Nostalging For Comic Books

marvelcomicbookcharactersLately, I’ve been feeling rather nostalgic for my childhood. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, maybe it’s because the current state of the world is such a mess, or maybe it’s just something inexplicable. Whatever the cause, the past month or so, I’ve been getting back into comic books. It’s been at least 20 years since I’ve purchased any, so unsure of what changes have occurred during that time, it’s been with a tad bit of uncertainty that I’ve delved back into the world of super-heros and their nemeses.

One of the biggest changes is the current retail price of comic books. Typically, they are $3.99 per issue. When I last collected them, they were around $1.50 to $2.00 each. Nice to know inflation remains a life constant.

Another change I’ve noticed is in the artwork. I grew up on comic artists such as Jack Kirby and John Byrne who tended towards naturalism in their work. These days, although some realism is portrayed, the drawing is typically more stylized than not.

One last change I’ve noticed is that most of the major titles have been rebooted and their issue numbering has been restarted in recent years. For instance, The Amazing Spider-Man had gotten up to issue #700 and Detective Comics reached #900! The nice thing about the reboots is that there isn’t yet a large catalog of the second volumes of these titles to catch up on so it isn’t prohibitively expensive to pick up back issues.

There are hundreds of titles to choose from, and I’ve settled into four that I’ve always liked: The Amazing Spider-Man, Batman, Detective Comics (another Batman title) and Fantastic Four. I enjoyed these series growing up, and after several weeks of catching up with several past issues, I think I’ll enjoy the current versions, too.

Why do I collect comic books? It’s simple. They’re fun. Some people collect them as an investment, but I’m not one of them. Yes, I bag and board each of my comic books to preserve them, but I don’t have any grand purpose that in 25 years I’ll be able to sell them for hundreds or thousands of dollars. That’s just not what it’s about. It’s about briefly losing oneself in a world of grand imagination, where good overcomes evil, where heroes give their all to protect mere mortals and where one can hardly wait for next month’s issue of their favorite series.

Stuck In A Rut? Ignore Everybody.

Book CoverBeing a creative-type, inspiration plays a large factor in my work. Sometimes it’s just not there and there’s not a thing I can do about it. But when it is, it just flows and it’s difficult to keep up with.

We all get stuck in a rut from time to time and recently I was in mine. The inspiration was just not there. The well was dry and seemingly there was nothing I could do about it. Thankfully, while searching the internet for some tips and solutions to jump-start some creativity, I came across a post at recommending Hugh MacLeod’s book Ignore Everybody And 39 Other Keys To Creativity. It’s a quick and easy yet valuable read for anyone needing a “kick in the pants” to get moving again creatively.

Some of my favorite passages from the book are:

• "It was so liberating to be doing something that didn't have to impress anybody, for a change. It was so liberating to be free of ambition, for a change."

• "If you have something to say, then say it. If not, enjoy the silence while it lasts. The noise will return soon enough."

• "The best way to get approval is not to need it."

• "Work hard. Keep at it. Live simply and quietly. Remain humble. Stay positive. Create your own luck. Be nice. Be polite."

What I came away with after reading this book is that I have to be motivated and inspired to do what I do creatively whether or not anyone else ever knows about it or approves of it. Personal sovereignty over one’s art is much more important than being commercially successful.

Since having finished the book, the creative juices are starting to flow again. Those little bursts of inspiration have started to fire up again. And I believe this book had a part in helping to bring this about. I’m planning on reading it through again soon and I’m looking forward to seeing some things I may have missed the first time.

Time Constraints

Time ConstraintsLately, I’ve noticed that the older I become, the quicker time seems to pass. Granted, this is to be expected. When we’re kids, having only a few years under our belt, it seems to take forever for each Christmas, birthday and summer vacation to come around. But as the years add up, our relative perspective on time continually changes. And what seemed like an almost eternal wait for the holidays now becomes, “What, it’s Christmas again already?!”.

I love learning new things and, like many people, I’m curious about the universe and how things work. I don’t want to just know about something, I want to know the ins and outs of it. I want to know why it works, how it works and where it fits in relation to other things.

