In Lieu of TEC

So I’ve abandoned all strict regularity in regards to The Echo Chambers as you may or may not have noticed. I’ve always done well with deadlines, but not so much with assignments. It’s a strange distinction, I’ll grant you, but there you go. So The Echo Chambers will continue with the ultimate goal of posts three times a week, but I can’t promise it. Alas, when one has a full-time job, it’s hard to do everything one wants to do in the limited space that remains between the work that pays the bills and the work that keeps the household functional.

Sketches 003 Edited

I’ve also been exploring some of the hobbies I’ve let drop off over the years. In fact, TEC is what inspired me to get back into art and painting.

 My friend, the Lovely K, slipped in the little mind-seed that TEC could work well as a graphic novel. With no income, connections, or time to seek out a compatible artist to explore this possibility, I decided to dust off the old pencils and give it a go myself. 

I just had one problem: in the 10+ years of formal art education, I successfully avoided all figure drawing classes.

Beehive Painting

That’s right. I’d never drawn a full person. I excelled at parts, oddly enough. Eyes and hands mostly, as all good art class teenagers must sketch and imbue with Great Meaning. So I found a website that offered still images for practice, joined a weekly figure drawing group, and bought a big sketchbook. I have the TEC pictures in my head. We’ll see if they make it out in any way similar to the mental images, though I still have some practice to do.

I’ve also been practicing with a new style of painting, in keeping with my exploration of the comics design. It’s been fun and productive, even if it’s mostly behind the scenes. I just wanted to give thanks to all those who have and will continue to stick around. Venturing beyond our comfort zones is how we learn and grow, and it’s easier to do with support.

Friday Feature: Watchmen

Okay, so I’m late jumping on the fan bandwagon. I’d heard about this comic book/graphic novel months ago before I ever heard they’d made a movie version. The fact that it’s the only graphic novel to win the Hugo Award piqued my interest, and I resolved to read it. Then someone came along and mentioned the movie, and I realized I needed to quit procrastinating and get the dang book already.

Then Misi [Middle Sister] mentioned that it was a “quick read”, and I discovered the movie was due to be released today, and I realized that I really had to quit procrastinating. I wanted to be able to read the book without being influenced in any way by the movie, but now of course I sound like a coattail fan. *Sigh* Oh well. The burdens we must bear. 😉

WatchmenFirst–Misi, you were wrong. This was not a quick read, at least not for me. The story had too many layers, the panels had too much detail, and the book as a whole had too much symbolism and depth to warrant a quick skim. (Not to mention the font’s so small. Maybe I need bifocals… Gah, am I that old already?) What might have taken me a day took me a little over a week, especially since I kept going back to find that detail I missed.

Second–I should have written a list of characters, including minor ones, because I’d often get lost trying to keep track of who’s who, and I don’t think there was a superfluous character. Even the people who had only a few lines (like the kid reading the comic book, for example) managed to have a purpose by the end of the novel.

Third–Daaaaaang. I mean, seriously. Wow. The layers of this story are so complex that it’s just amazing. I’d recommend any writer to read Watchmen simply to learn how to weave narrative. Nothing was what it seemed, and the most disconnected pieces suddenly became symbols of one another, foils that played off each other, a reflection of a reflection if you will. I’m not quite sure how to explain the experience without giving anything away, but I can see how this would have revolutionized the superhero iconography.

Yes, I could argue several issues with some aspects of this books, the roles of the female characters for example, but Watchmen has such a clear purpose that I’m willing to overlook them. I doubt one of Alan Moore’s immediate concerns when writing the story was to create a commentary on the women’s place in modern society (you know, with that whole nuclear war angle and all), so I’m willing to let my own little nitpicks go out of respect for the bigger picture. With a work that seems to have such clear messages (and so many of them!), focusing on irrelevant aspects potentially takes away from its original intent.

So, yes, I’m definitely late on the fan bandwagon, but if you haven’t had a chance to read Watchmen, I’d definitely recommend it. (I’ll have to let you know about the movie. No way can it do the book justice, but I’ve just got to go see Roscharch in action on the big screen.)

