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Grand Junction Comic Con!

My first comic con exhibiting. It was so much fun!

I’d like to take this time to thank the Mesa County Library for doing such a great job at organizing. The costume contest was a real hit. I got to meet a kiddo dressed up like Georgie from the movie IT, who won for his age group. He was pumped to have my tshirt as a prize, but not as pumped as I was at seeing such a creative crew.

 

A Snippet of the Edgar Allan Poe Anthology

As some of you may know, I have been working on a visual anthology of Edgar Allan Poe’s works with a group of artists. I just finished my illustrations of The Cask of Amontillado, put some watermarks on them and decided to show them off here. Please enjoy this creepy tale of revenge and irony.

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Edgar Allan Poe Anthology

It’s slow going, but fun to work with other people. As some of you may know, I’ve been collaborating and managing a visual anthology of Edgar Allan Poe’s works.

I’ve been rereading a lot of Poe’s works, and I’ve got to say that I never realized what a great ironist he is. When Montresor leaves Fortunado sealed up in a vault, he describes how he feels sick to his stomach, not because of the atrocious act he is committing, but because of the damp nitre in the crypt. Some might interpret that as Montresor having a tinge of guilt, but I actually think it was Poe making a joke!

And The Telltale Heart is filled with irony, as the unnamed murderer believes himself to be so clever, as he plots to kill the old man with the “evil eye.”

Here is a drawing of Montresor, just to  give you guys a sneak peak. I wasn’t sure how I would color it, but I think giving it a graphic design touch really works. Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Montresor Evil Plan

Celebration

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I finished the script for Beanstalk Volume 2 yesterday. The celebration is short lived, however; they always are. I guess you could say I rejoiced by going to PrintWorks to buy a hard copy of it. 129 pages. I’ve already started making changes.

I’m a lot more relaxed with myself this time around. I’m not a perfectionist all at once, because I know the process now. That doesn’t mean I’m not still a freak concerning the big idea and a freak about the details. But it certainly doesn’t help to get uptight about it.

I’m also more patient working with people. I’m not an executive, even though I’m hardwired to feel like one.  I’m directing a collaboration of talented artists; we are creating a visual anthology of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories and poems. The artist contract is new for me, and there have been some disagreements among the group regarding its contents. It’s hard to find artists who are driven. They’re often in the type-b percentile, but this crew feels right. And even if some of them don’t end up sticking until the end, who cares? I’d love for them to be a part of it. I think all of them have a lot to offer, and potentially a lot to gain, from the experience. But if they can’t commit, they’re out. It’s a great project, and if they fail to deliver, that’s their loss.

Not really one for big celebrations, I’m getting back to work.

 

If I Wrote The Hunger Games…

It was several years ago that I read the first Hunger Games book. It was such a quick, electrifying read, that I didn’t know if it was actually good, because I was certain that it was structured incorrectly. I wrote a post similar to this a few years ago on my old blog, but one question has kept prodding me. I still don’t understand. Is it really vital to your everyday life? Probably not. Do other people tear apart their entertainment to shreds like I do, dissecting every meticulous detail? They’re rare, and obnoxious, kind of like Comic Book Guy, on The Simpsons. And this post has nothing to do with my budding dream to be an author and graphic novelist. But I demand to know, despite there not really being a consequential reason for my dissatisfaction: why didn’t Suzanne Collins kill Peeta at the end of the first book?

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Is a truth, universally acknowledged and accepted, that the three best movies of all time are…

Mad Max: Fury Road

Braveheart

and obviouslyPride and Prejudice

 

Seeing as how The Hunger Games is a rebellion story, we could look at Braveheart as the ideal template. William Wallace is a protector, just like Katniss Everdean. In the beginning, they are both reluctant heroes. William wants to be a farmer, and Katniss just kinda doesn’t like how things are going, but she’s pretty good at hunting.

The Call to Action

Braveheart: There has been some squabbling between the Scottish and the English. The English are bullying his fellow countrymen, and some of them are pissed. You’d be pissed too, if some crumpet-sucker was telling you he was entitled to sexual rights with your women. They don’t want to be under some limey blokes’ thumbs anymore. And they’re like, “hey William, since you’re back home, do you want to kill these teabags with us?” And William’s like, “nah, I’m good,” since the only thing he’s ever desired is Maren.