But these days there doesn’t seem to be enough time to fit it all in. When I was an adolescent and a teenager, it seemed as though there was an abundance of time to delve into books and learn, practice and explore an interest and devote large chunks of time to an activity. Of course, then I didn’t have the time constraints of adult responsibilities that I have now: marriage, pets, job, home, etc. And they’re not time-consuming in a negative way. It’s just that those things require a commitment of a portion of time as anything does.

The difficulty now is deciding how to approach this challenge. Do I commit to a broad range of interests only to delve a little into each of them or do I focus on a handful of topics and dig deeply into what they have to offer? I’m going with the latter these days, I believe. To me, it’s what fits best as I prefer to know as much about something as possible. So if time and my mortality are limiting me to only explore so much, then picking a few topics, perhaps just one or two, and becoming adept at them is the way to go.

So, what are those topics, interests and activities I’ve narrowed myself down to? Well, that will make a good future post won’t it?

Fave Finds For 2012

Well, 2012 will soon come to an end and a new year will arrive with all sorts of interesting things. But for now, here are some of my favorite finds that I was pleasantly surprised by this year.

1. Mutemath – Thanks to Keyboard‘s magazine cover story for turning me on to this fun and talented band that is highly underrated by the mainstream. And their live show rivals any other band’s in energy and entertainment.

2. Drive – I’m not a huge Ryan Gosling fan, but this movie is very good. One of those under-the-radar flicks that are so much fun to come across unexpectedly.

3. Edvard Munch: Symbolism in Print – As mentioned in a previous post, I really enjoyed this exhibit at the NC Museum of Art. I’d always thought of him soley as a painter, but found that he also produced a myriad of interesting prints.

4. Berryville, Virginia – I first heard about Berryville in a Wendy’s commercial. If you ever get a chance to visit this quaint little town located at the rural edges of northern Virginia, be sure to go. And if you plan to spend a night or two there, you can’t go wrong with the Rosemont.

5. Candy Cane Oreos – Peppermint flavored, seriously delicious and sold out pretty much everywhere.

Quiet, and Proud of It

Susan Cain, Quiet Book Cover
I’ve been reading a very fascinating book titled Quiet. Written by Susan Cain, it attempts to dispel many of the myths about Introversion and examines how and why so many people are that way. Is it brought about by nature or nurture? Can introverts become extroverts or should they even try to? In our culture, why is introversion considered a quality to be overcome? Being an introvert myself, I am finding this book very interesting in explaining a lot about myself that I already “knew” but have never been able to clearly express.

Ms. Cain, an introvert herself, does not argue in favor of a misanthropic personality; rather, she argues that it’s okay to be quiet, to be solitary, to be a thinker, to not be outgoing, to not be the life of the party. And she provides evidence in support of her argument, citing numerous physiological and psychological studies. Throughout the book she provides examples of famous and non-famous introverted individuals who have contributed to society in meaningful ways. She talks about how, until the 20th century, the qualities espoused in 19th century character guides (self-help books of that era) among others were citizenship, duty, work, manners and integrity. However, ever since the turn of the 20th century, self help books espousing personal qualities such as stunning, attractive, energetic, fascinating and glowing have become the norm. The “cult of personality” and self-promotion reign supreme (one need not go any further than logging onto Facebook for evidence of this).

She discusses how businesses have accepted the idea of open workspaces without walls over private offices, teams and workgroups instead of individuals. In a not always successful effort to promote productivity businesses have, for the most part, abandoned the individual working in a private office. She provides evidence of how businesses mistakenly believe that “brainstorming” sessions (you know the ones with the write-on flipcharts taped on walls all over a conference room) really do not provide the best ideas but tend to only produce mediocre results. She explains how and why introverts work differently and why they are more productive working on their own.

Although I don’t agree with everything in this book, I would still recommend reading it, particularly if you consider yourself an introvert. It will help to answer questions you may have about Introversion and hopefully provide you with some insight about yourself or someone you know.