Five Ways to Improve Your Comic Reviews

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Have you ever wanted to get into comic reviewing or thought your reviews just needed a little extra something? I see a lot of reviews missing some key aspects those few times when I do actually read other people’s reviews. It’s been three years since I’ve started this blog and over the course of that time I’ve learned a lot about comics and the medium in general, but more importantly how to write about them. I’m in no way an expert, but I do have pretty strong opinions on what makes a good review and how we can better talk about and analyze comics as an artistic medium and an entertainment medium. Below are five tips to improve your comic reviews. Let me know in the comments if you have any other tips to add. Continue reading

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Behind the Scenes – Blogging with Anxiety

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Writing is always hard for so many reasons. We even have a word for when you have trouble putting pen to paper: writer’s block. So what happens when you add in mental illness? Things just become infinitely harder. I’ve always been an advocate of pushing through writer’s block, with the notion that sometimes you just have to force yourself to get things done or they never will get done. But with an illness like anxiety, your brain sees this as a form of stress and creates a stress response. Most of the time this comes in the form or avoidance: procrastination, letting yourself get repeatedly distracted by little things, or just doing nothing at all. The stress and pressure to create piles up as the sense of satisfaction from creating decreases and then this leads to a spiral of depression, which leads to more avoidance, which leads to more depression. It becomes a whole cycle. Continue reading

Waxing Philosophical: What We Can Learn from even the Trashiest of Romances

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Valentine’s Day is behind us but I think it’s important to continue thinking about romance and the kind of impact these kinds of stories have on readers. It’s one of the reasons I created this blog and continue to return to romance series. Reading romance books and manga were majorly important to me when I was growing up. I started reading them back in middle school, or about 12 to 13 years old. I’ve never really thought about the significance of starting around that time until this article from Vulture pointed it out: the kinds of books you read in school are mostly stories of boys and men with the occasional dead girl so, in essence, romance books become a way to see girls and female characters in prominent roles. They’re thrilling, a way to experience and read about sex, something that is usually frowned upon in academia and some social circles. The US in particular isn’t very good about including comprehensive sex education in their schools, so for many girls, this is their first and sometimes only major way to learn about sex and sexual relationships.

The romance genre has gotten a bad rap over the years, considered “popular” literature or just not literature at all. Why? It could be because its an industry dominated by women who are writing predominantly for women. It could be the sometimes silly, “bodice-ripper” covers showing half naked women and men on full display. It could also be the escapist nature of romance fiction in general which tends to make people point at it and say, “there’s nothing good or intelligent you can get out of a story like that. It’s all just trash for bored housewives.” Which is completely and utterly wrong. Dismissing a whole genre in and of itself is wrong, and I’m here to tell you there are quite a few important life lessons you can learn from romance. Continue reading

Valentine’s Themed Episodes to Get You in the Mood

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Happy Valentine’s Day to one and all! Even if you’re not celebrating with a special person today, you’re all welcome here. My fiancee has to work tonight, so I’m here to talk some anime and manga with all of you while I eat some sweet, sweet chocolate. So grab your candy and beverage of choice and a snuggly blanket cause tonight we’re looking at Valentine’s Day themed episodes and chapters from anime and manga. Now these are just personally my favorite episodes or moments that focused on Valentine’s Day in ways that were either amusing or touching in the context of the show or series. I know there are a ton of others I could put on this list, so I’m interested in hearing your picks down below, or even just your favorite treat to eat on Valentine’s Day. Here are four picks for some of my favorite anime and manga moments this holiday. Continue reading

Waxing Philosophical: Embracing Predictability

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Happy new year and all that jazz. I have returned from my long break and will be slowly working my way back up to a predictable post schedule. I didn’t really have a chance to plan any posts last month while I was on break, so I figured I’d ease myself back into the blog writing schedule by doing a fairly short Waxing Philosophical post today.

