Happy Memorial Day to all
seven of you. I hope everyone will be enjoying the unofficial start of Summer today. I’ll probably start up the grill later this afternoon. First, though, I wanted to share my family’s adventure from this weekend.
Where can you see realistic Star Wars scenery, Predator costumes, cool Steampunk gear and massive Lego creations all under one roof? What do you mean you don’t know? Can’t you read the title of this post? Seriously. We’re obviously talking about Phoenix Comicon, the “signature pop-culture event of the southwest.” Not a bad way to spend your Memorial Day weekend.
Phoenix Comicon is a great show. A wide variety of things to see and do, for all ages. You can meet celebrities, learn how to build your own astromech droid, see amazing costumes, and speak to comic book authors and artists all in one weekend. Plenty of kid friendly events. (Best of all, the people-watching is fantastic.)
We attended mainly because we wanted my daughter to have the chance to meet some artists. She has a bent towards art, and we’re encouraging her to develop that. Shows like Comicon are awesome for that. It’s also great for taking pictures with people in costumes, so she made time for both.
This year we made sure that she had a sketchbook with her, and she collected about twenty beautiful sketches from some very talented people. Everyone was very gracious and patient. She loved every minute of it.
The best story from the convention for us was when we went to a How To panel on Watercoloring. I figured it would be a great place for me to learn a little more about the supplies my daughter needs, and she’d get some inspiration. Well, it went a little further than that. The panelists were Chris Herndon and Jean Arrow, and both were excellent. Less than ten minutes in, my daughter raises her hand and asks if the audience (read: she) would be able to do any watercoloring during the panel. To their credit, the panelists didn’t even blink, and immediately invited her and another girl up on stage to get some hands-on training while they conducted the panel.
We had a great weekend, and we’ll be sure to head back up to Phoenix again next year. Thanks again to all of the volunteers that make it happen. Special thanks to the following artists for taking time with my kids:
Spike – Templar, AZ
Lar deSouza – Looking for Group (and more)
(From Something Positive. Click on the thumbnail for a full sized look at the puppet monstrosity.)
(Alright, so Eric Burns-White I’m not. When he was updating, he was, by far, the best in webcomic commentary. I doubt the following will do more than pale in comparison. However, I felt the need to comment on this strip, and I am a firm believer in
stealing learning from those I consider experts.)
If we ignore the last couple of posts, I haven’t blogged seriously in over two weeks. I’m sorry if you’ve felt neglected. The last part of the year at the plant can get kind of hectic, but I’m happy to say that I’m in the throes of my holiday vacation. Which is fortunate, because during those last few days I started to develop a horrible case of job specific rectal glaucoma.
That’s right, I could no longer see my ass at work.
It’s a tragic condition that affects millions of employees every year. Won’t you please help? For only pennies a day…
Sorry. Anyway, I meant to write this shortly after the 30 Day challenge was over, while the comic was still pretty fresh. As I’ve written in a previous post, Randy Milholland’s Something Positive delivers for me pretty much every time that it updates. This comic linked above is a good example of why that is. Between Donna’s comment on the true nature of parenthood, Rory innocently and enthusiastically presenting us with the sheer horror of his creation, and that sharp exchange in the final panel, there is a lot to love.
It’s hard to pick just one of them to comment on here. I could write about how, in my experience, good parents learn quickly to be ready and willing to disappoint their children, because they know that the end goal is transforming that child into a functional, healthy adult. Then again, I could write about that puppet. It reminds me of how over-enthusiastic evangelism (and other, much uglier behavior that those who call themselves Christians engage in) can turn the loving face of Jesus into that of an intolerable monster, which is a huge problem for the Church today. Either would be interesting topics to explore, but that final exchange is what really struck me.
See, I’ve grown up in and attended churches for most of my life, and I’ve found that too many church people have an unhealthy fixation on the symbol of the cross. I’ve witnessed it manifest as a church’s attempt to modernize resulted in complaint after complaint when that particular wall decor was temporarily covered. I’ve encountered more than one giant wooden icon affixed centrally in worship halls, and often shiny little plaques are close at hand with the names of the families to be remembered for them. Heaven forbid if it isn’t well lit during service. In a church, how we treat the cross is a big hairy deal.
And, quite honestly, I’m sick of it.
I need to be clear here. I’m not rejecting the redemptive power of Jesus’ death on the cross. Eventually, anyone finding their way back to God has to deal with Jesus, that act, and what it represents. The presence of a physical cross can at times be used in powerful ways, inspiring us to acknowledge and turn from sin. So, no, the sacrifice isn’t the issue. What I reject is the rampant practice of using it in church architecture and decor, and thereby draining the symbol of it’s value. It’s unnecessary.
