Looking to the Future

Looking back on this semester, I am proud of where I am with my project and think I have set a good foundation for the Spring semester. Akin and I have been working together on a consistent schedule, so I think that by the end of winter break, all of my pages will be penciled and inked. Next semester will be designated to lettering, coloring, and printing my comic book. However, speaking of coloring, I am now toying with the idea of having my comic stay black and white. A couple weeks ago while I was working at my comic shop, an independent comic creator came in to give us a few copies of his comic to sell on our shelves. I figured this was a perfect time to ask him a few questions. He ended up giving me info on where he printed his comic and told me about a program that he used to letter his book that comes preloaded with comic fonts. When he let me look through his comic, I saw that the panels were black and white. I mentioned how I wanted my comic to be colored, and he gave the rundown of the standard printing costs for a colored comic book. He suggested that I should think about printing my comic in black and white because it is cheaper and is practical for someone on a budget. I have not made a decision yet, but it is something to keep in mind. If I do end up deciding to go black and white I can always print a colored version of my comic later down the line, which is what The Walking Dead comics are doing right now.

Ideally, after I graduate, I’ll be selling copies of Dichotomy at my comic shop, as well as another comic shop that I go to on 2nd and Market in Philly. If enough people like it, I would love to expand the story further in future comics and create a whole self-contained universe. At some point, I also want to pitch this comic to a publisher and see if they want to pick it up. Coincidentally, there is a publisher called Dynamite and its headquarters are right in my hometown. Eventually, I would love to write for Marvel or DC and become an established writer in the comic book world. Hell, if fortune is in my favor, maybe I’ll start my own publishing company. Finally, I would love to adapt Dichotomy into a film, which connects to another goal of mine: become a writer in the writer’s room for film and television. Basically, my hope is that Dichotomy becomes the catalyst that starts opening up all sorts of doors for me in the world of media and storytelling.

These may sound like lofty goals, but prior to this semester I considered creating a comic book to be a lofty goal, and now I am well on my way to doing just that.

The Relationship Between Mood and Color

Before I start, I just want to give a shout out to Julian for suggesting that I research this area in his response to my blog last week. Thanks General Kenobi, you are a bold one. This week, I read “The Degree to Which Colors (Hues) Are Associated with Mood-Tones” by Lois B. Wexner. This study determines exactly what the title describes. The study gathers a group of 94 men and women to test what words (that classify specific feelings or mood-tones) are associated with which color. It finds that the colors mostly associated with the mood-tones “exciting” and “stimulating” are red, yellow, and orange. It also finds that the colors mostly associated with the mood-tones “despondent,” “dejected,” “unhappy,” and “melancholy” are black, brown, and purple (Wexner, 1954, p. 433). The study comes to the conclusion that “for each mood-tone certain colors were chosen to ‘go with’ that mood-tone significantly more often than the remaining colors” (Wexner, 1954, p. 433).

Though the study is a little on the older side, I think its findings still ring true today. When I read comics, I notice that happy or lighthearted scenes tend to have warmer colors while darker, more dramatic scenes tend to have cooler colors. This study gave me an idea that I’d like to talk through with my colorist when I eventually find one. I think I want to start Marshall’s story with cooler colors because he is “dejected” and “unhappy,” but as his perspective starts to change and he becomes more empathetic, warmer colors will slowly become more prominent. It will essentially be flipped for Marshall II. His story will start with warmer colors but as he becomes more apathetic, cooler colors will take over. I am excited to explore this with my colorist.

I actually just got out of a meeting with Akin before working on this blog post. It was a great session, we’re still chugging along and getting thumbnails down. We’re pretty much halfway done all of them, so that’s awesome. I’m meeting with Laura this week and I think I am going to start looking at all of the resources on potential colorists/printers that everyone sent me last class. I feel good about the pace that this project is going.