I spent a good amount of time over Christmas watching those all too familiar Hallmark and Lifetime Christmas movies. You know the ones I’m talking about. The super corny love stories that almost always feature some “big city” guy or girl who needs to be reminded what Christmas and family is all really about and wind up falling in love with either their childhood sweetheart or some stranger they meet by chance. They’re stories are ridiculously predictable, and yet…watching them winds up being a weirdly comforting experience. Why is that? What is it about these types of movies and shows that make them enjoyable when their plots are so straightforward to the point where I can almost always predict what will happen next? Continue reading

Comics as Literature Part 2: Literary Graphic Novel Canon

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What would be your response if someone inexperienced with reading graphic novels and comics came up to you for advice on where to start? What kind of titles would you recommend? I bet I can name a few of the ones you just thought of. Maus, right? The Watchmen? It’s easy enough to pull these titles out of the many hundreds of thousands of different comic and graphic novels, not just because they’re so popular, but because over the years fans, creators, and academics alike have developed a fairly specific graphic novel literary canon. It’s become second nature to recommend these books to new fans of the medium, and I see the same titles come up again and again in message boards, from articles, and from classes at colleges trying to teach graphic novels as literature. It’s become sort of ironic to me in a way how many fans and creators, through the quest to be taken seriously as a literary medium, have created their own literary canon with the same few books recommended again and again. Continue reading

Waxing Philosophical: Current Opinions on Comics as Literature, Part 1

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by Michael Kupperman

Just this past week, the late and great Stan Lee passed away, one of the founders of the US comic book industry. He was and forever will be a cultural icon so many in the industry hold dear, and his passing reverberated across comics media and into the mainstream media. Unfortunately, the news reached the ears of Bill Maher, who responded to the passing of Stan Lee by criticizing comic books in a blog post. In it he says, “twenty years or so ago, something happened – adults decided they didn’t have to give up kid stuff. And so they pretended comic books were actually sophisticated literature.” He got a ton of backlash for the things he said, but his comments point back to a long-time struggle of comic artists and the industry: the struggle to be taken seriously. Something I had hoped was starting to seriously fizzle out, but apparently not. Continue reading

October Mythology Special: Kuchisake-Onna, or What Happens When Ghost Stories Get Too Real

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You’re walking down a dark street at night. Mist is starting to cover the ground making the road ahead of you hard to see. Suddenly you see the shadow of a woman step out of the mist and walk towards you. She looks like a fairly normal Japanese woman and is wearing a surgical mask to cover her face. That in and of itself isn’t weird as many people in Japan wear masks when they are sick or for various other reasons. The woman continues to walk towards you, and when she is close enough for you to see her face clearly, she asks, “Am I beautiful?” Not wanting to be rude, you answer “Yes”. The woman takes hold of her mask, pulling it down to reveal a mouth that has been slit open ear-to-ear, and asks, “Even now?” You have just met the Kuchisake-onna, how do you answer? Be careful, if you answer wrong, you could end up looking like her. Continue reading

October Mythology Special: Gashadokuro, the Hungriest of Ghosts

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Japan is known for its hungry ghosts, yurei who come back to haunt those who have wronged them or come back to fulfill some unfulfilled purpose before they can move on. In the last post, we had the Manekute no Yurie or the beckoning hand that appears sticking out of empty rooms, and will only go away once its wants are fulfilled or someone reads it some sutras. However, the the Manekute no Yurei is a fairly benevolent ghost despite its hunger. Hunger can be an extremely powerful force especially when put into the perspective of starvation and famine, and that’s where tonight’s ghostly story comes from. The Gashadokuro is the hungriest ghost of all and one of the most dangerous of the yurei who walk the darkened streets of Japan. You definitely don’t want to meet this one, but if you do there’s only one thing you can do…..run. Continue reading

October Mythology Special: The Disembodied Hands of Legend

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I’m sure you’ve noticed just how much I’ve been talking about XXXHolic, and it’s not just because it’s that time of year when I want to read slightly spooky or mystical stories. The content of XXXHolic hits on a lot of humanity’s biggest fears and insecurities, including the ones from legends and folklore. In chapter 26 of the manga, Watanuki keeps running into a disembodied hand on his way home from buying groceries. A hand sticking out of a cherry blossom tree. A hand lying behind a sandwich sign. At first he brushes it off as a mannequin hand, but when he makes it to the park, the hand is there again sticking straight up out of the ground. As he watches, a small petal falls onto its palm, the fingers close and reopen. The petal is gone. When some kids get too close, Watanuki loses his grocery bag to the hand and it drags it back into the earth where suspicious crunching noises are heard.

Stumbling into this short encounter while reading XXXHolic had me wondering what other kinds of myths were out there concerning disembodied hands, and is this one related to any in particular. I realize it might be a strange thought to have, but hear me out and join me as I go down this rabbit hole. I promise I’ll try and keep it short this time. Continue reading