Tag Archives: Comics

Literary Paraphernalia: 10 DIY Projects for Book Lovers

I’m a poor college student. Actually, all of the writers of this blog are college students and fairly broke. While we write these posts about literary paraphernalia and how much we’d love to own some of these great book-related items, we really can’t afford to.

It makes me sad.

That’s why I decided to hijack this column for the week and do a list of DIY projects that range from easy to difficult and aren’t terribly expensive.

We’ll start with the easy DIY projects first. These will require little to no extra crafting gear outside of say, glue, a pen, and maybe some scissors.

DIY Paint Chip Bookmarks

(Credit: BellaCarta.Typepad.Com)

This bookmark is simple, cheap, and versatile. While doodling flowers is one method of decorating this bookmark, another (which I would probably do) would be to write your favorite book quote on draw various literary characters into the different colored boxes.

 

DIY Mini Notebooks

(Image Source: KaleyAnn.Com)
(Credit: KaleyAnn.Com)

These cute little notebooks are a snap to make and great for writers to use! You can also grab some Sharpies and decorate the covers. These would also make cute gifts.

Dan Hogan: Why I Hate Biopics and Love Raccoons…or Musings on the Oscar-Nominated Literary Adaptations of 2015

Dan Hogan teaches English at Fullerton College, UCI, and Norco College. I’ve known Dan for years, and one thing I look forward to every year is Dan’s Oscar predictions. This year, I’ve asked him to share his opinion on book-based movie adaptations that have been nominated in this year’s Oscars and he was more than happy to oblige.


The Online Free Dictionary defines “biopic” as a “biographical film, often with fictionalized scenes.” And therein lies my issue with such films: the word often. If I were writing the definition, I might opt for the word always. And that’s, more or less, why I hate biopics. In my graduate thesis, I examined how the concept of Collective Memory influences our understanding of phenomena around us. And in my freshman composition classes, I give a lecture on selective representation, specifically as it pertains to art. Simply put, the difficulty with biopics is that regardless of how hard a movie tries to give an honest, unbiased take on a subject—particularly a historical one—there is always some fictitious coloring and choices of representation. Even when movies do a really darn good job at being as vérité as possible, like Paul Greengrass’s United 93, it’s literally unavoidable that what’s on the screen will differ substantially from the “thing that happened,” to borrow the phraseology of one of my lit professors.

So what does this all have to do with the Oscars? It’s simple: most of the literary adaptations this year, particularly the ones nominated for Best Picture, are forms of selective representation. Not only that, they are based on biographies and autobiographies—so they are twice removed from the “thing that happened.”

Why does this upset me? It’s not that I can’t enjoy a movie on its own merits without fussing over the history—I can (which is why The Social Network was so enjoyable to me). It’s that it depresses me that most people look at the “movie version” of history, and it therefore enters the collective consciousness of the masses. When people will remember Chris Kyle, they will remember him going head-to-head against a Syrian Olympian rival sniper, even though that never really happened. When people will remember Alan Turing, they will remember Benedict Cumberbatch whispering to his giant machine, called “Christopher” after his childhood friend (which it wasn’t).

So when musing on the literary adaptations, I will not be judging them as works of history, but rather works of literature – fiction, if you will – because to a certain extent, that’s exactly what they are.

So let’s get started?

Gone Girl

The first literary adaptation I will mention is the one for which I have actually read the book. David Fincher and Gillian Flynn did something that I thought was impossible – they made a great movie out of a great book with the full cooperation of the original author. When I heard stories of E.L. James fighting for creative control of the abominable 50 Shades of Grey, I laughed hysterically at the darlings she was trying to save. Movies and films are very different media, and it’s hard to make a decent adaptation of a book. But Flynn did it better than I thought was possible. She killed her darlings, and she did it remarkably well. When I heard her interviewed, she said something to the effect that she stripped the entire novel down to its bare essentials and then started to add things back in – often at the behest of David Fincher. Gone Girl, with its unorthodox structure and convoluted plot, could have been utterly un-filmable. That same problem nearly sunk Fincher’s earlier Girl with the Dragon Tattoo which clung to the anvil that was the source material. The cuts Flynn made to her own masterpiece were smart, smooth, and efficient. Only a handful were ones that I—a lover of the book—even noticed, much less missed. While the phenomenal Rosamund Pike stands as the sole representation of this film on Oscar night, I feel that Flynn’s snub in Best Adapted Screenplay is one of the biggest of the whole ceremony.