Works Cited:

Wexner, L. B. (1954). The degree to which colors (hues) are associated with mood-tones. Journal of Applied Psychology, 38(6), 432-435. doi:10.1037/h0062181

Comics and Music

For this week, I read “Musical Sequences in Comics” by Kieron Michael Brown. In this article, Brown notes the similarities between comic books and music in terms of their rhythm and pacing while also noting “comics’ potential to represent the character of music.” He suggests that “analyses of comics that combine the traditional interplay of image and word with the use of elements of musical notation” further highlights the relationship between music and comic books (Brown, 2013, p. 1). He looks at three comic books in particular: Scott Pilgrim, V for Vendetta, and Cages. All three of these comics contain panels depicting musical performances that use musical notation in various different ways to tell their respective stories. Brown concludes by stating that “each of the creators [of the comics] has manipulated elements of notation to convey specific musical performances in a manner in keeping with the styles and themes of their comics” (Brown, 2013, p. 6).

Even though this article doesn’t directly relate to my project, as there are no musical performances in my comic, it is still interesting to see the relationship between comics and music and look at how the two mediums are similar. However, something that Brown wrote stood out to me. After he details how the three comics incorporate musical elements into their panels/stories, he states that “the result in each is an encompassing and pervasive depiction of music, loosely comparable to a film’s soundtrack” (Brown, 2013, p. 1). This made me think about how whenever I read comics I tend to imagine music playing through the panels as the story unfolds, just like a film’s soundtrack. As someone reads through my comic, what kind of music will pop up in their mind? Will it fit the tone that I am trying to set through the art and the dialogue? I think this is something that I should keep in mind as I continue collaborating with Akin.

The feedback I received on my proof of concept was helpful. The feedback I got from Julian about possibly using Akin’s original “older” design for Marshall as the base for Vern further supports what I initially thought when I first saw the design. I think I am going to do just that. Everyone else’s feedback reassured me that I am on the right track in terms of the panel layout and art. I’m excited to keep working on the project.

Works Cited

Brown, K. M. (2013). Musical Sequences in Comics. The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship, 3(1), pp. 1-6. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/cg.aj.

Schadenfreude?

For this week, I read “Denise Mina’s Hellblazer and the Triumph of Scottish Schadenfreude” by Chris Murray. Murray looks at Mina, a Scottish writer, and the way she represents Glasgow, Scotland in a twelve-issue run for the Hellblazer series. Hellblazer is published by DC Comics and follows an occult detective named John Constantine. In the article, Murray talks about how Mina’s story follows John as he confronts the ’empathy plague,’ “a curse which forces its victims to feel the emotions of others,” and how “the wry suggestion in her story is that a touch of empathy would be anathema [a curse] to the famously gruff Scots” (Murray, 2011, p. 78). The empathy plague is defeated by the end of the story when the residents of Glasgow experience schadenfreude, or “delighting in the misery of others” after England is eliminated from the World Cup (Mina 2006; Murray, 2011, p. 85). Murray finishes the article by noting that Mina ends the story leaving the reader with the feeling that “the only thing left to us when the bonds of society and community break down, is hope” (Murray, 2011, p. 93)

This article is very interesting because I think it plays into my project particularly well. When the version of Marshall that becomes a villain is going through his transformation, I’d argue that he goes through a key moment where he experiences schadenfreude. It’s cool to have a specific word for it now. In addition, even though I know that the premise of Mina’s story is ironic, it makes me wonder if there is a point where someone can become too empathetic. However, Murray does add that Mina’s story shows that the alternative to having hope is apathy “and the existential emptiness that leads to a culture built on schadenfreude” (Murray, 2011, p. 95). I think I am going to look up some more sources on schadenfreude. It’ll be interesting to see what I find.

I met with Andrew Iliadis a few days ago. He didn’t get the chance to look at my script yet, but when we met, we looked over the sources that I have so far for my project. He thought they were good, but I told him that I was kind of losing steam in terms of finding sources that I thought were valuable. He pointed me towards different databases to look through. He also helped me figure out how to best use keywords when searching databases to find the most relevant/valuable sources. I found the article in this blog with Andrew’s help. I feel like it will be a little easier to find good sources from now on. I am also planning to meet with Kathy Mueller on Tuesday so we’ll see how that goes. My committee set, so all I have to do now is get my form signed by the MSP Grad Director.

Works Cited:

Mina, D. (2006) Hellblazer #228 [Cartoon] New York, NY. DC Comics.

Murray, C. (2011). Denise Mina’s Hellblazer: And the Triumph of Scottish Schadenfreude. Gothic Studies, 13(2), 78-97. doi:10.7227/gs.13.2.8

Are All Heroes the Same?

