Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I Don't Want to Get Fired

Dear Parent, 
In Creative Reading class your child will be assigned a graphic novel for independent reading. Your child will need to finish reading this book by Monday, December 2nd.

As you may or may not know, “graphic novel” means a long story told in comics form. While in America we often think of comics as being for children, in fact there are comics for all ages, from the very young to more mature readers.

Your child has chosen to read the book ___________________________ for class. This book is not for children and is written for older readers. The book may contain strong language, mature themes, and other elements that you would find in an R-rated movie. Rest assured, I believe that this is a worthwhile book with serious artistic merit, and it is being read as part of our overall course of study.

If you have objections to your child reading this book, we will find another, more suitable book for your child. If, however, you are comfortable with this book, we will proceed with this selection. Whichever way you decide, please fill out the form at the bottom of this letter and send it back with your child.

Thank you for your time.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Shameless Self-Promotion!

Enough about comics class, let's talk about me.

Summer is an exciting time for a teacher. What to do with two and a half months off work? Go on a vacation? Learn a foreign language? Sit on the couch and watch TV? What I ended up doing was drawing Bible-based cartoons. That's not how I normally spend the summer months, but after my friend Jana read the story "Sedgwick" that I drew for my comic series Laser Brigade, she asked me if I would draw cartoons to accompany her upcoming book The Twible. And I said yes.

The Twible
is a project that Jana started on Twitter, where she wrote a tweet for every chapter of the Bible. It turns out that the Bible is 1,189 chapters long, so this took her awhile. Now she's written extra material, including sidebars and summaries and a glossary, and published it as a book. Which is on sale now! That's the cover right there.   

Jana originally asked me to draw 20 cartoons for the book, which sounded like a lot, but she ended up hiring me to do 51. Fifty-one! I'd never drawn 51 of anything before.
My biggest obstacle was crippling self-doubt. I am painfully aware of my artistic limitations. There are certain things I feel comfortable drawing, like robots, and things that I feel less comfortable drawing, like things that are not robots. When I first looked at Jana's list of dozens and dozens of scenes and characters she wanted to see illustrated--there is a lot of different stuff in the Bible--it seemed like the job would be impossible. I debated about whether I had an ethical duty to tell Jana that she had made a terrible mistake and needed to hire someone else. My loving wife insisted that I could do it, though, so I soldiered on. 

The great thing about a deadline is that you have only a limited amount of time to doubt yourself. And the great thing about a contract is that you have a legal obligation to follow through. So I drew some cartoons. For those early ones, I did a bunch of sketches, and each one went through multiple drafts. Jana seemed to like those, so I continued on, and slowly but surely started to feel like I knew what I was doing. By the end, it was much less of a struggle, and I no longer agonized over every line. The process felt much more natural. 

And now I'm proud of the work I did, especially Jael hammering the tent peg into the guy's head and Salome squealing with delight at John the Baptist's severed head. 

She's just so happy. 

Friday, November 1, 2013


In my previous blog post, which I made over a week ago, I mentioned that I was coming down with a cold. Then I said, "I don't have a lot of strength for blogging right now. But would Batman give up, just because he was under the weather? Absolutely not."

What I forgot is that even Batman is sometimes overwhelmed by circumstances beyond his control. 

Art by the great Jim Aparo, from Batman #497

Sometimes, as much as you want to go about your everyday life, beating up criminals and solving mysteries, a chemically enhanced terrorist is going to come along and break your back. And all you can do is wait until a convenient plot device comes along to magically fix you up again. 

I didn't so much have a magical plot device--in Batman's case, his love interest turned out to have previously-unmentioned psychic healing powers, conveniently enough--but I did take a day off work and sleep a lot. I'm still not feeling great, but I'm better than I was. Class went on, and we finished reading Batman Year One. Today we started watching the animated movie adaptation, which is pretty faithful to the book, and next week we'll take a test. 

If you think about it, it's necessary that Batman gets beaten every now and then. If no one ever beat him, then he would never end up in a death trap, and then he could never escape from death traps. And so it is with life. If we don't get tied up, handcuffed, and then thrown into a tank filled with sharks, how can we really prove ourselves? 

Batman #207 cover art by Carmine Infantino