Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Farewell to the(se) Teen Titans pt. 2

Picking up from where we left off…

As an interesting bit of trivia, just as New Teen Titans writer Marv Wolfman was chosen to helm Crisis On Infinite Earths in 1986, 20 years later Teen Titans writer Geoff Johns would get the nod for that classic event’s sequel, Infinite Crisis. Also parallel, both books’ original artists, George Perez and Mike McKone, would leave their Titans books around the kickoff of the corresponding events; however, while Perez would join Wolfman on the original Crisis, McKone headed over to Marvel to work on Fantastic Four (Johns would be assisted on Infinite Crisis by my good friend Phil Jimenez).

It spoke to the importance of the Titans franchise in both 1986 and 2006 that all or part of the creative team was transplanted over to the DC Universe-altering mega story of the day. There’s perhaps something to be said about DC operating at its peak when the Titans are flourishing and whether there’s a reason to that or if it’s just coincidence, but I’ll leave that to others (for now).

The first Teen Titans story of the post-McKone era was something of a full circle deal encompassing the first two years of the book as the “Insiders” crossover with Outsiders guest-illustrated by Matthew Clark came back around to elements of the Graduation Day limited series that launched both books and dealt with the long-gestating subplot of Superboy having Lex Luthor as of half of his DNA imprint that had been key to the series. It was an emotionally wrenching four-parter that I got quite invested in, watching poor Conner go mindless and attack his friends or Shift mercy kill Indigo; I was fully ensconced at Wizard by now and could read these books for free, but chose to buy them, knowing I’d want them for posterity no matter where my career took me.

As Infinite Crisis got underway across the DC line with tie-ins and lead-ins, Teen Titans acquired a new short term artist in the form of a blast from my personal past: Tony Daniel.

When I was younger and X-Force was among my favorite books, I was head over heels for the art of Greg Capullo, but then one month he mysteriously disappeared and was replaced by some dude I’d never heard of named Tony Daniel (as I relayed to Rickey on the train recently, as a young reader with Big Two tunnel vision, “going to Image” equaled “mysteriously disappeared” for me in the 90’s, and I was constantly wondering why so many artists “quit” comics in their prime). Within a few issues, Tony had won me over big time with ferocity of his work and landed a spot in my heart—before mysteriously disappearing a couple of years later, never to be heard from—by me—again.

Having not followed his work on The Tenth during or after my sojourn away from the medium, Tony working on Teen Titans really was a neat and surprising blast of nostalgia to me. I was speaking with Geoff pretty regularly at this point as I was covering Infinite Crisis for Wizard and would always impress upon him how awesome I thought Tony was when I was younger and how excited I was to see what he could do now; in turn, Geoff would send me e-mails with Tony’s beautiful pencil layouts (seriously, I sometimes wish his books came out in grayscale variants so people could see the raw work). Was I somehow responsible for Tony Daniel becoming the regular artist on Teen Titans and his subsequent success at DC? Next time I need a favor from him I’m going with yes.

Geoff landed a double emotional gut punch on me around this period with his handling of Superboy. First he penned the beautiful Teen Titans Annual #1, where Conner and Wonder Girl reminisced on and solidified the romance I’d watched build from awkward flirtations on the pages of Young Justice; it had a sincere ring of young love and again marked that well-handled aging process I commented on last time. It also made it even harder to read Superboy’s heroic sacrifice in Infinite Crisis, a death I’d been warned about months earlier but still had trouble reading. My then-girlfriend-now-wife, whom I had somehow kept it from and who loved Superboy and Wonder Girl, was furious and said she was going to write Geoff an angry e-mail. Teen Titans was the first comic she had ever read—she doesn’t read comics regularly anymore, but she read Geoff’s entire run on Teen Titans, which also got her reading Runaways, Buffy, Fables and a few others for a time—and this was her first brush with comic book death; she didn’t care for it.

As with the entire DCU, Teen Titans experienced a seismic shift following Infinite Crisis and the One Year Later gap. Familiar, friendly faces Superboy and Kid Flash were gone, replaced by the supposedly reformed Ravager and an inventive take on Blue Devil’s forgotten sidekick, Kid Devil. Robin and Wonder Girl remained, but had been hardened by loss and found comfort in one another. The book as a whole felt darker—a change probably spurred on by Daniel’s moodier art in place of McKone’s comparatively bouncy work—and had in many ways gone from the story of friends hanging out and having fun to survivors being there for one another, and there was mileage in that.

