Thursday, December 9, 2010

Flight Volume One - Sunday December 19th

Flight is a graphic novel anthology edited by Kazu Kibuishi, who went on to create the successful Amulet series. The anthology is meant as a vehicle to promote young and upcoming talented artists. Each artist was given only "flight" as a theme, and as a result we get a story about a young girl who grows wings, a dirigible, a boy and his dog who build an airplane, and a short story about jet lag, among others. Like many anthologies, some stories are hit and some are miss. Questions for this one were a little difficult, so if anyone has any they'd like to submit, feel free.

1. What was your favorite story? Least favorite? Best and worst art?

It was a solid consensus that the scrapbook-feeling free-association story "Dummy Brother" was intolerable both visually and story-wise. We all thoroughly enjoyed "The Bowl" by Chiang for its clever storytelling and vivid art. We also enjoyed the cuteness of "Outside My Window."

2. The theme of the book is only flight. Did this restrict the graphic artists too much? Too little?

It seemed that "write something about flight" was the prompt for each of the artists. Since this theme is pretty nebulous and even romantic, it provided a good clear canvas for artists to work with.

3. As any anthology, Flight is schizophrenic age wise and content-wise. What demographic is it marketed to? What demographic is it meant for?

We did discuss this a bit. Especially since Flight: Explorer was specifically aimed towards children, stories like Copper seemed kid-like and out of place when compared to some of the uninterpretable and strange adult-oriented stories later in this book. I think this can serve as an example that comics creators really don't know who their primary audience consists of. Perhaps its mostly male twenty somethings, maybe they are all twelve year olds, or a mix of many populations.

4. What are the advantages and disadvantages of telling a story in just a few pages and panels?

Part of the problem with many of these stories is they seemed to just be teasers for a more fully realized story. Or, they abruptly or ambiguously ended in an unsatisfying manner. A few of the stories, like "The Bowl," managed to tell an interesting and satisfying story in just a few panels, but it proved a challenge to many of the other authors. Part of the problem/solution could be that some stories are continued in Flight: Volume Two.

5. In "I Wish" by Vera Bergosol, what happens at the end? (p. 48). What was her decision?

In the final panels, we see two figures, then one, then none. It could be argued that the girl went for a casual flight and took her friend along, but then why would only one figure remain after she supposedly took flight? It could also be interpreted that she took flight, then he left to go back home. In a macabre person's point of view (like mine), then it's possible that she couldn't fly at all with those wings, and both of them jumped to their deaths.

6. How did the anime drawing style come through in a few of these works?

I especially found it strange in the third story, "Hugo Earheart," in which Hugo looks suspiciously like Astro Boy and befriends a very anime-looking elf girl. Many of the authors were Asian in origin, so perhaps they are simply drawing upon Eastern influences. Or, judging from Scott McCloud's afterword, perhaps manga and japanese style art is the wave of the future.

7. What are your thoughts on the current "steampunk" trend in comics and fiction? (As seen in "Hugo Earhart," "Formidable," and Appelhans' story?)

Steampunk is an interesting trend that consists of an alternate universe in which steam power is the only means of technology. As a result, goggles, top hats, and flying machines are prevalent. Steampunk was interesting in these stories, but it seems a medium can only go so far with a certain trend. (Hear that, zombies?!)

8. What commentary is "The Bowl" (p. 179) making on historians and museums? What happened to the man/god inside of it?

Perhaps none, but the message that I was getting was the misinterpretation of history. This man's entire life was changed by a bowl, but the museum writing only speaks of calcium left over and what the bowl could have been used for. It shows that we really know nothing about the past or history, we can only blindly draw conclusions from fleeting evidence.

9. Why was flight of all themes chosen for this anthology? What makes it important or special to so many people?

As previously mentioned, flight is just universal and romantic enough that it can be an inspiration to many different types of people. From the first poem in this anthology that romanticized the act of taking off itself to the mundane problems like jet lag, the authors in Flight found their own way to interpret the theme.

10. How did "Outside My Window" (p. 79) fit in with the theme and the rest of the stories?

I have no idea. Any takers?

11. Many of these stories had no POWs or SMACKs to illustrate sounds and all of them completely lack thought or narration bubbles. Is this the new trend in comics? Why is this important?

Hearkening back to last month's selection, V for Vendetta, I think the lack of illustrated onomatopoeias is the indicator of a "grown up" or "serious" graphic novel, aka no superheroes. While these stories were by no means all serious, these sounds have been parodied and overused to the extent that they've fallen out of popularity along with thought balloons.

12. In his afterword, Scott McCloud predicts that manga and anime will become more serious, abandoning the guys with giant swords and Japanese schoolgirls. What do you think?

There have already been a few serious manga series', including McCloud's own Zot! and a favorite of mine, Planetes. However, the less classy school girls and dudes with giant swords are still selling by the pile, so I wouldn't count them out yet. Maybe we can count on awful Shakespeare and James Patterson adaptations of manga being on their way out, though.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, everybody, for another good discussion.

    As the first aggregate selection for the book club, "Flight" was probably the first book that we didn't answer most of the questions, and by the end we weren't peaking down at the sheet with that somewhat awkward pause as we were anxiously anticipating who would ask the next question, "So, what do you guys think about ...?" I didn't know what to anticipate about the discussion when I started reading this book, although I did expect that the "questions" would have been limiting and the real questions would have been more open-ended and story-specific, like "What the *$!# happened in this story?"

    We briefly talked about the effectiveness of the short story, and in post-official discussion we talked a little bit about question number 12 -- reinterpreted as the future of comic books (the long tail, the maturity, the masses' acceptance of the medium), but all other meta-questions were left on the paper. Although meta and context questions get me the most excited, I still enjoyed Sunday's conversation, and I look forward to seeing everybody again in January.