Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Going Back Home: Chester D and Spain

Chester D. Wilson, cover art
by Spain Rodriguez. 1989.
Back in the late 1980’s before South Beach was populated by AT&T Park, million dollar condos and fine eats, it was a light industrial and working class neighborhood. There was a dive bar called Bouncer’s around Townsend and 2nd, that served up cheap burgers and beer to the ironworkers in the area, and a big helping of local blues every night.

My ex-husband Chris played blues guitar, and we owned an indie record label, Blue Jazz Records, which was a labor of love, primarily supported by my day job at Winterland Productions. We recorded blues & jazz bands that played places that are long gone, like the Last Day Saloon, the Lost & Found, the Blue Lamp, or the upstairs bar at the Paradise Lounge. The “big-time” gigs were the Fillmore, Slim’s, The Calalyst in Santa Cruz or Doc Ricket’s Lab in Monterey.

Chester D. Wilson (video) was one of our artists. When we were introduced to him at Bouncer’s, he was a 73 year old retired construction worker, playing country blues in the style of Robert Johnson and Blind Lemon Jefferson.  It was Jefferson’s music that inspired Chester to build his own guitar as a young man and start playing juke joints around his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana. One night at a dance, a white man shot him in the left hand. Chester would always explain that although a white man took away his ability to play then, a white man also took him to the hospital and made sure he was taken care of. “We are all just people,” he would say, “everybody’s good and bad.”

Chester moved with his father to work in the shipyards during WWII, and stayed in the Bay Area, working as a laborer and in construction. At the suggestion of Sonny Boy Holmes, an old friend, Chester taught himself to play the guitar left-handed. It took him a long time, but he was dedicated and began playing gigs again. After he retired, he started to play more regularly, and would play at the 24th and Mission BART station just to get out and stay in practice.

Chester at the Fillmore! Poster by
Whit Clifton (Wolfgang's Vault)
In 1989, we recorded him live to 2 track analog tape at Sound & Vision, a small studio south of Market. Most of the songs were solo, with occasional backup from Peter Chase on blues harp and Gary Bergman on rhythm guitar (Waterfront Blues Band). We included short interview segments between the songs, so people could hear Chester's story in his own words. When we started talking about cover art, he said that he’d met an artist while playing at the BART station that promised him a drawing. So that’s how we got a beautiful portrait of Chester by Spain Rodriguez for the cover. At the time, we could only afford to release the album on cassette, giving half the batch to Chester to sell at his gigs. He loved Spain's art, and Spain gave him the cover drawing as a gift.

Around the time we were working with him, Chester had some fun gigs. He opened for Johnny Winter and John Mayall at the Fillmore, and he played the SF Blues Festival at Fort Mason. "All my songs are true," Chester said in 1989. "They are about traveling, mean-hearted women and tough times. With the death of legends in the Blues like Muddy Waters and Lighting Hopkins, there's not many left who play our style of the Blues anymore."

In the turmoil of my divorce and subsequent moving around, I lost track of Chester, the original tapes, and the mechanical of the cover art. If he’s still around, he would be in his 90’s now. I was honored to know him.

PDF of BAM Magazine review/interview and cover F&B | YouTube video 1990.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Yerba Buena Gallery Walk, Fall 2013

The Yerba Buena Gallery Walk happened to coincide with the Alternative Press Expo (APE) this year. Had a great time catching up with everybody at APE, and only had time to catch 3 exhibits.

The California Historical Society (I am so glad they are doing exhibits again!) has a very fascinating show up, Unbuilt San Francisco, featuring architectural models and drawings of proposed projects that were never constructed. How different SF could have been. There were models of a proposed SF Ballet Center near Yerba Buena Gardens, a scale model of the giant foot that was proposed as a permanent public piece on the waterfront, and many others. The one that held me spellbound was a gorgeous 1897 Willis Polk drawing of the Ferry Building with an arch (think Washington Square, NY) and a peristyle, leading to a grand Rococo fountain in the courtyard. How different would it have been to have this at the foot of Market Street.

Down the street at 111 Minna, the Astronomical Menagerie of Alec Huxley was on display. I was amused by the overall idea of space helmeted figures in various combinations with animals, but I really loved the painting below.

All I've Ever Known is True. Alec Huxley.
I concluded my quick tour at Modernism on Market Street, where they had the collage work of Jacques Villegle. In what seemed to me an unusual move for this gallery, they gave over both their front (main) space and their long back space to the same artist. The collages were large and colorful, and I enjoyed seeing them.

Boulevard Haussmann. Jacques Villegle. From Theatre, Cinema, Music-Hall.

Sex Sells Culture

A fascinating article in today's New York Times Style section, With Money Tight, Museums Take it Off, about several major European arts institutions mounting what could be considered risky exhibitions focusing on sex and nudes, expecting and getting blockbuster numbers.

The museums mentioned, the British Museum, Musee Jacquemart-Andre and the Musee d'Orsay all have deep collections of classical sculpture and paintings with erotic or semi-erotic content. The article is an interesting exploration of the marketing, financial and cultural considerations behind these shows. I think it's interesting, given the amount of porn that is easily available, that people still flock to these exhibitions. Why? Appreciation of an idealized figure is almost universal. Maybe it's the fantasy aspect or insight into the the tastes of other eras. I'm sure these shows would be a big hit in the US too.

Below is the video for the Musee d'Orsay's Masculin/Masculin (Warning male frontal nudity). Stay to the end to see model and paintings side by side. The tableau of Mercury and Paris at the end was also used in commercials and posters.

See also: Shunga: Sex and Pleasure in Japanese Art at the British Museum, and Desirs et Volupte: Victorian Masterpieces at the Jacquemart-Andre.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

New Steampunk World Begins in Lantern City Prequel Rise

Illustration from Rise, art by
Section Studios
Last year after San Diego Comic-Con, I interviewed Matthew James Daley, the writer of Lantern City, a steampunk inspired TV series he is developing with co-creators Bruce Boxleitner and Trevor Crafts. This year, after making the rounds of conventions all over the country, they returned to SDCC to announce Rise, a prequel novel.

Aside from my interest in the story and design, I am fascinated by the production’s strategic decision to build a grassroots following in the steampunk and sci-fi communities through social media and the convention circuit, which has worked for Sanctuary, a series that may have appealed to a similar audience. 