I thought Johns’ attempt to clean up the muddled continuity of the Doom Patrol and bring them back into the Titans’ world was very strong. His work with Kid Devil made for compelling reading, particularly the one-off spotlight issue drawn by Peter Snejbjerg, as Eddie Bloomberg was an optimist who belonged in the Titans during better days but made do with the hand he was dealt even as he hid his own personal tragedy. “Titans Around the World” introduced some great new characters, not the least of whom was Miss Martian, aka Megan Morse.

But despite these high points, you could feel an era coming to an end. Geoff was juggling a lot of books coming out of Infinite Crisis, including Green Lantern, a re-launched Justice Society, and Action Comics; something had to give. In the exit interview he did with me for Wizard’s web site, he said he enjoyed the post-Infinite Crisis period of Titans and had a lot of ideas he was sorry he wouldn’t be able to get to, but also admitted that losing Superboy and Kid Flash had been tough and made his decision on which book he had to drop at least a little easier.

As Geoff prepared to exit Teen Titans, I was finishing up my run as DC contact at Wizard. In one of the very last DC articles I did for the magazine, I pitched the idea of introducing the villainous Titans East through a series of sketches Tony would do exclusively accompanied by “dossiers” Geoff could write; with his schedule slammed, I offered to help with the bios, written from Deathstroke’s perspective as he was the group’s founder. I turned my drafts into Geoff and he paid me an extreme compliment saying they sounded “just like Deathstroke” and he made very few modifications; that piece remains one I’m extremely proud of—you can see it in full here—and Geoff’s kind words still resonate.

“Titans East” would provide a nice capper to the Geoff Johns era of Teen Titans, bringing the focus back to the Wilson family once more and providing some closure to the story that had begun back in issue #1. It also wrapped around the time I left Wizard for Marvel, so it felt like a chapter of my life was closing as well (I mean, one was, obviously, but a more Teen Titans-centric chapter).

I continued to buy Titans after I started at Marvel. The book was creatively adrift for a little while as Adam Beechen, Geoff’s co-writer on “Titans East” and planned successor, ended up leaving for other things after only a few issues. Sean McKeever, a writer whose work I wasn’t entirely familiar with—what I’d read, I’d liked—but also a fellow I knew from conventions and got along well with took over for a solid year and a half, with most of his run drawn by Eddy Barrows. Sean had a knack for writing Ravager in particular and did some neat stuff with revisiting the Titans of Tomorrow, bringing back Brother Blood, and adding some interesting new members such as Kid Eternity and Static. In retrospect, a lot of art shifts, roster changes and event crossovers threw some instability into Sean’s run that was a bit of a shame, because I remember his high points fondly and will always wonder what more he could have done with just a touch more traction.

Following Sean’s departure, Teen Titans gained something of a revolving door. Bryan Q. Miller, a name I recognized and appreciated from Smallville, stepped in for a bit, but didn’t stay long enough for my liking. Felicia Henderson took over for a spell and seemed to have some cool ideas, but never quite nailed the voices of the characters for me. It was a strange thing to watch a book like Titans, which had such a solid sense of self and cohesion for the first few years of its existence, bounce around so much between creators and characters. Geoff and Mike McKone came back for a short untold story of their team for issue #50, and with all due respect to the creators who followed them, the “those were the good old days” message couldn’t help but resonate a bit. I could hardly believe when issue #75 came around and I felt like while the past two and a half years had been packed and eventful in my life, they flew by for the Titans.

I own just about all 100 issues of Teen Titans, but there’s a gap of a few issues I kind of regret now that I don’t own in the mid-80’s; I was still reading monthly, but feeling more and more removed from characters I once felt so close to—Superboy and Kid Flash had both made their way back but seemed like strangers—I pulled back to just reading the office copies.

I came back with issue #88 when J.T. Krul and Nicola Scott took over. I had exchanged pleasantries with J.T. back in the day and he left a solid enough impression that I wanted to give him a shot (that’s all it takes sometimes!). Nicola was a different story as I had “met” her via the Comic Bloc message board back when she was still trying to break into the business and pitched a quick “Introducing” bit for Wizard centered around the unique fact that she had been a Wonder Woman model in her native Australia but that also provided a chance to show off her art; Nicola’s undeniable talent and winning personality no doubt got her where she deserved to be drawing comics in the big time not long after the article, but since I’ve already taken credit for Tony Daniel’s career, let’s go ahead and chalk this one up to me as well.

