Too often in life, it’s too easy to get bogged down in what’s not working. I know I’m guilty of it. Being curmudgeonly can be fun. Whether it’s complaining about the wifi or the wife I should appreciate more out loud–it’s nice to let off steam. However, I know it’s important to focus on the positive–to stop and say to ourselves, “if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” So welcome to my quest to stop and smell the comic book roses, to celebrate those feats best accomplished in the combination of words and pictures we know as comics!
Today’s comic feat: Art that Defines your Perceptions
Have you ever wondered why Shakespeare is such a big deal? Ask a high schooler struggling through Hamlet or the play that shall not be mentioned, and they’ll probably commiserate.
One of the cool things about Shakespeare is that he could always seem to find the right words. When he couldn’t find the right words–he made ‘em up. He literally made up the right words as he went.along. Eyeball, champion, amazement—Shakespeare coined these words along with over 1700 others in his works. We wouldn’t have eyeballs if it weren’t for Shakespeare. We wouldn’t have excitement or champions, either. Imagine the disappointment for Kamala Khan if she couldn’t have her Champions.
I really enjoyed that first trade of the new Champions book. Thanks, Shakespeare!
So what does this have to do with comics? Every now and again, you find that comic story or page or panel that puts a definition to that thing you always knew you had, but didn’t have a name for–like your eyeball or your excitement that you have an eyeball! For me one of those perception defining panels comes from by David Mazzucchelli. You may recognize the name as that of the seminal artist on Daredevil: Born Again or Batman: Year One. He’s one of those artists I encountered very early on and didn’t recognize how good he was until I realized he had disappeared–at least from the big 2 superhero books.
In 2009, he published an original graphic novel called Asterios Polyp.
The book explores a professor as he confronts his life choices, his dreams, and his past as he attempts to redefine himself after his apartment burns to the ground. It’s chock full of grown-up themes that I honestly don’t remember because it’s been about 8 years since I’ve read the story. 🙂 Don’t hold that against the book; I didn’t take notes when I read it and I have the memory of a goldfish. Occasionally, though, something breaks through my goldfish brain and sticks.
Here’s the page that got me and stuck:
I have the privilege to meet a great deal of people through my day job every year–people that come to me from every walk of life with their own hopes and dreams and hang-ups and potential. Every single person I work with is as unique as their fingerprints, but somehow, we all effort to find some commonality with each other to find success. Mostly. Some are agents of chaos sent to—forget that part. Focus on the positive. When I look out at these people with their own selves, their own personalities, their own collection of shapes and ideas, it’s different now, thanks to this panel. This page helped to put an image, a word, a definition for lack of a more eloquent way to put it, of something I’ve always felt but could never describe, just like Shakespeare’s champions. We’re all shaped by our own biases, life experiences, and ideas–but Mazzucchelli illustrates that we’re all metaphorically different shapes as well.
Here it is again. Try to keep this in your brain the next time you’re thrust into a situation with a number of people. Think of how long it takes you to even get the slightest notion of the shapes and ideas that make up a person. Maybe think of it the day when the scratchy people in your life are little extra scratchy, or the loopies extra loopy. Especially remember it during those times when the folks around us are loosely held together are coming apart at the seems a little bit. We’ve all got our own shapes, and some may be more amenable to you than others, but we’re all just trying to move forward. Celebrate when you get an idea of someone’s shape and it’s something that suits you, too. Celebrate the challenge of figuring out how to work with those sketchy shapes as well.
Pay no mind to what actually happens with the young lady in the story, because if my vague recollection is correct, it’s bad. Focus on the way to see people more as they are in an abstract form.
That abstraction is something you can only experience thanks to comics. Words alone can’t do it justice, and movies won’t even consider it if it’s not a preexisting franchise.
Here, primarily thanks to one person, I got to see the world differently. Thank you, Mr. Mazzucchelli, and thank you, comics!