Seeking to disprove stereotypes that comics are merely simplistic or juvenile entertainment for the uncultured; to enlighten the open-minded and encourage the broadening of one's horizons; to examine comics as a text; to deepen appreciation for comics, comic books, and graphic novels as a formidable form of art in all cultures.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Dibujante de Muñequitos

Time for a very on-topic (yet undeservingly-short) plug for a documentary being produced by a good friend from film school:

Dibujante de Muñequitos explores the life, career, artwork and relationships of Ric Estrada, former comic book penciler who spent much of his career working at DC Comics and was the first artist to draw such popular characters as Power Girl. Ric has led a very interesting life filled with connections with interesting people, such as the late Ernest Hemingway.

In viewing some of the unedited footage of the film (such as this interview with Paul Levitz, president of DC Comics), what intrigues me most about Ric is his religious convictions and how he implemented them in his every day life and work. The comics industry is rampant with atheism, and Ric stands out as a man who isn't afraid to make his convictions a part of his projects and known to his coworkers.

Seth, Ric's son and my friend, is striving to raise funds for this film to pay tribute to his father, who is currently undergoing radiation treatments for cancer. Ric is currently in good spirits, according to Seth, but the nature of cancer is such that nobody can be sure how much longer he'll be around, therefore time is of the essence in securing these funds and completing this project.

If it is within your means, support this film and show your support for artistic expression through the comics medium. See the links in this post for more detailed information on Ric's life, the film's progress & content, and benefits of donating.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Review: Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return

At the time of this post, I haven't yet read the predecessor to this graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi, but the story stands on its own well enough that there were very few occasions where I wondered if I was missing something that was perhaps in the other book.

Satrapi describes her experiences growing in 1980s Vienna, having been sent there during her adolescence to be distanced from war-torn Iran and its fundamentalist, oppressive government. She deals with the emotional pain of realizing that her family remains in danger while she is on her own, becoming a new person as she is exposed to much more liberal schools of thought than what she has hitherto been used to. Eventually she returns to Iran for a few years, to find herself defying her government, gaining greater insight to the motivation of her country's leaders, and fitting in less and less in the setting.

The story succeeds in delivering a great coming-of-age story while giving a Western audience greater access to a foreign culture. I'm not entirely sure how the telling of this story in comics form strengthens it as a whole, but I do have a few simple thoughts:
  • The simple drawing style of Satrapi, utilized in a very Western medium (yes, there are Eastern comics, but the style and form differ), really helped me get drawn into the story more. I often find it a little more difficult to relate with foreign cultures when simply reading text about them or sometimes even seeing a movie. The author's cartoons succeed in helping me relate with the Middle Eastern protagonist and neutralize any undesired alienations I may feel long enough to help me understand her own cultural discoveries in faraway places.
  • There are several times where I think it was easier for Satrapi to show rather than tell. One example is a page in the story where she describes how one begins to spot the different female body shapes under the many robes and veils they are required to wear, and illustrates how certain hairstyles result in a corresponding veil mold for others to see. It was much more effective to see this than have to read and trust that my imagination was doing the description justice.
  • Obviously there is something to be said for pacing and juxtaposition in the graphic storytelling. I personally loved one page where Satrapi is showing a figure drawing class she was taking, with a female model who had to remain completely covered due to a mandate by the powers-that-be(were). She slightly exaggerates the size and pose of the model to really accentuate the lack of shape the student artists had to work with and thus proclaim how ridiculous a scenario she'd found herself in. Pair this with her words, "We learned to draw drapes really well," and we're given a fantastic commentary on liberal arts vs. fundamentalist conservatism.
All in all a great read, and, of course, an excellent example of comics wielding greater potential than perhaps what pop culture America readily sees. If you enjoy autobiographies, Middle Eastern/European cultures, and discussions of clashing ideals (and the birth of new ones), then this book is for you.