William James Sidis (If you don’t know who that is, google it, and you will be amazed) and autodidact by nature, but most of us are not like that genius, and we sure can use guidance.

You have to be there for your kid. It is an ethical contract you engaged when you created a new life. You will put yourself in second place, and will support and assist this new life to move forth.

Now, given the small selection of comics for toddlers out there, I had to scour lots of LCBS till I found appropriate titles.

I am not necessarily going solely for the kiddie stuff.

Tiny Titans
Writer: Franco & Art Baltazar
Artist: Art Baltazar
Publisher: DC
Really awesome series, with emphasis in both genres, boys and girls, with the rare quality of being toddler/kiddie friendly and adult fun.

Hulk: Agents of S.M.A.S.H.
Adapted by Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel

Playful and kid approacheable. May not be so enjoyable as the previous title for adults, but still bearable.

 

Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam!
Writer: Mike Kunkel, Art Baltazar, Franco, Others
Artists: Mike Kunkel, Mike Norton, Others
Publisher: DC
He’s pretty much the best character for kids, because he is one. It is also one of those titles that is enjoyable for adults, so… don’t hesitate!

 

Batman: Li’l Gotham
Writers: Dustin Nguyen & Derek Fridolfs
Artist: Dustin Nguyen
Publisher: DC

I noticed that toddlers sometimes have a hard time staying with title.

Batman ‘66
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artists: Jonathan Case, Others
Publisher: DC

This one may not be also too suitable for toddlers at time, although certainly for young kids.

Adventure Time
Writer: Ryan North, Others
Artists: Braden Lamb, Others
Publisher: Boom! Studios

All around winner, awesome exercise in imagination for children’s of all ages

 

Teen Titans GO!

Publisher: DC

Another great title even for the more younger ones.

Disney Comics

Another group you can never go wrong with. I stay away because of ethical reasons; I disagree with lots of the Disney ethics and business decisions.

Comic Review: Hawkeye The best “floppy” I’ve read in a very long time

•December 15, 2014 • Leave a Comment

My dear friends, as you know by now I have quite a gripe against publishers using “Floppies” to serialize TPB or graphic novels.

For those of you who don’t know it, my gripe rises from the lack of a “Direct to Graphic Album” market, and this tendency to make Floppies to eventually release Graphic Novels, just

Also, unknown to most of you, I have a large box of comics that I read slowly (at a rate of maybe 3-5 per weekend). That box is filled with floppies bought at different trips and different weeks.

In it I recently found a comic that it had shown promised, and got me excited to read about, but since it was in the box, I kinda forgot about it.

Hawkeye

Writer: Matt Fraction

Artist: David Aja

Publisher: Marvel Comics

This series started being published towards the end of 2012.

I found two issues in my box, so I must’ve had them since early 2013.

The following day after reading them I stopped by my local comic book store, and then started searching for other stores that carried back issues, because this one didn’t. Eventually I found one that had all of them and brought them home with me (making a considerable dent on my budget for the comics of that month)

 

This series is an instant classic, because it takes common sense conventions used in the production and sale of Floppies, and polishes all of them with a finesse rare in today’s publishing world.

For example, a lot of these stories are self contained. Some arches end in the same issue (Floppy). No more 10 or 20 issue archs, or graphic novels broken down in 20 page installments. Some stories do reach 2 issues, but usually that’s about it.

Also, characters (good guys, bad guys, supporting cast) are recurring, and come back from time to time. So stories may be one or two issues long, but you get the sense they happen in a universe that is familiar and you can relate to.

There is a synergy between the writer and the artist, that is very infrequent. It sort of reminds me of the amazing teams of the bronze age, like Wolfman and Colan with the Tomb Of Dracula.

The main reason why you should pay attention to this issue, Issue 11, is because it explodes.

David Aja is working with Matt Fraction since the beginning of the series, and by now, they have been publishing this comic for a year.