J.T. and Nicola also brought back a pared down and familiar roster consisting of Wonder Girl, Superboy, Kid Flash, Raven, Beast Boy and Ravager. They threw in the novel wrinkle of adding Damien Wayne, the new Robin, as a wild card, which provided some really fun stuff, before completing the reunion by returning Red Robin to the book as well. It truly did feel like a return to form, as the characters I dug sounded like themselves again, the balance of soap opera with action felt right, and the art shined to accompany fun, heartfelt stories.

The icing on the cake was that right there in the credits, my buddy Rickey Purdin’s name now appeared as the assistant editor. It had been wild enough for me to go from simple reader to a dude who knew the writer and artist, but it honestly felt even crazier in the coolest of ways that a friend who had been in my wedding and whom I talked about Teen Titans with in the cafeteria at Wizard and the train into New York City was now playing a role in controlling their destinies.
And I may be biased, but Rickey Purdin writes the best damn non-Steve-Wacker letters pages in the business (Steve gets his own special division).

Of course that brings us pretty much up to speed, as J.T. notched 12 issues of Teen Titans to be proud of, wrapping with the landmark #100, but the sun has now set as we prepare for the dawn of a new DC Universe.

I’m glad I took this look back at Teen Titans and me, as it reminded me of a lot of the good times the book and its creators provided me over the past eight years, as a fan and a professional. I’m glad in my own small ways I got to be a part of the series, even if it was from off to the side and behind the scenes. I’m also glad that at the end of the day, this book and these characters finished up in a place I’ll fondly remember; as we move to the next step, I’m able to picture those final pages and be happy knowing Conner, Bart, Tim, Cassie and the rest ended up miles away from Young Justice and even their early days as Teen Titans, but recognizable and still together.

Speaking of that next step, I’m pretty excited for the new Teen Titans #1 headed my way, certainly a changed attitude from 100 issues ago. Scott Lobdell—another favorite from my formative years—and Brett Booth are taking these characters even further abreast from where they’ve been than Geoff and Mike did the Young Justice gang nearly a decade ago, but as I was shown back then, change might be scary, but it can also be awesome. Superboy isn’t the only one who did some growing up over the last decade.

Geoff, Mike, Tony, Sean, J.T., Nicola, Rickey, et al., thanks for an awesome ride.

Bring on tomorrow.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Farewell to the(se) Teen Titans pt. 1

With the DC Universe we’ve known and loved for the past 25/5/2 years (depending on when you consider the current start point; I left out Zero Hour as an option, though I probably shouldn’t have) coming to an end before beginning anew this week, I wanted to do some sort of big post celebrating, highlighting or analyzing said world of comics. A daunting task to be sure, but despite the fact I work “across the street,” we’re talking about stories, characters, creators, etc. that played a major part in my comic book life and that have meant a lot to me.

I’m probably repeating myself here, but while I was a Marvel kid and am employed by Marvel now, DC was a major part of what got me back into comics in college following a multi-year lapse and ultimately led me down the path that made me a—snicker—industry professional. While discovering Sarge’s Comics and wanting to check up on what I’d missed with the X-Men was the lure that caught my attention, a sprawling universe containing so many tales and so much continuity I’d never explored in much depth was the bait that reeled me in.

Crisis on Infinite Earths was my starting point, rather than an end goal, so I could work my way back and figure out who all these people saving the multiverse were and where they’d gotten to since 1986. Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s New Teen Titans was a natural next step as they were the Crisis creators and the complete run was there in the back issue bins for me to find. At the same time, I caught up on what I’d missed in the late 90’s with stuff like Kingdom Come and Grant Morrison’s JLA while also familiarizing myself with then-current DC fare, most prominently the work of Geoff Johns on Flash and JSA.

Wow, this could easily just turn into yet another “Ben’s comics autobiography” post if I let it. But I won’t. Well, I’ll try.

Anyway, while Marvel has provided the bookends of my fandom to date, DC played a major role filling the gaps. I was known as “the DC guy” for most of my tenure at Wizard including a year or so run as their official contact and am a dude who still picks up quite a few of their books with my own hard-earned money and reads most of the others from the comps around the Marvel offices to this day.

But what to write about in this epic farewell to the current DCU? Something about the Justice League since their newest incarnation debuts this week? A treatise on Crisis On Infinite Earths, since it’s kinda my DC bible? An underrated stories list? A lazy top five?

All considered, all rejected.

