SPL Comixtravaganza

Okay, so the good news is that I made it to the Comixtravaganza today (see below). The bad news is that I forgot my camera, so I have no pics to share. Here's a rundown anyway.

From 2pm to 3pm, David Lasky, creator of comics such as Urban Hipster, ran a workshop on creating minicomics. It was a great crowd - much bigger than the library had expected. Lasky gave a short presentation, showed us how to physically make a comic pamphlet from one sheet of paper, and then walked through his own storytelling process on a whiteboard while all the attendees made their own comics.

There were people of all ages and all attitudes in the audience - I was sitting with a tweener and mom who came with a six- or seven-year-old daughter, but I was far from the only greybeard in the house. And I think that was the most appealing thing about the session: it wasn't about breaking into the business, or professional techniques, or any of that; it was all about the joy of making comics for their own sake. Lasky obviously loves the form, and his affection comes through.

Here's my comic. I may post interior scans when I can.

And here's Lasky's website - but be warned: it has mystery meat navigation and doesn't seem to work too well.

From 3:30 to 4:15 pm, I attended a panel discussion on "the comics business." The panel comprised

Bill Barnes & Gene Ambaum, creators of Unshelved, the library-based webcomic. Artist Barnes is a lot like the character Dewey (snarky); Ambaum was the warm writer-type.
Greg Hatcher of Comic Book Resources. He played the crotchety old man for the panel (citing Adam West as his inspiration for getting into comics) and obviously loves the kids he teaches comic art to.
Nicole from NDP Comics, a how-to-draw-manga outfit. I didn't get a chance to ask her how she defined manga, especially in the context of this article.
Eric Reynolds, editor and PR guy from Fantagraphics Books (and a cartoonist in his own right). The embodiment of Seattle hipness, yet also very gracious.
Rosie Heffernan & Madeline Heffernan, creators of the webcomic Serves You Right. I gotta tell ya, their strip makes my head hurt, but these were two of the brightest and most poised high school students I have ever met.

The format of the panel was all Q&A; unfortunately, although the panelists tried their best with the As, the Qs didn't give them much to work with. It could have been so much more.

The finale of the event was a presentation by Seattle comics superstar Ellen Forney, she of Sherman Alexie collaboration fame. Forney is da bomb. She gave an overview of her creative process through examples of her work, all of which were beautiful to see. Besides having natural charisma, she is very comfortable working a crowd and knows how to organize and impart information (as well as being a rockstar cartoonist, she also teaches at a local art college). She closed with something that is close to a performance art piece; here's an early cut at it, but we got the big-screen version.

Forney's website is well worth a visit.

Overall, while not exactly an extravaganza, this was a solid comics event. The spearhead for legitimatizing comics in libraries has come in large part from the Young Adult librarians, and this was the case here. While this is laudable, it does skew the crowd young, changing the tenor of the event a bit. Still and all, a worthwhile way to spend a cold and rainy afternoon.

Oddly enough, on the bus to the library,
I was listening to the podcast of the "Comics are Not Literature" panel from the last Comic-con.

Obvious filler

Man, this quarter has just taken off and gotten all kids of busy all of a sudden! There have been no posts for a while because I haven't had a chance to read or reflect on anything comics-related. (That on the right is a drawing of me that one of my students did on the board.)

I am taking a break from other responsibilties to attend this event today: The Comixtravaganza wrap-up at the Seattle Public Library. They have been celebrating comics all month, mostly with how-to sessions in the neighborhood branches aimed at younger audiences. This afternoon's spectacular at the Central Branch includes another how-to session with David Lasky; a panel discussion with some local comixerati; and a presentation from Ellen Forney. I will have a full report and see if I can get some pictures, maybe even by tonight.

Call for Papers

6th Rural Entrepenurship Conference
Rural Regional Development Sustainability
Abstracts by 31.01.08

Challenges Facing Football in the 21st Century
Abstracts by 31.01.08

The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2007

The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2007 report published by the World Economic Forum, is now available online and in print at 911.33 WEF in the Quick Reference section of the Library. It provides country/economic profiles of 124 countries which allows cross-country analysis in order to make informed business decisions on how attractive a country is in terms of potential for development in travel and tourism.

The report (shelved as 5 parts) also discusses air transport issues and includes data tables on health, security, environmental regulations, infrastructure, human resources and national tourism perception.

Focus on...LeisureTourism.com

The Leisure Tourism Database is a comprehensive database on leisure, tourism, hospitality and recreation information. Each abstract record includes a detailed and informative summary along with the full bibliographic data. Abstract records cover research papers, books and conferences and journals. With new abstracts added every week, the database keeps you in touch with the latest developments in these fields. International coverage, as well as research from developing countries is included.

Recent issues have included clinate change, research on pro-poor tourism in Gambia, indigenous tourism in Australia, the decline of UK domestic tourism, the impact of recent events in Myanmar on the tourism industry there and small island tourism. In sport, find articles on the economic impact of the Rugby World Cup in France, and the likely impact of the new Grand Prix in Singapore; research on eating disorders in athletes is highlighted. Reports can be found behind the In Brief & In Depth tab.

Also included in the website is a Calendar detailing upcoming events; a Links section offers a list of useful websites and the Bookshop includes Cabi titles with full descriptions and many have sample chapters.

This is a non-Athens database - username and password available behind the Library tab in Blackboard.