David Aja’s style can remind you of Eduardo Risso, in the sense that both are masterful craftsmen of the art of graphic storytelling. Both fill the page with effective storyboards, and both have deceptively simplistic styles that are the result of years of hard work simplifying sketching styles, working out innovative ways of simplifying complex inking processes.

These are old school artists, not so much in age, but in ethics. They belong to school of though that artists should leave thier imprint in books a long stretch, and while Risso has lots of works, everyone still admires, wonders and marvels at how he pull off the epic saga of 100 bullets.

David Aja is following on his steps with Hawkeye, and the first year ends with this epic episode.

So, onto the details.

What is so epic about this Hawkeye issue 11?

Is told by the dog Lucky.

And the cynics among you may say: “So? We3 was about dogs. And so is now Red Rover…”

Well, Hawkman issue 11 has the dog work with the artists laying out the page, and narrating the story.

David Aja dares to face complexity of panels with an innovative way of composing the layouts. In the background of the page, some reference to the physical settings that relates to the panels laid on top.

The use of linked buttons, emulating connectors on a relationship-diagram, gives also a high tech look and feel to the graphic design of the page.

The writer has done his homework.

He knows that dogs have memories, and they can separate a large amount of scents and that gets reflected on the page of the comic.

Also, in the pages that follow, the reader gets a complete year-in-review, and in small snippets of memory from the Lucky the dog, we get to review the action in a different perspective.

It is this marriage between graphical simplicity and complex page layout that shines by itself and makes this floppy such a classic.

The final pages area about how we choose our alliances, how it is OK to change friends from time to time, and above all, to seek freedom, for within freedom we open the doors to different opportunities and we allow destiny to act upon us.

There hasn’t been in recent memory a “Floppie” of this quality, so under-rated that has flown under the radar of most reviewers and critics, including yours truly.

I hope one day I will get it signed, because it really restored my faith on floppies.

After more than 10 years of having given up on them.

 

In my critic’s rating I give Hawkeye #11 by David Aja and Matt Fraction

stars.10

10 Stars out of 10

 

Facebook forces me to compromise

•November 28, 2014 • 2 Comments

On a follow up on my previous post, Facebook sent me an update, and their main problem was me using a pseudonym, ComicWatcher.
So I had to allow them to use my real name, Gerald Dean.
Since I have so many contacts, and I keep so many links to people, I gave in.
More to come… the story is not over.

The ComicWatcher may be joining the ranks of the people who leave Facebook

•November 26, 2014 • Leave a Comment

About two days ago from the date of the date of this posting, your friendly ComicWatcher got a notice from Facebook stating they were turning my account into a page and disabling my login.

I had to create a new set of credentials to manage “the page” and all my friends were gone.
I seriusly have no idea how this came to be.
My profile shows my name, although I use the Alias ComicWatcher….

So when I tried to appeal the decision, they (someone at FB) requested that I upload a government Issued ID.
Very strange request coming from a social network, you know? Something to be used as a leisure and recreation activity….
Since I want to keep in touch with my followers, I did submit it, but truth is I don’t expect them to do much about it.
So if things don’t get resolved, I will be severing ties with Facebook, and likely will join the ranks of the millions of people who turn ANTI-Facebook.
I mean, was it not enough that I gave them troves of traffic, articles, and original materials?
Anyway, I think they did me a favor, since I was never comfortable with their Privacy Policy to begin with.

Comics and their Cycles (in the US)

•November 18, 2014 • 2 Comments

Time to take a stroll memory lane.

And what better way to deal with numbers than using a TABLE!!

YEAR                    EVENT                                COMICS STATE

1930’s                  Great Depression                People bough more comics (they went really cheap)

1940’s                 Beginning of WWII             People bough more comics (Sent them to the troops)

1950’s                 McArthur Red Scare           People Bought Less comics  (They were labeled EVIL)

1960’s                 Change in social mores       People bough more comics (Marvel appears and thrives)

Mid 1970’s        Change in mores (Oil Crisis)   People Bought Less comics  (Because of recession)

1980’s             Economy improves                    People bough more comics

Late 1980’s     Economy Staggers                      People Bought Less comics  (Because of recession)

1990’s              Economy improves                    People bough more comics

Mid 1990’s     Comic bubble implodes           People Bought Less comics  (Because market was over-saturated with crap)

Early 2000’s  Economy improves                    People bough more comics (After September 11th, companies try (and many succeed) to stay afloat)

2008                Housing Bubble                         People still buy comics, but more conservative. Quality of remaining offerings.