Lantern City is a walled city located in the parallel world of Jalta, which is ruled for better or worse by the Greys, an authoritarian dynasty. Love, politics, intrigue and opportunities for exotic steampunk inventions abound. Rise, a profusely illustrated prequel, tells the coming of age story of Isaac Foster Grey, and how and why he founds Lantern City. Here’s Matthew Daley talking about Rise, and how it fits into the Lantern City universe (warning – spoilers within):

KM: The illustrations are gorgeous. How did you connect with Section Studios ? What was your collaboration with them like? ("making of" video)

MJD: We first started working with Section Studios last year. They created all of the concept art for the television show and it was a natural progression for us to continue working with them.
    For Rise, they brought in twelve artists to complete the drawings. We met a number of times to hash out ideas, go over sketches, and finalize the finished product. It was a great collaborative effort and I’m extremely proud of all the hard work people put into it.

The Streets of Lantern City. Concept Art by Section Studios.
 KM: I love the descriptions of the steampunk style tech in parts of the story. Did your steampunk community advisers contribute to this?

MJD: They did not contribute to it, so I take your comment as a compliment. My approach to the steampunk elements of Rise were to think about where the technology was during the time period of the show and consider what the seeds of those ideas would be. Rise takes place about 115 years prior to the start of the show. The technology cannot be the same. Look at how advanced technology can become in a span of ten years, let alone 100, so things could not be too advanced.
    Another element to this was that the country where Lantern City is built, Hetra, is an isolated nation. They are more primitive than other cultures within the world. That’s one of the reasons that there is greater technology in the form of steampunk designs introduced later in the story.

KM: Since you mention that timeline, why did you feel it was important to publish a prequel novel?

MJD: The world of Lantern City is well established at the beginning of the show. There is a lot of the world that should be explained, but the television series is not the place to do this, so books work well. Rise and all follow-up books will show fans how Lantern City came to be. Seeds are planted early on that slowly germinate over decades. The prequels also help fans familiarize themselves with the world of Jalta.

Illustration from Rise, art by
Section Studios
KM: In Rise, you take the main character, Isaac Foster Grey, on a real Joseph Campbell journey, complete with revenge, sacrifice and hard moral choices.
MJD: Many writers are indebted to the research and writings of Joseph Campbell. His work is invaluable and I am a great admirer of The Hero With a Thousand Faces, The Power of Myth, and Pathways to Bliss. Besides Campbell, I have also found The Golden Bough by James George Frazer and The White Goddess by Robert Graves to be invaluable resources. In fact, these are better than any how-to writing book, other than The Elements of Style by Strunk & White.

Throughout the course of Rise, Isaac is ages eight through sixteen. One of the things that I worried about was making a sixteen-year old a believable adult; another layer to that was making Isaac a remarkable adult. He becomes a leader at such a young age and I attribute this to a few things. First of all, his circumstances are unusual. Few people experience so many things at such a young age. This forces him to mature much quicker. He is pushed to the extremes in many situations and, even when coming through scarred, he still makes it out alive. Secondly, he either is responsible or feels responsible for what has happened to him and his family, and instead of recoiling, he takes it upon himself to change things. Thirdly, he is destined for greatness. Circumstances might have sped this up, but he was always bound for amazing things.

KM: You set up a stark contrast between the personalities of Isaac and his brother, and then had Isaac kill his brother in an almost Biblical manner. This won approval from the fearsome natives, and also estranged him from his mother, setting him on his path in the military. Why all these traumatic events?
MJD: It was absolutely necessary for Isaac’s arc that he did something drastic that would haunt him the rest of his life. He has some guilt for not interfering when his father was killed, but it is nothing compared to the burden of killing his own brother. It certainly does have Biblical weight to it and that isn’t an accident. It was important to have the brothers be very different people. Readers will side with Isaac up to that point; the brother’s traits are slowly revealed and readers will become more sympathetic toward him just before he dies.

KM: I'm fascinated by the mythology you've developed with the Gods, spirit & animal guides, and mystical occurrences. It seems that Isaac has to conquer the land itself before he can help his people. What is the importance of the Gods & destiny in this world.

Matthew J. Daley at SDCC
MJD: Religion is essential to every society and it is no different in the world of Lantern City. One of the first things I did when I started to build out the world was to consider the different religious beliefs.
     I wanted to create an interesting dichotomy with traditional versus new beliefs. Isaac wants to believe in some of the old beliefs, whereas his father has no interest in them. Isaac’s desire for belief stems from many things: age, desire, circumstances, and ignorance. His beliefs will be explored further in the subsequent books.   
   The nature-based elements of Rise were extremely important to me. Lantern City is an industrialized megatropolis. Since Rise takes place before Lantern City exists, it was essential to show the conflict between the emerging industrial urban landscape and the natural world that had existed for thousands of years. There is a great fear of nature among most of the people in the story. This is not true for Isaac, even though he must face his greatest tests within the natural world. Before Isaac could become the founder of one of the greatest cities ever, he had to become a man in the natural world. This makes him more prepared, stronger, and more adaptable than most of the people he encounters.
    This is very similar to cultures that require young men to go into the wilderness, complete a task, and return as men. In a sense, this is destiny, because if you survive, you have a set of skills and experiences that set you apart from others. Technically, Isaac wasn’t forced into the wilderness, but that is where his destiny took him. Eventually, he will have to return to fulfill his destiny. 

KM: There are many myths about defeating an enemy/powerful animal and eating its flesh to absorb its power. Rise adds another with the story of Isaac and the Korbear.
Illustration from Rise, art by
Section Studios
MJD: I have always loved survival stories and stories pitting man against nature. Fiction has a way of romanticizing intense and often deadly encounters with nature and all that she contains. One of my favorite films from last year was The Grey. There are many reasons why I enjoy such works, but one of the primary reasons is that such experiences are foreign to me. I’m grateful for this, of course, though my fascination for such tales never wanes.
    As far as Isaac and the Korbear, I wanted to pit him against a nearly impossible force of nature in order to bring out his warrior side. He possesses savagery, as displayed when he kills his brother; he also has formal military training, but neither of these make him a warrior. It was absolutely necessary to have his back against the wall and his only chance for survival result from a total transformation. Another trick with this element of the story was to create an animal that was familiar enough for readers and yet still original. Hence, the Korbear. It’s bigger, more agile, more aggressive, and more vicious than our grizzly bear. To emphasize this I showed the Korbear defeating what seemed to be Isaac’s greatest threat, the White Wolf.
    Isaac’s eating the Korbear’s raw flesh was essential too, because it added both a spiritual element and a level of respect. This isn’t killing for the sake of killing or for sport: this is to survive. Finally, it was important to me that nobody witness Isaac’s feat of killing the Korbear only because it adds to his legend. Anyone that hears of the story will wonder, “did he really do that?”

