Tuesday, December 30, 2008

All About Real Life Superheroes

I was surfing through Yahoo! news today and found this article from Rolling Stone about Real Life Superheroes. I thought "That's crazy...it's like Watchmen!" Basically, they are people who dress in a costume for a fad, right? They are just folks who want to reenact fantasies of being a costumed vigilante, pounding down on muggers and drug lords.

Believe it or not, Real Life Superheroes do exist. They cannot shoot claws from their wrists, fling webs, stop locomotives or have a tricked out bat cave and billions of dollars in reserve. These superheroes not only fight crime but help out in community service and fundraising services! Of course, few of these figures have families, let alone jobs. They sometimes conflict with the law and deal with the heavy expenses of their own costumes.

Still, it was cool reading about them!

- Kristopher

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Thanks for the Fun Class! And Then Some...

This is the last week I would leave a post for Dr. Clemente's Graphic Novel class. This post is a formal goodbye to the class itself. I enjoyed creating this blog and working with the people who managed to help me early in the semester. I also enjoyed reading and commenting on other's people's post. To me, checking out if someone made a new post was a genuine surprise. It made the blog watching more entertaining!

For now, I would like to say a formal goodbye to the class for this semester. This class satisfied my taste for knowledge about graphic novels. The class informed me further about the material we read in the class. I managed to learn the history of Iran, the dystopia that is North Korea, the war zone that is Gorazde in Bosnia, the development of the atomic bomb, the horrible effects of dropping the bomb and the history of the Holocaust. I am happy we were able to read some high quality graphic literature that was not just about people in tights. For anyone new to graphic novels, these books (and the class) would blow anyone's expectations away.

Of course, I enjoyed reading about the comics featuring costumed heroes. In all honesty though, I was skeptical at first. I mean, when people think of high quality writing, superheroes don't come to mind. What is so sophisticated about Batman drawn and penned by Sin City creator Frank Miller anyway? Why did anyone bother to put Watchmen up for the Hugo Award Anyone unfamiliar with the graphic novel medium would assume all comics is "kid's stuff." In the words of Scott McCloud:

"When I was a little kid I knew exactly what comics were. Comics were those bright, colorful magazines filled with bad art, stupid stories and guys in tights."

McCloud's perception changed when he gave comics another look. I was close to that perception too of thinking that comics was a "childish" medium filled with nothing but shallow and overdramatic stories of superheroes and supervillains beating the stuffing out of each other. I read comic books like Batman, Spider-Man, X-Men and even comic book adaptations of Sonic the Hedgehog and Gargoyles. As I became older, reading through a comic format that lasted close to twenty pages was getting ridiculous. Most stores in my hometown stopped keeping comics on the shelves. So what convinced me to give comics a second look?

The answer, simply put, was rereading through a stack of comics I was given for my fourteenth birthday. There were obscure titles like Sludge and Archer and Armstrong to peer through, each containing characters with quirks and issues. Of course, there were also issues of X-Men and Indiana Jones. What really got me into the comics medium (and even spurred at interest in making "serious" comics) were webcomics. I did not set out to get into webcomics. I didn't even know they existed! All it took was my interest in video games to get me sucked in. I was treading through Gamespy one evening as a teenager. Then I saw a link to its comics section, which included the first webcomic I ever read. It was a strange journey towards my interest in webcomics and other stuff related to webcomics.

This webcomic is Little Gamers, and it was about a trio of Swedish gamers who cursed at each other and made hilarious video game and pop culture references. I admired how this cartoon was drawn: all the characters were a human version of Hello Kitty, save that they were never family friendly. After reading some strips on Gamespy, I spotted the link where I could go to the main Little Gamers site. It was a laugh fest. In all honest, the comic made obscure refrences to game-related knowledge that even I didn't know about. It was a good learning experience, not only because I absorbed the gamer culture into my system but because the website had a list of other webcomics to explore.

From Little Gamers, I soon checked out the soon-to-be-acclaimed Megatokyo. From Megatokyo came the highly controversial Exploitation Now. Both Megatokyo and Exploitation Now were drawn in a manga style format by American artists. Before these comics, I had a limited knowledge of the Japanese comic art form. These comics made me curious about Japanese comics and Western comics based on the popular Japanese art style. The comics introduced me to another culture entirely that interwines with video game culture. The comics introduced me to the culture of the otaku, which is a comics geek interested in manga! I began to explore various art sites like Elfwood and DeviantArt for manga-based artwork and even non-manga related art styles. I continued exploring and reading more webcomics. I began to pick up volumes of Japanese manga at certain book stores. I started to check out books like The League of Extroadinary Gentlemen, V for Vendetta and the Hellboy series after initially seeing the movie adaptations. All I had to say was that the original source material was better!

The trouble was, few people in real life understood my love for webcomics, manga, graphic novels and the video game culture. Very few people, I must emphasize. In high school, I was a fairly soft spoken kid who did not share a passion for American Idol, football, MTV or anything of the "mainstream." In fact, most things "mainstream" made me angry because it was not as good as the stuff I was into and the people who liked it really annoyed me. I started to think of myself as a rebel because I did not share the interests of most people. McCloud would confess that he tried to understand his love for comics and drawing comics. But people would just laugh at him! I did not try to explain my love for webcomics, manga and the video game culture. Most people would go "Huh?" or "You weirdo!" or "You're a communist because you don't like football!" I don't want to get off topic of this post but I (and other people) were at the business end of the barrel from people who did not understand. Their perceptions of comics (and everything else) was far too limited.

When I read the reading list that included Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen, I would not help but be skeptical at first. Then I dug into The Dark Knight Returns and was enthralled. Batman is not the stock superhero he was sometimes portrayed as. He is a bitter warrior whose pure soul is tainted with the necessary darkness of the bat and his parents' murder. Batman had to deal with his familiar foes such as the Joker but also had to contend with the real problems of a corrupt government, an arms race, the media and old age. Watchmen blew my mind entirely because I had no idea what to expect. It is a well-written murder mystery, adventure story and character study all in one. Its "heroes" were people who we could relate to. Each was extremely troubled in their own way. No supervillains were necessary to fight these heroes. All it took was for the heroes to fight themselves.

Now older and wiser, I'm happy to say I have experienced a whole variety of graphic novels. I feel lucky to explore different subject material from them all, from aged superheroes to atomic bombs to the Holocaust to the Iranian revolution.

