Archive for May, 2009

The Shape of Story

XKCD goes parallel.

One of the byproducts of all those ancient infinite canvas debates (nestled in webcomics history right after the Clone Wars and shortly before the Norman Conquest) was the idea of the spatial nature of story structure.

So many of the terms we use for stories (rising action, turning points, parallel/intersecting plots, circular narratives, multiple layers…) have equivalents in space, it seems only natural to make them literal through comics.

It may sound academic to some, but I think the very fact that comics MAPS TIME is pretty frickin’ cool, and I’ll never get tired of seeing smart cartoonists screwing around with it.

F.A.Q. for Y.O.U.

Here’s a question for whoever is out there this morning:

I get a lot of emails and questions on the road from aspiring writers who want to write for comics, but don’t think they have any drawing ability and want to find someone to collaborate with. I could tell them to draw it themselves anyway (and suggest hunting down some Matt Feazell or John Porcellino comix as inspiration). I could be obnoxious and tell ‘em to stick to prose. But I want to at least give them some useful answers in case they have their heart set on Plan A.

The problem is, I don’t really know how aspiring writers find aspiring artists to collaborate with these days. I know there have to be online resources, listings, message boards, etc. for “writer seeking artist.” Anybody know what those are?

Oh! And speaking of Matt Feazell:

Best shirt ever.

Four to Watch Out For

Just had the pleasure (via Bob Weil at Norton) of devouring an advance copy of illustrator David Small’s Stitches: A Memoir due out this fall. Get it and read it when the time comes, it’s strong stuff. Small comes to comics via children’s books, but he’s deadly serious about the form, and exploits it masterfully to paint an unforgettable picture of his harrowing childhood.

There are some amazing books on their way in the next several months. David Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp is imminent (just assuming that one’s amazing like everyone else—poor David) and I recently got advance peeks at Hope Larson‘s Mercury and Vera Brosgol‘s in-progress GN for First Second, both of which are the best work to date from these two powerful cartoonists.

Comics is changing. Behind the drawing table, people who would have been content splashing about in other fields a decade ago are swimming to comics’ deep end without even taking a breath. And on the drawing table, there’s a growing understanding of comics’ power to relate emotion, POV, and the warp and weave of memory. The compact, literal, rat-a-tat of post-Kirby mainstream storytelling that I started out reading is finally giving away to something far deeper, stranger, and potentially more beautiful.

Comics may not have its Beethoven yet, but he/she might just be reading this stuff in a year or two, between Math and Social Studies, and realizing for the first time just what they want to do when they grow up.

What She Said

Ivy just posted a gargantuan LJ entry about our Toronto/TCAF experience, so if you’d like a spouse-eye’s view of our whirlwind weekend, be sure to check it out.

Ivy and I just saw Star Trek. Good cast and fun character moments, big sloppy self-indulgent fanfic plot, typical action film directing (ADHD camera work). Whatever. We had fun.

And since I missed my chance Sunday, belated Mother’s Day wishes to my own Mom and to Ivy. Wouldn’t exist and/or wouldn’t want to without you.

Post-TCAF Notes

Talked to…

Ryan North about Music.
Kate Beaton about Books.
Bryan Lee O’Malley about Exhaustion.
Seth about Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka.
Derek Kirk Kim about Eternal Smile.
Paul Pope about International Styles.
Carla Speed McNeil about Hats.
Faith Erin Hicks about Hair.
Alec Longstreth about Beards.
Chris Butcher about OMG we barely saw you!
Mark Siegel about Mad Men.
Mark Askwith about Everything Else.


Emmanuel Guibert.
Joey Comeau and Emily Horne.
Jillian Tamaki (narrowly missed Mariko).
Nate Powell.
Miss Lasko Gross.
Josh Cotter.


…to meet the great Yoshihiro Tatsumi.
…to spend more than a minute with many other friends.

Learned that…

Joey Comeau can be frighteningly loud.
Rich Stevens should be on every panel.
Chester Brown carries gigantic bags on his bike.

And much more, but that’s off the top of my head. Thanks to everyone at TCAF for a great weekend!

Toronto à la Will Wright

From the top of the CN Tower (click for big version).

I noticed how from high up and far away, crossing perspective lines resolve to almost parallel, giving an eerie Sims-like quality to the surroundings in photos when zoomed in and cropped. I especially like the people:

I mean, geez. Where are the little floating diamonds, Dude? And yet… as real as you and me.

Life imitates art, example #387,941,229 for your consideration.

Thank You…

…to everyone who disagreed with yesterday’s post (or with each other) for doing so with such energy, good-humor, wit and intelligence. It’s fun to rant once in a while, but it’s also healthy to have that rant thouroughly tested from every direction. You guys are the best.

Off to Toronto now with the whole family. More news after the weekend.

I Will Beat this Horse Again and Again until it RISES FROM THE DEAD

What’s the default shape of our art forms?

Cinema is wider than it is tall. TV is wider than it is tall. Theater is wider than it is tall. Laptop and desktop monitors are wider than they are tall. In fact, with the advent of widescreen TVs, there’s little difference in the shapes. They’re all around 3×5 or 4×5 range. Wider than tall. All of them.

And print? Well, print is taller than it is wide right? The printed page is the exception to the rule, isn’t it?


The default shape of print is not taller than wide. It’s wider than tall just like all the rest, because the default shape of print is two pages side-by-side. And the reason is the same reason as the shape of TV and cinema and theater and surfing and all the rest: because we have two eyes next to each other, not one on top of the other.

I don’t even have a Kindle yet, so this isn’t meant as a specific critique of the device. And I’m sure its engineers had solid practical reasons to design the device the way they did. You can even turn it sideways when needed.  It just reminded me when I went to Amazon this morning and saw images of the latest, how design principles in the wild can always be adjusted on the fly, but as soon as they’re embedded in hardware, they tend to stick around. For decades in some cases.

So if I could humbly suggest a new cardinal rule of designing anything meant to be read (including webcomics): Step #1, look in a mirror.

[Edit to add: Within ten minutes of posting, everybody has agreed that I'm utterly wrong about this! Oh well. Check the comments thread to see some smart, funny rebuttals.]

Toronto Looms

Only one day until the whole family flies to Toronto with me for TCAF! You can find me wandering around a lot, but also at:

Saturday, 10:15am-11:15am: Concept Comics: Abstract Comics Ideas. Bill Kartalopoulos will investigate the challenges and opportunities of communicating abstract ideas in the comics form with artists Tom Kaczynski, Scott McCloud, Dash Shaw and Jason Shiga. Learning Centre 1.

Saturday, 2:00pm-3:30pm: Scott McCloud: FAQ. The author of Understanding Comics, Making Comics, and ZOT! will be talking and taking questions from the audience! Have you ever had a question for Scott McCloud? Well here’s your chance to ask Scott! TD Gallery.

Sunday, 1:00pm-2:30pm: Newspapers, Comic Books, and The Internet. Featuring R. Stevens, Scott McCloud, Stuart Immonen, Brendan Buford, and John Martz. Moderated by Steven Murray. Learning Centre 1

[Photo: Edgar Wright's snapshot of Mr. O'Malley on the set of the Toronto-based Scott Pilgrim film w/Michael Cera, filming right now.]

News about News

Catching the plane home from NYC tomorrow, but Heidi MacDonald has a great write-up at The Beat on a lot of the stuff that went on in the last few days, much of which I was able to catch despite only finding out about it at the last minute. So, um… basically, I’m letting The Beat do my work for me today.

Above, a picture of Shaun Tan and me at Books of Wonder on Sunday from the write-up.