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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Comics: Mouse Guard

Explaining my love for David Petersen's Mouse Guard requires a bit of background into why I picked it up in the first place. I had seen Mice Templar on the shelves and it had awakened a need in me for Medieval small creatures. I'd read a lot of Redwall books as a child, and it seemed like Mice Templar could be a good time, but when I got to the store, there were only a handful of issues on the shelf. I very much dislike reading comics out-of-order [they are termed "serial" for a reason]; so I decided to put it off until the trade. Disappointed, I wandered in the store and eventually ended up in the Children's section; not a section I frequent.

There on the shelf was this book called Mouse Guard, and I picked it up, intrigued and amused by the fact that there was another Small Creature Medieval Epic comic available. I was astonished to discover in reading that the book was not only beautifully illustrated [so beautifully that I'm seriously considering an art purchase] but also written with a clear and precise voice which was neither childish or cliche. Instead of comparing this book to the Redwall series, it is more closely akin to the literary classic Watership Down.

Mouse Guard is the tale of a network of mouse towns in a forest. The Guard consists of special cadre of mice who escort mice who must travel the wilds between the safety of their fortified towns. The themes are solemn and at heart, it is a story of survival. The Guard must protect against not only natural foes like predators, but also internal strive such as betrayal, mistrust and politics. The tale begins in Fall, before the mean season of Winter, and there are hard times ahead for all the mice involved.

In reading, I think I respond mostly to their strong will to do what they must to survive. I enjoy survival tales, which is probably why I enjoy zombie movies. Of course, Mouse Guard, while not being light-hearted, at least has the promise of Spring ahead; Nature remains neutral in the mouses' struggle. I enjoy the comic so much that I've even been reading it out-of-order. I'm still missing issue #3 [or #4] of Winter. I even will buy the trade even though I've purchased the issues individually.

{And this has nothing to do with anything, but David Petersen and I use the same Blogger template. We have good taste.}

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Indie Fixx Interview

Kathy and I were interviewed over at Indie Fixx. They used this photo of us which a passer-by took when the sun finally came out at last year's Renegade Craft Fair: Chicago. I really, really like this photo of us.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Twisted Goodness

My hair has reached a hither-to unheard of length. I can very nearly sit on it. It's mostly remained uncut due to a) laziness b) frugality and c) my love of complicated braids. Unfortunately, Reason C is normally out of my reach. I cannot French braid my own hair. I shun things like hairspray and blow dryers. My mom burned me in the forehead once with a curling iron and I've never gotten over my hatred of them. Most of the time, I just wrap my hair up in a bun and stick it to the back of my head. But Kathy sent me some links to some seemingly easy instructions for just pig-tailing your hair and then pinning it up which produces the complicated hair-weaving effect that I wanted. All I had to do was part my hair in the middle and braid it outwards, Pippi Longstocking style, so that when I go to pin it up on my head, it doesn't bulge out in a funny way. I run into a bit of a snare when I get to the ends. I finally discovered that I can fold the ends underneath the top of the braid and pin it down. A couple of weekends ago, I discovered that I can make an additional full circle with the end of the second braid. The best part about doing my hair like this is that it lasts for four days. That's four days that I don't have to fuss with my hair. Plus, it looks cool.

Since we're speaking of twisty, braided things, I should also mention that I managed to bake my own soft pretzels the other day. I used this recipe from Smitten Kitchen and was very happy with my result. They tasted like pretzels. Huzzah! Unfortunately, you're supposed to eat them all within 2 days because they get hard rather fast. Now I have four extremely hard pretzels that I'm thinking about things to do with- possible croutons or something.

Monday, March 09, 2009

If I see Papyrus used one more time...

I needed to share these. There is a whole set available at Design Police. Someone, maybe it was Patrick, recently asked me how I felt about how nearly every other person claims to be a graphic designer nowadays. I think I may have responded that I feel there is a great deal of difference between a desktop publisher and a graphic designer. Unfortunately, I'm sure some of the signs wouldn't make any sense to those desktop publishers. "Kern? What's a kern?"

Friday, March 06, 2009

Friday Comics: Watchmen

Last night, I attended a wonderful "dinner and a movie" preview through Challengers. A good time was had by all, and Patrick and Dal should be beatified for their selflessness in giving up their seats. They are truly what makes Challengers the store we all want to frequent. The movie, of course, was Watchmen. One viewing, especially one at 12AM when I'm normally in bed by 11PM, feels very insufficient to write a cohesive and insightful review. Nevertheless, I shall make an attempt. I probably cannot do so without some spoilers; so you have been warned.

For me, the glory of Watchmen has always been its construction. It is so intricately fabricated with layers and layers of interwoven reference and meaning that I am forever finding new aspects and hidden items within its pages. Of all things, an obvious analogy is that the book is written the same way that a fine watch is constructed- each small piece hand-crafted and precisely fitted to work with the others to produce a final product that we too often do not appreciate. I recently heard a reviewer describe the book as "Talmudic" with meaning, which is a good description of a lot of Alan Moore's work. This is the deep level that Watchmen works at for me. At first read, I also appreciated the story, a noir-type mystery with an apocalypse backdrop and also a history lesson, but subsequent readings and critical examination has made the formation of the story more important to me than the story itself.

Instead of re-reading Watchmen before the film, I've been listening to the "Footnotes" episodes over at Comic Geek Speak. I highly recommend these as critical reference material if you've already read Watchmen. It's four to six guys who go through the book, issue by issue, panel by panel and discuss everything about it. It's great because there are enough differing opinions to really engage listeners with a variety of views and also a lot of in depth information about the comic itself. I did this to have the comic fresh in my mind while divorcing it from its visuals. I thought this would allow me to see the movie more as a creation of its own, rather than constantly comparing it to the comic.

My efforts were in vain; not through any fault of my own, but this movie does not want to be seen as separate from its source material. There are scenes which were basically story-boarded by the comic. The casting was superb, the set design is amazing [and was probably my favorite thing about the film*], and the sensitivity the movie had towards the interpretation of the comic was outstanding. However, that same sensitivity, I feel, kept the movie from having the same impact with me that the comic does. The movie keeps so close that it never develops as its own entity, despite the convenient changes to the ending. I just don't think that the general public will be able to embrace Watchmen the way that they did The Dark Knight or even V for Vendetta. It's just too long and too true and too much of an homage to stand on its own.

*Another favorite aspect of the film was the use of music to set the time period. Because Watchmen takes place in an alternate 1985, all of the popular music in the movie comes from that time. It really allowed the viewer to identify the when of Watchmen, especially in the absence of other clues which the comic provided through vignettes of people other than superheros. The opening credits were also an extremely clever way to represent the historical aspects of the book in an economical way.

Obviously, I recommend both reading and seeing Watchmen. I'd say read it first and use the movie as a fun appendix. Then go read the rest of Alan Moore's work, especially Promethea and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Also, never see the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie. On second thought, do see it. Then you'll have an even greater appreciation for what a true adaption Watchmen is and how it still falls short of its comic counterpart.