Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Stack (1)

All posts about "The Stack" are about s**t that I have stacked around my apartment that I am going to destroy by reading, because that is ostensibly why I am keeping this freaking junk.

It's in two places: on my bookshelf and on my kitchen counter. I divided it according to some already-forgotten plan of attack to getting through it.
This is the total inventory:

 12 The New Yorkers [note: I had never read The New Yorker, then someone - I really don't know who - bought me a subscription and now it just shows up at my house. I really like it, as I always feared I would].
13 Scientific Americans
2 Los Angeles Magazines (note: thank you, GroupOn or LivingSocial or whatever)
2 Economist Special Reports (I have a two-week rule on holding onto full Economists; the Special Reports I keep)
3 National Geographics
7 Books
56 Comic Books, plus 1 trade paperback (a bunch of comic books bound together and sold as a book) 

I'm not going to enumerate the books and comic books except as I actually read them.

So the deal is this: I need to make progress on this, and eradicate it from my life. I like these things, but the concept of this "stack" has been hanging over me for literally years. It has to go away - it's a stupid concept. I just want to be reading things as I get them and as they come in. I think two months is a reasonable goal: today is April 8th. So that means June 8th this stuff is off the table, read, gone, in my brain (or not).

The thing is, this is totally hard and I am going to fail. I've repeatedly resolved to do this, and it requires these marathon reading sessions at the end of which I'm all scrambled. Like now; today I read like 11 issues of FF, 1/2 an Economist, and... something else. What the freak- yes, a couple chapters in one of the books. And actually the "stack" is a little misleading, because in order for the stack not grow I have to stay on top of the Economist. This is all incredibly, incredibly boring. I apologize.

So here's what I'm going to do (warning: this post does not get less boring). I am going to endeavor to read all of these things, and as I do so mark the passing of bits of the stack with feedback. This week (I'll do this weekly*), as I said, it was a lot of comic books.

Chew #s 23 and 24 were awesome. I don't have a lot to say about this - this series is just awesome, and the storylines are jangly.

FF there's more to say about. It's written by Jonathan Hickman, who wrote a bunch of crazy stuff that was very original, although I think I recall feeling it didn't totally work for me. But I like him on this book and Fantastic Four - he writes "weird" well and "smart" well, and has a good time with the space opera stuff. I read episodes 6 through whatever the latest is, like 13, and the experience was pretty much defined by the art. The thing that was striking was how important (I've had this thought a bunch lately) the layout and storyboarding is, in addition to the "art" (like, the drawings) itself. I got very little out of the storyboarding - conventional, basically 7-9 panels, chunka chunka chunka and as a consequence I was totally disliking the book: the story was fussy and gaudy and overwrought, I didn't care about any of the beats or the characters; I was writing it off. Then, in episode #12 this guy Juan Bobillo takes over, and everything changes. He breaks the story down into beats and moments (the story also, I think, gets a lot better: it reduces to a little-girl-and-her-grandpa-doing-futurescience-to-save-the-world storyline, which is great): someone turning to look at someone else, one page dedicated just to a wide view of a massive scene and then a single tight panel below, zooming in on the heroes. And all of a sudden I cared again. I don't know a lot about comics or art - I know nothing about art - but this strikes me over and over: that there's a mis-en-scene in comics as much as in anything else, and so much of the book's narrative success is wrapped up not just in story, dialogue, or how cool the pictures look, but in how the story is paced manifest on the page - it's like what directing, cinematography, and editing are to filmed entertainment, put together. And I think that Juan Bobillo's run, which was pretty polarizing, was a great example of what a difference good layout and storyboading makes.

* no, I won't. I'm calling that now: I will fail at doing this weekly.
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