The Imitation Game

This movie falls into most of the traps that typical Hollywood biopics do, and that’s the fact that I could tell that the movie was Hollywoodized—big time. While this film won the prize for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Writer’s Guild, I was baffled because I felt the writing was forced, contrived, and way too visible. What do I mean by this? While the subject matter of this film is fascinating – a brilliant outcast cracks an uncrackable Nazi code and wins the war for a country who would later betray him over his homosexuality. But I could tell when the writing was intentionally trying to make me feel things and squeezing history into its most pithy, quotable form. For instance, the aforementioned “Christopher,” the hulking machine that Turing creates is, in the film, named after his childhood friend and crush. Sure, that makes a thematic through line, tying Turing’s alienation to his work and also to his eventual fate, but I could tell it was a thematic through line, trying to tie a complicated story into a neat little bow. That example on top of oft-repeated lines, howling coincidences, and scenes seemingly written more for Sherlock than for Turing, annoyed me. In a way, the movie was too well-written, meaning I could see the strings, and it took me out of the film. I wasn’t convinced that half of the movie really happened, and when I did my research, I was annoyed that it hadn’t. I wish the movie had felt more real. Here’s hoping a fiction like Whiplash takes Best-Adapted-Screenplay over this Hollywood schlock.

American Sniper

Oh boy. I have found that the reaction to this film has more to do with the person reacting to it than to the movie itself. It’s like a political and cinematic Rorschach test – the right loves it, the left hates it, and much of the middle gets lost in the social media firefight that has raged since the movie hit screens. For that reason, I don’t wish to comment on the morality of the Iraq war or the personal character of Chris Kyle. Rather, I’d like to look at the movie itself. While Sniper suffers from biopic syndrome as well, as I mentioned earlier, manufacturing a villain out of a glorified footnote in Kyle’s memoir, it made for some compelling cinema (even though I could see the strings there too). What I appreciated about the film, however, was its characterization of Kyle. The film paints Kyle as a man who absolutely—100%–so-help-him-God—believed in what he was doing. Perhaps that’s why it opens itself up to so much controversy. For instance, some changes from the book to film, from what I have read, include adding more anti-war sentiment than the memoir had. For instance, loading up for a tour, Kyle meets his brother, who seems very disillusioned with the idea of war. In the scene, Kyle comes off as naïve for seeing the issue as black-and-white as he does (a simple “the enemy is trying to kill Americans, so I will kill them first” approach). Apparently that was a movie-only addition, and I think the film as a whole adds way more grey areas to the situation once the viewers can set aside their preconceived political beliefs.

Still Alice

From Amora to Zatanna: January 2015

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My apologies for being so late on this post, my dear comic fans, but time is slipping away from me so quickly these days. (I blame it on my final semester of grad school!) Stress aside, I wanted to keep it simple this blog and post a list of comic pulls I’m excited for this upcoming,2015 year. Let’s get started!

#1: Spider-Gwen
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How was this not a comic already? The “What-if” universe didn’t even run a story like this, but thanks to the Spider-verse (and the end of the Marvel comic universe as we know it, apparently) this dream has become a reality. In an alternate universe, Gwen Stacy is the one gifted with the amazing Spidey powers and is unable to save the Peter Parker of her universe. It’s an interesting premise that pulls on our collective heart strings all over again as this beloved couple is still doomed to fail in the end. Plus, all female rock band with Mary Jane? Yes please!

#2: Silk
Silk_Vol_1_1_Lee_TextlessAnother spidey-related super heroine that is also a person of color! Cindy Moon was bit by the same spider that bit my beloved Peter Parker and was also endowed with spider abilities, though she a rougher time handling these new and fantastic abilities than Peter did (and that’s saying something!). She is currently running amok the Spider-verse, which in itself is a bit crazy, but I’m excited to she where her character goes from there.

