q. i. f.?

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mixing bowl

Another couple I’ve known from high-school age — school classmates, in this case — have lost a grown daughter, I learned yesterday. This time, a far more terrible loss: a death from car collision. The thought of it is crushing.

The two circumstances hardly bear comparing, you might say — you’d say not without justification. But I bring it into the picture here not just to remark on coincidence. The latter occurrence adds dimension to my thoughts about the former. I’ll come back to it when the occasion’s right to continue.

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I’m going to give some attention to the public FB post of a long-time family friend, an African-American IT professional and pastor from the Baltimore suburbs between western city line and Patapsco river that have been my home territory (though not always where I’ve lived) for the better part of three decades. He posts publicly there, we can pretty safely say, not because he’s inattentive to information privacy matters, say, or is just an indiscreet person, but because he means to present an open testimony of fidelity — the fidelity he understands to be our due to God and wants to urge those under his pastoral care to follow his example in, as also conversely God’s primary fidelity toward the people of God, the ground of this man’s declared confidence in doing the thing he sees to be right even when it’s a very painful thing to do.

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Without thinking about what I was doing, I ‘liked’ a friend’s propagating-profile-change Facebook post last week, consenting thereby to replace my usual image with one of a comic book character of his choosing. The character he assigned me was the Punisher. Well, I’ve been much preoccupied with work &c., and was under the weather besides, and I never got around to the switch. I did find occasion to break (yet) a(nother) long drawing fast the other night with a little 3 x 5 card Frank Castle before bed, though.
frank_castle

Frank is at ease here (for the artist’s sake), sans gear, a bit deadpan — letting his chest insignia do the communicating, it seems, if any needs doing. Interesting to note that he bears a slight resemblance to the actor who’ll be appearing as him on Netflix’s Daredevil in the 2016 season. I didn’t know the character was coming to the show until after I did this; it was the sketch that led me to some googling and the discovery.

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One of the thoughts about comics & cartooning knocking around in my head for a while is that the way comics works has something in common with puppetry. I’m not thinking of Jim Henson-style puppetry or the complex animatronic creature-machines that CGI hasn’t quite yet (as far as I know) made obsolescent in the movies. It’s carved or molded puppets that I have in mind, and the kind of performance they make possible or likely — performance not very concerned with an illusion of lifelike action, but built of routines, with a catalogue of stock elements both verbal and visual. I don’t mean to suggest any particular historical connection to puppetry in the emergence of comic books. (Maybe there is, who knows. I imagine it would be a hard thing to demonstrate, if so.) All I’m thinking about here is the way things work, basically, in the comics.

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Haven’t drawn anything in months, and I’ve been itching to. Itching worse, this week, because I started playing YouTube comic con sketch demos on the tablet next to me while working at my desk. I should have resisted, because there’s really no time, but finally I dug the sketchbook out of a box. I just wanted to do a little Superman head, something along the lines of these. It started off badly, though, as it was bound to, and I kept playing with it for a long while — contrary to plan in every way.

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Darrell Reimer, my internet friend of a decade or so (and one person of a very, very few whom I can pretty much count on to check in here, so that this infrequent writing sometimes feels sort of like a series of letters), remarks in his last on the evocative power of what in the first Star Wars film was a fleeting scene rich — characteristically, for Lucas — in perfected detail. The image that flashes by on screen is a mounted gun that must have been modeled on the Germans’ extraordinarily versatile, much feared and admired ‘88’. These days, I can’t note such a thing without thoughts turning to the infatuation with military machines that I grew up with — that the guys who created the look of Star Wars undoubtedly grew up with — and from there to the War, our great war, as lens on history and tradition in the ‘worldview’ I inherited. I think about this a lot. It’s behind a good deal of my half-serious ruminating on the American comic-book superhero, certainly.

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It’s not exactly news now, of course, but I’ve only learned with release of the first issue today that there’s a new H.B. series. (Being drawn by a first-rate artist, too.) This series is noteworthy particularly in that it seems set to pick up with story material never thoroughly developed in the twenty years these characters have been in print, presenting H.B. once again as American superhero fighting monsters, now in the middle rather than at the end of the twentieth century. How about that? I can’t help taking it as a little bit of a challenge to find the thread of my occasional thoughts on the subject and return to them. It’s going to be some months before I read any of this new stuff, probably, since I don’t buy until issues (in digital form) go on sale. But I’m basically interested in what Mignola’s raised or suggested with what he’s already done, anyhow, more than in what he’s going to do next. There’s plenty to talk about as it is, without new material. This new material definitely is a nice prod to get back to it, though, if I can find the time.

Noting here a two-week-old article in the NYRB about the Jew-caricature in medi­eval Europe and its connection to evolving Christian tradition.

In accord with the new devotions, artworks had just begun to portray Christ as humbled and dying. Some Christians struggled with the new imagery, dis­comfited by the sight of divine suffering. Proponents of the new devotions criticized such resistance. Failure to be properly moved by portrayals of Christ’s affliction was identified with ‘Jewish’ hard-hearted ways of looking. In this and many other images, then, the Jew’s prominent nose serves pri­marily to draw attention to the angle of his head, turned ostentatiously away from the sight of Christ, and so links the Jew’s misbegotten flesh to his misdirected gaze.

 
The author, Sara Lipton, teaches history and Judaic studies; I gather she’s been working on the story of the development of anti-semitic imagery for a long time. The article seems intended to introduce her new book Dark Mirror.

This would be a fine occasion, obviously, to pick up again with what I started in May, but I don’t have time for it now. Hope to come back to it in the new year, perhaps.

I started this blog mostly out of wanting to get a handle on, and engage with other thoughtful people out there about, my sense of purpose (not to say vocation — but we’ll put that off, again, for another time) as a creative person — a sometime student of art & design, occasionally a working designer/illustrator, a (still, at that time) would-be architect. The blog’s name reflects that.

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The last two posts here cracked open the door, just a bit, to some discussion of visual stereotyping and race. I didn’t have any definite plan to open that door further, but it’s interesting stuff, to say the least, and a good way to go for a wider historical field on the subject of graphics and human figure. So let’s just push it open and encounter the dangers within as we may.

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