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COMMUNITY NEWSWhat's new in Comics & Cartoons
If you missed the featured chat with jeriweaver, you can read the log in this news article.
Our first 24-hour comic begins on May 9! Details here and keep an eye on Thiefoworld and myself for updates.
COMIC NEWSHappenings in comics worldwide
The Strumpton Trophy Awards, with links to the winners.
Cartoonist Steve Breen receives Pulitzer Prize.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles turn 25!
The first saturday in May is Free Comic Book Day! "Free Comic Book Day is a single day - the first Saturday in May - when participating comic book shops across North America and around the world give away comic books absolutely FREE* to anyone who comes into their stores. *Check with your local shop for their participation and rules."
RESOURCESLinks to refine your craft
L'Association des Auteurs de Bande Dessinée and BD Angoulême have produced a booklet titled Auteur de bande dessinée: Ah bon, c'est un vrai métier? that details, in a concise way, the process and logistics of making BD for a living. The pdf can be downloaded from the bottom of this page. Although some details (like contact info) will mainly interest artists in French-speaking Europe, the general idea is of interest to all and LeBlah, who spotted this link, is kindly working on an English translation which will be posted in parts in his journal, so keep an eye on him... Either way I will link to the translation in the next issue of this newsletter.
I own two of these books and find them incredibly helpful, so I was thirlled to find a review of all 4 titles in the DC Comics Guides to Creating Comics collection to share here.
SPOTLIGHTA closer look at one author, series, graphic novel or theme
This week's focus is on Isabelle Dethan's series Sur les Terres d'Horus published by Delcourt (7 volumes so far for a planned total of 8). Sadly this beautiful series has not been translated yet.
The story takes place in ancient Egypt under the reign of Ramses II. The lead character is Lady Meresankh, private secretary to the king's eldest son, Khaemouaset, a premise which in and of itself spotlights a lesser-known fact of pharaonic society: the equal status of its women. The prince entrusts Meresankh (aka Mery) with critical assignments, from uncovering a dangerous cult to unraveling mysterious murders. The detective aspect of the plot serves rather than defines the character arcs, interweaving with an ongoing emotional plot that has been growing more intense (but not resolved, so I'm on the edge of my seat): Khaemouaset is in love with Mery, but as she refuses to find herself in the position of being her employer's lover, they keep a professional distance made increasingly difficult by a tension which the reader can fully taste. Did I mention the rarity of having a female character who's strong, smart, independent, feminine but not sexual, and a mother?
Yet this is also a historical novel. One of the most attractive things about the plot is its setting, which as we know is often explored, but almost never satisfactorily. Dethan shows herself to be a meticulous researcher with an impressive visual grasp of period dress, architecture, day-to-day details, the power games between politicians and clergy, and so on. The plotlines are based on the place, its beliefs and social order, not pasted on top of it (see Trope of the Week). We are drawn into a scrupulously accurate (with glossaries and other educational aspects) yet never bookish depiction of Kemet (Egypt), as far from cartoonish stereotypes as can be yet without reveling in the grit and sordidness that some authors use to break the shiny images we may have of a place and time. The series is permeated by a characteristically feminine sensitivity, every page painfully beautiful, whether depicting a shiny moment of feeling or a brutal social injustice. The artist doesn't shy away from certain aspects of Egyptian fashion that others have avoided, namely the fact women frequently went bare-breasted and that nudity was natural for all. And when the characters and story travel to Babylon, we get treated to the same eye candy in a Mesopotamian setting!) The comic is entirely made in watercolor, with a treatment that manages to do justice to all the details of this beauty-loving culture while keeping an attractive looseness. It's a feast for the eyes, plain and simple I started collecting it simply because I couldn't get myself to return the books to the shelf in the store. It also makes me want to put down the graphic pen and try to take a chance at traditional media again. One reviewer said: "Isabelle Dethan is one of the rare who can make her characters speak with a gaze... it's grand."
I can only hope that an English-language publisher is going to grab it in the near future!
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The posting of the pages above for review purposes falls under Fair Use please do not use them or repost them for other purposes.
TROPE OF THE WEEKStorytelling devices and how to use or NOT use them
I didn't find an existing trope for the subject I had in mind (it may exist but I have no idea how to find it) so I made up my own title for it.
You're doing a story set in medieval Japan. Your plot has everything an interesting plot needs: conflict, action, romance, humor, engaging characters. There's no reason for it not to be kickass, right? Actually I can think of a very good reason that can be overlooked with surprising ease: is your story "native" to your setting? Let me put it this way: if you take your characters, change their names and costumes, and set the plot just-as-it-is (with minor adjustments) in Middle Earth, or the Caribbean, or another planet, does it still work? If it does, that's not good news. You've written a Spit-n-Paste plot.