I was reading Teen Titans #100 over the weekend and realized I vividly recall the first issue of the series and most of the 98 in between. I can’t really think of any other current book I can say that about, at least not one that’s lasted that long. So I figured remembering this last volume of Teen Titans, which in many ways was my DC touchstone from college to Wizard and even to Marvel, was the way to go.

First things first: When a new Teen Titans ongoing series was announced back in 2003, I was not happy about it. Seriously. I even wrote an article about why I didn’t like the idea for my old web site, 411mania.

Seems strange, doesn’t it? I’ve already covered that I was a fan of the Wolfman/Perez Teen Titans as well as Geoff Johns, who would be writing the new series. I was also big into the Exiles art of Mike McKone, who would be drawing the book, and one of my favorite characters, Superboy, would be a charter member. So why the glass half empty outlook? It had to do mostly with Young Justice.

Since my “return” to comics, Young Justice by Peter David and Todd Nauck had become one of the consistent favorites to top my reading list. It was funny, it was a clever, and it was different; a monthly super hero comic with plenty of action, jokes and shiny art, but also a knack for incorporating heavier themes involving real teenage problems and building relationships that felt genuine. I loved Young Justice and miss it to this day. Unfortunately, while it had a passionate following, we weren’t enormous, and unfortunately it was just a matter of time before the book got cancelled. I should have been overjoyed that even if one of my most beloved comics was going away, at least most of its cast was sticking together in a new title by my favorite writer, but for whatever reason I took a more “You killed Young Justice!” approach to Teen Titans’ initial publicity.

Fortunately, my stance didn’t hold for long. Yeah, initially I was a bit of a fanboy, grumbling to myself about Impulse now wanting to be called Kid Flash or Superboy acting less like the eternally immature Peter Pan I grew up with, but Geoff did strong work and they did it from the start, so it was hard to not get caught up. As time passed, I bought more and more into the notion that these characters were actually growing up, just as I had; Young Justice was the carefree middle school years of those characters—and me—that still existed in memories and always would, but Teen Titans was the terrifying and exhilarating step that came next.

It also helped that Mike McKone’s art was really good. In a lot of ways he was the modern day George Perez to a new generation of Titans as far as enthusiasm for detail and skill in conveying youth, but he also set himself apart with a smooth style incorporating an eye for the future that set him apart from his decades-earlier predecessor’s classic and studied approach.

Johns also brought his talent for reinvigorating classic villains as well as creating new takes on familiar bad guys honed on Flash over to Titans. Deathstroke shook off his murky anti-hero period and got back to being a thinking man’s bad ass with a warped—but potent—code of honor. The Wilson children, Jericho and Ravager, both got fleshed out and twisted (in my exit interview with Geoff for Wizard when he left the book, I noted how his run was in many ways as much the story of the Wilson family as of the Titans, a fact he registered with a “Huh”). The new Brother Blood was even creepier than the old one (and still gives my wife the willies if I mention him). The fallout of Doctor Light going from joke to psycho with an earned chip on his shoulder was also well-played.

There was also a clear rising action to those early arcs of Teen Titans especially. “A Kid’s Game” was a strong opening that forged the team immediately against an A-level threat in Deathstroke and gave a nod to the title’s past, but it was still our heroes versus a relatively conventional bad guy, which gave room to grow. After two fun one-offs with a JLA versus story and ode to the classic “Day in the Life” issue of NTT, “Raven Rising” upped the stakes with a more serious threat in the new Brother Blood and reached deeper into the past by incorporating Trigon while also building further for the future with Ravager’s ongoing involvement. “Beast Boys and Girls” was another diversion arc with a focus on Beast Boy—which made sense given that Johns had written a solo series for him way back when—another new villain in The Zookeeper and a neat throwback with former Titans—and Superboy—artist as well as a personal favorite, Tom Grummett, on hand to illustrate.

By this time, I had become friends with Geoff and met him at my first San Diego Comic-Con as he was helping me try to break in. My buddy Tim and I went out for a midday drink with him and he showed us on his laptop what was coming up in Titans, so I got my first taste both of being an “insider” and not being able to share awesome secrets.

“Titans Tomorrow” was awesome. In reality, it was “only” a three-part story contained to a single title, but it felt so much bigger in scale. I’ve always loved peeking at future versions of elements I know as much as the next guy, but here Johns devoted as much time to genuine character building in the way of values and destiny as he did to fan service stuff like revisiting the Bart Allen-Rose Wilson romance or incorporating Cyborg’s animated series look—although I suppose that latter credit should be given more to McKone, who outdid himself in redesigning the future Titans and their world.

