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2nd Mar 2014, 7:57 PM

Jon, Max, and Mac

A Steampunk Moment: Avoiding Victorian Language

(Music: French Beach Song by Angus Colton)

Before doing the art for Dahlia, we wrote its 300 page script. When doing this, we had to make a decision about how these characters would talk. This week's Steampunk Moment video is about our decision to NOT use Victorian-era language in Dahlia.

1st Mar 2014, 6:15 PM

Jon, Max, and Mac

Pencils and Script: pages 34-35

Panel 1 spreads across the top of both pages. A huge steam engine pulling six cars chugs along wide tracks which stretch out into the vast expanse of the American West. Thick smoke pours out of the stack. The landscape is classic Western movie, wild, vast, untamed and epic landscape. The train is larger and wider than what a “normal train” would look like for the time period. The train is a mixture of practicality and pointless oppulence. For instance, it is armored, but the armor is also ornately gilded, engraved with the floral patterns you might see on a silk print shirt of an effeminate gunfighter.

Union transport on special assignment from Illionois to Oregon
Special escort: Joseph Eversteene
Pinkerton agents “DeVries” to assist

These panels are on 34:

Panel 2. Interior of train car. Union soldiers fill the train, all of them in uniform and openly wielding large steam-powered semi-automatic rifles. It’s an anachronistic looking scene, with the modern-weapon-weilding soldiers occupying these fancy archaic Victorian train chairs.

Panel 3-5: Highlights on soldiers. Some of the soldiers are asleep, some of them smoke or read books. It’s hot inside the car, men are sweating and look a little miserable.

These are on page 35

Panel 6: Two soldiers stand at attention outside a closed door. This panel is more prominent than the others, maybe on the right side of the page, taking up a chunk of the page. Dialog comes from behind the door.

Have you ever worked with Pinkerton’s before, Mr. Eversteene?

28th Feb 2014, 4:00 PM

Jon, Max, and Mac

Mac Inks—A Preview

Bonus points if you know what the music is from.

28th Feb 2014, 1:02 PM

Jon, Max, and Mac

A Steampunk Moment: Inventions Defining Steampunk

(Music: French Beach Song by Angus Colton)

Every week, the Dahlia team gets together and asks each other questions about the Steampunk genre and the issues surrounding the genre. We film our answers, pick out the good ones, and call the results "Steampunk Moments." Look for a new one every Sunday! Tonight's video is about "Inventions Defining Steampunk.