This is what I call a plot that is independent of setting, it'll work anywhere, anytime. It's a goldmine for screenwriters and anyone who has to generate scheduled stories, as they can recycle it endlessly, but it takes all the art out of writing, and all the originality out of your story. Remember, pretty much any story you write is going to fall under one of the Seven Basic Plots. So what makes a story stand out? What makes a plot that's based on one of 7 variations feel fresh and unique? First, there's the setting but that list is not unlimited either. More importantly, it's the dynamics between plot and setting. The setting should generate and or/nourish the plot. For your medieval Japan story, it's not enough to make the plot revolve around an ancient scroll that validates the Emperor's bloodline: that's only a veneer of local flavor. You can shift it to the Aztec empire or to Atlantis with minimal substitution. On the other hand, if your plot's starting point is a pearl-fishing village that finds itself an object of rivalry between 2 warring states, then you have something pretty rooted to work with.
While writing your story, you're going to (I hope) research the period extensively and get in the heads of the people who would have lived in that time and place. Their motivations will be just as alien to you (and us readers) as their homeland will be different from yours. Things completely irrelevant to you or I would drive them to great lengths. Therein lies the potential for exciting new events and situations. Sur les Terres d'Horus reviewed above is an example of storyline intimately connected to its setting. Other examples from the comic field that come to my mind are all French (Michel Vaillant, Yakari, Barbe Rouge, Buck Danny) but what they all have in common is obviously immersive research. It's like the authors breathe their subject, and so should you if your intentions are at all serious.
So to recap:
1. Choose your setting;
2. In-depth research, soaking in your subject;
3. Highlight findings of a peculiar nature, for possible plot uses (this can range from a geographic oddity to a rigidly coded dress code);
4. Intersect your basic story idea with the yield of your research, all the while allowing your story to be changed and directed by the essence of the setting.
Also, examine that aspect of stories you read from now on. Can you easily change their setting without losing essential plot points? If yes, has the author camouflaged that fact skillfully enough to get away with a spit-n-paste plot? If not, what anchors the plot to the place? Figuring out how others have done it will help you when it's time for you to attack your own story!
BOOKMARKBlogs and stuff to keep an eye on
Les 24h de la BD de Bulu, an Angoulême 24-hour comic to get you inspired for the one we're holding on May 2-3
Every Day Is Like Wednesday: J. Caleb Mozzocco writes about comics.
Deviations that didn't make it as DDs, but are still worth a look!
What is she going to come up with this time?
A collection of vintage ephemera for some nostalgia and old-fashioned inspiration. Sigh...
See you next week!
Your C&C Gallery Moderators,
Feedback and suggestions can be sent to Majnouna
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Just Published! Inks and Paints of the Middle East
I hope everyone's well and keeping safe! Since January, and especially during the last 3 months of (ongoing) isolation, I have worked on this groundbreaking book: A handbook of materials and art technology used in early Islamic manuscripts, for artists and art lovers alike. This is a concise, approachable, illustrated manual examining the main materials used in manuscripts during the Abbasid period, their qualities, and when safe, how to prepare and use them. 126 pages in full colour, A5-sized and wirebound for maximum practicality, with all the necessary technical info (such as the difference between paint and ink, binders, other additives) and lots of historical recipes! It is largely based on medieval Arabic inkmaking treatises that have not been translated, let alone by someone experienced in the use of these materials, so this material is being brought to a general audience for the very first time. The book is now available from my shop, but please be patient with
Crowdcast Today/Tonight April 2nd
I'll be chatting with my fellow artist and host Shayla Maddox about creating while under lockdown, past experiences of same, and related topic. Everyone's welcome, join us here at 1pm PDT (that's 21:00 GMT): https://www.crowdcast.io/e/t42_joumana/register
Lebanese Homecooking book
Did I never post about this?? Weird! My Lebanese cookbook was published about a year ago. If you're interested in a nice selection of over 30 Lebanese recipes, all illustrated and easy to follow, with an introduction to ingredients and the merest whiff of snark sprinkled throughout, look no further! You can grab it in my Cedarseed shop, where there are also other random food-related items for stocking fillers.
Natural inks for Inktober
For Inktober I made... ink! As part of my return to natural materials, I started making my own calligraphy ink, based on ancient and durable recipes, and went on to experiment with what I could find while out foraging. I prepare them in small batches in my studio and they are completely environment-friendly. They are available in my shop and 20% off during the month of October, but let me tell you a little about them. OAK GALL INK or iron gall ink was the medium used to write on parchment since Antiquity (encompassing Bibles, Qur'ans, even the Magna Carta), before paper brought carbon inks to the fore. The main component is tannin, extracted
The Spit-n-paste one is so true, and Japan is such a horrible victim to it! I don't know why people just don't do the research, because really, once you get into it there's all these interesting little stories that are so fun to look at, or even just interesting details. I once based a country on the end of the Czarist rule in Russia, and there was just so many funny little things I found and could incorporate, like beards and the role of Christianity versus the traditional Slavic religion and how they'd interacted with each other, and it fed right into my story. I found it really helped me to get into the characters heads too, to know where they were in the society and how they positioned themselves and such. One human being is just so complex and interesting, I think it increases when you look at groups of them. Like chemicals reacting, boom!