For those who happened to check out the blog from time to time, I want to let everyone know that The Graphic Maelstrom is not retiring anytime soon. I will still post new material whenever I can. To me, blogging is a young experience. I first learned how to create a blog after taking Dr. Clemente's Shakespeare class in January of 2008. I was nervous at first. I will be honest I was not too high on blogs in the first place. I did not like MySpace or Facebook, which I kept seeing many people do. It's a long story to why I was not a fan of either of these "social networking" programs. Are they designed only to put useless information on there? To place random photos on the Internet? Would anything I typed be understood by people who used these programs? How useful were the programs anyway? That was my initial perception. The controversy of many people getting into trouble with their personal pages also kept me back.

But Dr. Clemente's Shakespeare class changed my whole perception on blogs. I had a rocky start learning how to make posts, post pictures and put on videos. I learned with a blog, you can put up some useful information. A blog can be useful under capable command. So I started to really get into blogging. I did not get into it just for the grade but because there were limitless opportunities on how to play with the blog. I am even continuing working on the blog I made for Shakespeare class, Much Ado About Nothing and Everything Else Shakespearian. I am also working on a young blog called Call of Cthulhu and Everything Else Lovecraftrian, which focuses on my interests about the works of horror author H.P. Lovecraft.

I understand that this post spans quite a bit. At the same time, I felt compelled to explain my interest in graphic novels and my interest to continue creating new blog posts. The Graphic Maelstrom will still continue along with Much Ado About Nothing and Everything Else Shakespearian and Call of Cthulhu and Everything Else Lovecraftrian.

Till then, same blog time, same blog channel!

- Kristopher

Discussion on a Scene from Understanding Comics - Details on Closure

I have been wanting to explore a segment on Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics for quite time. McCloud goes over a variety of history, techniques and sequences on how comic artists and writers work. The earliest technique I have written for my first graphic novel essay involved closure, a method used for creating suspense on the audience's part.

I like this technique because of the "mystery" element to it. The example McCloud uses to illustrate closure is the image of a man crying for mercy while about to be chopped to death by an axe. Do we see the sad bloke get chopped to pieces? No, for instead we have a panel focusing on a city and a high pitched scream. The scene to depict closure is tense because of not what it shows but what it might show. Could a limb have been lopped off? What are the details of the violence? That is up to the reader to decide. As McCloud says above, the man with the axe is not the murderer. The reader is responsible for the killing because the reader's imagination made it that the man cried bloody murder (literally) at the hands of a psychopath.

With television and movies, imagery and action is produced to us piece by piece. We don't have to think how things might happen from time to time. But with comics, that's a different story. A reader would read panel by panel. Regardless if it is moment to moment or subject to subject as Japanese comics like to adapt, a scene may surprise the reader further because the reader is responsible for interpreting the action.

This is what makes comics quite fun to read because not everything is spoon fed to us. Reading comics is like reading conventional literature, provided if is written well enough. Readers can interpret a scene of Rorschach of Watchmen fame (or infamy) coming out with an axe and aiming his attention towards two hapless dogs. We see Rorschach raise the axe in one scene, but do we see the finished result on the next panel? Not at all, for we see a ink blot test resembling a slain dog's head. That's the beauty of closure. The action is not presented to you on a platter. The reader is the one either customizing food on the platter or making his or her mind with how the food on a platter appears.

- Kristopher

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Discussion on a Scene from Maus - Survivor's Guilt and Flies

The most dominant themes of Art Spiegelman's Maus is the experience of a survivor during highly traumatic circumstances such as the Holocaust. The second theme of survival is guilt. Both Spiegelman and his father, Vladek, feel tremendous guilt in different ways. Spiegelman feels guilt because he felt he had his life easier than his parents could ever manage. Spiegelman is surrounded by the corpses of Jewish lives lost during the Holocaust.
"Time flies..." as Spiegelman would put it, describing different events in Vladek's life (which includes his death) and his own. The "time flying" is more apparent as flies swarm over the troubled writer/artist finishing up a page on the drawing desk.

The corposes surrounding Spiegelman indicate he has tremendous guilt weighing upon him. The deaths of more than six million Jews weigh on him because his father's horrendous experience weighs on him. Spiegelman had to contend with his father during his childhood, even going far to assume his parents groaning at night was "normal" because he assumed everyone's parents did it. Spiegelman had to contend with his parents' obsession over his older brother who did not survive the Holocaust.

Spiegelman is ultimately weighed, ironically, by the critical and commercial success of Maus. He feels he acquired acclaim and money from the horror and death that befell upon the Jewish people by the Nazis. Spiegelman wears the mouse mask because he is a highly recognized figure in the world of comics. Does this make him feel any better? "Lately, I've been feeling depressed." he responds. Just like he cannot escape his troubled heritage and parent's haunted past, Spiegelman cannot escape fame and countless offers to commercialize his creation.

- Kristopher

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

More Stories of the Holocaust

Art Spiegelman's Maus is one of many accounts of the Holocaust. Back in public school, I dug into a few books related to the Holocaust. Part of it was an interest in European history related to World War II. The other part of my interest was a burning question: why would one group of people deem another group of people as "vermin" and send them to the gas chambers? It relates to my interest in prejudice's cause and elimination.

But moving on, I want to give an overview on a few more memoirs of the Holocaust that I have read and might be worthwhile reading...

Night by Elie Wiesel

This first hand account of the Holocaust was written by Eliezel (the author of the book) who was a boy at fifteen living in Hungarian Transylvania until the Nazis took over Hungary. Elizel and others were transported to Auschwitz, one of the most infamous concentration camps during the Holocaust. Elizel and his father are separated from the rest of his family, whom he never sees again.

This memoir is harrowing and heart breaking. The prisoners become selfish after initial cruelty by the Nazis, concerned about their own survival between facing forced labor and the possibility of being hanged to death. Elizel's faith is tested as he witnesses death and depression around him.

A hard thing to believe is that some people don't know about the Holocaust. A harder thing to swallow is that some people deny the Holocaust! Night should be read to better understand how horrible genocide is from a survivor's perspective.

The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen

Jane Yolen's historical novel is about a Jewish girl named Hannah who is transported back to Poland in 1942. She is sent to a concentration camp. Hannah learns to appreciate her Jewish heritage and customs through witnessing the cruelties of the Nazis and realizing she took her modern life and heritage for granted.

Yolen does an excellent job describing horrendous parts of Hannah's imprisonment in the concentration camp while balancing it with the protagonists' struggle for survival and sanity. There's humanity remaining with Hannah interacting with other survivors contrasting with inhumanity. One of the more horrible scenes is when Hannah is led into a cramped boxcar where several people die in the process. Overall, The Devil's Arithmetic is another book that should be checked out.

Others books worth mentioning would be...