Some people say it isn’t really a church if the cross isn’t prominently displayed. I’m sorry, but that’s not true. The first century followers of Christ never used it as an ornamental symbol. It didn’t become accepted until after anyone who had actually seen one used had long been dead.
Today, in places around the world where Christians are being actively persecuted and their churches have been forced underground, using that symbol openly could equal death. Is anyone going to claim that those believers are not really worshiping as a church because they lack a couple pieces of wood tacked together? Who would be that arrogant?
In the strip Donna says, “We decorate our places of worship with the thing he died on and pictures of him bleeding. We love his suffering.” What’s implied is, for far too many Christians, that’s all they love about Jesus. They rejoice in the death, but they forget his life. Worse yet, they forget his commission. That cross hanging on the wall reminds them of their salvation and that provides them with comfort. Eternity is secure.
Following Christ should mean so much more. Our perspective on eternity isn’t the only change a Christian should experience. We’re supposed to go out and be Christ to the world. We should live his life, not just rest easy in his death. Where does our actual comfort come from? The Son of God, or his cross?
In fairness, I don’t go running from church buildings that have a cross prominently on display. I certainly don’t think that having one is a sin. Bad decor, sure, but not a sin. I do, however, think that requiring one might mean that your worship is misplaced, and that could be a sign that you’ve made the cross into an idol. I know that sounds absurd, even harsh, but I encourage you to consider it seriously. Things that become idols don’t often start out bad. (e.g. Work is good. Being a workaholic isn’t.) Nothing should be allowed to get between you and God, not even the cross.
I know Wednesday has meant sketches for the past few weeks, but my scanner is outside of my reach for the next couple of days. So, instead of sharing my art, I thought I would share a short list of some of the amazing webcomic artists whose work I visit and read on a regular basis.
If you’re totally unfamiliar with webcomics, let me see if I can describe them to you and pique your interest. Remember the strips from the funny pages in your daily newspaper? They can be like that. However, they can also be like pages from a comic book. Or they can be like something in between.
See, the digital canvas of the Internet allows artists and storytellers to experiment with form and layout as they tell their stories in the most interesting way they can imagine. While some stick to recognized designs, others prefer to work outside those comfortable confines in a way that print would never allow them to. Using humor and/or drama to bring their characters to life, they are able to avoid the limitations to their content that traditional syndication imposes, and just put their work out there.
Now, while I was originally turned on to webcomics for the art and storytelling, what has really fascinated me is the entrepreneurial nature of their business model. In almost all cases, these folks are presenting their entire body of work for free, and then using that to drive revenue from ads, books and merchandise sales. They are selling themselves as much as their work. There is a lot of wisdom among them on how to make money in the age of the Internet, all while engaging in an activity that they have tremendous passion for.
Here are a few of the webcomics that I check out as often as they update, along with some notes (and disclaimers):
- Looking for Group by Ryan Sohmer and Lar DeSouza. DeSouza is, to me, one of the greatest, and most gracious talents in webcomics today. Sohmer’s writing is very good, but I check out all of their stuff regularly due to how well I think of Lar. They work together on two other efforts, but LFG is the one I can most widely recommend. It updates on Mondays and Thursdays.
- PVP by Scott Kurtz. Kurtz is one of the old guard of the webcomics community, and he strongly advocates for the superiority of the Internet business model for artists. I find his arguments very persuading, mainly because he is living it out so successfully. His art and writing is some of the most consistent on the web, and going back through his archives is a great way to pass the time.
- Evil Inc. by Brad Guigar. Guigar is reported to be one of the nicest guys in webcomics, and I can’t find any evidence to the contrary. I enjoy his daily strip, because it revolves around superheroes, family humor and really bad puns.
- Something Positive by Randy Milholland. S*P is probably the strip I find the most entertaining. The writing pulls no punches, and the humor can be very harsh and biting, but it delivers for me damn near every day. I’ve met Randy at a convention and, contrary to all the hype, he appears to be a really nice guy.
- Templar, Arizona. by Spike. I met Spike at the same convention I met Randy, and she was very fun. Great with my daughter, too. Her art style is beautiful, and I love the story she’s crafting. I wish she would update a bit more regularly, though. This comic has some adult themes, and should not be considered safe for work. You should still check it out, though.
- Questionable Content by Jeph Jacques. This is a very funny and very deep comic. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I do not get 9/10 of the music references Jeph makes, but his writing is so well done that I never feel like I’m missing out on the humor. QC updates every weekday.
There are several others I read, but I might go through my daily trawl and discuss the comics more in depth individually. There are a lot of great business ideas intermixed among all the fun these people have created. You should read them for the fun, though. Tomorrow, when you’re done with all the turkey, take a little time and check them out. I promise you that every last one of them is better than Garfield.