A whale of a disappointment

Some time ago when I was relatively new to the comixweblogosphere, I encountered Orca, probably at the Absorbascon. This whale-woman enemy of Batman had some great visuals and seemed like an intriguing and appealing character, so I immediately added her three-issue story arc to my back-issue buy list. Last week, I finally got around to buying and reading the issues.

Batman 579-581, July - September 2000
Written by Larry Hama & Scott McDaniel
Pencils by Scott McDaniel
Inks by Karl Story et al

Man, was I disappointed. Even going into this with low expectations, I didn't get near the level of fun I expected with Batman going up against a lady jewel thief with a more than passing resemblance to Shamu.

Some elements were pretty cool: Playboy-Bruce makes an appearance, and is given a nice combination of social responsibility and elitist smarm; Batman goes in disguise again, apparently as the "crazy vet" from Year One; Alfred gets to shine as the perfect factotum; and Orca is singularly impressive: a big hunk of a swimming, leaping, and ass-kicking woman.

Yeah, a lot of the pieces were there, but somehow the magic that pulls them all together never appears.

Part of the blame lies in the art. McDamiel's layouts are serviceable, and I like his penchant for horizontal panels, but his figure-drawing - anatomy, proportion, movement - looks more like sketches of supermarionation puppets than real people. Heads are too big, limbs bend at odd angles, people pose oddly. The deficiency shows up mostly in the civilians, but even Batman looks oddly deformed from time to time, and I found it a real distraction.

Without giving too much of a spoiler away (not that anyone who has read, oh, two or three comics before won't see it anyway), I was also sorry to see that Orca's real identity was not a plus-sized woman, but a typical, generically-body-typed woman. I really wanted to see a large lady presented as a strong, capable, powerful character - and I was imagining Orca as a bit of an anti-Selina Kyle in appearance and affect. But, no such luck.

But the biggest fun-killer was the writers' choice of the central theme of the story. Y'see, Orca is a jewel thief with a heart of gold: she steals the "Flame of Persia" diamond from Leona Helmsley Camille Baden-Smythe - right in front of Bruce Wayne - so that she can raise money for a soup kitchen-rehab facility-daycare center. Batman cannot countenance this felonious behavior, even for a good cause, and tracks Orca down relentlessly. In each of their encounters, Orca and Batman exchange philosophical sallies over the nature of moral relativity:

Hama & McDaniel really stack the deck. Baden-Smythe is a right rotter: disdaining "the hoi polloi" -and anyone else - to the extent of endangering lives to protect her jewel, bribing officials, throwing people out of their homes, terrorizing innocent people - all the usual behaviors of a robber baroness. The jewel that is stolen is of uncertain provenance and probably doesn't even belong to her. And yet Batman, even while being pilloried in the press as the puppet of the rich and losing the respect of Gotham's lower class, won't give a girl a break, and tracks Orca like she was the Joker or something.

It just didn't wash for me. I don't consider myself a strong proponent of situational ethics, but you can't convince me there isn't a difference, at least in degree if not in kind, between property theft and exploitation of humans. And you can't convince me Batman doesn't see that difference. Its not the theft of his mother's pearls he's been working himself up over all these years.

I can take Batman versus property criminals when it's a ripping yarn, a puzzle piece, and the real-world themes are left out. Or I can handle Batman going after thieves when they actually endanger the innocent; it's their violence he's responding to, not their redistribution of wealth. But if you try to make a socially-conscious jewel thief a major villain while bringing in real class and economic struggles - well, you've lost me.

What's worse is that the script tries to have its cake and eat it, too. In addition to hunting his killer-whale criminal, Batman also manages to take down Martha Stewart Baden-Smythe. Unfortunately, the writers have to use such implausible plot developments to do so (excuse me, but people like that do not actually handle the molotov cocktails they give to street urchins to toss at buildings) that it actually reinforces the feeling that the elite can literally get away with murder while lesser-ranked criminals get slammed.

Actually, the story is much more believable if we take Batman as an unreliable narrator: he really doesn't care morally about the theft of the jewel, he's just pissed that the crime happened right in front of him. With that motivation, his doggedness, if even less laudable, at least makes a lot more sense.

Oh well, at least with the return of the multiverse, I can imagine that somewhere there is a happy Orca, swimming her way through Gotham Harbor, stealing marine-themed baubles from waterfront museums - and occasionally a kiss from Batman.

Wrekin Havoc...

The Wrekin Forest Partnership, which includes local authorities, Shropshire Wildlife Trust and pressure groups has been considering tourist development at the Wrekin in Shropshire to better accommodate visitors. Pete Lambert (spokesman), said improvements needed to be made to cope with increasing visitor numbers - ideas put forward so far are for a visitor centre, extra parking, better signage and improved paths. In response to this, posters have appeared on trees in the area in an attempt to put a halt to any future development by Steve Hooker from the pressure group "All Friends Round The Wrekin". Mr Hooker fears any development will spoil the hill although he has been assured by Lambert that nothing would be done which would spoil the beauty of the Wrekin - and definitely "no Disneyland-style theme park", you'll be pleased to know.

The Wrekin Forest Landscape Conservation Management Plan 2008-2013, can be viewed here.
Find out more about The Wrekin...

Happy New Year!

If you don't have a calendar for your desk yet, how about this downloadable one?

I'm so excited and I just can't hide it

Click on any pic to learn the reason...

ps: I didn't have to search for any of these images - I already had them all.