The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank - This account is one of the best known resources regarding to the Holocaust but one that I haven't read yet. It is the diary of a thirteen year old girl who witnesses Hitler's influence in Amsterdam and the control of the Jewish population in the area.

Upon the Head of the Goat: A Childhood in Hungary, 1939-1944 by Aranka Siegal - This young adult novel depicts the life of Piri Davidowitz who witnesses the Nazi takeover in Hungary. Aside from The Devil's Arithmetic, this is a book both kids and adults will dig into.

There are, of course, many memoirs, novels and reference guides to the Holocaust. There is not a concrete list on all media related to the Holocaust to be found but a list can be found here.

- Kristopher

Monday, December 1, 2008

Meet Art Spiegelman

Now that we are venturing deep into Maus territory, an introduction to Art Spiegelman would be appropriate. Spiegelman is a highly regarded figure in the area of comics and the graphic novel medium. He is a comics legend and something of a countercultural figure with his contribution to the underground comic book scene. The creation of Maus, which is about Spiegelman's parents attempting to survive the Holocaust, is his most recognized work.

Spiegelman was born in Stockholm, Sweden and later moved to Queens, New York in the United States with his family. He began drawing cartoons in high school and became a professional at the age of sixteen. His parents wanted Spiegelman to pursue dentistry but he studied both art and philosophy at Harper College. After graduating, Spiegelman joined the "underground comix" movement. He contributed to publications such as Real Pulp, Young Lust and Bizarre Sex. Spiegelman went under a series of pseudonyms which included Joe Cutrate, Skeeter Grant and Al Flooglebuckle. He drew for comcs such as Ace Hole, Midget Detective, Nervous Rex, Douglas Comics and Cracking Jokes. Spiegelman founded his own comix revue with Bill Griffith titled Arcade.

Spiegelman later founded his own comics magazine RAW (Real Art Works), from which he became the editor. The magazine hosted a number of important talents from the United States and abroad. Spiegelman collaborated on Whole Grains: A Collection of Quotations with Bill Schneider. The book featured quotations from countercultural icons such as Bob Dylan and Alan Ginsberg. The book was mistakently placed with cookbook sections in some shops!

It wasn't until the publication of Maus that Spiegelman earned serious fame. Maus was initially seralized by RAW. Spiegelman compiled Maus into a graphic novel format in 1986. He finished the second part of Maus in 1991. Spiegelman's creation was exibited in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Maus helped Spiegelman earn the Pulitzer Prize for Maus in 1992.

Aside from comics, Spiegelman invented Garbage Candy and Wacky Packages card series while working for Topps Bubble Gum for twenty years. He also helped create the disgustingly memorable Garbage Pail Kids collection of cards with Mark Newgarden.

After leaving Topps for creative issues involved, Spiegelman worked for The New Yorker. He resigned after the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001 for differences in political ideology. The image below is Spiegelman's black-on-black cover which received considerable acclaim:Do you see the Twin Towers in the background? It is a tragically disturbing picture. My interpretation is that the Towers could represent the old figure and philosophy of America destroyed, hovering as a ghost over where it fell. I personally have to give props to Spiegelman for this image because of its deceptive simplicity.

In 2004, Spiegelman later released In the Shadow of No Towers. The book is a graphic account of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and a satire on the Bush Administration handling the crisis. At the time, Spiegelman lived in lower Manhattan when the two air liners struck the towers. The book explored his experiences of the catastrophe as well as the psychological aftereffects which followed. As of 2005, Spiegelman has been working on a series called Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*! for The Virginia Quarterly Review.
Spiegelman cemented himself into the comics Hall of Fame by portraying many dark events such as the Holocaust and the 9/11 attacks with brutal honesty. Spiegelman is famous for his represenation of the Jewish people as mice. In the Simpsons episode of "Husbands and Knives," Spiegelman is featured in a Maus mask along with Alan Moore and Dan Clowes as highly muscled graphic novel creators!

Later on, I will do further analysis on Maus and possibly on Understanding Comics. Stay tuned!

- Kristopher

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

An Overview on Webcomics

Since we have been exploring the medium of manga and moving towards Art Spiegelman's Maus, I decided this was the perfect time to bring out another branch of comics known as webcomics. Webcomics are comics published on the Internet. Unlike published comics, creators of webcomics have complete freedom in terms of writing and artwork. This means no censorship is imposed on any of the comics. As a devoted fan of webcomics such as Star Cross'd Destiny, Megatokyo, Little Gamers and Post Nuke, it will be a genuine pleasure to cover this relatively young but growing branch of comics.

The earliest webcomic to be found is T.H.E. Fox, published in 1986 by Compuserve and Quantum Link. Scott McCloud, creator of Zot! and Understanding Comics, is one of the earliet advocates of webcomics and has displayed very innovative ways of playing with the medium that even the most acclaimed of webcomic artists have not taken advantage of. The techniques include using the whole web page as a storytelling medium than using a "print page." Some webcomic creators are crafty enough to use interactivity. Still, most webcomics are used on the "print page" format. Some webcomics require a subscription but most do not. Some webcomics, such as Megatokyo, have published editions but most webcomics are supplied through archives on the website they are located.

Webcomics are independently created in various styles and forms, from the "comic strip" format to manga, to pixellated imagery and even photography! Because of the freedom web comic artists possess, there is no censorship which it comes to creating comics on the Internet. For this reason, some web comics( such as Fetus X below) have garnered a heavy amount of controversy. Then again, it is not too different from comics which are published by a company such as V for Vendetta.

Very few webcomics have been able to support themselves financially. There are a few successful examples, such as Penny Arcade and 8-Bit Theater. Webcomics have merchandise for fans to purchase to supplement income for the comic. The web comic is a labor of love most of the time. Updates are given on the websites but there are times that updating comics become fairly sporadic. An example would be Juno Blair B.'s Star Cross'd Destiny, which the creator might go through personal reasons of why the next comic has been delayed. Creators also have to deal with the cost of art supplies and the cost of the server and bandwith. They would sometimes rely on donations from the comic's fans. Webcomic creators usually rely on advertising to make money than the comic itself. McCloud is an advocate of the micropayment system and some publishers such as Modern Tales already use a subscription model.
Like graphic novels, webcomics have accumulated several awards. The Eagle Awards was established for the Favorite Webcomic Category and the Ignatz Award was founded for the Most Outstanding Webcomic Category in 2001. The Eisner Awards began awarding webcomics for Best Digital Comic Category in 2005. The Harvey Awards began establshing the Best Online Comics Work in 2006 and the Shuster Awards commenced the Outstanding Canadian Web Comic Award in 2007. The Web Cartoonists' Choice Awards, established in 2001, is an online ceremony where a series of comics depict the ceremony itself! In 2007, the ceremony was held in real life at Megacon. The Clickburg Webcomic Awards, established in 2005, is held annually at the Stripdagen Haarlem comic festival. This ceremony requires a creator be located in the Benelux countries with the exception of an international award given.