KM: Let’s talk about the visual theme of lanterns. They pop up everywhere, from the title to technology. What do lanterns symbolize to you?

MJD:    As far as the use of lanterns in the world of Lantern City, it offers hope, it represents the possibilities of the unknown, and it is proof of progress. I hope that the symbolism isn’t offensively obvious.

KM: I thought it was interesting that you use a lantern as a portal between our world and Jalta. In Rise, it seems like the destination at the end of the portal is not entirely controllable. Whether it’s a technological flaw or the hand of the Gods, your characters will risk ending up in places they didn’t plan on.

MJD: It is something that isn’t discussed at length with the books or the show, but it is actually a bit of both. Each lantern will be based on the original blue prints, but built by someone else; since it is handcrafted, it will never be the same as the original (whether it be the actual parts or some of the details of the design). The world in which Lantern City takes place is scientifically advanced, but there are things that cannot be controlled. Those that want to push the boundaries must take leaps of faith through the portals.

KM: It was a refreshing contrast to hear the voice of Spruce, a person from our world circa 1970’s, react to what he sees in Jalta. Isaac, and generations later, Killian, will be aware that another world exists.  It’s intriguing to me that the ruler of Lantern City would be one of the only people that knows about the existence of our world.

Rise Book Cover.
MJD: What sets the television series in motion is three people from our world being transported to the alternate world of Jalta (known only to them, and a majority of the residents, as Lantern City). As soon as I was brought on board the project, I began to build out the history of the world. Through this, I developed what would eventually become Rise. The prequel books could certainly work well without having any dimension crossing, but it enhances the history and ties them into the television show. Readers need to know that the prequels will pay off while watching the television series and one of the best ways is to introduce this dimension traveling aspect.
    Readers don’t know much about the Spruce character by the end of Rise, though I hope he is memorable. He is obviously paramount to the founding of Lantern City and helping Isaac become the leader, but he is not motivated to rule alongside Isaac. His agenda is getting back to Earth.
   He is from the 70’s because he was a pilot during the Vietnam War. Having fought in that war prepares him for the chaos he faces in Jalta. I originally wrote him as a scientist, but he needed to be able to escape from a powerful army and fly airships; hence, he became a pilot. He could not be from the present day because he is transported to an earlier time in Jalta, whereas the character on the show will be in a more modern Lantern City.

KM: I saw a blurb on-line that there could be one or more prequel books like Rise. Can you hint at things to come?

MJD: There is great potential for a series of books. I have outlined six more books that are separate from the series and could potentially even write the television series as an epic cycle of books. The idea was born as a television show and it has grown to be much more.
    One of the benefits of books is that you can really expand the world and characters. All of the possibilities are exciting to all of us because building the world is so much fun.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

SDCC 2013 - Robert Williams & the Wheel 'O Fangs

Sculpture by Robert Williams.
Photo by Lord Cheez
One of the most stunning pieces of work on the SDCC exhibit floor was this huge wheel of teeth/fangs by Robert Williams displayed at the Gentle Giant booth. They had it situated so that you would be directly confronting it by walking toward it through one of the entrance doors and on the main aisle.

Meyer, Reynolds, Williams, Vitello & Stout
 At Williams' spotlight panel, the right people were there to discuss a whole overview of his career: Fellow cartoonist William Stout; Gwynned Vitello (president of Juxtapoz & Thrasher); Eric Reynolds (Fantagraphics, who will soon be publishing the collected Zap Comics) & Karl Meyer (president of Gentle Giant Studios). While everyone got a few remarks in at the beginning, it soon became clear that everyone wanted to know what was up with that sculpture on the floor. The panel became a conversation between Meyer and Williams about his goals and the process of creating the sculpture.

Williams said "My goal was to do something no one has seen before. Action & color to attract attention and get a reaction. The wheel is about that momentary feeling of not wanting to stand in front of it."

Sculpture by Robert Williams
Williams continued on, talking about the painstaking process of creating it. He plotted it out with a computer tech from his drawings. From this they generated a scale model. Williams worked on the model, revising. They scanned the model and generated a full size version out of foam. Williams revised this one, adjusting and adding pieces. The foam model was cut into pieces, cast and reassembled. Williams perfected the sculpture and began painting. Williams talked about the importance of underpainting, and how he built up transparent layers of color to give in depth and immediacy.

Here's a good interview by Kenny Scharf about Williams' sculptures on Juxtapoz.

SDCC 2013 - A Couple of Neil Gaiman Stories

Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman on meeting Will Eisner early in his career at the Will Eisner Tribute panel (joined by a stellar group: Paul Levitz, Denis Kitchen, Scott McCloud & Jeff Smith): "When I was getting into writing comics, I learned from Comics & Sequential Art. I gave Will a copy of Signal to Noise in an elevator. He was always supportive of young artists & writers... You would excitedly tell him about a brilliant new idea you came up with, and he would nod & listen, and then say "yes, when we tried that back in 1947, it didn't work because..."

Neil Gaiman & Denis Kitchen
At the Annual Kirby Tribute panel (another stellar group: Attorney Paul Levine, Mark Evanier & Tony Isabella), Neil talked about his first experiences with US comics as a child: "I was 7 when Marvel started reprinting anthologies... a few years later my Dad gave me a big box of Marvel Comics... Years later, I asked "Dad, where did that big box of Marvel Comics come from?" He said, "I'll tell you," and then a few days later he died. I never knew."

Neil Gaiman & Tony Isabella
Gaiman said he was particularly intrigued by the ads in the comics, "how do Father Sea Monkeys smoke their pipes underwater? How did the Americans get the technology for x-rays spectacles and make them so inexpensive that children could buy them for a dollar? If I could only get dollars in the UK, I could find out"!