2012                Economy improves                    People bough more comics, tired of saving after recession.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
So, lately I’ve noticed that the quality of the offerings is truly amazing.
We are truly living in another golden age for comics. And don’t bother comparing it to the “golden age” of the 90’s when only the Big Two made out like bandits.

This time, we have Dark Horse, Image, Dynamite, Zenoscope, Devil’s Due Publishing, Fantagraphics Books, Gemstone Publishing,  Last Gasp,  Off Shoot Comics, Oni Press, Topps Comics, Vertigo,  Zeta Comics

For Example, while I was looking for a Wonder Woman book for a young fan friend of mine, the other day I came across the series Superman/WonderWoman, issue #12.

The art is running on the part of  Jack Herbert, Walden Wong and Cliff Richards.

And for once I don’t mind having so many artists collaborate on a project because the art is GORGEOUS!! Diana comes across as sassy, strong, vibrant, REALLY STRONG, sexy, sweet and playfull, and totally KICKS ASS (Literally and figuratively).

I’ll throw some credit to the writer, Charles Soule, but the amazement entered  by the graphic part of the book, not the writing.

  

Notice in the two panels above how Diana is reflected as enjoying herself, and impish at the same time in the first panel.

Now notice in the second panel how a woman is portrayed enjoying the return of her loved one.

The choices are not only smart and astounding, and imbuing the fictional character with life…

They give her dimension, and I want to read more about her and her life, because she is releatable… and she became releatable in the way comics are supposed to make thing relatable… VISUALLY!!!

So, I gave my young friend who I purchased these comics for the whole series, and bought me an extra one for myself… because I want to keep it and look at it again, the way I do the work of Alan Davies, or Reed Crandall, or Wally Wood.

Is that good!

And that got me thinking about what a wonderful time we are living in comics.

I see lots of quality product coming out of the shop of the two Big Ones, but also see people developing  a large following for other publishers, DarkHorse, and Image coming to mind.

And artists may still have to find other venues to make ends meet (Marketing, advertisement, etc), but they want to live producing and making comics, and they return to them at every chance they get.

I’ve always loved the section “We didn’t know it was the golden age!” by Marc Swayze in TwoMorrows magazine Alter Ego.

I think it may apply today to the comic book market. Heck….when Neal Adams comes out of retirement (from Comics) and works a deal with DC to to a large volume of Batman… you know the market is good.
Although keep in mind that said market is good if you are good, and business savvy, and willing to put in the time and pay the piper.
We are not yet to the day that Stan Lee keeps longing for, when he would travel between East and West coast on the company dime, and rent luxury cars, and have closets full of back-logged originals http://www.twomorrows.com/comicbookartist/articles/02stanroy.html  but at least the true fan has a plethora of independent articles to choose from, and the small publisher have ways of getting their work across.

Mind you, long gone are the days of working for one of the big two on salary, and keeping the same job for a few years.

But I also want more dynamism and power on the hands of the artists. Although I admit I deplored Batman Odyssey as an unreadable mess, I still enjoyed the pretty pictures. And I want artists to continue to have to power to make deals (ALAN DAVIES in Killraven, anyone?) that will last for an arch… or a series… and get away with making the deal and making  a profitable one.

And I do not know what the next comic book crisis will be… some augur it will be digital comics… others expect the next economic meltdown to be the cause…

Some are amazed that we survived the acquisition of Marvel by Disney, and all we got as backlash is more superheroes in our christmas ornament section at our big-box stores.

 

 

Who doesn’t want Wolverine jumping out to them from the christmas tree?

 

 

And maybe we should prepare for when the bad times get here by making sure we build a strong foundation, and sound business models during the good times.