I am personally enthusiastic about webcomics because they were a staple of my reading when I was a teenager growing up in difficult times. I also praise webcomics because they are an art medium that defies conventions and opens windows of opportunity on what the comics medium can do. If you haven't already, check out a webcomic online and see where the fun is.

- Kristopher

Monday, November 24, 2008

Meet Keiji Nakazawa

Recording horrible events effectively sometimes takes personal experience and Keiji Nakazawa, the author of Barefoot Gen, witnessed the destruction of Hiroshima by the atomic bomb first hand. You can say Gen is an offshoot of Nakazawa, who at six years old lost most of his family to chaos and death that struck Japan.

After the destruction of Hiroshima in 1945, Nakazawa went to Tokyo to become a cartoonist. His works set of manga was produced for Shonen Gaho, Shonen King, and Bokura. In 1966, Nakazawa dug deep into his memories of Hiroshima and created two biographical works; Kuroi Ame ni Utarete (Struck by Black Rain) and the autobiographical Ore wa Mita ('I Saw It'). Barefoot Gen, produced in 1972, was the first manga to be translated into a Western language. When the English translation debuted, there were many complaints about the graphic depictions of victims after the bomb's explosion. The comic was never meant for shock value, for it was a searing message against militarism and the war which helped bring the destruction of Hiroshima.

In an interview with The Comics Journal, Nakazawa recounts his involvement with the comics based on his experience:

"Since coming to Tokyo, I hadn't said a word about being an A-bomb survivor to anyone. People in Tokyo looked at you very strangely if you talked about it, so I learned to keep quiet. There was still an irrational fear among many Japanese that you could "catch" radiation sickness from A-bomb victims. There were plenty of people like that, even in a big city like Tokyo."

"I was enraged that the bomb had taken even my mother's bones. All the way on the train back to Tokyo, I couldn't stop thinking about it. I realized I'd never thought seriously about the bomb, the war and why it happened. The more I thought about it, the more obvious it was that the Japanese had not confronted these issues at all. They hadn't accepted their own responsibility for the war. I decided from then on, I'd write about the bomb and the war, and pin the blame where it belonged. Within a week after getting back to Tokyo, I wrote my first work about the bomb, Kuroi Ame ni Utarete [Struck by Black Rain]. It's about young people in postwar Hiroshima getting involved in the black market for weapons. The main character is an A-bomb survivor whose hatred drives him to kill an American black marketeer. He asks the Americans, 'Who are you to talk about justice when you massacred hundreds of thousands of innocent people in Hiroshima, in Nagasaki, in the firebombing of Tokyo? Was that what you call justice?'"

The editors who read Struck by Black Rain were very moved by it and told me to write more. I wound up writing five books in my "Black" series -- Black River, Black Silence and so on. Black Rain was published in serial form in Manga Punch, an "adult" manga magazine by a small publisher, Hobunsha. The big publishers turned it down. They said it was too radical for them, too political.

I recall conversations with my class that Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors were not given adequate treatment in their own country. They were not even able to find jobs or apply for health insurance! Japan has become more democratic in recent years but the country is still ashamed of its own militaristic past. Japan should be thankful that some people remember the atomic bomb and recount it in any way they can. Nakazawa's bitterness towards Japanese militarism is apparent in Gen and sometimes knowing the painful truth of people graphically dying from radiation sickness with skin falling off and maggots feasting on dead flesh on living people is horrible but necessary.

I have probably sounded preachy by denouncing nuclear weapons and policies in the blog so far but I will say this: we must acknowledge the past so we do not repeat it.

- Kristopher

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Discussion on a Scene from Barefoot Gen - Trailing Through Atomic Death and Destuction with Hope

Despite Hiroshima's horrific destruction by the atomic bomb dropped by the United States, there was still the human element of hope persisting. Gen, whose father, sister and younger brother were killed after the explosion, does not give up hope for survival. This page reflects this home trailing amidst death and decay. The picture could also reflect more troubles that Gen will run into. I noticed the human skeletal remains were close to the top of the page above Gen's footsteps. I could be overanalyzing, but I do not think the picture is completely optimistic.

There is optimism in Gen's words as he walks in the sand but the optimism is eroded with death symbolized by the skeletal remains. Gen not only endures the dying villagers (Whom most have gone mad.) but bandit children who run around unwatched because their parents are dead. Gen will run into indifference and selfishness of people bitter about the bomb and about what they lost in the fire.

Gen will also find a struggle within himself. He possesses persistent memories of his dead family and about the life he had before the atomic bomb. Gen struggles with his hunger, his anger towards the Americans for dropping the bombs, his fear of the loss of his mother and baby sister. The only way he is winning that struggle is continuing a positive outlook on life that did not vanish after the bomb exploded. Children like Gen are more resilent than even the toughest adults and I believe that is why Gen had not broken down into despair like most of the population.

Barefoot Gen is a reminder of when humankind grasps power such as the atomic bomb and uses it to end a war. The bomb not only created a new type of war which every finger is held over the fat, large red button but one debating whether new types of weapons should be created or not. The atomic bomb and every other nuclear device proved that all humankind needed to destroy itself was a weapon to set the atmosphere ablaze. Is proof of the survivors of Hiroshima not enough to dissuade more nuclear arms development? Are we that desperate to destroy our own species through arrogance, bigotry and misled ideology?

I wish I could answer that. I wish anyone could answer that. Anyone knowing that the Doomsday Clock reads five minutes to midnight would be nervous.

- Kristopher

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

An Overview on Manga

Our class will be venturing into Keiji Nakazawa's Barefoot Gen shortly, so I decided to bring up the basics of manga (Which is Japanese for "whimsical pictures.") first. Only recently has the public been aware of manga even though it has not achieved total mainstream success. You have Pokemon, Naruto and Dragonball to name off your tongue. But where did this art form come from? A fellow classmate once said that manga was basically "anime on paper." I would not agree with that statement entirely, because anime (Japanese animation) is usually adapted from manga. As a manga reader and supporter, I will be happy inform visitors about this encompassing art medium.