Eisner panel - Levitz, Gaiman, Kitchen, McCloud, Smith
Kirby panel - Levine, Evanier, Gaiman, Isabella

SDCC 2013 - Archie Abroad

US Pop Culture Abroad -
Cesare Asaro, Kirstie Shephard,
Harold Buchholz & Adam B. Finer
I admit that I have not kept up with Archie Comics. I know people that collect & write about Archie with real passion. I was a fan when I was young. I read the books, watched The Archies and the Josie & the Pussycats spin-off on TV. My mom even took me to some obscure skating rink/performance space in Hart, MI to see an afternoon concert of “The Archies” on tour when Sugar Sugar was a big hit. Looking back on it, I can only imagine what kind of tour this must have been, driving by bus from tiny town to tiny town playing fairgrounds, parks and small venues all over the country. Small children screaming at the top of their lungs as soon as the do, do... doo, do, do... of Sugar Sugar started. Those performers must have had nightmares for months afterward. I digress...

I had no idea, but according to the international marketing specialists on this panel, the 1950’s and Archie are the idealized perception of America in a lot of countries.  Kirstie Shepard (Curio & Co.), the moderator, told us that 1950’s America has positive cache around the world, and that their most successful international campaigns reference vintage ads. She said (wild understatement) that there is a big difference between perception and reality.

Other interesting commentary from these panelists, who included Cesare Asaro (Finding Frank & His Friend); Harold Buchholz (Sr VP Archie Comics) & Adam B. Finer (Universal Pictures, NY Film Academy): 
  • Happy Days is very popular in Italy because it reminds people of the liberation after WW2.
  • In some markets, Captain America is called “The First Avenger.”
  • The international market is quickly overtaking the US market.
  • Internationally, people don’t always get the punchline of a joke, but visual humor translates well in most regions.
  • We have so many sequels because companies are buying name recognition. Marketing an unknown property is very expensive.
  • Japan is the first post-apocalyptic country, and is obsessed with Robots! Robots! Robots!
Harold Buchholz (Sr. VP Archie Comics) explained that Archie is absolutely equated with US pop culture. People read Archie to try to figure out what it’s like to go to high school in the US.  Archie is the most popular foreign comic in India. The Best of Archie 1,000 page collection is the #1 best selling juvenile book in Canada. He explained that large compilations like this include stories selected from the entire run of Archie from the 1940's to the present. An Archie social media game is #1 in Nicaragua. This Halloween, they are publishing a book called Afterlife with Archie (trailer) by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Archie with zombies).

Monday, July 29, 2013

SDCC 2013 - Considering the Zombie Apocalypse

I've always been mildly curious about the zombie apocalypse. Aside from the absurdity of it, I am really curious why current pop culture seems relentlessly obsessed with zombies and post-apocalyptic settings. I've gone to panels at PCA/ACA and heard sincere academics talk about films like Zombieland in brain-melting theoretical terms and left feeling as unenlightened about this phenomenon as I was when I walked in. So, when I went to the Apocalyptic/Zombie: It's the End of the World as We Know It panel, I wasn't expecting much. I was very pleasantly surprised.

Sagers, Browne, Mogk, Cole, Stenson, Averill and Yancey
Moderator Aaron Sagers (MTV/CNN) herded a group of thoughtful,witty, snarky and outright funny authors of the genre through a wide ranging discussion that would frequently crack up the whole panel, and the audience. Every time anyone would say something serious about the mythology/theory of zombies, the entire panel would bust out laughing over the absurdity of the idea. The authors included S.F. Browne (I Saw Zombies Eating Santa Claus); Matt Mogk (Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Zombies); Nick Cole (Old Man & the Wasteland); Peter Stenson (Fiend); Alan Averill (The Beautiful Land) and Rick Yancey (The 5th Wave). Commentary was fast and furious. In my notes, I was unable to keep up with who was saying what. Still, there were some good thoughts:

Why are zombie/post-apocalypse projects so popular?
  • You can do anything. All the rules are gone. Nobody is going to say "don't steal that helicopter."
  • Working out anxiety about nuclear disaster
  • Zombie stories are not about monsters - they are about you. Siege stories.
  • Zombie movies are among the cheapest to make: one trashed out location, a bunch of friends and a make-up team and you've got a movie.
Modern zombie movies adapted from vampires and the voodoo zombies. Romero's Night of the Living Dead was inspired by the novel I am Legend.

Why do zombies crave brains or eat people in general?
  • It's not logical (laughs). A zombie's mouth can not open wide enough or bite hard enough to get through a human skull.
  • Appropriation of bodies/community.
  • Virus wants to replicate, drives them to continue.
Important survival skills?
  • Example of Katrina - New Orleans a beautiful city full of lovely people - but it became Thunderdome in 3 days.
  • Darwinian. Survival of fittest.
  • Need to stockpile things you can barter
  • Knowledge you accumulate most important. How-to's of fixing things, what you can eat, first aid, survival. 

SDCC 2013 - CAC Defines Superheroes

CAC co-founders
Peter Coogan & Randy Duncan
Got pulled in too many directions, and didn't make it to as many of the Comic Arts Conference panels as I would have liked this year. The two I saw were really excellent!

The first, Geek Therapy: How Superheroes Empower All of Us, explored the many different ways people are using the good qualities of superheroes to inspire and empower people to heal mentally and physically.  I was pretty surprised to see the conference schedule show up on Psychology Today (posted by panel moderator Travis Langley) but SDCC has become such a media behemoth you can never predict where it's going to appear anymore. Panelists included Patrick O'Connor (Chicago School of Professional Psychology; Comicspedia) and Josue Cardona (Geek Therapy Podcast), Laura Vecchiolla and Elizabeth Smith (also from Chicago SoPP), and Frank Gaskill and Dave Verhaagen (Southeast Psych).

Many beautiful stories, and a welcome emphasis on the positive traits people can connect with enhance their lives. I loved the question, "What is right with people?" (as opposed the usual "What is wrong?") and the effort to build on the positive traits a troubled or ill person might already have. Positive superhero traits were listed as resiliency, strength, courage and overall happiness (the traditional Superman is used as an example).

What is a Superhero? Peter, Robin,
Stanford, Dana, John & Randy
The second panel, What is a Superhero?: Professional & Scholarly Views featured contributors to the new book, What is a Superhero? (Oxford University Press) edited by Peter Coogan (Institute for Comic Studies) and Robin Rosenberg (Huntington Post) with Randy Duncan (the Power of Comics) moderating.

Pete Coogan (Superhero: The Secret Origin of a Genre) defined the elements that make up a superhero: selfless, pro-social mission; superpowers or other extraordinary abilities or skills; codename & costume often signifying powers and/or origin; often has secret identity; can be distinguished from characters from related genres by generic conventions.

