Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Comics Issue

I got home from the library at 2 this afternoon with a stack of nine books. Two were easy reader children's book, one was an overview of a filmmaker's career, one was a creativity guide, and the rest were graphic novels. I read a lot of graphic novels. I love the blending of words and images. I love the creative stories that seem to only flow out of the blending of art and text. And I love the art. But a lot of people will tell me that graphic novels, comics, or even comic strips aren't real reading. There continues to be a stigma attached to this kind of reading. I couldn't disagree more.

I grew up on a rich diet of books which included picture books, chapter books, comics, and comic strips. Some of the earliest adventure stories that I fell in love with were Uncle Scrooge comics. Each thin paper comic contained an adventure that often spanned the globe. I would get sucked into the stories. I can still picture Uncle Scrooge in his adventure for the golden fleece or making his way into the valley of Tralla La (the Carl Banks version of Shangri-La). I had no idea at the time that I was learning bits of greek myth or about mythical utopias. I just knew that I loved the stories.

As I got older I fell in love with comic strips. I read Calvin and Hobbes, Wizard of Id, The Far Side, and Bloom County to name a few. There were other comics, ones that weren't in our local paper, that found their way into the house in the form of collections. My mother supported us kids as readers, in whatever form that reading took. So we had hundreds of these comic collections mixed with our paper comics that included Archie's, Mickey Mouse, and Casper. We were allowed to read anything we wanted as long as it was kid friendly. And we did read. I can't remember a moment of my childhood where I wasn't reading or thinking about books to read. We were blessed.

I worry about kids now whose parents keep them from comics. Parent who say that graphic novels and comics aren't real reading. As if reading a chapter book was the only form of book for kids once they can read on their own. Like the mistaken idea of taking picture books away from kids after they can read on their own, I think that this does more to keep children from becoming readers. Much like picture books, I think graphic novels are essential reading for kids who are learning to love words and stories. A story can be told in many ways. Like a great film, a graphic novel uses both dialogue and image to tell a more complete story. A child who is encouraged to read whatever they would like (within reason) will become a reader. They will read for pleasure. They will read to learn.

Now I'm not saying to never pay attention to what your children are reading. I've read graphic novels that were disturbing for me as an adult. I've also read word only novels that have done the same thing. My mother was careful to screen what we read for adult content. Things we read that were more advanced were discussed. But we were never told that we couldn't read some type of format. When I went back to reading picture books my mother gave me a stack of books from our old library. I have dibs on some of our comic book collections. I read constantly as a child, in all formats. And I don't know if I would have been as large a reader if I hadn't been granted so much freedom in deciding what I wanted to read. I know that I would not be the reader I am today without that combination of art and words.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Gen Con: Hobbies and Crafts

I've been meaning to write this post for two weeks now. Of course it would help if I ever had a night at home before 9 o'clock. I'm in the middle of a busy stretch. But now I have a couple minutes. And I'm going to get this out so I can move on to other things. After all, it's been almost a month since Gen Con.

Every time we go to Gen Con, I come back inspired from all the creativity and energy I see around me. Artist's Alley is filled with incredibly talented artists and I always seem to pick up a print or two. I have more art than I have walls now. I am always in awe of how creative people are. I'll post later about the paper sculpture I purchased which hangs in my car. It's my favorite thing from the whole con.

But this year I was drawn to some of the great sewing pieces I saw and the incredibly detailed miniatures that were on display. I took more pictures of the miniatures than I should have. But I was just struck each time by how amazing they were. Miniature painting is something that I've been thinking of getting into. I picked up a starter kit last year, only to find that all the paint was too dry to work with. I would like to start painting, although looking at the ones on display is both inspiring, and a bit daunting.

Seriously, look at that detail

I loved the personality on this piece. Love this little guy. 

And of course, the dragon. Fantastic!

The sewing I took pictures of was also a bit of wishful thinking. I'm still terrified of the sewing machine. I know it will try to eat my fingers. Jess tells me that there's nothing to it, but I think she's lying. Still clearly there are plenty of talented people out there.

I think this was all hand-stitched, so there is hope. But isn't it incredible? Love me some Cthulhu.

I stopped this woman as she was eating lunch. I felt bad but I loved the skirt so much. The back was also covered with emblems. Such a simple design but such fun. I had to stop her and compliment her on the skirt. She was very gracious about it.

What I love about Gen Con is that it's not just one type of art. There are the professional artists certainly. And the creative cosplayers which continue to stun me. And the hobby enthusiasts who make and create. But there's also the creative art that just appears at the show.

The robots above were built out of Legos for a giant game of RoboRally. Some very familiar faces to make the game even more interesting.

And this octopus was created on site, out of cards, by someone who just happened to like building card structures. By the end of the weekend he was destroyed for charity. Temporary art. No wonder I come home inspired.