The format of manga that is known today emerged shortly after the U.S. occupation of Japan after World War II. U.S. GIs would bring comic books and cartoons from the U.S., especially Disney cartoons. Ever wonder why most manga and anime characters has such large eyes? Compare those characters to Disney and the connection shall strike you. Osamu Tezuka, considered the "grandfather of manga" and the creator of Astro Boy, was credited for pioneering a medium in a time when Japan was shifting from an imperialist government to a more democratic one.

Unlike Western comics, which are read from left to right, manga is read from right to left. New readers will undoubtably be confused by the reading style (I myself was thrown off at first.) but reading right to left will become second nature for those who continue to indulge into the medium. There is controversy of Western editors whether to reformat Japanese comics into a left-to-right format. Critics argue that would mess up the flow of the storyline if the format was altered from its original form. I would have to agree with the critics, even though there are a few exceptions of manga series being translated such as Hiroaki Samura's Blade of the Immortal and Barefoot Gen.

Also unlike most Western comics, manga is not directed just for children and teenangers. In fact, manga is read by everyone in Japan! Manga encompasses a wide range of ages and backgrounds. A business suit would be reading the Wall Street Journal on the way to work but a business suit in Japan would be reading into their favorite manga while taking the subway. Japanese writers and artists command high respect in the craft of creating comics, much like the acclaim is received by film directors and writers in the West.

Are Western comics and literature influenced by manga? The manga version of Karl Marx's Das Kapital was recently released in light of the current recession Japan is undergoing. Manga was a heavily influence on Frank Miller, who used a Japanese influence in the Sin City series. American artists have jumped into the act of creating their own manga-inspired comics. One famous example would be Fred Gallagher, creator of the popular webcomic Megatokyo. Manga is especially a heavy influence for webcomics, which I will explore in a future post.

Like Western graphic novels, various Japanese comics have won various prestigious awards. Blade of the Immortal, which is about a samurai who tries to rid of his immortality by slaying a thousand evil men, earned the Will Eisner Comic Industry Award in 2000.

To me, manga is a fun subject to cover because of its history, its cultural roots and even controversies. There are people out there who claim that manga is not really "art" but have probably either been turned off by Japanese comics at first or never took a glimpse at them at all. In manga, there is always something for everyone.

- Kristopher

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Meet Jim Ottaviani

Jim Ottaviani writes heavily in the field of science, which is the subject matter for Fallout. This fact should come to no surprise since Ottaviani is an experienced scientist himself. He is the Chief Researcher for G.T. Labs, the company that produced Fallout, Two Fisted Science and other scientific graphic novels.

Ottaviani was born in San Francisco in 1960. His jobs included chauffering former Senator Al Gore about the Information Superhighway, worked on a couple of nuclear reactors, worked as a librarian, and even climbed Mount Fuji! Ottaviani's interest in science began as a teenager when he read an issue of National Geographic:

"I was just entering my teens, and there were these fascinating diagrams about energy, the Sun, nuclear fusion, and other next-generation technologies..."

This persuaded Ottaviani to look into nuclear engineering. He earned his B.S. at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign in 1986. Ottaviani later acquired a master's degree at the University of Michigan. He joined United Engineers and Constructors, working on power plants. After a stressful term of trying to fix power plants, especially since the Three Mile Island Accident, Ottaviani turned to the University of Michigan's Library and Information Science Program. He enjoyed his position as a research librarian tremendously, taking interest in the comics revolution of the 1980s when spandex-clad superheroes were either becoming dated or updated with human failings (Such as Alan Moore's Watchmen).

Ottaviani teamed up and worked with artist Steve Lieber, the result creating comics about scientists such as Galileo and J. Robert Oppenheimer. The books include Dignifying Science, which is about women and science; Safecracker, about physicists; Wild Person in the Woods which depicts Biruté Galdikas studying orangutans in Borneo; and Fallout, which tells about the development of the atomic bomb.

Ottaviani is a wonderful new addition to the comics medium, especially when expanding the medium outside of the super-hero realm. Scientists and science are explored in interesting new ways with the comics medium, and we have Ottaviani to thank for it.

- Kristopher

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Discussion on a Scene from Fallout: Oppenheimer Invokes the Destroyer of Worlds

The atomic bomb was meant to end a war, but J. Robert Oppenheimer realized he helped create a weapon that would destroy not only nations in the world but the world itself!

Oppenheimer was quoting from Hindu scripture in this page. Oppenheimer quoting the scripture alludes to the reference of the Hindu god, Vishnu. Vishnu manifested in front of him as a blinding light radiated towards anyone and anything outside its radius. The light was followed by a large cloud of smoke expands up to the sky.

Vishnu's presence indicates the atomic bomb was "godlike" in its potential for destruction. Anyone who was "god fearing" would assume the explosive was a god's wrath instigated. Oppenheimer is small compared to Vishu, to illustrate that the power of the atomic bomb was more than humankind ever predicted. The atomic bomb may have been too much power for humandkind to wield! Every day, new types of nuclear arms are developed disregarding the fact that there are many, many existing warheads waiting to be used. As a individual who believes nuclear deterrance and development of new nuclear arms is absolute stupidity, I would assume Fallout depicted Oppenheimer as a man who realized he has committed a mistake to end a war. The damage was already done, with the results of the atomic bomb's success breeding development the more devastating hydrogen bomb.

The story of Fallout, and the people involved in the Manhattan Project, is a sad one. The beginning showed the idealization of science saving the world. Yet science throughout history is not an exception for pioneering new methods of warfare and political manuevering.

- Kristopher

Who Was J. Robert Oppenheimer?

My graphic novel class is currently exploring Fallout: J. Robert Oppenheimer, Leo Szilard, and The Political Science of the Atomic Bomb, which depicts the events of J. Robert Oppenheimer and Leo Szilard involved in the conception of the atomic bomb that would end World War II by destroying the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

When folks think of Julius Robert Oppenheimer, the first thoughts come as "...destroyer of worlds," "the man who built the atomic bomb" and "died of lung cancer." Oppenheimer was more than these labels, possessing a facination and knowledge of foreign languages such as French, Greek and even Sanskrit. Oppenheimer continued learning about languages and eastern philsophy for most of his life.

Oppenheimer's early education started at the Ethical Culture School in New York. He took math and science classes as well as becoming versed in the classics. Oppenheimer earned his Ph.D in Germany after studying in Harvard in 1925. Described as an "intense person, tall, thin, contemplative, and probing," Oppenheimer even intimidated an instructor during the oral exam! The instructor's words? "Phew, I'm glad that's over. He was on the point of questioning me."

Oppenheimer returned to the States in 1929, teaching in Berkeley and Cal Tech. He proved to be efficient in teaching and was a skilled theoretician, with analyses resulting in neutron stars, neutrons, positrons and mesotrons.

