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Sonia Harris | Writing About Comic Books

Committed: Sadness & Chris Ware’s Quimby the Mouse

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As regular readers are probably aware, I’ve been a huge fan of Chris Ware’s work for a long time. In recent years I was happy to vote for his books Lint and Building Stories as books of the year, (along with most of the rest of the CBR staff in 2010 and 2012) but that isn’t where my appreciation for him began. Those beautiful books are the culmination of a great body of work, using skills honed over years spent producing a slew of incredible, personal, exploratory comic books. It is in those early comic books that we can see the real roots of Ware’s talent at observing and expressing the breadth of human emotion.

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Committed: Snowpiercer Vol 1: The Escape & Snowpiercer the movie

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Snowpiercer Vol 1: The Escape is a comic book (or graphic novel) by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette (published in English by Titan Comics). 30 years since the original publication, it is a powerful example of the post-apocalyptic books of the era, depicting our ice-covered world, too cold to support life. The remains of humanity cling to life in a giant, high-speed train which is continuously moving, the poorest inhabitants stuck in cattle trains at the back, the richest living in comparative luxury at the front. After escaping from the back of the train, one man fights to reach the engine room at the front of the train and freedom, or some vague idea of it.

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Committed: What’s your bag?

Whenever I go to the comic book shop, they offer me a bag, but I always carry my comic books in my purse (which makes some comic book collectors cringe, but it’s a pretty big bag and they don’t get crushed). This year in San Diego at Comic-Con International people had a huge range of ways to carry their supplies and purchases, so I took a few photos of the best ones.

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Committed: A Job in the Arts (or “Comics are actually really easy if you’re willing to work your balls off.”)

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It has only recently become obvious to me that designing for comic books has absolutely changed my life in a number of unexpected ways. While I always hoped the work would be enjoyable, I didn’t expect to find out so much about my own taste and style. I’d always thought of myself as a cautious, rule-driven designer, somewhat trapped by my visually obsessive tendencies, in fact I once met a famous graphic designer who admired tremendously, but when I showed him my sketchbook he couldn’t stop laughing. “Everything you do is in a grid, even your rough sketches. You’ve got to loosen up!” he exclaimed. It wasn’t intentional, I just couldn’t bring myself to break the grid back then…

Life is a tricky thing, it is so easy to fall into a certain way of living that we hardly need to make any choices to do so. Even the tiniest action can result in a huge life shift. In tidying up my email recently, I discovered a hidden inbox of messages from a comic book company who had offered me a job 8 years ago. I’d completely forgotten about it, but at the time I nearly took a job doing production design (i.e. I would have been designing titles, ad copy, and sound effect too). At the time I was offered a job earning twice as much in a sports and commerce advertising agency, and I elected to take that one. My logic was that graphic design was graphic design, and it didn’t really matter where I was designing, so I might as well take the job which would make me more money. Now here I am, 8 years later, happily taking on comic book graphic design work because it is infinitely more fun for me. I’ve learned a lot in the intervening years, and for all I know, the job in the comic book company might not have been much fun… Back then I didn’t know what it would be like and how it would impact my own feelings about the world. But 8 years later I can say that for me, personally, I am a much better designer in this field than I was able to be in ad agencies, and when I do create advertising designs for my clients, I am far more excited and driven, because it isn’t what I do all day, ever day. The variety of working with comic book designs has revitalized and renewed my love of design.

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Committed: “Is Sexism a REAL Problem for Women?”

I’m got back from San Diego and I would like nothing more than to write you some fun things about Comic-Con International, but they’ll have to wait because when I was asked (by an intelligent and well-educated friend) if sexism is a “real” problem, I had no choice but to drop everything and write about the very real abuse women in the world contend with, simply because “they’re women”. A world with these kind of prejudices impacts the quality of life for us ALL, male and female and it is in ALL of our interests to be aware of it and combat it. This is a lot of information, but it really is just the tip of the iceberg. Unfortunately there is still a long way to go before sexism is a thing of the past.