John Jennings (University at Buffalo) talked about the power of memory, and asked the audience to think about the circumstances surrounding the first time they experienced comics; In the newspaper? On a drugstore spinner rack? With family or friends? Which character? etc... I enjoyed this exercise because I clearly remember my father teaching me figure drawing using Captain American and Wonder Woman as models. They were exaggerated, yes, but I was probably all of 5-6 years old, and they held my attention. Comics have always been part of my life.

Stanford Carpenter (Institute for Comic Studies) talked about the responsibilities of power, and how superheroes often face sacrifice and/or self-denial. He used the example of Professor X, a powerful psychic with dreams of mutant/human co-existence. His mutant power is so strong, he could just change everyone's minds, yet he struggles allow everyone free will and often gets in trouble for psychically influencing the minds of his students and colleagues. In this way he is always struggling with elements of his larger goals and his own essential nature.

Dana Anderson (Maine Maritime Academy) provided a graphic designer's analysis of superheroes. He talked about how we subconsciously equate "good" with symmetry & balance, for example the stereotypical superhero stance, feet planted apart and hands on hips, or the commonly symmetrical costumes they wear. He pointed out that heroes costumes are often primary colors on a color wheel, and villains are often dressed in secondary colors. He also did a study of logos and chest emblems.

Robin Rosenberg laid out the four types of villain/hero relationships, and how these bring out the best in the hero:
  1. Straightforward Criminal (bank robbers, etc). Motivated by material gain & power. Straightforward action on the hero's part.
  2. Vengeful Villain. Conflict is personal. Wants to eliminate or be superior to the hero. Only happy when orchestrating a crushing defeat when the hero is at the height of their powers. Battle of wits or brawn, intensity builds.
  3. Heroic Villain. Altruistic, believes they are fighting for a good cause. Here the hero has to deal with their own conscience and ethics.
  4. Sadistic Super Villain. Gets kicks out of wrecking havoc, death, torture, inflict pain on innocents. Hero often has to "fight dirty" by getting into the villain's twisted mind-set to fight them. Hard moral choices.
A lively discussion followed as a series of slides were shown and the audience debated if a character was or was not technically a superhero.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

SDCC 2013 - Sequart TV: Gaiman, Claremont, Image Comics

While I was aware of the publications of Sequart Research & Literary Organization, I had no idea they had produced a series of documentaries about comics companies, artists and writers. Titles include Comics in Focus: Chris Claremont's X-Men; Diagram for Delinquents: Fredrick Wertham and the Evolution of Comic Books; The Image Revolution; Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts; Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods, and a newly begun film featuring Neil Gaiman. They played several of these trailers during their panel at SDCC and I was surprised by the quality of them. I was told at a party later that they are still looking for distribution. See the Sequart site for more info.

SDCC 2013 - 3 Steampunk Series

Steampunk was once again a major presence at San Diego Comic-Con. On a Thursday morning panel devoted to writing science fiction and fantasy, demos of several fascinating steampunk flavored projects were presented. The three that really spoke to me were The World of Steam, The Crypto-Historians, and Bruce Boxleitner's Lantern City (which I wrote about last year when the project was launched).

The World of Steam creator Matt King describes the series as a "Twilight Zone-like webseries set in a Steampunk universe with everything from swashbuckling duelists and corseted heroines to mad scientists and demons with identity crises." The demo looked great.

Jimmy Diggs & Matt King
In the action-adventure series The Crypto-Historians, "a hit man from the future, an inventor from the present, and a hero from the past must join forces and travel to the 1890’s to stop the War of the Worlds from becoming a reality. They will use the time travel secrets of H.G. Wells and Nikola Tesla to change history and prove that, “The future is in our hands.” Along the way, they encounter some of history’s most dynamic figures: 28 year old Madame Marie Curie, 40 year old Teddy Roosevelt, 22 year old Harry Houdini, 16 year old Albert Einstein, and even an 8 year old Adolph Hitler!" Series creator Jimmy Diggs was an inspiration himself, full of "fake it til you make it" Hollywood stories and enthusiasm.

Bruce Boxleitner
Lantern City, a TV series in development,which had a soft launch at SDCC last year (interview), was there with a Rise, an illustrated prequel novel and a new teaser trailer.  The series seeks to involve fans and the Steampunk community in its making and design, and it sounds like a great project. It's a love/adventure story set in a walled city ruled by an authoritarian regime. I have posted a follow up interview with series writer Matthew Daly about Rise and how the project is progressing.

SDCC 2013 - George Perez on Wonder Woman

If they asked me to draw a cover with a snow drift, my footprints would be all over the place. You wouldn't know where to begin or end. ~ George Perez.

I was happy to catch the Spotlight session on George Perez, whose long run on Wonder Woman beginning in 1987 is still thought by many fans to be one of the best interpretations of the character.

George Perez
 Famous for his detailed drawings, he speaks much like he draws, quickly and expressively with lots of detail. He spoke about the need to know "detail from clutter," and talked about the importance of minimizing the writer's need to explain things by showing them visually, like a "storyboard for a silent movie."

About Wonder Woman, he said "My run was considered a game changer." Although DC didn't consider the title a best-seller, he was thrilled that his run has been re-issued. During Q&A, I asked him why he thought his run was so successful while other authors have struggled with the character. He said that he always thought of WW first as a woman than an icon/superhero. He gave much credit to his female editor for keeping him in line and protecting WW from the "boy's club" at DC that wanted turn her into a "distaff Superman." He tried to answer the question "Why are there no men?" emphasizing the Hercules/rape/capture story, with Diana as "an innocent, the only child born on that island." He said he owed a debt to Marv Wolfman's input on the character and was greatly influenced by Walt Simonson's run on Thor and the films of the late, great Ray Harryhausen (particularly Challenge of the Gods). There's a good synopsis of his run here on CBR.

SDCC 2013 - JMS Wins Icon Award

J. Michael Stracznski
Almost every year at SDCC, I manage to catch the spotlight panel on J. Michael Stracznski. At the beginning of the session, JMS was awarded SDCC's Icon Award and he gave a short "state of JMS" address. Since I had just seen him at the Image Expo earlier this month, the contrast in the audience was really interesting. JMS's Comic-Con session is usually a free-form affair, this year he grabbed a wireless microphone and wandered the room responding to audience questions much like he was interviewing contestants for a game show. Many of the questions at SDCC were about Babylon 5, in contrast to the comics only orientation of the fans at the more formal Image Expo session, who only had specific questions about Joe's Comics and other writing projects.