In 1942, Oppenheimer was appointed director of the Manhattan Project, a project conceived by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to construct an atomic bomb before the Nazis constructed their version in Germany. Oppenheimer set up his base at Los Alamos, New Mexico. Oppenheimer witnessed the first explosive go off in July 16, 1943. He was claimed to have uttered "I am become death, destroyer of worlds," fully realizing his creation has changed the consciousness of the world forever.

After World War II, Oppenheimer became a member of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission where he opposed development of the hydrogen bomb. President Harry S. Truman gave the order to create the bomb and Oppenheimer was under suspicion of being associated with Communists. He was associated with Communists but only because they had antifascist views. Oppenheimer's hatred of fascism, especially of what horrors the Nazis were conducting in Germany, motivated him to become involved with the Manhattan Project. Oppeheimer's cause could not save him from having his security clearance revoked.
Oppenheimer helped create a legacy that is depicted in Fallout, with intellectuals at odds against the military not heeding the morals of science. His legacy ended a war but would create a new conflict. This conflict brought the fear of the apocalypse, and almost all countries in the world with its nuclear programs have the potential to bring a human-made armageddon on Earth.

- Kristopher

Sunday, November 2, 2008

So...Who is Still Watching the Watchmen Film?

A new trailer popped up for the Watchmen movie a while ago. It originally premiered on Spike TV's Scream 2008 awards. For all the naysayers claiming the movie will be another victim of "badadaptationitis," I will declare "Oh come on! Watchmen may not be 100% like its comic book counterpart but it will still rock!" Even Alan Moore, the writer of Watchmen, stated he would put a curse on the film production. So far, the curse does not appear to have taken effect in the trailer.

So, enjoy the latest trailer!

- Kristopher

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Discussion of a Scene from Safe Area Gorazde - Candy Tossing and Guidance

One of the bad things about the field of journalism, like most fields, is that the job has its own stereotypes. Unfortunately, there are those who work in the field living up to the stereotypes. Journalists are assumed to be people who record horrible events just to get stardom and money. Joe Sacco is not one of these journalists but he portray those who abuse the power of news. The first panel depicts a stereotype coming true.

Another interesting about this page is the debate whether a bon-bon or a cigarette was better for a kid. The kid originally received a Drina cigarette but was given a bon-bon. In Sacco's words, "Poor kid, he didn't want no stinking bon-bon...but at least we set a good example." The use of the panels involving a camera man throwing candy and journalists handing out cigarettes and candy make an interesting juxtaposition. It shows suffering should not be staged by practioners of news, there are more genuine reports that would need to be covered. An obligation of a journalist is to help people by uncovering horrible truths. Sacco did just that and illustrated what not to do with starving children in a war torn country.
- Kristopher

Monday, October 27, 2008

Meet Joe Sacco

To understand Safe Area Gorazde's haunting, visceral and occasionally comical look, one has to understand Joe Sacco who interviewed the people living within the supposed "safe area." In Safe Area Gorazde, Sacco is a regular smartmouth who makes fun of his profession, makes fun of himself and how he is viewed by the Bosnians. Yet he always lets the Bosnians give out their experience rather than rant and rave out the experience himself. The balance between reporting and raw emotions exhibited by the Bosnians makes Safe Area Gorazde a harrowing and facinating read.
So who is Mr. Sacco? Sacco was born in Malta and raised in Australia and the United States. Sacco acquired a degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. He applies his practice of journalism into comics, an example being Palestine. Like Marjane Satrapi and Guy DeLisle, Sacco took comics out of the hands of costumed heroes and put them on the spotlight depicting real events.

Interviewing was a crucial aspect of storytelling in Safe Area Gorazde. Sacco talks about the interviewing process in an interview conducted by January magazine:

"What I've learned is that people like to talk about themselves. And that's kind of the advantage you have when you're asking people questions. Unless they're really trying to hide something, they like the fact that someone's asking them questions, and if you can ask them things they haven't been asked before, or ask stories that they have never told, they kind of really welcome it, and some see it as a real release, is what I find. So as far as what I've learned, I mean, you know, I think just with anything, experience helps you. You just become a little more subtle, and you learn how to, I guess, not so much follow a script of questions, but, like if someone says something, you just sort of continue on that thought, and see where it goes."

Sacco's latest book is Notes from a Defeatist, with includes political and autobiographical notes. Till then, Palestine and But I Like It (Which is about rock 'n roll) will be on my reading list.

- Kristopher

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Discussion on a Scene from Persepolis - Martyrs and Blood Transfusions

Lots of tragic scenes occur in Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis but so does some figurative language to illustrate the horrible scenes of peace movements squelched by a theocratic regime in Iran.

Satrapi's description of a martyr giving a blood transfusion to society describes the process to be extremely painful. Society is given "bad blood" from the matyrdom, from the Islamic extremists who believe Western ways are "decadent" and "evil" and believe their only way of life is the way to live.

The panels above the blood transfusion depict the extremists destroying society brick by brick; painting graffiti of martyrs, declarations of conquering Karbala and reaping away many civil rights which include women's rights. Even Satrapi climbing down the stairs telling about the chaos is metaphorical of Iran's descent into madness, fanaticism and darkness. Satrapi's right as a citizen would be going downhill because she is a woman. As a woman, she would be forced to wear the veil and be treated as nothing but a second class citizen.

Persepolis is a great graphic memoir which bears Satrapi's good memories as well as the horrible memories. When Satrapi brought out horrible memories, there was nothing indicating anything was holding back her pencil and ink.

- Kristopher

Monday, October 13, 2008

An Overview over the Bosnian War

My graphic novel class will be looking into Joe Sacco's Safe Area Gorazde, which depicts Sacco's experience with interviews he conducts with people about the Bosnian War. The war is considered one of the most brutal civil wars in European history, with this post giving a summary on what led to the conflict.

The country where Safe Area Gorazde takes place, Bosnia, was part of six republics and two autonomous regions comprising former Yugoslavia. Bosnia, Crotia, Slovenia and Macedonia are independent nations, with Serbia and Montenegro being the "rump" of Yugoslavia.

Bosnia was rich ethnically, with Muslims and Croats desiring independence rejected by Serbia. When the European Union recognized Bosnia as an independent country, Serbian forces, led by Radovan Karadzic, assaulted Sarajevo and committing genocide on the Muslims and Croats to create a Serbian republic. United Nations sanctions were placed on Serbia for the attacks but a Bosnian peace meeting that took place failed. This resulted in a civil conflict between the Muslims and Croats were were formely allied against the Serbians.