This week, I looked at What Makes a Hero? Exploring Characteristic Profiles of Heroes Using Q-Method by Brian R. Riches. He conducts an experiment to determine “the extent to which different types of real heroes have similar and distinct characteristics” (Riches, 2018, p. 585). He compares the psychological traits of participants classified as real heroes because of awards they had received for their actions. His participants rank traits he lists on his study from least characteristic to most characteristic. In the end, Riches finds two differing groups of heroes. One group is classified as open, loving, and risk-taking heroes while another group is identified as spiritual, socially responsible, and prudent heroes (Riches, 2018, p. 596-597). I find this interesting because even though the two groups have different traits, both still have members that are described as heroes.

I think this article helps emphasize one of my projects goals, which is showing that anyone can be a hero. People can differ in personality and have different strengths and weaknesses but still be considered a hero. For example, a member of the open, loving, and risk-taking group states that they “have always thrown caution to the wind” while a member of the other group says that they have “a constant internal dialogue . . . [they] do not do things without carefully thinking about the consequences and costs,” which Riches points out as uncommon in research on heroism (Riches, 2018, p. 597). In comics and other media, (super)heroes are commonly depicted as someone who will go headlong into danger without much thought if it means they can help someone. Seeing someone in the study that does the opposite of that but is still considered a hero expands what it means to be a hero. However, of the 53 people contacted for the study, only 14 completed it, which skews the results a bit (Riches, 2018, p. 589). I do still think this article will help when I write my paper.

The feedback I received on my initial media was helpful, and made me consider the ways in which I am conveying the story through my writing. The next day I went into work at my comic shop and had my friend who is a professor at the community college in my hometown look at my script as well. As someone who has been reading comics for 20+ years, he provided some great feedback. My next steps will be to keep looking over my script and edit as needed and keep collaborating with Akin. We are meeting tomorrow to go over storyboards.

Works Cited:

Riches, B. R. (2018). What makes a hero? Exploring characteristic profiles of heroes using q-method. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 58(5), 585–602. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022167817716305

Comics and Critical Thinking

For this week, I read through an article by Renee Krusemark. It centers around comic books and their efficacy in educational settings. Krusemark conducted an experiment with seventeen college students in literature courses In the experiment, she tested the level of critical thinking in each student when reading a comic and compared it to their level of critical thinking when reading traditional literature (Krusemark, 2016, p. 62). To do this, Krusemark had participants read The Long Halloween, a popular Batman story that spans thirteen issues, and A Study in Scarlet, the detective novel that featured the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes. After reading The Long Halloween, one student stated that “the fact the book was pretty complex completely surprised [them]” and that it “definitely improved [their critical thinking] just for the fact that it kept [them] thinking through the whole book.” However, another student stated that “comic books are more for little kids because they have all the pictures and stuff” and that they do not “see it being that much of a benefit for a person in college or high school to read comic books” (Krusemark, 2016, p. 67). If that person were in this class, I’d probably tell them to read my blog post about the book I read two weeks ago, as it serves as a rebuttal to their statements. Either way, the study showed that “strong ratings [of critical thinking] were more often seen in the comic book survey” and that students used just as much if not more critical thinking when reading a comic book (Krusemark, 2016, p. 67-70).

Like the book I talked about in my blog two weeks ago, this article will help justify why I chose a comic book as the form for my project. This article showcases the potential educational value of comics. I have not seen comics used in a classroom setting, at least in my experience. This article is one of the steps in changing that. As an English major in my undergrad years, I would have loved to analyze comics and their stories as a part of the curriculum.

So I finished the rough draft of my script. It definitely still needs some work, but it feels good to have it done. I’m also starting to work more closely with Akin, so that’s exciting. I took pictures of the Temple train station and City Hall and sent them to him. They are two locations that are used in the story. The pictures will act as references for him as he works on the art. Everything is slowly starting to come together and I’m happy about that.