It would be the next arc, “Lights Out,” where Mike would really get the chance to shine—which was fitting as it would be his swan song before heading back to Marvel to draw Fantastic Four. The story spun out of Identity Crisis, bringing Doctor Light out of that event and back into the Titans orbit, and also brought the new Speedy into the team as well as introducing a new Hawk and Dove. The true draw, however, was McKone getting to draw pretty much every Titan ever when they get called in as backup, an old Perez staple that he had earned and that he attacked with an explosive excitement, truly his finest hour on a tour of duty filled with many high marks.

Teen Titans would be a good and even great book other times past issue #23, but there was certainly a magic and energy in those initial Johns/McKone issues that, as with any truly special creative team, would be impossible to duplicate.

And that seems a good place to stop for today, as 100 issues certainly warrants more than one post (particularly when I—predictably—rambled about myself for the first five paragraphs).

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Paragraph Movie Reviews: Footloose

If you don't have plans to see this movie, you can check the spoilers here and then come back.

I just watched this for the first time in 2011, so it's hard to judge it on merit and not get swayed by a mix of nostalgia and skepticism at the 80's trappings, but I felt like the stuff that was important is pretty timeless. Kevin Bacon was still poured perfectly into the role with boatloads of charisma, a ton of physical skill and the right combination of smooth cockiness with awkward nerves. John Lithgow's performance as a haunted and conflicted would-be-antagonist holds up. Chris Penn is hilarious and the most underrated part of the movie for me. The montages are pitch perfect in a way that captures the feel they were going for and revs you up. I even dig Sarah Jessica Parker in the spunky sidekick role and thought Lori Singer was solid if uneven while Dianne Wiest did a lot with what little she was given. And of course the dancing is phenomenal, as is the music. The story is a bit frustrating with so much I wish I could have actually seen taking place between scenes, most significantly Ren asking Reverend Moore if he can take Ariel to the prom and talking about their family lives, which seems like a pretty crucial moment you'd want to keep off the cutting room floor and one of the few chances to get Bacon and Lithgow on screen together one on one; but also I would have liked more just of Ren adjusting to high school and interacting with the other students (I had no idea he was one the gymnastics team at all and would have liked to actually see the plan for the dance come together or the council's verdict). I wasn't really watching Footloose for a tight plot, though; I wanted a series of feel good, kick ass highlights I can watch later on fast forward, and I got that with a movie that had everything I love about 80's formula teen movies.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Art Attack: November 2011's Coolest Covers

Pun about being thankful, etc. etc. etc...

-A painter whose work I really dig when it comes to covers in particular is Gerard Parel. He's got the smooth, near-metallic sheen of a Adi Granov or Marko Djurdjevic to his work, but also an edginess bordering nearly on messiness that helps him stand apart. His Captain America and Marvels Project covers were really strong and had a gutsy appeal, his S.H.I.E.L.D. is bold and his Thor here for Avengers Origins boasts a raw power I think perfectly suits the character.

-Adam Hughes is traditionally known for his ladies, but I like the way he does the Batman characters in general. His balance of pop color with shadow is perfect for a guy like Nightwing.

-Kyle Baker's DeadpoolMAX cover is fun, but I'm curious where the logo goes. Given that I work in the same building the comic gets made in, I suppose I should just ask somebody there.

-I echo J. Caleb Mozzocco in his feelings about how cool it would be to have Simon Bisley on the interiors of Deathstroke for at least an issue.

-I enjoy when Steve Epting does covers, because he makes them really pretty.

-I don't know what that horse is doing in Francis Manapul's Flash cover, but I know I like it.

-Jason Pearson draws a fantastic Warlock.

-That Philip Tan cover is the first piece of art to sell me on Hawkman's new post-reboot costume.

-First of all, that homage to Frank Quitely's New X-Men on Secret Avengers is both cool and spot on, but second, I would never have tabbed Larry Stroman as being the guy who did it. Wow.

-Gabrielle Dell'Otto's Red Skull on Vengeance #5 is terrifying. That smile, the texture, the colors...yikes.

