Sunday, August 23, 2015

This Is What You Need To Live

If you're finding KaraokeFanboy Press through the Poetry Superhighway, welcome to my corner of the Internet.  I've been self-publishing my own comics and poetry in Phoenix since 2010, and this has been an exciting year for me.

In May, I ran a successful Kickstarter to self-publish my mini-comic book, Amazing Arizona Comics, monthly, and since then I've had several opportunities to share my work with the public: at Ignite Phoenix 17, on my local NBC news, and most recently on NPR's local program The Show.  With so much emphasis on my comics work, I thought my inclinations toward poetry might suffer, so I've made a proactive effort to keep writing, as much as I've been drawing.

This chapbook is one of the results.  This Is What You Need To Live is a small collection of this year's writings, with another to follow toward the end of the year.  My writing has taken an economic turn lately; my poems have become rather brief, in comparison to work from the past.  So, I like the idea of my chapbook format adapting accordingly, measured at a mere 4.25" x 5.5".  Yes, it's half of a sheet of paper, folded along the portrait orientation, creating a backpocket-sized digest you can take on the bus and probably read in the single ride.  I hope its impression creates an urgency, that this must be read now, in its entirety . . . less of a whole record album, and more of an EP, really.

This Is What You Need To Live is completely self-published (printed, folded, and stapled by yours truly), and the cost includes shipping.  Even if the poetry doesn't impress you (and I do hope it does), rest assured that purchasing this chapbook supports an artist that still believes in handcrafting his work!

A special thanks to my friend and fellow Phoenix poet Gary Bowers, who was kind enough to write the intro to this chapbook.  I'm a huge fan of his work, both writing and drawing, which can be found here.  Also, I'd like to thank Tristan Marshell, who asked me to feature at Glendale's Words in the Alley back in February, and I agreed, in spite of myself.  That really got this ball rolling.

Finally, thank you for still reading blog posts to completion.  I hope you'll spend some time and money on This Is What You Need To Live, because I do have more to come, and it is, for me, exactly as the title of this chapbook insists.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Augustagram: Shaping Up a Daily Webcomic

I love Instagram.  I love that the format demands the viewer's attention to the single image,  hyper-focused in the confines of a single, unmovable square.  You can't zoom in, and you needn't rotate your phone to see the whole thing.  It's just a perfectly proportioned picture, and while Instagram seems to allow an endless amount of caption text, "insta" really implies an immediacy . . . that less is more.

This economic, harmonious combination of picture and words is so what I love about comics.  Indeed, Instagram dares us to capture real life as a comic book panel, in the same square shape Jack Kirby used in his six-panel page grids.  With this in mind, I've decided to utilize Instagram to attempt a daily webcomic all August long, hence the term Augustagram.  

Day 1: A woman found a dead frog in her Safeway sauerkraut, so Speed Cameron did, too.  The panels are posted on Instagram in black and white, and my brother colors them afterward.

The story, starring the characters from Amazing Arizona Comics of course, is told in daily panels that take place on their respective day.  This isn't a new idea: Erik Larsen drew an each-panel-is-a-new-day story in Savage Dragon #144, and while you'd think the pace of the plot would be choppy, the consistency of the characters maintains a through-line that makes the real time pace even more fulfilling.  This is their life, from the raucous to the routine -- which is exactly how we real people use Instagram.

As the storyteller, I find the creative experience especially fun and challenging, because I'm thinking about characters I've drawn now for over five years in a totally different way.  The existence of Speed Cameron and company so depends on current events, locally and nationwide, but how does that look when the news doesn't take the shape of a super-villain?  How do stories about Cecil the Lion come up in their lives?  What of news that takes a tragic turn, like a movie theater shooting?  Some headlines are too fleeting to satirize in a comic I hope to reprint for years to come, and others are tragic to explore in stories I hope offer some respite from reality.  Yet, when the focus is in the moment, the story becomes both theater and therapy.  The only thing insistent and unavoidable is the present.

Day 2: Rowdy Roddy Piper passed away on July 31.  The news cycle moves so quickly, it's hard to remember what headlines moved us just one week ago.

Thus, presently, August was my month of choice because it's really the only one void of holidays, so I wouldn't have that as a crutch.  These are the dog days of summer, for sure, and I'm testing if my comic has bark and bite.

So, I hope you're following, or will now start to follow, this Amazing Arizona Comics Instagram webcomic all month long.  Who knows what news stories will shape our heroes' lives?  No doubt, the same news stories that shape ours.