On April of 1993, Srebrenica, Zepa and Gorazde were considered three of the six "safe areas" in eastern Bosnia. A U.S. brokered agreement stopped the Muslim-Croat war and created a Muslim-Croat federation. The safe area of Srebrenica was captured by the Bosnian Serb Army (VRS), who murdered more than 8,000 Muslim males. A month later, N.A.T.O led bombings were directed at Bosnian Serb troops. After the bombings, Bosnian Muslim President Alija Izetbegovic, Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic agreed to a peace contract in Dayton, Ohio. The Dayton accords were signed in Paris, allowing the N.A.T.O. peacekeeping Implementation Force (IFOR) with 66,000 personnel to arrive and establish a permanent watch.

In 2006, Slobodan Milosevic, who was arrested and charged with 66 accounts of planned genocide in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo, was found dead in his cell at the Hague where he was tried for his war crimes. As of 2008, Radovan Karadzic was captured for planning and committing genocides in Bosnia.

For more background information, click this link to find out more on the Center for Balkan Development. You can also find more information on this article by Reuters.

- Kristopher

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

(Don't) Meet Kim Jong-il

Kim Jong-il is an enigmatic figure, an unintentional comedian and an oppressive dictator all rolled into one. I'll be honest I know he's sentenced people to death and enclosed a whole country near to collapse so he's not supposed to be laughed at! Yet Mr. Kim is funny because he's a pathetic dictator due to his whole regime living in his "cult of personality." He's so egotistical that his potrait and his father's portrait are placed on every wall in Pyongyang where Guy DeLisle worked in. People cannot help but mock his geekish appearance combined with militaristic clothing. DeLisle states Kim never served in the military, enticing more laughter from critics.

Kim would to me would resemble a mad scientist who would not know how to properly hold a test tube, let alone know how to stare at a microscope. Kim's "mad scientist" politics of creating an oppressive regime was started by his father, Kim Il-Sung. After his father died, Kim inherited his rule. Kim's "official" biography states he was born on Paetku Mountain in Korea, his birth predicted by a swallow. A double rainbow was said to be present, arching over with a bright star overhead. In truth, Kim was born in Siberia. Was Kim ashamed of not being born in the country he was ruling over? It reminds me of a vain person claiming he or she was born in a rich city but instead grew up in a ruined village.

Kim is a giant movie buff, with his favorite film being Friday the 13th. He was known to kidnap a South Korean film director to give out his knowledge of film making. Kim claimed to have directed some films and composed six operas which play on North Korea's only radio station.
I enjoy most Asian cinema but according to one North Korean in Pyongyang: "They are boring." Could the same be said about the music, which is described as sickingly sweet to DeLisle's ears? I imagine Kim did not like his portrayal in Team America: World Police. Speaking of which, a classmate of the Graphic Novel Blog displayed Kim singing "I'm So Ronery" in the movie. Who knew that Kim could belt out such tunes?

The most recent news about Kim was when he suffered a stroke but made a public appearance afterward. Hate him, laugh at him but acknowledge the fact Kim rules a country with an iron fist and a personality influencing the minds of those under his rule.

- Kristopher

Discussion on a Scene from Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea - Kim Il-Sung is Everywhere

I will be presenting a scene from from Guy DeLisle's Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea that reflects DeLisle's exasperation of North Korea's hermit mentality. The mentality of repression, Communism and complete social control even touched the bounds of nature! The scene depicts DeLisle frolicking in nature when he sees Kim Il-Sung glorified in giant letters carved on a cliff.

Pyongyang depicts North Korea's inhabitants knowing nothing about their own country or even their own leaders. Kim Il-Sung's tumor is left out in portraits that adorn every wall, Kim Jong-il's extra weight and glasses are also left out. History is fabricated, communications are non-existant and common sense is thrown out the window. I imagine when DeLisle found Korean characters carved onto a wall on a cliff, he was slapped metaphorically in the face. Oppression even mocks nature, seeking to control and dominate its presence. The characters basically read "Kim Il-Sung is watching you," much like Big Brother.

- Kristopher

About North Korea

I was looking into information about North Korea when I came across a link from the U.S. Deparment of State, which you can find here. As suspected, the website lists North Korea as a "highly centralized communist state."

Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea was not lying when it stated North Korea possessed the fourth largest military in the world along with other facts presented on the website. Overall, some of the information Guy DeLisle gave out in Pyongyang would be found on the site.

People fear a hostile, authoritarian takeover would occur somewhere in a country where democracy exists. North Korea provides a disturbing example if a Stalinistic "Big Brother" were to thrive.

- Kristopher

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Meet Guy DeLisle

Time's been going fast with wrapping up Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea. That is why I decided to introduce Guy DeLisle. So what could account for DeLisle's dark sense of humor and insight pervading through Pyongyang?

DeLisle was born in Quebec, Canada. After studying plastic art, DeLisle eventually found a job at CinéGroupe in Montréal. When the company shut down, he moved to Europe and worked in another animation studio in Munich, Germany. DeLisle later settled into Monpellier. His comics career kicked off at L'Association. DeLisle's initial work in comics appeared in Lapin.

DeLisle earned recognition in the comics world through his his experiences working as an supervising animator in Asia with Shenzhen (Which is set in China) and the more recent Burma Chronicles. Both books, like Pyongyang, deal with Asian countries each possessing troublesome quirks.

With Pyongyang, DeLisle recounts the time he spent in North Korea. His sharp observations and sharper sense of humor reveal a country that is so mysterious, so ridiculous and so deep into an economic and spiritual decline that DeLisle relied on his humor to keep himself sane. We get to know a lot about DeLisle through his humor and personality driving Pyongyang.

One of the funnier bits was when DeLisle was working in the animation studio. A North Korean employee kept talking to him in North Korean, a tongue DeLisle had no clue about. He shot back in his own language, playing around with the employee who had no clue about DeLisle's language.

DeLisle's knowledge of North Korea before arrival helped counter the lies North Koreans were giving him to inform readers how backwards the regime truly is. Here are a couple of fun facts DeLisle gives out that North Koreans did not know or were ashamed of:

- Kim Jong-il was actually born in Siberia.
- A group of North Korean commandos tried to slip into South Korea to destroy several key structures but were caught with no objectives achieved. The government counters this failure with a display of an American ship captured earlier.
Without any humor whatsoever, Pyongyang would provide a dull trip for the reader. We also would never know DeLisle's wit coinciding with satirical and well designed artwork making up the graphic travelogue.
On a personal note, DeLisle and I would get along well in the area of music. Any guy listening to Aphex Twin and other techno groups would be my friend on a trip through a communist regime.

