Superheroes as the New Mythology

First of all, I’d like to lay out that this is not an original thought of mine. I had read an article some time ago (the author and article title escape me) that pitched this idea, and it’s one that I find myself thinking about quite a bit and want to elaborate on.

The idea in question is that the adventures of comic book superheroes are more or less a modern version of the hero myths from ancient societies. It makes sense in a lot of ways. Many cultural myths followed the exploits of many larger than life characters like Gilgamesh or Hercules just to name a few. In that same vein, superhero comics tell us the tales of characters who could be considered gods as well. People love to read about the adventures of superheroes like Superman, The Flash, and Captain America in probably the same way that ancient Greeks loved listening to The Odyssey.

It’s also worth noting that the comic book industry is certainly aware of the superheroic aspect of mythology and using that as a resource. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby took the initiative to directly adapt existing mythology with their use of Thor as a superhero. Lee and Kirby were definitely onto something with their idea of adapting Thor, because Norse mythology was already a superhero comic. There were ready-made heroes and villains to use and a whole host of worlds to explore. By looking at the minimal changes that had to be made to turn Thor from Scandinavian myth to comic book superhero, we can see how similar superheroes already are to mythological figures.

I think that the popularity of superheroes is due to the same phenomenon that has kept people interested in the mythology of bygone eras. There’s some innate cultural desire to see someone greater than ourselves; someone who can serve as an example of what people should strive to be. It’s because of this that I believe that many of the superheroes we know today will continue on for generations to come

As untitled, insecure, Chloroform,

Title from here! (Hence the gray shirt…)

Hello anyone reading this!

As the weeks go by, the deadline for our final comic slowly creeps closer and the time for decisions is upon us…

While the idea of doing a dramatic art or monomyth for my final comic was very tempting, I had not really considered going another route. So when Dr. Dru was lecturing about kishōtenketsu  as an option, I knew I had found my niche.

While I do enjoy the action driven story lines, I feel like my comic will be focused more on a character-driven plot. I think it would definitely be interesting to explore the “slice-of-life” aspect that comes with this kind of story structure and something that will be (hopefully) both challenging and enjoyable. Thus far, I have decided that the comic will center around some sort of mundane (as mundane as the supernatural can get) tasks that my werewolf character, Kieran, goes about. So below I have included some sketches of how I am hoping to draw him in my comic, as well as a little sketchy possible idea of the comic itself. Color-wise, I think I will keep him with more of a brighter skin-tone like the colored right doodle than the lighter version on the left.

Has anyone else thought about doing a kishōtenketsu-based comic as well?




— Ashley

p.s. If anyone was curious, I used some copic markers to color, as well as a prismacolor brushpen and a pentel aqua brush filled with sumi ink to line! :-)

Midnight Rises and Kind of Falls Short

A Comic Review

I was recently thumbing through the recent Ipad apps in the app store when I came across Midnight Rises, an interactive graphic novel written by John Scalzi and illustrated by Mike Choi. It was released this January. I read the first two chapters (the others after you have to purchase to read).

An interesting topic in mass communication is the ways that different types of media deal with changes in technology. Sometimes a transition to new things isn’t very smooth. AT and T, the once monopoly owners of phone lines, tried to stop the internet from becoming a household thing because they didn’t have compatible hardware. That clearly worked.

Music has gone from gramophone to LPs to 8 tracks to CDs and now we’re in a world of music without physical copies and companies are trying to adjust (with streaming becoming the new deal).

Comics are also adjusting. Initially it was just another method of distributing the same type of art. XKCD started out simply as scanned drawings. It seems like it has taken comic creators quite a while to grasp the potential of today’s technology. Which takes me to my review.

Part of me was impressed with the idea of the app.

Interactive comic books have sounded like a great idea to me ever since I saw Tom Hanks’ character in Big basically invent the idea, and that was 1988. 1988, people. It’s been a while in the making. (To clarify, the movie came out in 1988, I prolly didn’t see it till 1998).

Midnight Rises kind of fell short for me, though. It says the plot changes depending on your choices but I tried multiple options and nothing changed in the future storyline, it just changed the current dialogue. I would have liked to have actually swayed the story a bit. The transitions were clunky (except for the swipe to explore bits) and just abrupt from one scene to the next. I did like the small portions that allowed you to swipe through and explore the panel- the foreground and background independently moved and made it seem to have a greater depth. I disliked constantly having things pop up (*new character bio* *history unlocked*). It distracted from the flow of the story and having a history timeline pop up in a random point rather than giving back story through the comic itself, seemed like a cop out.

All that being said…

The art is beautiful. The characters seem interesting (so far) and having a hide and seek portion of it (you can click around and find hidden gems- mostly just coins for their related game) is kind of nice. But I think interactive comics still have a long ways to go. Mostly in the interactive part. Right now it’s a beautiful digital comic- like an animated scanning of a comic book.

Let it go, AT and T- the internet is coming.

