Archive for December, 2011

Between 1940 and the early sixties the industry commonly accepted the profile of the comic book reader as that of a ’10-year old from Iowa’. In adults the reading of comic books was regarded as a sign of low intelligence.- Will Eisner in Comics and Sequential Art

Lamenting the lack of scholarly discussions on Sequential Art, an area that he thought deserved the consideration worthy of a valuable art form and medium of communication, Will Eisner condensed his vast knowledge on the theory and practice of comics in Comics and Sequential Art. The book, originally a collection of essays, is ostensibly for “the serious student, the working professional and the involved teacher”. I am neither and not exactly Eisner’s intended audience, but comics in general have in the past few decades been held in so much higher esteem than before and comics in various forms (from comic strips to full size graphic novels) have attracted such an enthusiastic following all over the world, that I feel it’s only natural that some non-artists will seek to satisfy their curiosity about the mechanics and thought processes that underlie the production of graphic literature. More recently, Scott McCloud’s comics about comics have offered much insight to comic aficionados.

Discussing core components and techniques used by comic creators, many of which are ubiquitous and yet invisible since the reader is often so wrapped up in the story that the methods are overlooked, Eisner liberally uses examples (many of which are his own Spirit stories) to illustrate concepts such as pantomimes, drawing on common experiences (such as our knowledge of how long it takes for a drop of water to drip from a faucet) and using appropriately sized and positioned panels to create a sense of time and rhythm, the use of panels to create  the required mood and tempo, and the use of gestures and postures to tell the story.

Comics are a unique art, similar to written works in that the reader’s eyes are free to roam and picture a scene in his mind’s eye, and similar to motion pictures in its use of images. And yet, comics invite the reader in a visual dialogue like no other art medium. The reader has more control over how he reads and interprets a comic (than a movie) and there is a tacit understanding between the artist and the reader on the rules that need to be followed to read the comic in the right order. Comic reading is an act of collaboration and requires a certain sophistication – to fill in the blanks between panels to constitute fluid action and to participate in the emotions described by the images- between the artist/creator and the reader/viewer. From fantasy, to instruction manuals, from full-sized graphic memoirs that deal with the entire spectrum of human emotions, to the ingenious use of animal metaphors in hard to classify works of brilliance, such as Maus, comics can be mature, funny, moving, complex and utterly captivating, whether you are a 10-year old or not. Indeed, Eisner had great hopes for the future of comics, especially the graphic novel:

The future of this form awaits participants who truly believe that the application of sequential art, with its interweaving of words and pictures, could provide a dimension of communication that contributes – hopefully on a level never before attained – to the body of lietrature that concerns itself with the examination of human experience….As for the receptivity of the audience, this must (and will) change and become sympathetic as the product delivers more and becomes more relevant.

What better time then to talk about the deliciously funny and heartrendingly honest graphic memoir Good Eggs  by Phoebe Potts.

But I love to teach. I love having meaningful, contained relationships with other people where they are vulnerable and I am helpful. And if I didn’t teach, the only other contact I would have with humanity is……in traffic…or exchanging money for good.

Good Eggs tells of the struggles Potts and her husband face as they grapple with infertility and experience hope, letdowns and frustration. Their baby making despair is interspersed with stories from Potts’ past- her family, her relationships and her ongoing battle with depression. Somehow, she manages to make this ordeal sound almost hilarious.

We’re naming them ‘Finally’ and ‘Agony'[on naming their imaginary twins].


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Your Money Or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence is about just that, viewing money not as mere currency, but as Life Energy and learning to intelligently conserve this limited resource, achieve proportional fulfillment, and ultimately ‘retire’ when we still have some life left in us.

It certainly makes some good points, such as:

  • An unemployed person doesn’t have to feel worthless. Unemployment can well be a “time of learning and discovery.”
  • Unpaid activities should be honored and treated with “the same creativity, respect and attention that we give to paid employment.”
  • Life energy is precious and finite and much of it is invested in a job (paid employment). To truly value and cherish it (and be on the road to financial independence), one must seek the highest pay possible (that is, of course, consistent with one’s health and integrity).

While I happen to agree with all three notions, I sometimes wonder whether in our culture, that without doubt holds paid employment in very high regard and often relegates the ‘unemployed’ (whether by choice or not) to the status of second-class citizens, most such books that preach such truly important ideas are in fact aimed at those of us who dutifully play the part of paid professionals.

The books asks for diligent application of its 9 steps, including a monthly tabulation of income and expenses that opens our eyes to, now, just where is all my life-energy disappearing, and lets us sit up and take notice that that expensive spoon holder souvenir just cost us all of 64 minutes of our life. Now, in case of a couple, where the arrangement is that one works engages in paid employment, whereas the other engages in unpaid jobs, the sensible thing would be to treat the two as a unit, and plot a single earnings vs. expenses curve for the two of them. But if money is a symbol of our life’s energy that needs to cherished, valued, maximized and invested, what does the unemployed person have to show for it?

For those who don’t engage in it by choice, unemployment can certainly be a time of learning and discovery, as long as all that learning (well, at least some of it) can be eventually exchanged for the “highest pay consistent with your health and integrity”. (And by that I don’t mean that for those who are happy not to work for money, unemployment can be any less fulfilling.) And unpaid activities do deserve to be held in higher esteem than they are now. Maybe I missed something, but how is a 56-year old, ex-homemaker, currently without any means of supporting herself, going to be able to value her life-energy? By seeking the highest pay possible? In today’s climate where family ties are weakening and often uncertain, is the real message that unpaid employment is valuable only if it is also accompanied by paid employment?

As Roger Waters famously wrote:

Money, get away

Get a good job with more pay

And you’re OK.

Oh, I did find tremendous value in the book. But while transforming an individual’s relationship with money is hard in itself, money and family can be rather awkward bedfellows.

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