Panel from "Watchmen"

Friday Feature: Girls with Slingshots

Girls with Slingshots

Girls with Slingshots
by Danielle Corsetto

This is a comic that my friend, the Infamous Kate W’s hubbie and the Kung Fu Techie, forwarded along to us. (“Us” meaning Kate and me, not the many voices in my head that tell me to impale carrot slices on toothpicks and line them up in my refrigerator as a warning to all the other demonic vegetables contemplating an uprising and me.) I received the e-mail in the morning and then spent the rest of the day reading every last one of the 600+ archives.

The series is funny and often beautifully rendered, though I should add that some of the comics are neither kid nor work friendly. It is, however, a fantastic way to spend several hours, and the characters are feisty, witty, and endearing, including the mustached, sombrero-wearing cactus that talks with an Irish accent. Yes, I said talking cactus, but somehow it works.

Some of my specific favorites are #24, #73, #219, and #611.

Friday Feature

Sojourn

A few weeks ago I decided to rifle through the available graphic novels at my local bookstore. I’d never read one before, and as the genre continues to grow in popularity, I felt it high time to give them a try. This particular bookstore seemed a little behind the trend, so I finally located the small shelf that housed their entire collection of graphic novels, and I chose Sojourn for the same reason so many other fearless readers choose books. I liked the cover.

Once I got the book home and started to read it in earnest, I realized that what I had bought was not a graphic novel, exactly, but a compilation of six comics. So I still can’t say I’ve read a graphic novel, but I am able to knock comic books off my list, so Karma and I are still square.

The beginning of this–um, book? Comic? Series?

Huh.

Anyway, the beginning is reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings trilogy with the ogre-like troll creatures, the murdering of people, and the general “I WILL rule the world!” theme. An evil and powerful dictator has taken over all but one of the five lands until an unevil and powerful ex-king/godlike figure rises up and lays the smacketh downeth. I’m a little intrigued because I’m a sucker for the Great War/Let My People Go thing, but I’m waiting for a hook. The dictator is, well, evil, and Mr. Godlike is distant and aloof. I don’t care too much to root for either. In fact, the one guy I was rooting for died on page three, so I’m floating in the story a bit.

Timeline jump 300 years (don’t you just love fiction?), and it doesn’t look like technology has improved all that much, and the crazy evil overlord fellow has come back from the dead and is duly pissed. A poor, innocent little girl is about to be slaughter by Mr. Ugly Troll, but cue the “to the rescue” music because here comes the heroine! Yes, Arwyn’s beautiful, blonde, and bosomy, but get this–she’s a skilled archer, and even though her clothes are skintight, she’s wearing pants and boots without heels. Yes, dear friends, she’s wearing practical, run-for-your-life-friendly flats!

Later on in the story, we meet the narrator who is a skilled archer, too. (A one-eyed archer, by the way.) I was curious to see if the writer(s) would ever allude to who was better than who or if they’d allow us to assume equality between the two archers, but I only had comics 1-6, so I don’t know. But the introduction of this character was dangerous because he could have so easily dominated the story. He’s the narrator for one thing, and he could potentially outshine the heroine in her dominant skillset (which, arguably, one could say he does anyone being of one eye and all), but he settled easily into a sidekick/partner role in a way that doesn’t emasculate him or his eye patch.

What truly kept me in the story was what happened to Arwyn after she saved the little girl. The child’s father comes along and warns her out of the city. Arwyn tells him she ain’t leaving without her husband and daughter and runs back through the fiery hell of her city to find them dead. Not a big surprise, but a powerful draw into the story. Dang, I think, watching the heroine kick ass out of rage and grief, how the heck does someone get over that?

Powerful stuff.

And the lyrical narration that underlays the fury of the artwork allows for an intriguing juxtaposition that would have been harder to capture in prose.

In short, I think I can learn a lot from my little wandering outside the shelves of romance.