Making Comics: A Resource

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Do you want to make comics, or maybe just have a better understanding to be able to critically read and evaluate? These two desires drove me in high school not only to read and draw my own, but also to try and find resources on how to effectively tell stories in the comic book medium. A great tool that I found was the book Making Comics.

What NOT to expect

If you are looking for a step by step guide of any kind, or if you are looking for an anatomy introduction or beginners course in perspective look elsewhere (Figure Drawing for Dummies). Scott McCloud, the author, is interested in principles, not formulas. While this does not mean that the above are not present in abbreviated form, this book’s primary focus is on broader principles. McCloud is interested in presenting options and information, not teaching a color by numbers approach.

What to expect

Scott McCloud’s book is unique in that it is actually a comic book itself. This means that while he is teaching principles, the book itself is demonstrating the very things he is talking about. He discusses in depth the use of page layout and its interaction with pacing and intensity. He talks about art, and using it on its own and in conjunction with words to most effectively communicate ideas, emotions, and story. All the while, the pages of his book visually reinforce everything he is discussing.

Conclusion

Scott McCloud’s book Making Comics is by far the most valuable resource I have found for learning the principles surrounding effective comic making. It is easy to read, but eminently approachable and useful since it is in comic book form itself. Scott has studied this art form his whole life, and he is able to concisely communicate core ideas in a natural way. Whether you want to make comics, or simply be better equipped to read and evaluate the comic books in your personal collection, this is an excellent resource.

-FLINT-

A Closer Look at Captain America: Civil War

Introductory note:  I reviewed Captain America: Civil War last month.  This following article is a more detailed analysis of Captain America: Civil War and as such does give away some important parts of the plot.

Captain America Civil War poster

The latest movie in the Captain America series Captain America: Civil War is aptly named.  Beyond the visible division between members of the Avengers team as peace, alliances, and friendships crack, divisions in goals and ideals also emerge.  Even as I think about the problems the movie presents, addresses, and leaves unfinished, I find myself divided in my opinions about the story, characters, and message.  The story is more realistic (for a superhero movie), yet less satisfying, for the questions the movie poses are not simple ones to answer.

As usual, Tony Stark is the spark of trouble, but Steve Rogers (Captain America), instead of being a peacemaker, is uncharacteristically at the other end of the conflict.  Stark feels responsible for the civilian casualties he and the Avengers have left behind, and he argues that the Avengers team needs oversight and restrictions.  In Stark’s opinion, the Hero Registration Act which the United Nations proposes is the best answer to the problems the Avengers are facing.  The plan places the Avengers under an international authority, giving the Avengers the accountability they need, and Stark thinks the Avengers should take advantage of this compromise before nations begin taking more forceful actions against the Avengers.  According to many nations, the superhero team has become unpredictable and dangerous, even towards those they seek to protect, and Stark thinks the criticism is accurate.

Wanda Maximoff

Wanda Maximoff (Scarlet Witch)

On the other end of the dispute, Steve Rogers has some valid arguments.  Rogers doesn’t discount Stark’s concern about civilian casualties; in fact, Rogers has a discussion with Wanda (Scarlet Witch) early in the movie, reminding her, “This job…we try to save as many people as we can. Sometimes that doesn’t mean everybody.  But if we can’t find a way to live with that, next time…maybe nobody gets saved” (“Quotes”).  Rogers understands that civilian casualties are an almost inevitable part of conflict, but he accepts that risk.  Recalling S.H.I.E.L.D.’s corruption, Rogers also does not trust any organization to oversee the Avengers, for Rogers fears that such oversight will cause the Avengers to help the wrong agendas and will hinder the team from saving people.  Interestingly, in The Winter Soldier, Rogers initially wanted to be a soldier and just obey orders.  Now, in the aftermath of S.H.I.E.L.D., Rogers seems to have swung to the opposite extreme, not wanting to obey any authority but his own conscience.

Barnes and Rogers

Bucky Barnes (Winter Soldier) and Steve Rogers (Captain America)

In addition to the interesting questions the movie poses about oversight and limitations of power, there are several other problems and themes that the story covers.  During one of the credit scenes, Black Panther claims Bucky is a “victim.”  While this is partly true, it does not acquit Bucky of the crimes he committed while under others’ control.  Bucky deserves to be tried for his crimes for the sake of those whom he killed.  In a just trial, the judge and jury would account for Barnes’s lack of control over his actions and would reduce his charges and sentencing.  Hiding Bucky only delays the problem of facing what he has done, the consequences of his actions, and his own guilt.

Another thought-provoking theme is about compromise and principles.  Partway through the movie, a character quotes Steve Rogers’ friend Peggy Carter as having said, “Compromise where you can.  Where you can’t, don’t.  Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right.  Even if the whole world is telling you to move, it is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye, and say, ‘No, you move.’”  This advice is quite solid.  Nevertheless, Rogers does not appear to have been listening to the first part of the speech; all he remembers is “No, you move,” and he fails to realize that he can compromise, if he and Tony Stark will only take the time to stop arguing and listen to each other.