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Committed: 3 New Books About Amazing Teens - Moonhead, Street Angel, & The Shadow Hero

With Comic-Con International beginning today, I thought I’d recommend a few new books for you to look out for, specifically Moonhead and the Music Machine by Andrew Rae, Street Angel by Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca, and The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew. These are all books which might appeal to new comic book readers, so if you’re attending the convention you might consider bringing one back as a gift to get your loved ones excited about the medium… Or if you’re stuck at home, these should impart a little of the variety and excitement in new comic books coming out now.

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Committed: Wolverine Wouldn’t Wax

As much as I enjoyed the last X-Men film (Days of Future Past), when Wolverine jumped out of bed in the 1970’s, his entirely hairless body came as something of a shock. Naturally I was happy enough to get a look at Wolverine’s bottom (seems fair, we see enough girl-butt in movies), but I found his complete lack of body hair incongruous, to say the least.

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Committed: William Wray’s “Fortress of Delusion”

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Last week I went to see the opening of an exhibition of William Wray’s paintings. Having a passing acquaintance with his wild cartoon style I wasn’t sure what to expect, and the last thing I anticipated was a deeply touching commentary on the human condition through the medium of the California landscape and popular American superheroes.

William Wray’s paints portraits of superheroes in the context of the real world. They are heartbreakingly human, depicted in simple moments looking lost, alone, and bone-tired. Whether slouched in a corner or simply walking down a dilapidated street, Wray’s superheroes are anything but super, their bright suits standing out garishly against the faded colors of their surroundings. His perverse sense of humor and affection for the subject matter allows Wray to depict this pathos without it becoming unbearable to look at, it is as if he has taken the sting out of the reality he is forcing us to acknowledge.

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Here are the results of last week’s survey and thank you all for taking part, I do know how silly it was but I had fun designing the results. Overall the votes were kind of an avalanche, (I guess you know what you like), and the only interesting thing I’d note is how divided opinions were on who the worst superhero casting was, it seems like everyone has someone they love to hate!

Originally published here.

Committed: Survey - Vote for the Best & Worst Super Hero / Villain Movie Casting

This weekend I got together with a group of old friends and asked which superhero had been cast most egregiously, and which were the best embodiment of the heroes and villains depicted. The impassioned discussion went on all evening, everyone had their own nominations for the title but no one was able to agree, and so Im opening the voting up for you. We put together our 15 top choices (in no particular order) for the best superhero casting, best super villain casting, worst superhero casting, and worst super villain casting. Please choose and rank your top three choices out of each of the four sections.

Take the quick, 4 question survey here https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/XYDPPQT and please share it with your friends!

Note: The rules we came up with are as follows;

  1. We only considered actors in live-action superhero movies (as opposed to television specials or cartoons).
  2. The only movies which count are ones which have been made and released (rather than movies which were cast but then never actually produced, or movies which haven’t been released yet, even though there are some juicy ones coming).
  3. And finally, this is only choosing the best and worst superhero and super villain casting choices (because if we expand this to cover all of the casting in superhero movies this survey would never be finished).

Check Comics Should Be Good in a week or two I’ll post the results.

Originally published here.

Committed: Guest Costume Designers on Burn the Orphanage

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As regular readers will know, I’ve long been a proponent of super heroic fashions. So I was excited to hear that Sina Grace was inviting guest artists Kris Anka, W. Scott Forbes, Fiona Staples, and Ming Doyle to design new costumes for the women of his comic Burn the Orphanage. I jumped on the chance to get a sneak peek at those outfits (appearing in the July 3rd issue) and thought you’d probably like a look too. But before we get  to the artwork, Grace opened up about the process behind the restyling.

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Committed: Finding New Superheroes in Carey & Casagrande’s Suicide Risk

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Ever since the “new 52 thing” happened a couple of years ago I felt a bit squeezed out of reading the superhero titles which I used to enjoy. It just wasn’t a good transition for me and as things progressed I moved further and further away from DC and Marvel until the only superhero comic books I was reading were Hawkeye and Daredevil. But no matter how disenfranchised I felt, I have always been drawn to the concept of superheroes and I was still jonesing for some super powered action, so I went to the comic shop just to see what was out there about superheroes from different publishers…

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