#3: Angela: Asgard’s Assassin
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Plot twist, Odin had a daughter! And no, I don’t mean the reincarnated Loki that seems to enjoy embodying both male and female bodies or this strange female Thor that I still cannot decide if I like or dislike, but a long lost sister abandoned in Heven and raised to despise anything Asgardian. Naturally, she has already been introduced to the Marvel comic universe thanks to the genius of Neil Gaiman (though prior to this even she was an Image property), but is currently getting her own solo run. See? I like other comics besides Spidey…

#4: A-Force
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Just announced, well, today was the all female Avenger’s team! Some confirmed characters include She-Hulk, Dazzler (70s style?), Medusa, and Nico Minoru, while also promising to introduce a wholly new character named “Singularity.” With a writer like G. Willow Wilson and an artist like Margaurite Bennet, who could not be excited for this comic event?! Oh right, people who think an all-female team is nothing more than a gimmick rather than their own prejudice. “I just want good storytelling!” And why can’t an all female team not have a good story as well?

From Amora to Zatanna: December

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Hey there comic geeks! Well, I finally did it. I made my own comic… sort of. As I mentioned in my bio, I am a Teaching Associate at my university and teach FYC (first year composition). As such, I created my very own comic this last month to teach my future students how to read a comic.

 

Here are some things I learned along the way:

“Through my writing/designing of a comic teaching tool, I have found that comic creation can give us insight to the importance of clarity and revising practices. The teaching tool I created is called “How To Read a Comic” and, as the title suggests, instructs my students on how to read a comic. I noticed that there was a need for this tool after I first used graphic novels in the classroom and had to instruct my students on the fly how to read a comic like a alphabetic book, what the different word bubbles and panels were, and how words and images were both necessary to create meaning. While I did use supplemental readings from Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, I knew I needed to make things simpler for my students. To discuss how to read a comic, I knew I needed to create a comic that illustrated everything they would need to know about the medium through words and images. For this project, I downloaded an application called ComicLife and got to work.

Literary Paraphernalia: 10 Bookish Scarves for Winter

Winter is around the corner, and, in the Northwest at least, the temperature is starting to drop, rain clouds are filling the sky, and people like me are restocking their closets with some warm clothes to get them through the season. Here are ten literary scarves you can purchase on Etsy to help you bundle up! Don’t forget to check out our Pinterest board for more literary finds.

Marvel Comic Book Scarf

Jane Eyre “I Am No Bird” Scarf

Where The Wild Things Are Infinity Scarf

The Bookstores of Berkeley: Shakespeare & Co.

As stated in an earlier post, I spent some time up in Berkeley, California, at a conference. I took a short flight up the coast of California and lugged my stuff into the dorm I’d be sharing for my stay and then I was free until the conference started the next day.

On our cab ride in from the airport, I saw something magical. I saw a book store. I wanted to go there, so after grabbing some pizza, I did. It was called Shakespeare & Co.

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Of course it was the name that first drew me to this bookstore, but once inside, it was the books that drew me to this book store.

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This store had a great collection of used books to choose from, including a section of rare books that I just wanted to touch. So I did.

From Amora to Zatanna: June

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Welcome back comic fans! powThis month’s blog is actually going to add to the writerly advice this Poetics Project group tends to publish. In particular, this blog is going to be a “Beginner’s Guide” to breaking into the comic business as a writer, assuming that many of you out there are in fact writers. As I may have mentioned in earlier blogs, I want to write some comics/graphic novels myself and dove into researching various comic houses. Now I must admit that I am still learning some of the ins and outs of this business myself, but below are some of the factoids I have found thus far on my own. But first, some realities:

1) Being an aspiring comic writer is tough. It’s likely that you will never work for the big comic houses that are Marvel and DC, but it is possible to produce some work and eventually transfer over to their creative crew.

2) It’s also likely you will not get picked up as a solo writer. Not many houses accept unsolicited work. Furthermore, you will have more luck being hired by comic companies if you are a part of a creative crew. What these means is you need to know illustrators, inkers, colorists, letterer… so make those friendships now!

From Amora to Zatanna: March

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iris_v3-02c-torque_retHello, hello, comic fans! Time for more comic talk with yours truly. Today, I wanted to talk about some other comic franchises outside of the dynamic duo that is DC and Marvel. In particular, I want to talk about Aspen Comics.