In those lines, I think all publishers should strive to prepare a line of comics that will survive recessions.
They should also specialize a segment of their production in creating an audience for the “direct to graphic novel market” and maybe that will lead to a Direct to Graphic Album format and market.

Maybe.

 

Moments that defined your love for comics (Part 2)

•October 21, 2014 • 1 Comment

Comics have the advantage of having not so much corporate oversight (discounting the Big Two, of course) and being venues for creativity.
Unfortunately, in the US, our storytelling is heavily centered around super-heroes, and that limits us on the types of stories we can tell.

Love Affair #4

Hombre, by Jose Ortiz and Antonio Segura

 

This work strikes the perfect balance of amazing (and full of shock) writing, and incredible illustration.

You should try to find the Black and White version. It is how it is meant to be read.

But basically, after you read this one of two things will happen.

a) either you will never write a dystopian novel/script again, because nothing can ever surpass this.

b) all your fiction will be dystopian for a while, because you will setting your sights very high and will be trying to surpass this masterwork, out of sheer admiration.

Among other things, these scripts redefine conventions in very succinct ways, like the aging of the hero, the concept of anti-hero, the frailty of humanity, the fine lines to cross that separate a good guy from a bad guy, etc…

If you want a link on the bibliography of this character

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hombre_%28comics%29

 

Love Affair #5

The Savage Sword of Conan #4 By John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala.

savage sword conan #4 iron shadows moon What do you get when you pair one of the best penciler with one of the best inker in the world?

You get Savage Sword of Conan #4, that’s what you get.

The adaptation of the story by Robert Howard titled Iron Shadows in the Moon turned out to be legendary and amazing.
Page after page the strong and flawless firms depicted by the Master John Buscema turn to get embellished beyond belief with the expert inks of Alfredo Alcala.

John Buscema hated drawing inanimated objects, such as backgrounds, buildings and cars. That was partially why he loved doing Conan.
What is so more difficult to understand is why he complained so much about the inking by Alfredo Alcala.
Then again, artists are known to have such pain in the ass fragile egos…

Reminds me of the issues that Will Eisner had with Warren publishing his covers of Spirit with colors by Richard Corben or Ken Kelly. The results were AMAZING, but since it was not what the artists envisioned.. Eisner ended up voicing his discontent.

That’s why so often it pays to learn to relinquish creative control, and let other people bring their input into your work. You may not like it how it deviates from your vision, but when you are creating for an audience, sometimes your vision is not the be-all-end-all, and the changes people introduce enrich your concept.

Thank goodness there are dozens of other instances of collaboration between Buscema and Alcala, for the rejoicing of all art fans. What Buscema disliked drawing, Alcala rendered masterfully well, allowing finally the Cimarian to trample a world full of buildings, vegetation and landscapes that usually were very bare when Buscema was penciling.

 

 

Love Affair #6

The Tomb of Dracula (Whole Collection)  By Gene Colan and Marv Wolfman.

Why is this a landmark?

Bunch of reasons. One of them is the amazing, fabulous, awe-inspiring art of art of Master Gene Colan.

Another is the fact that this is one of those few times in comic history when the same group of creators stays on a title till the title closes.

And not to mention there was a cross over of horror with superheroes, such as silver surfer, or spiderman.

From April 1972 to August 1979 you could read the evolution of a character, and watch the writer and the even the artist evolve and make the story grow with them.

Total must. And you can either purchase the Essentials series, or find it in Omnibus.

 

State of the Project: Chapter two script completed.

•October 14, 2014 • 2 Comments

Took a while because one midpoint segment needed a lot of work, and I created writers block (I don’t believe in having it, or suffering from it. You do it to yourself).

But I am happy to say that after that slump, the rest of it moved along pretty well.

 

Now I am sitting down, re-plotting the rest of the chapters and adjusting temporal lines and new character introductions..

I do have a few more concept art, and sketches, that I should share.
But for the time being I am pondering whether to move this project to a different blog.
What do you think?

 

 
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