The answer to most of the Babylon 5 questions was that the series is in limbo. When the series was produced, HD/Blu-ray was not common, and none of the special effects were created in a way that they would transfer over to HD without redoing everything. A documentary about the fans and legacy of Babylon 5 is in production, and there is a video of the recent Babylon 5 20th anniversary cast reunion at Phoenix ComiCon (full session). He also talked about Sense8, the new series he is developing for NetFlix with the Wachowskis.

JMS gets Icon Award.
Patricia Tallman, CEO of Studio JMS.

JMS is an amazingly successful and prolific writer. I seek out his session every year just to hear him answer questions about the writing process. To paraphrase:

"Get out of your own way. Don't tie yourself in knots trying to fit a particular style. Writers talk on the page in their own natural voice, because your own voice is unique to your point of view and experience."

"I ask 4 questions: Who is the character? What do they really want? How far will they go to get it? Who will try to stop them & what will they go through to do it?"

Every year he ends on an encouraging note, not give in to the tyranny of reasonable voices and create good work. Borrowing from another beloved Sci-Fi film, it boils down to "Never give up, Never surrender!"

SDCC 2013 - Salicrup on Marvel Toilet Paper

Start the day right with Marvel TP!
Well, I've decided to start my series of posts about events at this year's San Diego Comic-Con on a high note with a story about ... Marvel toilet paper.

Honestly, in the 1970's Marvel Comics printed comics on toilet paper. Might as well take advantage of a captive audience, right?  This story came to light at Scott Shaw's Oddball Comics panel, which was absolutely hysterical. Messed up by a glitch setting up the computer with his presentation, Shaw and his son managed to find random images from the Oddball web site on-line on a computer borrowed from an attendee and improvised an entire presentation (Oddball on Facebook).

At one point Marvel veteran Jim Salicrup got up and wowed the audience with this story, which I will summarize. In the 1970's, he explained, printing quality at Marvel was terrible. They were using plastic printing plates that wore down quickly and cheap newsprint paper, so the books were frequently smeared and blurry. "Artists often complained that it seemed like their work looked like it was printed on toilet paper," Salicrup said, "I can say mine really was."  Salicrup and Michael Higgins wrote the comic, which was then illustrated by Marie Severin. Here's part of the story reproduced on the Comics Alliance site for your reading pleasure.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Image Expo 2013

I've been giving a lot of thought to last week's Image Expo, an event held in the theatre at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (San Francisco). Unlike many of the hugely inclusive comics conventions I've become accustomed to, this event was organized solely by Image Comics to share "the state of the company" and give fans a chance to interact with comics creators in a relatively intimate setting.  The day consisted a keynote and creator introductions by Image publisher Eric Stephenson, followed by panels, signings and opportunities to buy sneak peek & variant editions of new books.

Much has been written about this event, and it's not my goal to rehash the while thing here (overview by Deb Aoki). Stephenson spoke a great deal about digital comics, that they made up 15% of the companies total sales and seemed to drive new sales of paper comics (see The Beat). He also explained that they are releasing DRM free comics, so fans can actually own their digital copy and read it on the device/app of their choice (see ARS Technica). Creators attending were Robert Kirkman, Ed Brubaker, J. Michael Strazynski, Kurtis Wiebe, Matt Fraction, Rick Remender, Jason Aaron & Jason LaTour, who all announced new projects (photos Bleeding Cool | Image Comics). There was an after party, which I missed (but Frazer Brown didn't).

What I want to address in this post is a question asked of me by Stephenson. During Straczynski's Q&A, which was moderated by Stephenson, I got up to ask a question. When I mentioned that I've attended JMS's annual session at San Diego Comic-Con every year, Stephenson asked me "What do you think we can do to make this event better?" I admit that SDCC and the Image event are so completely different that I did not know how to respond in that moment. So, here's my opinion.

Dream Police from JM Straczynski
and Mike Deodato, Jr.
I think it was a good event and Image fans are passionate enough about hearing from the comics creators to support it (there was a full house even though there was a BART strike). YBCA seems like the perfect venue. The theatre itself showcased the presentions well, but it's still an intimate space. Even from the back, you could see everything and not feel too far from the action.  YBCA has enough hallways and lobbys for signings and sales, it was occasionally crowded at peak times, but not overwhelming.

After some discussion with my lovely husband and other friends, we concluded that the event model isn't SDCC, it's Creation Entertainment, the organizer of events featuring the stars of Sci-Fi shows we all know and love. In this model, you pay for different levels of access, including special seating, lunches, receptions, yoga classes, etc.  While the Image Expo obviously has different goals, the fans are clearly hungry for interaction with the writers and artists creating work for Image. Would 5 or 6 people pay a premium to have coffee & a chat with Matt Fraction or Robert Kirkman? I bet they would. The money could be donated to the Hero Initiative, CBLDF or another cause. Anything that encourages fan interaction in a safe way would be a plus (sounds like the after party was a success on this front).

I also wish that there had been more artists among the featured guests (I believe Jason LaTour was the only one). Many of the writers profusely complimented their collaborators, but panels like "Comics & Creativity" could have been much richer if both writers and artists were present to talk about their working relationship. There was no female presence, and I'm not sure if that was the "luck of the draw" due to the slate of upcoming books, or lack of female creators working with Image in general. I was surprised, given the level of artistry involved here, that there wasn't a special promotional poster for the event (this would have been popular for signings).

These suggestions aside, I enjoyed the day, and I support Image's "creator first" model. I wish them continued success! On to San Diego!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Big Show - Past Posts about San Diego Comic-Con

Since I started this blog in 2008, I've posted about events at San Diego Comic-Con International pretty much every year. Following is a year by year recap with links:

2012 - In 2012, I was fascinated with the Steam Punk phenomenon. Here are interviews with Matthew J. Daly, writer for the Steam Punk inspired Bruce Boxleitner series Lantern City (will have a big panel at SDCC this year) and an interview with ace comic artist Darick Robertson about his Image Comics project Oliver! The Comic Arts Conference supplied a rich group of panels on many topics including Kirby, Morrison, female cartoonists and Canada.  I interviewed Randy Duncan and Matthew Smith, who hosted a stellar panel of scholars that contributed to their Eisner nominated book Critical Approaches to Comics. Photo Gallery.