Aspen Comics is a small comic franchise that focuses primarily on female protagonists to drive their stories. Pretty awesome, right? Sure these women are sometimes sexualized…

Okay, maybe that happens more frequently than I care to admit. However, these stories are genuinely interesting and worth following. While I have not yet read all the comic arcs of this franchise, I would like to discuss three here:

1) Executive Assistant Iris: This follows the story of a very enigmatic woman who appears to be an expert assassin, which in this comic world are referred to as Executive Assistants. Iris is a very tough, monotone woman who focuses solely on the task at hand. Many of the other characters in this comic arc are women as well, including the antagonists. I have only just begun reading this series and already want to know more about her past, which is shrouded in a thick fog of mystery.

BubbleGun-01f-HeroesCon2) Bubblegun: Bubblegun is a cyberpunk comic that recounts the misadventures of Molli, a novice to mercenary heists. She is part of a team run by her sister, Devyn, and finds that she has to grow up quickly if she wants to save her and the team from rival mercenary companies. Plucky and mischievous, this multicolored hair girl is just so fun to read!

3) Lady Mechanika: Let me begin by stating that this comic arc is a rare treasure. While a part of the Aspen Comic fold, it is not listed on their website as part of their canon. This work is incredibly hard to find in hard copy and is only on issue 4, with following issues taking up to a year or longer to be released! Regardless, this steampunk-influenced story is captivating. Writer and illustrator, Joe Benitez, takes great pride in his work and wants this series to be nothing short of spectacular, and it is for this reason that I use his verbiage to describe this wondrous woman: “The tabloids dubbed her ‘Lady Mechanika,’ the sole survivor of a serial killer’s three-year rampage through England. Authorities found her locked in an abandoned laboratory amidst an undeterminable number of corpses and body parts, lm0bFULLher own limbs having been amputated and replaced with mechanical components. With no memory of her captivity or her former life, Mechanika eventually built a new life for herself as a private detective, using her unique abilities to solve cases the police couldn’t or wouldn’t handle. But she never stopped searching for the answers to her own past. Set in turn of the century England, a time when magic and superstition clashed with new scientific discoveries and inventions, Lady Mechanika is about a young woman’s search for her own identity as she solves other mysteries involving science and the supernatural.”

These are only three stories I have begun reading myself. However, there are many more listed at this website. Aspen Comics are sold at select stores only, but the phone/tablet application and website comixology allows you to download digital copies of their stock. Check them out and show them support will ya? Until next time!

From Amora to Zatanna: February

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It’s that time again, comic fans, for another installment of “From Amora to Zatanna with Nicole!” For those who have been keeping up, last month I mentioned how DC is royally messing up their franchise and I thought I would explain why in this month’s blog. Five reasons why, to be exact. All these reasons are tied to the abomination that is the “New 52!” DC reboot initiative. Let’s get started:

1. Shipping Superman and Wonder Woman

“But is this really that bad?” Yes it is, because of the mythology behind these characters. Superman is in love with humanity, thus the relationship between Lois Lane and him. This relationship was not only witty and fun to watch develop, but symbolic of Superman’s deep love for everything human, and possibly even his psychological need to fit in. Wonder Woman comes from a land of Amazons, making her born independent from any patriarch and apt to become the ultimate feminist icon she is deemed today. This isn’t to say that a romantic relationship for a feminist icon automatically makes her “no longer feminist,” but something about pairing her with the ultimate masculine symbol leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

From Amora to Zatanna: January

THENicolecolumnbannerHello again comic fans! This is your comic blogger here with a more serious matter. As a new writer to this blog, I expressed last month that I was a comic junkie, but what I did not menton then was how important I think they are not only as popular culture, but as literature.

Now stay with me here, because while I cannot go into a huge dissertation as to why I believe comics can serve as literature, I am going to briefly share some feelings here today.

What prompted me to write this was an article recently published on theguardian. It was an interview with comic legend Alan Moore and his reasoning for leaving the public realm of comics for good. He addressed such concerns as his supposed “racism” and “sexism,” but, for the time being, that was not what caught my attention. Moore opens his interview by stating “To my mind, this embracing of what were unambiguously children’s characters at their mid-20th century inception seems to indicate a retreat from the admittedly overwhelming complexities of modern existence. It looks to me very much like a significant section of the public, having given up on attempting to understand the reality they are actually living in, have instead reasoned that they might at least be able to comprehend the sprawling, meaningless, but at-least-still-finite ‘universes’ presented by DC or Marvel Comics.”

Ouch.