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The Hunger Games:  I actually have no issues with the call to action in The Hunger Games. It’s compelling, and it backs our characters into a corner. Katniss explains how the drawing works. One girl, one boy, from each district is sent off to the Hunger Games, where they are pitted against each other, gladiator style. ONE SURVIVOR. (24 may enter..2 may leave, because Suzanne Collins relies on Deus Ex Machina instead of abiding by her own world construct.) Katniss’s sister’s name is drawn from the hat, and Katniss volunteers. It demonstrates that Katniss is a good person, that she is competent and compassionate.

Our Leading Ladies…

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Maren MacClanough vs. Peeta Mellark

 

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Both stories establish the protagonists’ connections with significant others early on, in less than ideal circumstances. William meets Maren at the least romantic place: his father’s funeral. She hands him a purple thistle, which is an invasive species. Anyway, if I had written Braveheart I would have picked a better flower, like a rose because they’re a plucky species, but there’s probably some sort of Scottish mythology about the purple thistle that makes it a symbolic gesture. In either case, the gift establishes Maren as this goddess archetype,, because she gives a gift-empathy, connection; it establishes a relationship between these two characters that transcends words.

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Never take an ecology class. You will gain a new respect for Earth’s systems and a deeper understanding of interconnections, but it might ruin some aspects of entertainment, which, let’s be honest, is much more important than stewardship and respect for the environment. Am I right? It’s a pretty weed.

Anyway, Peeta and Katniss meet in a similar situation. Katniss is all sad and starving in the rain due to the Capital’s reign of terror. She’s doing all she can. She’s got a piece of crap mom who can’t keep anything together since Katniss’s dad’s death in the coal mines. Peeta tosses her a piece of bread, because as the title of the book /movie insinuates, everyone’s hungry. So that’s thematic and pretty cool. I like it when things come full circle. It makes me feel smart when I recognize it.

 

But I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Speaking from experience, as a writer, it’s really not that hard to establish themes as long as you’ve got a good plot and structure. If a thematic element presents itself, it’s exactly that. For me, 95% of the time, it’s coincidental. Does that stop me from celebrating myself for coming up with it? No. Should it stop me from celebrating myself? …. I don’t really want to talk about it.

Now then, speaking of plot and structure. I think The Hunger Games has really great plot, and less than adequate structure. It’s just like The Walking Dead in that aspect, except not nearly as poorly written, and it actually has charismatic actors, like Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutchinson and Liam Hemsworth, playing the leading roles, as opposed to the dude who plays Rick. Why would he be their leader?! Because he constantly chooses to do the wrong thing? Because one moment it isn’t a democracy and then the next, he’s asking for everyone’s input?

One thing The Hunger Games did right was establish archetypal characters, as opposed to The Walking Dead. What is Maggie’s personality again? Hot? No, wait.. that’s Rosita’s personality.

The fact that I called Peeta a leading lady might lead people to believe I’m sexist, that I only think men should be aggressive, pain issuing gladiators who are not emotionally available. However, I like Peeta’s personality. He is strong, both physically and spiritually. Maren is a strong character too. Peeta can lift heavy objects, and he wishes he could show the capital that they don’t own him. That should have been Katniss’s calling card. That should have been what stuck with her when Peeta was killed at the end of the first movie. But instead, we have to watch Katniss never experience a watershed moment, like William Wallace did when those English officers murdered his wife. We are still reduced to this garbage when the second and third movies come around…

“I’m not good at that.”

That’s all we ever hear Katniss say. That is a perfectly congruent piece of dialogue with her character. She’s not an extrovert. She’s not good in the spotlight, despite having a super talented makeup artist. Why did her makeup artist have such a big part to play? I’m not sure. Maybe because Lenny Kravitz is commerical.

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Just so we’re clear what the mockingjay is, in the second and third books, a symbol of rebellion and hope for the people.  Peeta should have been the mockingjay, the charismatic messiah savior, and Katniss should have been what her character was formulated to be. It’s true that we can have transformations. I wanted Katniss to have a change of heart from the reluctant hero into a fiery heroine that Suzanne Collins tricked us into believing she was. But in reality we can’t really change the core of who we are, just how we shine our light on the world. Instead, Katniss never changes, and she just has a really good team of media whores who make her look better than she is. She might not naturally be comfortable in the limelight, but she is strong. She is the protector. Instead of watching someone blossom, someone find the role that they were meant to play, she is reduced to a doll that can be played with. Instead of leading the action that makes The Hunger Games appealing to begin with, she is a symbol for it. And that makes for a boring rebellion story in the third book. And the Mockingjay movies are especially boring, because they stretched a 390 page book into three 2 hour movies. WTF?

GIVE ME THE ACTION!

William Wallace maced a Scottish lord in the face. And in Mockingjay, we had to watch Katniss struggle with her voice.