- Kristopher

Friday, October 3, 2008

Persepolis - A Review of the Movie

Persepolis, done in collaboration by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Parannoud, was a big deal when it came out theatrically in 2007. The film was so much a big deal it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Film. Persepolis was so wildly inventive, deep and well presented it should have won the Oscar!

For those who read both volumes of Satrapi's graphic memoir, the adaptation is highly faithful. The only scenes in color are the airport scenes, which serve as a transition into the major events of Satrapi's life. Once the main black-and-white sequences begin, your eyeballs will pop. The animation of the characters, objects and backgrounds are fluid and fit into the film's environment. The backgrounds are highly detailed and designed with calligraphy, Persian art and themes. Persepolis dares to be different from the rest of the animation crop (especially from the United States) with its unique visuals.

The dialogue, mostly staying true to the source material, and acting are also first rate. Viewers will fall for Satrapi in her growth from spunky Communist worshipper to Iron Maiden loving teenager to the progressive, strong minded adult she will become. Given the film's length, it time is not spent to explore certain characters and themes that the graphic memoirs did. But the film did other characters aside from Satrapi justice to illustrate her younger self evolving and enduring trauma. The scenes with Satrapi's uncle, Anoosh, climbing up a high mountain and swimming across an ocean to reach Moscow fit with the film's highly stylistic and dream-like theme will amaze. Other characters that the film explores are complimented with high quality visuals to emphasize on their personalities from Satrapi's point of view.
The movie is well balanced in comedy and tragedy. Funny bits include Satrapi's "growth spurts" and rising from a bout with depression with sad bits including the imprisonment of her uncle Anoosh and battle with depression. The film's pace and tone are balanced to reflect on the good and bad parts of Satrapi's life. The film is not a sob story or is it an overly cheery nostalgiac ride that most animated movies seem to take to gain acceptibility. To fully watch and enjoy Persepolis, you have to take in Satrapi's hilarious and tragic elements equally. Most importantly, participating Satrapi going through life is required. The viewer will hopefully take a ride with Satrapi down memory lane for that is the film's most rewarding experience.

Reading both volumes of Persepolis, I reaped enjoyment viewing and comparing certain scenes found in both the comics and in the film. Satrapi's grandmother has rewardingly amusing moments in the film than she was given in the comic, one where she and Satrapi go to see Godzilla. Ever had a parent or grandparent that forced you to cover your eyes but they took in the juicy carnage instead? Grandma Satrapi does just that.

People who have read the comics can criticize the certain scenes handled in the films handled differently than they did in the comics. Satrapi's marriage and time in Europe appear to be rushed, sacrificed to focus on the more funny/traumatic portions that were featured in the comics. That's expected in an adaptation but there is hardly a moment where the viewer will ever get bored in the film. Nothing is out of place, everything is interesting and the sequence of dialogue and imagery are well thought out. To criticize the film for not developing enough parts of sequences would not be understanding the hard work Satrapi and Parannoud placed to deliver an engrossing film where the strengths heavily overshadow the tiny flaws included.

So I've seen the movie in its splendor with Dr. Clemente and the rest of the graphic novel class. Anyone who has not seen Persepolis, whether you have read the comics or not, are in for a treat. As a person who enjoys reading the original source material first and seeing the adapation afterward, I highly recommend checking out Satrapi's graphic memoir. You will be satisfied nonetheless.
- Kristopher

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Discussion on a Scene from Watchmen - Rorschach Succumbs to his Inner Demons

I know we are leaving the area of Alan Moore's Watchmen and digging into Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis but I did not want to leave out an analysis over a scene from the previous novel read. The problem with picking a scene from Watchmen was that there were many memorable scenes to be found! I know I had difficulty finding a scene to write about for the first graphic novel essay when I thought of doing a paper involving Rorschach, A.K.A. Walter Kovacs. To use a scene with Rorschach, I needed to demonstrate a comic technique. I chose closure and a scene of Rorschach going insane to illustrate the technique.
Rorschach infiltrates into a shop owned by Gerald Grice to find a kidnapped girl named Blaire Roche. The vigilante peeks through Grice's establishment, fingering through some kitchenware. That was when Rorschach noticed two dogs fighting over a bone outside. Just by watching the canines savagely battling over a bone, Rorschach's perception of justice becomes warped. The "facial expression" on his mask illustrates this perfectly. Now this may be overanalysis on my part, but I also noticed an interesting detail in the last panel with Rorschach in shock. The window pane beside him appears to be an inverted cross. As Rorschach is warped, does his faith in justice become warped? Moore as I said in "Meet Alan Moore" was not a Christian individual (He's too busy worshipping an ancient serpent entity named Glycon) but it was a detail that I overlooked initially.

Coming upon the horrible revelation that Grice fed Roche's dead body to the dogs, Rorschach comes out with a meat axe with the dogs looking up in anxiety. We see the axe raised and then the ink blot test that resembled a split dog's head earlier. Rorschach is clear on his madness: from the moment blood from the dogs shot up on him, the true Rorschach rose from Walter Kovacs' consciousness and takes over once Kovacs fled. We don't see the dog's get chopped up but the panels are arranged that we don't need to see Rorschach doing the deed. We share his horror with his confession, with the axe explaining why Rorschach saw the split dog's head earlier before the vigilante told his story to Dr. Malcolm Long. I observed the last panel after Rorschach kills the dogs, how it turns dark and red. Could it be illustrating Rorschach's soul tainted with darkness? Could it be depicting Rorschach's worldview becoming brutal and pessmistic? That's what I reaped from my analysis.

I chose the scene (and others that relate to the scene) of Rorschach going insane because Rorschach is my favorite character out of Watchmen despite being a psychotic vigilante. He's enigmatic, ruthless, cunning and horribly disillusioned about his role as a crimefighter and the world he's futilely trying to clean up. He's a murderer, freeloader, rogue, an Objectivist zealot and a tragic figure all in one.

Till then, I hope to find an interesting scene from Persepolis and hopefully do an analysis!

- Kristopher

Persepolis: All About the Title

So why is Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis named...Persepolis? Satrapi was referencing the title to the ruins of an ancient Persian city of the same name. From my interpretation, because the title was based on the ruins of a city, Satrapi used the title to illustrate the decay that was running rampant in Iran during her time. Iran was going to ruins with the Islamic revolution surging with backward policies and religious fundamentalism dominating the society.

Here are a few images from the city itself. Quite a sight, huh?

This link tells about the city Persepolis. Enjoy!
- Kristopher