Stark and Rogers

Tony Stark (Iron Man) and Steve Rogers

Captain America: Civil War has some good themes, but also some twisted interpretations of them.  Peggy Carter’s speech appears to be a call to Captain America to stick to his uncompromising choices and seems to ennoble him in his decision.  Also, even though Tony Stark is on the right road in wanting oversight for the Avengers, his ballistic behavior turns the audience and Steve Rogers against him, making the Hero Registration Act and anything like it seem to be a bad idea.  Tony Stark aims for a good end, but uses the wrong means because he acts out of guilt, a desire to hand over responsibility for his actions to other people, and fear that the world will turn against the Avengers, and him.  Several times in Civil War, the story touches on Stark’s background and reveals he is a miserable, lonely person who is full of regret and guilt and whose most common answer to problems is to ignore them or get angry.  Sadly, Steve Rogers is too focused on saving one friend and defeating villains to realize he is losing other friends who need him too, like Tony Stark.  What disappoints me most, though, is that the entire Avengers team allows their division and anger to get out of hand so that friend is fighting friend.  Even the severe injury of one of the Avengers is not enough to bring the superheroes to their senses; it is only fuel for more anger and a sharp reminder of how dangerous and destructive their war is.

In spite of all the damage the Avengers team has suffered, though, some hope remains for reconciliation.  When Captain America explains why he did the many things for which Stark may never forgive him, Cap ends by promising that he and the rogue Avengers will come if Stark ever calls for them.  Stark most likely does not accept Rogers’ reasoning as right, and I would probably agree with him, but I still hope that Stark will eventually swallow his pride and be able to forgive those who have hurt him and acknowledge some of his own mistakes as well.  What Captain America, Tony Stark, and the entire Avengers team needs now is not superpowers, but a lot of humility and forgiveness.

Works Cited

Captain America: Civil War (2016) Quotes.”  IMDb.com.  2016.  Internet Movie Database.  20 Aug. 2016 <www.imdb.com/title/tt3498820/trivia?tab=qt&ref_=tt_trv_qu>.

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-ARRIETTY-

Unlikely Heroes

Not every hero fights with weapons on a battlefield, wields superpowers against a villain, or saves the world once a week.  Though these are the heroes who make the pages of comic books, newspapers, and history, they are uncommon.  More often, other, quieter heroes overcome fear and fight adversity unnoticed, or are soon forgotten.  They are the unlikely heroes, and from them one can learn much about courage and heroism.  To read some of the stories of the best of their company, one has only to turn to the Bible.

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Genesis 8:11 (Illustration by Arrietty)

Surprising examples of these humble heroes fill the pages of God’s Word.  Noah rejected the sinful society about him, obeyed God, built the ark, and thus saved a remnant of mankind.  The midwives in Egypt saved the Israelite children and defied Pharaoh in order to obey God (Exodus 1:17).  Rahab – a prostitute and an inhabitant of Jericho – protected the Israelite spies at the risk of her own life (Joshua 2:3-4).  Who would have foreseen Gideon, who hid from the Midianites and doubted God, delivering Israel from Midian with only three hundred men?  Naomi’s daughter-in-law Ruth left her home to stay with Naomi after Naomi had lost the rest of her family (Ruth 1:16-17).  Though threatened with death in a fiery furnace, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s idol (Daniel 3:16-18).  Risking her life, Queen Esther entered King Ahasuerus’ throne room unbidden to intercede for the Jews (Esther 4:11).  Few of these men and women appear valorous.  Some were young, some weak, some lowly.  All were sinners.  In spite of this, they sacrificed their safety, homes, and lives to help those in need and honor God.   They were unlikely heroes who came when most needed and least expected.

Why, though, does the Bible include so many examples of God using fallen men and women to work his will?  The LORD of all the earth is mighty.  He could have accomplished all these events without raising up people and enabling them to be heroes.  Yet – or perhaps as a testimony to his power – God uses weak, sin-broken men and women to accomplish his purposes.  He can turn what is meant for evil into good (Genesis 50:20).  He can make strong the weak, embolden the meek, and give faith to the faithless.  Paul writes,

“For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:  But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are” (1 Corinthians 1:26-28).

Knowing that God can use them for his great purposes, in all that God calls Christians to do, let them work as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23).  No matter who people are or what talents they have, anyone can unexpectedly be a hero, for heroism encompasses the ordinary, as well as the extraordinary, acts of bravery.

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Judges 7 (Illustration by Arrietty)

At the same time, however, Christians need to realize a truth of even greater importance.  As my pastor once said, “In our story, the hero is never us:  it is Christ in us.”  Only by the faith God gave them did Noah build the ark, Rahab protect the spies, and Gideon rout Midian (Hebrews 11:7, 31-34).  Esther understood she relied on a power greater than hers for success, and for this reason she asked the Jews to fast three days for her before she visited the king (Esther 4:16).  People cannot be heroes on their own.  To be heroes, they need the most unlikely hero of all.  He was “despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows…he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:3-5).

Jesus Christ is more than a hero, though.  He is the Savior of the world.  He is not someone people need only on an occasional basis when they’re in danger or when life’s hard – not someone merely to admire or esteem.  Without him, all men and women are doomed.  With him, they have victory.  When the world was lost in sin and mankind’s hearts were hardened against God, an unexpected champion came, and he died that those who put their trust in him might live.

Heroes are not always what people expect them to be.  The Messiah God had told Israel to expect and whom they had long awaited came, but many did not recognize him.  He was not what they expected – not a conquering king of royalty and power.  Or at least, he didn’t appear to be.  Yet because of Christ, those who believe in him now have the power to conquer sin in their lives.  Because of Christ, they can get up again after falling.  Because of Christ, they now desire to be more like him.  And sometimes in their life’s race, following and imitating Christ will require them to be unlikely heroes when most needed and least expected.

Works Cited

The Holy Bible, King James Version. New York: Oxford Edition: 1769; King James Bible

Online, 2008. http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/.

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-ARRIETTY-