28th Feb 2014, 12:33 PM

Jon, Max, and Mac

An Evening with Chip Kidd and Chris Ware

(photo by Alan Dubinsky)
Jonathan here. Last night (February 18) I spent the night with my deisgner friend Cliff Hansen in downtown Portland, attending an incredible conversation between designer Chip Kidd and graphic artist Chis Ware.
Both Chip and Chris are legendary in their fields, and you know who they are... though you may not know that you do. Let me help with that. Here's a list of books that Chip Kidd has designed and done covers for: Jurassic Park, The Road, All the Pretty Horses, Turn of the Century, Geek Love... you can see more examples here, all you really needed to know was Jurassic Park anyway, that logo is EVERYWHERE.
Chip Kidd also happens to be one of America's biggest comic book fans and is a walking encyclepedia of comic history and knowledge. That, and their longterm friendship, made him the perfect foil for Chris Ware last night. Ware you may know as the creator of Jimmy Corrigan, but he's also done a million other things, including some of the most iconic New Yorker covers in the magazine's history.
Last night's talk started by covering Ware's history in the art form. Chris is soft spoken, to the point where even the Schnitzer's sensitive microphones were having trouble fully capturing his voice. I found myself having to think over every sentence he uttered, reconstructing them in my mind and making sure I had the words right. This made the evening feel incredibly intimiate, as I subconciously took myself off the balcony I was seated on and placed myself next to Ware on the stage, leaning forward to catch every word. So intent was I on understanding him, it took me a while to realize he was gently incorporating his philosophy in with a discussion of his history.
I would summarize Ware's philosophy in four stages.
"do not compromise the art," or "let the art speak in the way it needs to"
Chris said that he doesn't really write scripts, but rather develops the story as he goes, letting the art and characters tell him what comes next. As a result some of his comics have continued for years, such as Rusty Brown, which was begun in 2001 and is ongoing, As these comics evolve, they have taken drastic turns in their direction, often incorporating events in Chris' own life, such as the birth of his daughter. In one memorable spread from one of his works, Chris had drawn a life-size sleeping baby as the spine divider between the pages, using each page to represent life before and after having children, illustrating without words how incredible the transformation is.
"art is a communication between the reader and the writer/artist, creating interactive art"
In one of my favorite moments of the lecture, Chris decried the method of viewing art in museums: "If you don't understand a piece in a museum, you feel stupid and frustrated, like you don't know enough about that artist or his history. It's your fault. But in a comic book, if you don't like the comic or get the point, you just say that the creator is bad." Chris asserted that he prefers this more casual connection that people feel with a graphic novelist, because it lets us be in more in touch with how the art is affecting us—we don't feel obligated by an aristocratic expectation of intelligence to instantly like it.
"art captures the world not as it is, but as we remember it"
If you follow any of the links I've posted to Chris' art, or look him up online, you'll quickly see he's one of the more unconventional artists of our time, contrasting simplistic art with extremely complicated and three-dimensional layouts. Chris explained this as wanting to capture the way we remember things: "As soon as you add detail to something, you are describing the way it is, not the way we think of things. We think in terms of shapes. This is why these characters [Charlie Brown, Tin Tin, Barnaby] are so memorable. They are blank faces with eyes, a nose, and a mouth. That's what we remember first when we think of people." Chris went on to also say that we think in concepts and connections, and that is why he tries to fit so much information onto one page. He believes it mirrors the way we think. He does have a point: as far as non-traditional layouts go, Chris is the king, and looking at one of his spreads does bring up the hectic way thoughts often meander across our minds, in a sort of free association game with whatever subject we are looking at. A further discussion of Chris' effect on the medium can be read at the AV Club's blog.
"Batman may be what gets you into comics, but Charlie Brown is what stays with you"
Another reason that Chip and Chris made such a great pairing on stage is because they are opposites. Chip Kidd is outspoken, loud, and colorful (as you can gather from his fantastic Ted Talk). Chris is quiet, pensive, and almost monochromatic in his lack of expression. Not to overemphasize this, but last night Chip could be said to represent the bright side of comics, everything held over from the golden age: the chipper colors, the bold speech bubbles, the storylines that end with Hitler getting KOed by Superman. Chris, then, is Peanuts: the comic without an immediate punch line, the punchline you have to grow into and learn to recognize and appreciate. Chris' storylines are definitely tragic, but they are accessibly tragic, and this was a point he continually wove in throughout the talk.
For example, one of his biggest Jimmy Corrigan storylines is Jimmy meeting his father, who he never knew while growing up. This is an event treated with utmost importance, but not exactly fanfare, and its resolution is not so much dramatic as it is dynamic. This mirrors Chris' own experience in meeting his own father, an event that took place over three hours at an arranged dinner, and a relationship that was concluded not long after, when his father passed away. "I didn't appreciate at the time how hard it must have been for him to reach out and make that first phone call to a child he had let grow up without him. And before I could appreciate it, he was gone." This is the kind of storyline Chris Ware offers readers: it is a storyline that is about perspective, understanding other people, and finding in them ourselves.

Few of us can relate to Bruce Wayne having his parents killed in front of him and then his decision to go fight crime... we can admire him, even desire him, but we can't really step into his shoes and say we have that perspecitve. However, all of us can relate to Charlie Brown's sighs and having the football continually pulled out from under him. And right now, which truly is the more inspiring story? In a society being racked by a horrendous economic crash, where budget cuts are chipping away at everything from education to social services, where artists and writiers and teachers are living out of the backs of their cars, is not the football analogy more apt? Do we need a Batman, someone who fights crime with billions of dollars and gadgets that we will never be able to use ourselves, or do we find inspiration in the story of the kid who keeps trying, who even through the sighs never gives up, and maintains his dream of one day kicking that football?