Comics Are Great! 73 – Finding Your Knitting with Kris Straub

Stick to your knitting. Specialize. Find your niche. Operate in your wheelhouse. And a zillion other clichés that get thrown around. It’s been accepted as common wisdom that one should find the one thing they have some talent in and pursue that to the end. And even if this is true (though we’re not saying it is), how does one even go about finding the precise knitting to which they should be sticking?

We’re fortunate to be joined this time by Kris Straub, the author behind Starslip, Chainsawsuit, Broodhollow, the Webcomics Weekly podcast, and more for a discussion on finding the proper venue for your work once you’ve tackled that tricky business of finding your voice.

And Erin Helmrich of the Ann Arbor District Library returns for another round of great book talks!

Links mentioned in this episode (thanks to Eric Klooster for collecting them!):

Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks

It's Maggie's first day at Sandford High School. Until this year, she has been home schooled with her three older brothers. Now she's on her own, navigating crowded hallways and classrooms. She soon meets the mohawked-coiffed Alistair and his bubbly sister Lucy, who befriend Maggie and help her come out from under the shadow of her brothers.

Oh, did I forget to mention that Maggie has been stalked by a ghost in a graveyard for the past seven years? And that her mother recently abandoned their family for reasons unknown? As these developments are gradually (and seamlessly) revealed, readers will find themselves pulled more deeply into the tale, searching for answers along with Maggie and her new friends.

Author and comic artist, Faith Erin Hicks, creates a vivid portrait of Maggie's family as well as their community through black, white, and gray shading. Deep character expressions are effectively portrayed, and Hicks' use of alternating panel sizes carries the narrative along swiftly.

Highly recommended for grades 8 - 12.

Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, & Me: a graphic memoir

Take an emotional roller coaster ride with Ellen Forney, author and illustrator of Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, & Me: a graphic memoir. Meet Ellen in a manic period of life learning of her diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Follow her as she first attempts to deal with her mania without meds, and then with meds. For five years Ellen valiantly struggles as she works with her psychiatrist to achieve a balance without sacrificing her creative self. Woven in with Ellen's story you'll find information about the different levels of bipolar disorder, the creative people who have suffered from the disorder, and the array of medications patients may take in order to strike an emotional balance.

The drawings are cartoony in style but so expressive of Ellen during both the manic and depressive times of her life. In one part of the story the only thing you see on each page is a tiny Ellen lying on her side wrapped in a blanket. The pages with this image go on and on relentlessly. You want it to end because you hate the hopeless feeling those images portray, just a tiny fraction of what Ellen is enduring. Marbles is a remarkable book that won’t be easy to read or to put down.

Comics Are Great! 72 – Living Well On Less with C. Spike Trotman and Laurianne Uy

The hard fact of it is, few people make a ton of money at this comics jazz. And while we’ve talked about creating various streams of income in past shows, we’ve yet to talk about how to get more out of less of our financial resources!

We’re joined this episode by C. Spike Trotman, author of Poorcraft: The Funnybook Fundamentals of Living Well on Less, for a talk on facing the inevitable cruelties of managing one’s finances. We also have in-studio guests Laurianne Uy and Dave Carter who provide some tips and tools to help you make a budget and stick to it!

And Sharon Iverson of the Ann Arbor District Library returns for another round of great book talks!

Links mentioned in this episode (thanks to Eric Klooster for collecting them!):

Comics Are Great! 71 – Spongebob and Podcasting with Gregg Schigiel

We’re thrilled to have Gregg Schigiel, the artist behind many of the ever-present images of Spongebob Squarepants in comics and on products, for a talk on working on a beloved children’s character. Is it all fame and candy-eating, or is there a certain work ethic that goes into working on such a highly-visible property?

We also talk about Gregg’s excellent Stuff Said podcast and the thoughts behind it. What does it take to make a podcast, and how do you know if you’re ready to dive into this medium?

Note: This episode is part of a 3-episode crossover between Gregg’s show, the Kids’ Comics Revolution! podcast, and Comics Are Great! You can check out Part 1 on KCR!, featuring a talk on the power of superhero stories, Part 2 on Stuff Said, featuring an interview with me, and conclude with this very episode.