Unknown fan seduces us with the
force at SDCC 2012
2011 - In 2011, I was really wrapped up in the launch on the Comix Classics: Underground Comix app. Michael Dooley interviewed me at SDCC about the censorship issues we were experiencing with Apple while launching the app.

2010 - Commentary on the Wonder Woman relaunch by JMS and the CAC Action Chicks panel. Ray Bradbury turns 90. Marc Greenberg speaks about Kirby litigation. Photo Gallery.

2009 - Writers & Artists: Bradbury, Kitchen, Robbins, Oliphant, Chin, Lopresti, Green Lantern/Blackest Night. Kevin Sorbo on Manistee, Michigan where I grew up. I speak on Comics & Museums, Marc Greenberg speaks on Superman litigation. Photo Gallery.

2008 - General recap: Mike Turner tribute, Nathan Fillion, Comic Arts Conference.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Yerba Buena GalleryWalk 2013

The Annual Yerba Buena GalleryWalk was held on June 8th. I made it to 10 of the 13 galleries participating this year, but couldn’t quite figure out overall attendance. The California Historical Society was packed, and the nearby Gallery Wendi Norris and Modernism had good crowds. Otherwise, it was pretty spotty. I saw lots of good work though. Here’s a quick run-down of what I liked. Since I got behind on posting and some of these shows might be closing at month-end, you should check the gallery sites to see what’s there now.

Totally worth a look is Curating the Bay on view at the California Historical Society through 8/25/13. After a painful transition in which the CHS actually stopped creating exhibitions, programming has returned in the last year or so. This exhibition categorizes some of the Society’s photos, paintings and other artifacts in a very general framework of questions meant to inspire ideas about what living in the SF Bay Area means to people and what they do. The Society’s intention is to crowdsource ideas that will utilize (and add to) their collection in new ways. They are collaborating in this project with researchers at Stanford University and Historypin in the Year of the Bay project.

Julio Cesar Morales. We are the Dead 3.
Around the corner at Gallery Wendi Norris, I was glad to see new work by Julio Cesar Morales, an artist whose work I was once well acquainted with through SFSU and I had completely lost track of. He’s still dealing with themes of immigration, memory and identity, this time in a new video installation Forever Now! Sharing the gallery was Kelly Barrie, who had a series of works about play, weeds and other organic materials.

After checking out Modernism and the Visual Aid Gallery, I walked down to 111 Minna and really enjoyed unearthed by Rob Reger (best known for Emily the Strange) in collaboration with Jim Dirschberger, Steve Ferrera, Buzz Parker and Jared Roth. I am always happy to visit this gallery; they have really built a community vibe, and it’s a great place to meet up, have a drink and hang out. A couple of blocks away, Varnish Fine Art had a show of beautifully detailed slightly surreal and spooky work by Dan Quintana that really intrigued me.

Stopping at Chandler Fine Art and walking by SFMOMA, I was struck by how forlorn the mighty SFMOMA building seems with paper over the windows and no signs of life. Just a few weeks ago, it was teeming with visitors, now… tumbleweeds. Change is good, but it felt weird anyway.

Dan Quintana. Zero Instruments
At 871 Fine Arts, I saw a fascinating group show of work done by 7 artists that have been meeting every Sunday at June Felter’s studio to paint still lives together (Felter, Keith Alward, Adelie Bischoff, Gary Bottone, Barbara Scales, Jack Schnitzius, and Louise Smith). Predominately water color sketches, it was interesting to see all this work together. I’d love to see a larger show where you could see how the artist’s styles evolved together over time. Of course, the really dangerous thing about 871 Fine Arts is that half the gallery is a bookstore focused on rare and out of print art books and exhibition catalogs, I’m amazed I got out of their without adding to my (already out of control) collection. Upstairs at Crown Point Press, there was a small exhibit of new monotypes by Robert Bechtle. These specific works interested me because they were very soft and watercolor/washy feeling instead of the usual precision I’ve come to expect from his work. They were quite lovely.

I am glad that the Yerba Buena Alliance coordinates this event every year. I hope they get a more consistent turnout in the future. Still everyone I saw in the galleries seemed really engaged, and that’s what we want.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Big Wow! 2013 - San Jose

Enjoyed visiting the Big Wow! Comicfest at the San Jose Convention Center this weekend. It was a total throwback to the "all toys, art and comics" pre-Hollywood show WonderCon used to be. In fact there was rampant speculation about the status of Big Wow! and if they were making an attempt to become the show that fills the vacuum WonderCon left behind (what's wrong with Oakland, we all wondered). This year Big Wow! printed a nice program book, spent a wad on bringing in Stan Lee and promoted the hell out of it. I thought it was a good promotional move to visit local comics stores a couple of weeks ago on Free Comic Book Day and post photos of the events on Facebook. Seemed like a good crowd while we were there. Someone in attendance actually lost their paycheck out on the floor, and was reunited with it 5 minutes later (there was some unintentional humor in all the announcements, but I could have lived with less of them).

A collection of Bruce Simon's essays for Mineshaft Magazine.
There wasn't the type of programming we've come to expect from big shows like SDCC, but there was a community oriented emphasis that was really interesting. Live drawing, an archery booth with NERF arrows for kids, a CosPlay fashion show and a rock band.  Artist's Alley dominated at this show, taking up the center and back, with the rest of the small exhibit floor filled with book sellers, comics sellers, comic art dealers, toy vendors, Aspen Comics (Frank Mastromauro was there selling Turner pages, the only publisher with a booth) and tables for fan clubs. We really enjoyed the chance to talk with artists without a million distractions. I scored a copy of Bruce Simon's Mineshaft essays and a couple of his Burlesque posters (Blaze Starr! She's a Human Heat Wave!), a sketchbook and How to Train Your Dragon rough from Aaron Lopresti, an Arthur Adams sketchbook, and a Winged Victory poster and sketchbook from Brent Anderson (Astro City is coming back! Yay!). Marc was thrilled to get a Lady Mechanika iPhone cover from Joe Benitez.

I hope this show continues to grow. It had a good vibe. APE has a totally different audience, and no one we talked with wants to go to two Southern California shows two or three months apart.

Lady Mechanika iPhone covers. Looks like they are
mainly being sold at shows, although you could try the Facebook page.