Works Cited:

Krusemark, R. (2016). Comic books in the American college classroom: A study of student critical thinking. Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics, 8(1), 59-78. doi:10.1080/21504857.2016.1233895

The Kick-Ass Paradox

If you haven’t read the comic or seen the movie, Kick-Ass, let me give you a sentence summary. It’s about a regular guy who is inspired by comic books and becomes a “superhero” to fight crime. In the article that I read for this week, anthropologist Gavin Weston asks “why have comic books not inspired more real-life vigilantism?” (Weston, 2013, p. 223). This is a question that I often ask myself. In comics, vigilantes with no superpowers exist, so why isn’t this often the case in the real world? Weston calls this the “Kick-Ass paradox.” He points out three factors that account for the presence of vigilantism: dissatisfaction with justice, awareness of other vigilantes, and a preexisting social or cultural template (Weston, 2013, p. 223). Later in the article when he focuses on the second factor, he says something that I think is interesting. For comic book readers to be inspired to participate in vigilantism, the vigilantism portrayed in comics would have to be depictions that actually happened in the real world (Weston, 2013, p. 226). That is almost never the case, at least in my experience. That brings up the thought that if there was a comic series that depicted actual events of real-life vigilantism, would that lead to more people being inspired to do the same? Would these kind of comics blur the lines of fantasy and reality enough to where readers start acting?

While this article is an interesting read, I’m not sure how well it will contribute to my project, as the character from the real world will become a real-life superhero that doesn’t go out and fight crime. He helps people in other ways like giving out directions, carrying groceries, etc. Although, when I first wrote the original story, the initial intention was for him to become a vigilante.

For my training module this week, I watched a video on comic book lettering in Adobe Illustrator. While I preferably would like someone else with more lettering experience to handle that part of comic production, I figured that I should have a grasp on it if I end up not being able to find anyone. Using some templates that the module provided, I tried different forms of lettering, like thought balloons, whisper balloons, and voiceover captions, among others. All of these will be used in the comic. I still need to practice more because surprise, I wasn’t perfect. However, because of this module, I’m a little more comfortable with lettering. If I end up having to do the lettering, here’s hoping I won’t be like a deer in headlights.

Works Cited:

Weston, G. (2013). Superheroes and comic-book vigilantes versus real-life vigilantes: An anthropological answer to the Kick-Ass paradox. Journal of Graphic Novels & Comics, 4(2), 223-234. doi:10.1080/21504857.2012.682624

Not Just For Kids

For this week, I read through parts of Lucia Cedeira Serantes’ Young People, Comics and Reading: Exploring a Complex Reading Experience. In the book, Serantes cites interviews with people who read comics, particularly teens and young adults. Serantes argues that through these interviews, “one begins to understand why comics reading is something that young people do not ‘grow out of’ but is an experience that they ‘grow with.'” (Serantes, 2019, p. iii). The section of the book that I paid particular attention to focuses on the experience of reading comics. It describes how reading a comic is different than reading a regular novel because in addition to reading the words on the page, readers have to pay close attention to the art that accompanies it to understand the whole story. Unlike novels where there are enough words to encompass the story, the words in comics leave gaps that the art is used to fill in. Readers have to “call upon different reading strategies, or interpretive schema, than for the reading of a traditional text” (Serantes, 2019, p. 52). This helps debunk the notion that because a comic has pictures, it is considered an “easy read” or just for kids. Furthermore, since comics are filled with still images, readers have as much time as they please to take in the words, the art, and how they are working together to tell the story. This enables a sense of agency within readers. Serantes states that “readers’ agency and medium complexity work together to make readers feel like they are both being challenged but still have control over the experience” (Serantes, 2019, p. 53).

This book will be very helpful when I write the essay portion of my final project. It will help justify why I chose to present my project as a comic book. I believe that reading a comic book facilitates an experience that one can’t get with any other medium. In fact, one of Serantes’ interviewees states that ““it’s a feeling, literally, that you get from reading [comics]. And the more I get this feeling when I’m reading them, the more I like the comics” (Serantes, 2019, p. 55) While I know the opinion that comic books are easy reads or just for kids has died down, I feel like I have to emphasize that comics, whether they involve superheroes or not, tell engaging stories, contain valuable information, and are an important medium. If you haven’t noticed already, this is my spiel for you to go and pick up a comic or two if you haven’t already. If you need any recommendations, I’m your guy.

Surprise! I’m still working on my script. It’s been fun seeing the story translate from its original form into this new one. I’m excited to work with Akin and see it start to come to life on a comic book page. I’ve got my committee set, so I think after the script is done I’ll send a copy to each member. It’ll be nice to hear their feedback.