We’re joined at the end by Sharon Iverson of the Ann Arbor District Library for some more book recommendations!

Links mentioned in this episode (thanks to Eric Klooster for collecting them!):

Comics Are Great! 70 – Skype Author Visits with Stephen McCranie

Whether you’re self-publishing or working with a publisher, a cold hard reality we cartoonists face is getting the word out about your book. This time I’m joined by author Stephen McCranie for a discussion on how he used a special promotion on his site offering free Skype visits to schools to inspire kids and help spread awareness of his graphic novels.

Links mentioned in this episode (thanks to Eric Klooster for collecting them!):

Post-Nuclear-War Graphic Novels

In popular fiction, the atom bomb destroys not only physical matter, but also society and even reality as we know it. Nuclear destruction is the modern day equivalent of the biblical flood that wipes out the world and its entrenched order. Unfortunately (according to the imaginations of most writers) this tends to lead to an even more brutal world instead of giving our children a clean slate and a fresh start. I guess we’ll never learn. Here are a few of my favorite post-nuclear-war graphic novels.

Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind – This ecological parable from the artists of Studio Ghibli follows a teenage girl caught up in a war for the dwindling resources of the planet.

V for Vendetta – A masked crusader fights for freedom against the corrupt government in the post-nuclear totalitarian state of England.

Barefoot Gen – After the bomb destroys Hiroshima, Gen, his mother, and his little brother must find a way to survive and carry on with their lives.

The Dark Tower – The Gunslinger rides to meet his destiny among the sorceries and plots of his war-torn world.

Akira – Neo-Tokyo sits on the ruins of the old city, which was destroyed by a mysterious blast years earlier. Now history is beginning to repeat itself.

Saga, Volume One

Should the hype about Saga. Volume One convince you to read it? You bet! This tale of two soldiers from opposite sides involved in an endless galactic war who fall in love and attempt to initiate change through their newborn daughter will draw you in from the dramatic opening to the surprising end. Apparently writer Brian K. Vaughan has not previously used narration but effectively does so here in using the newborn Hazel to tell the story. Actually, it’s a grown up Hazel looking back who tells the story of how from the first breath of life there are those who try to wipe her and her parents off the galactic map.

I enjoyed Vaughan’s pacing and engaging characters. Fiona Staple’s stunning artwork creates amazing worlds and characters, balancing the poignant quiet moments with the battles for survival. Request this book and be ready when Saga, Volume Two arrives July 9!

March Comic Artists Forum with Manga Artist Laurianne Uy

Sunday, March 3 | 1:00-3:00 PM | Downtown Library | 4th Floor Meeting Room

Laurianne Uy published her manga, Polterguys in 2012 by running a successful Kickstarter campaign. She will emphasize the importance of planning ahead for the campaign and offer tips on how to manage once you’re in the thick of it.

Polterguys tells the story about a smart but socially awkward college girl, who ends up moving into a house that's haunted by five ghost guys. She's the only one who can see these ghosts so she has to help them resolve their unfinished business.

After Laurianne’s presentation you will have an opportunity to record a book review of a favorite graphic novel or comic book to be shared on the Kids Comics Revolution podcast as well as mingle with fellow cartoonists.

Join the Forum to get fresh ideas for your comics or graphic novel creation and to network with other artists. Drawing supplies are provided, so drop in!

February Comic Artists Forum With Cartoonist Chad Sell

Sunday, February 3 | 1:00-3:00 PM | Downtown Library - 4th Floor Meeting Room

Cartoonist Chad Sell, creator of Manta-Man, Shadow Play, Vreeland, and Doodleville, will talk about how to get your work out there using social networking, comics conventions, and self- publishing. He will also talk about setting up your own website.

Posting his artwork online led Chad to new fans, an online business, and eventually allowed him to work exclusively as an illustrator.

Join the Forum to get fresh ideas for your comics or graphic novel creation. Drawing supplies are provided, so drop in! This event is for adults and teens (grade 6 and up).

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