Currency - SFAI at the Old Mint

Vernissage by
Tony Maridakis
I had a look at the San Francisco Art Institute's MFA Graduate exhibition at the Old Mint on Mission & 5th over the weekend (you can see the catalog on this page). Maybe it was the weathered environment of the Mint building itself, but almost every piece that attracted me seemed to be about texture.  I enjoyed seeing the work of Tony Maridakis (left), Marcella S. Davis, and the video installation Winter Solstice by Andreanne Michon.

One idea that particularly captivated me was a group project, the theoretical Museum of Exhibition History.  I agree that exhibitions can shape our ideas about art, but exhibitions are a thing of the moment, painfully reconstructed through catalogs, grainy documentary photos and reviews buried in archives. The thought of completely reconstructing a long-ago exhibition seems daunting. It would be an art historian's dream to jump in the time machine/Tardis/Delorean and see influential exhibitions from the past. Apparently, they reconstructed parts of the first YBCA Bay Area Now show in April at SFAI's Diego Rivera Gallery. Good luck to them, and I wish this idea would become reality some day.

I also liked The Dress Factory an installation by Momo Yao that used fabric, photos and paintings to tell the story of Yao's visit to a dress factory in China and the conditions there,  and Lauren Visceglia's Dream Project which featured rough bowl shaped ceramics with crystals inside.  An interesting show. Best of luck to the graduates!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Margaret Harrison - Captain America Continued

Margaret Harrison's latest show at the Payne Shurvell Gallery in London
As regular readers of my blog might know, I did an extensive research project a couple of years ago on the British artist Margaret Harrison, generally about her career, but specifically tracing the path of her series of Captain America paintings. Captain America is a character she has returned to several times in key points of her career between 1971 and now, and her interpretation of the character has evolved over that time.

Margaret Harrison. What's
That Long Red Limp Wrinkly
Thing You're Pulling On?
The painting reproduced on the gallery invite seems to build on the themes I’ve identified in Harrison's work previously, particularly What's That Long Red Limp Wrinkly Thing Your're Pulling On?, which was part of a series she began around 2009 that used paintings as "mirrors" to reflect or comment on the inner state of a character. In this recent work, Cap is looking in an actual mirror, but the image reflecting back at him is an ancient grotesque ala Leonardo or Caravaggio. Harrison has been an advocate of women's rights throughout her career, and it is my feeling is that this painting is a commentary on the weird way the US is dealing with women’s rights, equal pay and abortion. The US (Cap) is self-congratulatory and proud, yet its role as a superpower is shrinking (signified by the tiny cape), and the reflection shows the face of the "ugly American" (which is probably the way people in the other first world countries see us at the moment). The US is built on the labor, creativity and strength of its female citizens, yet their rights are still in dispute, and grandstanding politicians say ugly things about rape being a gift from God.

I'm looking forward to seeing a higher-res image so I can pick out the details. I can't quite make out the dancing figure in the leg. I recognize the Wonder Women: the armored Alex Ross version from Kingdom Come, the flying one in the upper right looks like a classic George Perez, and the one inside the figure looks like a well-known cover image from the Who is Wonder Woman? storyline by Terry & Racheal Dodson (series 3, #3).  The position of the "Dodson" WW inside Cap's transparent body seems to reference the invisible plane, and could refer to the strength of women building the US, and to the right to choose.

If you'd like a glimpse of my past research on Harrison, here's a slideshow (article pdf):

This is Harrison's second exhibition at Payne Shurvell, the first being I am a Fantasy (2011). She currently has work on show at Tate Liverpool, in Tracing the Century (drawings from the Tate Collection) and included in ‘Glam’ the Performance of Style also at Tate Liverpool and then touring to Germany and Austria. Her work will also be part of a group exhibition, Keep Your Timber Limber, opening at the ICA (London) this June. Related works are on show in the 2013 Northern Art Prize at the Leeds Art Gallery for which Margaret Harrison has been short-listed. The prize winner will be announced on 23 May.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Free Comic Book Day at Comic Outpost

Crowd at the Outpost on Free Comic Book Day. Photo by
Bill Watters of Big Wow! Comicfest (San Jose Convention Center, May 18-19)

We really enjoyed Free Comic Book Day this year. Our favorite comics store in SF, the Comic Outpost had a special event, a taco truck, and a Timey Wimey Dr Who TV Party! And free comics! Who could ask for more?  I was pleased to see people of all ages, especially kids snapping up a wide range of free comics, from The Simpsons and The Mouse Guard to the latest promos from DC and Marvel (photo gallery).

2 books available on Free Comic Book Day.
I'm still making my way through my stack, and missed some issues that were gone by the time we arrived. So far my two favorites are Fantagraphics Prince Valiant and Valiant Masters (Valiant in titles coincidental).

As a child, I loved Prince Valiant in the newspapers. I was fascinated by Foster's drawings and the world he created, but had a hard time following the stories. Prince Valiant, I think, has greatly benefited from re-issues in book form. I can read and truly appreciate entire story arcs.  Valiant Masters showcases 4 new characters developed by creators like Jim Shooter, Barry Windsor-Smith, Joe Quesada, David Lapham and others. Space ninja! Spy ninja! Mythical fantasy warriors! Seemed very fun and retro to me.

Here's a view of 1 hour of the crowd at Comic Outpost condensed to 24 seconds!

Video by Gary Buechler of Comic Outpost.

Tim Boxell, Gary Buechler, Kim Munson & Marc Greenberg
enjoying Free Comic Book Day. Photo by Jay Jay.

Neil Gaiman - Make Good Art

Last year (2012), Neil Gaiman gave a heartfelt and inspiring speech to the graduating class of the University of the Arts, which has been passed around on Facebook almost as much as grumpy cat photos. His basic premise, which I need to be reminded of almost every day, is that shit happens, nothing is going to be perfect, but you have a unique voice, and you have to keep going and make good art anyway.

Here's the video on Vimeo, if this isn't working for some reason, you can view it on Gaiman's blog here.

The always amazing graphic designer Chip Kidd has designed a graphic/text print version of the speech, to be released in time for graduation this year. You can see the entire book on the HarperCollins site, and an outtake is available below.  As beautiful as the book is, I love to hear this in Gaiman's voice and in this short bit, which is one of the very best parts, you get both.

Problems? See it on UpWorthy.