Works Cited:

Serantes, C. L. (2019). Young People, Comics and Reading: Exploring a Complex Reading Experience. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/9781108568845

Immune to Ridicule?

For this week, I read through a chapter in Robin S. Rosenberg’s book, Our Superheroes, Ourselves. In the chapter, she describes the various reasons why people seem to gravitate towards superheroes. Some of the reasons she describes are superheroes being a reminder of a person’s youth, superheroes as a special brand of escapism, and superheroes as someone to root for outside of the real world, just to name a few (Rosenberg, 2013, p. 3-8). I have read literature based around this question before, but I thought it would be interesting to read what someone with a PhD in psychology had to say and get a different perspective.

Something that she says in the chapter caught my attention. “We allow superheroes their humanity in a way that we don’t allow real heroes” (Rosenberg, 2013, p. 9). What she means is that flaws that are present in superheroes are flaws that real people would be condemned for having. In fact, a superhero’s flaws make them more endearing in most cases. In the real world however, there are unrealistic standards in place for people who are considered to be real heroes. They can exhibit one flaw and then others will latch onto that flaw as proof that the person is a “villain.” Superheroes are not held by these standards. Even though I knew this in the back of my mind, I haven’t really sat back and thought about it extensively. In my project, there is one version of the main character that lives in the real world, so these unrealistic standards could be placed on him as he ascends to the role of a hero. This is something that I will think about as I continue working on my script. In addition, I learned that Rosenberg has written other work that deals with the psychology of superheroes. Sounds like more good sources to add to my project.

In terms of my project, I am still in the process of writing the script. I’m not as far as I’d like to be, but I still think I can finish it by my deadline. As I said in class this week, I’d like to finish the script by October 12th. That way, it gives me a nice buffer to work on edits and talk through them with my artist. Within the next week two, I want to start drawing up a contract so my artist and I know what the expectations are.

Works Cited:

Rosenberg, S. R., (2013). Our fascination with superheroes. In R. S. Rosenberg (Ed.), Our superheroes, ourselves (pp. 3-18). Oxford University Press.

The Bystander Effect

For this week, I read through “From Empathy to Apathy: The Bystander Effect Revisited” by Ruud Hortensius and Beatrice de Gelder. The article goes into the bystander effect, which is when someone is less likely to help when they are in the presence of other people. Hortensius and de Gelder bring up three psychological factors that enable the bystander effect: diffusion of responsibility, evaluation apprehension, and pluralistic ignorance. In other words, the factors are feeling less responsible with more people present, fear of negative public judgement, and the belief that there isn’t an emergency if no one else is helping (Hortensius & de Gelder, 2018, p. 249). Hortensius and de Gelder also discuss the neural mechanisms at play in a bystander’s brain. They conclude that the bystander effect “is the result of a reflexive action system” and that bystanders don’t actively choose to be apathetic. They are just behaving reflexively (Hortensius & de Gelder, 2018, p. 254).

I had a general sense of what the bystander effect was, but this article gives me a lot more to chew on and does a great job of explaining the science behind it. The bystander effect will be depicted in my comic during a key moment of the story, so it helps that this article goes into detail about the phenomenon. In addition, this article references many sources that seem like they could help further my research, so I’ll be sure to look through them. Something that surprised me when I read this article is the authors’ conclusion that apathy, at least of the context of the bystander effect, is reflexive and not so much an active choice. I’ll have to look into that further.

I completed three training modules this week. One was about the intricacies of graphic novel storyboarding and the many different avenues one can take when designing the layout of a graphic novel/comic book. I completed a training module that detailed the process of penciling a comic book. It helped me gain a better understanding of what my artist will be doing on his end of the collaboration. I think knowing the process a little better will help me better communicate what I’m looking for in terms of the art. The last module I did was a quick lesson on how to use Adobe Illustrator. It was fun. I drew an avocado. I want to become familiar with Illustrator so I can have a better sense of how I want the lettering (i.e. the speech bubbles, sound effects, etc) in my comic to look like.

Works Cited:

Hortensius, R., & de Gelder, B. (2018). From empathy to apathy: The bystander effect revisited. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 27(4), 249–256. https://doi.org/10.1177/0963721417749653