Student Exercises

The exercise “The Wrong Planet” in Drawing Words & Writing Pictures (Abel & Madden, 2008) challenges student teams to draw independent scenes about an astronaut going to the wrong planet and then put them all together and create a coherent comic strip. These are Thursday’s results after students corrected for narrative coherency without trying to strip down to the bare minimum number of panels.

comicpinkdark^ This team’s comic has the astronaut arrive on the planet, strip out of his suit, get drunk on the way home, and land on “Planet of the Grapes” instead of Earth. Hmm, maybe the team was inspired by Tuesday’s lecture about Underground comix defying the Comics Code Authority? Points for the awesome close-up of the startled eye.

comicgreendark^ In this team’s strip, the astronaut lands, leaves, and falls asleep at the con, allowing the spaceship to enter a wormhole and land him on another planet. We all liked the countdown panel; I think everyone copied it on the second go-round!

comicyellowdark^ In this team’s strip, the astronaut goes the the planet, leaves, comes back only to be told by an irate scientist that he’d traveled to the wrong planet in the first place — head-slap. This team’s revisions included adding more facial close-ups to make the strip character-driven rather than action-driven.

I love the fact that everybody’s rocket ship looks the same, despite about eight different students drawing it for various panels. It is clearly the archetypical rocket ship!

The exercise nicely moved the class toward next week’s Tuesday lecture on storytelling structure. Professor Terry and I really like this textbook and love seeing our students’ work!

Midnight Nation Review


By: Ti Louchart

Midnight Nation is the classic Supernatural tale of man chases leads, man gets his soul ripped out by goblins, man wakes up in hospital to find a crazy woman telling him she’s probably going to kill him. Midnight Nation was written by J Michael Straczynski it is about a police detective, David Grey, who has his soul ripped out.  He is shadowed by a mysterious woman named Laurel and must deal with his new life living in a world between worlds.  The idea for this came form J’s walks through bad city streets and seeing the contrast in worlds between night and day.  When he would walk at night a whole different group of people would come out like an invisible world right underneath people’s eyes.  The story at some points can be hindered by a lot of unnecessary dialogue that could just as easily be shown rather than told.  The villain of the story is the worst offender of this at times spouting his own beliefs at the protagonist.  I found that a lot of the imagery made enough sense that it got the point across at what the characters believed and were going through.  The characters were all deep and thoughtfully crafted I liked all of them except for the villain who looked like he came out of a 80’s film.  The art is gorgeous just the beginning panels have so much to them. The first panels are a crime scene with a police car in the background with each panel containing either a blue or red light background.  There are a lot of details that might go unnoticed in the first read through really unimportant things that add to the atmosphere. There is a scene where he is being chased and in the car of the chaser is a little Virgin Mary statue.  When there is a flashback to David and his wife a broken window next to David and his wife walking away explains the entire relationship in one panel.  Graffiti lines the streets of the city in almost every panel.  The details make it a great visual story.

Midnight Nation is great 10 outta 10. Don’t read it, it gives you a better understanding of the human condition, I didn’t ask for that.

Pencil: Gary Frank Inkers: Jonathan Sibel, Jason Gober, Jay Leisten Colorist:  Matt Milla

Publisher: Joe’s Comics

Publication: OCT. 2000 – JUL. 2002

Montage-Midnight-Nation-Tome-1-à-3 Link

Source: Midnight Nation

New Kind of Comic

Today, when Dr. Dru was going over the different genres of manga, I couldn’t help but think about the differences in genre in comparison to American comic genres. In Japan, they have shonen manga, which was popular amongst boys, of which most people know about (such as Naruto or One Piece). However, they also had shojo manga, which was popular amongst girls. This, however, isn’t nearly as popular in America. Now, personally, I love action as much as the next guy, but I still wonder why shojo was never really popular in America. Sailor Moon is probably the most popular shojo manga, but that’s about it.

This difference between Japanese and American comics interests me because in order to provide the public with a female-oriented genre of comics, the comic artists are required to accept the fact that they have a female clientele. This caught me off guard. But what surprised me the most is the fact that shojo manga rose in the mainstream manga culture in the 1960s, and there aren’t really any mainstream comics in America that are created for girls by girls. There are some underground comics, but it still seems that American comics are refusing the fact that girly-girls would like to read comics about girly stuff.

At most, we have gender-neutral comics in America. But I don’t think that’s enough. I want sparkles without any light source. I want illogical floating roses in the background. I want shiny eyes that express emotion and mystery. I want strong female protagonists that fight the patriarchy and establish peace and freedom and equality with everyone of every sexual identity.

Let the Enrollments Begin!

Terry and I are delighted to watch students adding the course as the enrollment period opens; I think this course is going to be a lot of fun! Remember, you don’t have to be an artist to enroll; you will have to create a comic book (well, a complete linear graphic narrative, which can be shorter than the typical comic book), but you can do that with stick figures, with photos run through comic-book filters, or in a number of other ways that don’t require an ability to draw or paint. :-)

Will This Count for CORE 21?

Professor Terry and I have submitted this course to the Educational Policies and Planning Committee in the hope of having it fulfill a Visual & Performing Arts Participatory requirement. We’ll post here when and if it gets accepted; our hope is that EPPC will be able to reach a decision on it before spring enrollment, but at this point we can’t guarantee it.

So the answer is — not yet, but we hope it will, eventually!

Coming Spring 2015

California Lutheran University

ART/COMM 482: ComicComm: Globalization, Zeitgeist and the Art of Visual Communication

Dr. Dru “Jackdaw” Pagliassotti, Your Humble Writer
Professor Terry “Peacock” Spehar-Fahey, Your Not-So-Humble Artist