Snore…

I might as well be watching the first 3 Star Wars episodes.

Instead of killing Peeta when she should have Suzanne Collins kept him alive so that the dramatic tension would arise elsewhere, as in a love triangle.

Also, I would like to mention how arbitrary Suzanne Collins rules are. The fact that they even have a hunger games where children die annually doesn’t incite a rebellion, but that both Peeta and Katniss choose to eat some poisonous berries does? Given that line of reasoning, it isn’t in the capital’s best interest to squash their hope, as the evil President Snow says, but to give them hope. That’s the point of capitalism.

“Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” – Ronald Wright

Given these factors, it is my conclusion that The Hunger Games would be a lot better if it was a little more like Braveheart and a little less like The Hunger Games.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Drawing Process

Usually I start by taking a picture of real people. Most of the female characters in my book are based off of my anatomy. I’d like to say that it’s because I want there to be more pear shaped women and less ridiculous standards for women, and men! out there, but it’s mostly because of convenience; myhelen-2 drawings are based off of my friends and myself. It works well, because while my story is, in all likelihood, implausible, it’s still based in real science. And I love Wonderwoman! Don’t you ever accuse me of verbally abusing the classics, but we’re entering a comic book era in which variety can flourish. Comics aren’t just about superheroes anymore. Maus, Saga and Lumberjanes are great examples. Anyway, I’ve gotten a bit off topic. I’ve talked a lot about my writing process, because I personally think my my story building skills are superior to my visual art. But I do want to take the time to high light it as well.new-canvaslyria-with-gun

I take a picture, as I said before. Lyria, above, is also my anatomy.

I took a picture of myself with a toy gun. And then on a computer program I blocked out all the shapes. And then I made it look good. That’s about it.

helenMuch love, Miriam Burden

No New Clothes Challenge

This October I made a vow to not buy any new clothes for a whole year.

Urchhh!

(That was a car screeching to a stop in case you didn’t know.)

I’ve never been that into shopping anyway. It’s stupid, there are fluorescent lights, and it costs money. I always liked what one of my bosses said. He wanted to be successful while still wearing baggy pants. Now he’s nearing 40, and wishes he wouldn’t have made such a promise.

I’ve been coasting just fine so far. I have holes in my jeans from when my thighs rub together. Right in the crotch area, as per usual. But no one has spotted them yet, and maybe I’ll learn how to sew (Yeah, right!) and make a jean skirt out of them. To quote that kid from Angels in the Outfield, “It could happen!”

And then my purse broke. DUn Dun Dun! I did stitch it up, but I won’t be getting any “best dressed” awards. I look like a damn hippie when I wear it. But that’s okay; it’s a place to keep my wallet.

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The inspiration for this undertaking was The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard. It’s about consumerism and how we do too much of it. I don’t want to be one of those people who support dinosaur economies for the sake that it creates jobs. That’s stupid. One of the stupidest ideas ever. The Story of Stuff probably misrepresents data, like how much water it takes to create a cotton t-shirt. I mean, it’s not like that water just disappears, but the overwhelming message was clear.

Waste not. Want not.

Except when this year is over, I might actually enjoy going shopping..

If you feel like you’re up to the challenge, don’t buy any new clothes for a year with me. Compare notes. Do you guys know some crazy stitching techniques that ta novice like me could pick up on quickly?

My Writing Process

Starting on my second graphic novel, in the series Beanstalk, I’m already on page 50 at least in my script. It’s going a lot quicker than my first book, and I can’t quite pinpoint why. I don’t think about it as often when I’m at work. (It used to be all I daydreamed about, before some guy punched Richard Spencer, and now that’s all I can dream of doing. I think of that, and Kellyann Conway’s “alternative facts.”)

It could be that I’m not as good at this anymore, or it could be I’ve gotten better. There was a time when the simple task of waiting on tables was daunting, but now I do that with such ease so as it does not register if I’m talking to you, while I’m thinking about something completely different. “Would like fruit or potatoes for your side?” In my head I’m contemplating Rousseau’s ideas on civil liberty, because I am a big nerd like that.

I’ve started this new graphic novel with a rather unexpected side plot. Dennis is a character I had no intention of reviving, but he has become a central part of this project. He is somewhat of an automaton, as I believe a number of scientists and engineers are in reality. (That doesn’t mean all of them are self serving pricks without any intention of serving the greater good.) He got into this business, because he was good at differential equations, and it made him feel good to be competent at something. I feel like that’s something we can all relate to at least on some level, (even if you failed algebra 2 twice in high school ((Guilty!))

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