ANGEL & FAITH #4 by Steve Morris
AVENGERS ORIGINS: VISION #1 by Marko Djurdjevic
BATGIRL #3 by Adam Hughes
BATMAN #3 by Greg Capullo
B.P.R.D. HELL ON EARTH: RUSSIA #3 by Dave Johnson
DEADPOOLMAX #2 by Kyle Baker
DEATHSTROKE #3 by Simon Bisley
FF #12 by Steve Epting
THE FLASH #3 by Francis Manapul
HUNTRESS #2 by Guillem March
MEN OF WAR #3 Viktor Kalvachev
MUDMAN #1 by Paul Grist
NEW MUTANTS #33 by Jason Pearson
PENGUIN: PRIDE & PREJUDICE #2 by Szymon Kudranski
PIGS #3 by Amanda Conner
THE PUNISHER #5 by Mike Perkins
SECRET AVENGERS #19 by Larry Stroman
SHAME ITSELF #1 by Skottie Young
SUICIDE SQUAD #3 by Ryan Benjamin
THUNDERBOLTS #166 by Mike Del Mundo
TINY TITANS #46 by Art Baltazar
UNCANNY X-FORCE #17 by Esad Ribic
VENGEANCE #5 by Gabrielle Dell'Otto
VENOM #9 by Michael Lark

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Paragraph Movie Reviews: Fright Night

If you don't have plans to see this movie, you can check the spoilers here and then come back.

This is not a "good" movie in the sense that the pacing is funky, the dialogue is often crap and the 3-D is completely tacked on; a film student would probably have a heart attack after watching this. Is that of any relevance as far as its entertainment value? Not as far as I'm concerned. I had a helluva lot of fun watching this, and not just in a "so bad it's good" way. Here's an instance where clearly the director and particularly the actors saw they had a pretty hokey script--perhaps intentionally so--and rather than try to make it anything but that, just went to town and had fun. Watching Colin Farrell was a delight; the same as when he played Bullseye in Daredevil, as the vampire Jerry he just enjoys the heck out of not just every line he delivers, but every millisecond he has to mug for the camera with a twitch or smile or goofy face. Farrell knows the perfect line between campy and cool and it's a joy to watch the man work. While he can't touch Farrell--nobody could have--David Tennant is pretty great in his own right as a Criss Angel parody with a dumb secret origin that, again, works because they don't take it too seriously. Christopher Mintz-Plasse plays the same character he always plays and has limited screen time, but if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Anton Yelchin has the unenviable task of being the comparably square hero between the twin towers of Farrell and Tennant, but he brings some to the role, and even goes for a little pathos on occasion. I'm not sure exactly what Fright Night was meant to be, a full-on horror comedy or a traditional horror movie; it wasn't that scary, but it was hilarious and fun, so I hope the goal was the former. It has slow moments, there are some points where the plot is too bad to even laugh at and, again, the 3-D was absurdly gratuitous, so I can't give it quite top marks, but for the most part it was pretty enjoyable and even occasionally clever, so I tend toward thumbs up. If you're expecting the next great horror movie, skip this, but if you want a fun diversion under two hours, I think you'll be pleased with this.

Friday, August 19, 2011

LuLu Phegley's First Comic

This is my niece LuLu.

LuLu is four, so she can't quite read yet beyond occasionally spelling "MOM" or "OWL" and somehow knowing which letters form to make "Spongebob Squarepants" on the TV's digital guide. But she loves books and magazines and anything with pictures that's made out of paper. She'll cart her copy of "Olivia" around the house with here and take toy catalogues that come in the mail to bed and generally wants to be read to every 38 seconds or so.

I went home to Flint last week for a few days where I discovered my older brother – being the rad dad that he is – had pulled our old "Calvin & Hobbes" collections out of the basement and given them to LuLu. Particularly, she seemed to have Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat or Scientific Progress Goes "Boink" with her whenever I'd turn around.

Two things would happen whenever she was reading these books. 1) LuLu would surmise what was going on from the pictures alone and then run up to me to declare "Calvin ate something yucky!" or 2) LuLu would laugh hysterically at the pages for a few moments and then turn and go, "Uncle Kiel, WHAT ARE THEY DOING?" It was pretty great.

LuLu is also starting to actually draw things of late after that super long period where kids just rub crayons in chaotic fashion all over whichever piece of paper you give them. She's very fond of drawing spiders right now, though sometimes they have nine or eleven legs. At some point in the weekend, she came up and handed me the following drawing, and it kind of blew my mind a little:


What a strange, powerful, invisible, awesome art form we follow that a little girl who can't write out a word with two syllables can grok the core of what it takes to make a little comic. It's like the art contains a low level signal that's constantly convincing your brain that these people and bubbles really exist in their own reality made up of so much more than lines and paper and madness. I tell you, there are days I really need to be reminded of how wonderful this stuff is and why I keep doing the job I do. Thanks, LuLu.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I'm going to Disney World!

No, seriously I am.

See you next week!