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7th Mar 2014, 11:10 PM

Jon, Max, and Mac

Matt Wagner and Will Eisner Appreciation Week

If you haven’t been read aloud to in a while and if you love comics, then tonight’s event with Matt Wagner at Floating World would have been as magical for you as it was for us.

Max here, reporting in on the aftermath of another wonderful Portland comics event. For Eisner Appreciation week, the folks at Floating World Comics hosted comic legend Matt Wagner. The night began with Wagner reading along to the  projected pages of the relatively short but powerful Mortal Combat, a piece from Eisner’s compilation Invisible People.

Lined up in front of our narrator like huddled schoolchildren, the crowd watched Wagner as closely as they did the transitioning images on the screen. While not an orator by trade, Wagner did a great job affecting the different characters and voices of the story, seamlessly transitioning to and from the visceral affectations of Eisner’s lost, broken, and tragic-comic characters. The quiet setting and subdued atmosphere lent itself perfectly to the intimacy of Eisner’s work and allowed Wagner’s dynamic personality to lead us through the heart-and-ground breaking narrative.

The Spirit was the first Eisner comic I ever bought,” Wagner explained after the reading. “It was up on the top shelf of the magazine rack, just out of my reach—which made it seem naughty and dangerous.” Wagner says that what drew him to Eisner’s work, specifically The Spirit, was its departure from the classic trope of the superhero. The Comics Code Authority of America was, during Wagner’s childhood in the 60s and 70s, the most staunch censorship organization in American media. “Eisner was trying to escape the Comics Code,” Wagner said. “He created characters that were dramatic but humane as well. There is a sense of consequence for Eisner’s characters. That heroes suffer for their bravery was a new concept for comics of the time.”

Wagner reminisced (as he drew an original piece of art to be raffled off at the end of the event) about an early The Spirit comic he read that had a profound impact on him as a boy. The story, as Wagner tells it, starts with the local police force in a stand-off with a cornered serial killer in an abandoned warehouse. “This guy is conducting a study in murder, shooting people from his window and gauging the reactions of passerbys and the police. He’s writing about the effects on his typewriter. This was no Dr. Doom—this guy was scary.” The Spirit arrives and hatches a plan to climb up on the roof and burst in and thwart the villain. While attempting to crash through the skylight, the police—finally pushed too far by the mad-man—open fire and their stray bullets riddle The Spirit’s legs. After crashing into the warehouse and defeating the bad guy, The Spirit is seen next issue recovering in a hospital. The diagnosis is not good; he is on crutches and hobbling along the hallways of the hospital, while the doctor’s notes read something to the effect of “bone infection spreading” and “shrapnel in the legs will likely result in amputation.” Wagner recollected his reaction to the moment with four words: “my fucking head exploded!”

It’s a proclamation about Eisner’s work that Eisner would no doubt have greatly appreciated. Eisner’s greatest wish was to see others, especially young artists, inspired to break boundaries in the comic world. As Wagner put it, “If Jack Kirby was the comic book world’s Michelangelo… then Will Eisner was our Leonardo, a creator involved with insight and innovation, and exploring the inner depths of the human heart.”

While Wagner is perhaps best known for the long-running and influential Grendel, it’s his self-acknowledging work Mage which introduced Team Dahlia to his method of storytelling. And on that note, we managed to get some good news from Matt: he has not given up plans of completing the Mage trilogy, responding with a wholehearted “Oh god yes,” when Jon asked him about its future.

A big thanks to Floating World Comics for hosting the event and to the great crowd of thoughtful and engaged participants who were present. Also a huge thank you to Matt Wagner for the amazing drawing of The Spirit (Jon won the drawing in a raffle). Photos of the event can be found on our Facebook page and Twitter feed.

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.