Thursday Round-Up

Now that I’ve gotten back to blogging, I have a lot of books that I’ve read that need to tell you all about!

Art and the Bible by Francis Schaeffer gave great insight into how a Christian out to approach the arts. Written in the heady days of the 1970s, this very literate musing on the place of art in faithful endeavors was no doubt a catalyst in the Christian art movement, such as Christian rock music, church drama ministries, and unfortunately, Christian movies.

In sum, Schaeffer has many wise things to say, but the author of its introduction apparently thinks that the book’s chief lesson is that it’s okay for Christians to make rock music. While true, that is not the main point.

Related to this book were The Prodigal Church by Jared C. Wilson and The Divine Commodity by Skye Jethani, which both address through different avenues the problems associated with the church-growth movement and “seeker-sensitive” churches.

The Prodigal Church more specifically discusses the issue from Wilson’s perspective as a product of the seeker-sensitive church. His boots-on-the-ground approach is endearing, but he borrows many of his ideas from Jethani’s book.

The Divine Commodity is a much more intellectual approach to the matter, with Jethani eloquently considering the strategy of many modern churches, which often judge success by how full their pews are instead of by the spiritual health of their congregants. Both authors could learn much from Warren Cole Smith’s book, A Lover’s Quarrel With the Evangelical Church.

In terms of comics, I’ve read a beautiful hardback collection (Invincible: Ultimate Collection, Vol. 1), a graphic novel (The Complete Maus), and a 1999 book containing interviews with some of the top comic book writers of the day (Writers on Comics Scriptwriting, Vol. 1).

Invincible and Maus were absolute masterpieces, and I am glad to have acquired them for my personal library. Writers on Comics Scriptwriting was an enjoyable read, in spite of the interviewer’s fawning over his subjects. It was good to get into the heads of scribes such as Chuck Dixon and Jeph Loeb. I’ve already begun reading volume 2.

Finally, I recently read two business books, one horrible and the other fantastic, plus an eBook on statistics.

Network Like a Fox by Nancy Fox is a poor man’s McBook, which is saying something. It would be much easier to digest what advice it offers if the author had bothered to hire a decent proofreader. Its sloppy editing severely drains its credibility.

Ogilvy on Advertising, on the other hand, was out of this world. It was unlike any book related to business that I’d ever read. David Ogilvy was the man on advertising, or so my Uncle Bill, who worked in advertising, told me. An Englishman, his book is more literate and authoritative than any business book I’ve ever read.

His advice is practical and backed up by experience. The principles he espouses remain sound to this day. His is not the 1983 equivalent of a punch of stitched-together blog posts, but an actual book its own right.

Thinking Statistically by Uri Bram was a short, quick book which gives a hilarious and interesting look at statistical theory. It’s very accessible, and for the first time in my life, it made me think of math as fun.

It was also useful for helping me to understand exactly how statistics work, and how errors in methodology can fowl up survey results.

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The First Comic Book I Ever Read

It must have been ten years ago. My dad and I had stopped in a Half-Price Books while waiting for some work to be done on our car.

My ten or eleven-year-old self meandered among the shelves, bored out of my mind, when I came upon the comics section.

Peering over the boxes, I curiously thumbed through them. I finally selected two promising issues: Detective Comics #610 and Robin #2.

Of the two, I easily liked the latter the best.

Thus, I treasure Robin #2 by Chuck Dixon as the first comic book I ever read. Before, I’d only read those old Bionicle comics that LEGO put out.

I already had a superficial familiarity with superhero comics, thanks to chatter from friends and bit and pieces I’d seen here and there.

But this was my first introduction to Batman comics proper. It was my first taste of the comic book stories of yesteryear, and I found it absolutely thrilling.

Just imagine the world I had stepped into: Robin, a.k.a.  Tim Drake, staring down the business end of an overzealous cop’s shotgun.

The story goes on as Robin/Tim deftly escapes Shotgun Smith and makes a go at nailing some wacky gang called the “Speedboyz.”

But Tim also takes time to call his girlfriend to apologize for cancelling their date (while still dressed in his Robin costume).

He also talks on the phone with some guy named “Alfred” about another guy named “Jean-Paul” going crazy, and apparently this other dude named “Bruce” is involved somehow.

This stuff barely registered with me at the time, but I got the gist of it: Tim Drake is just a regular kid with regular problems living in a weird-butt world.

I loved it then and I love it today.

This day and age is the golden age of reprints. I didn’t buy comics when I was a kid, besides the two I just mentioned.

But now I can read any comic I want, including thousands of back issues made in the ’90s and early 2000s.

I just finished reading two fabulous trade paperbacks collecting Kelley Puckett’s run on Batgirl, when Cassandra Cain held that moniker. Best comics I’ve read in a while.

Now they’re releasing all sorts of old stuff in book collections.

Batgirl. RobinAzrael. The mega-series of Knightfall and No Man’s Land. All waiting for me to read.

I have a lot of catching up to do.

Image courtesy of dc.wikia.com

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Thursday Roundup

Sorry for the irregularity of posts lately, but I’ve been distracted by other concerns.

I recently did a brief survey of the works of Gail Simone. I never paid much attention to her work before, but when I found out about her unused “Angel of the Bat” idea, I began to wonder why she was such a “fan favorite.”

After consulting a list of her best stories and doing some reading, I was left thinking that perhaps Simone is more of hit-or-miss writer similar to Judd Winick. Combined with her admittedly genuine love for the characters she writes, and she’s not exactly bad at her job.

I would wager that she’s earned her status as a “fan favorite” primarily due to being an outspoken feminist. That, I believe, appeals to a certain quarter of comic book fandom which I do not claim an overall familiarity with.

My Goodreads.com reviews for the three stories of hers that I read are here, here, and here. If any in the audience would like to suggest any further reading of Simone’s works, please comment below.

In other news, I’m making progress on a webcomic I’m working on. I’ve finished the second draft of what I hope will be the first chapter of an ongoing webcomic, titled “The Overlord.”

Now all I have to do is find an artist, an inker, and a letterer. I’ll have to start putting together a marketing plan to start promoting it. In terms of story, I’ll have to start mapping it out a little further, but I’ve got a lot in mind.

In addition, I’m getting feedback on my scripts in the workshop forums of Comics Experience. It’s been very encouraging, getting honest advice from fellow comics creators.

I even got a question answered by the one and only Chuck Dixon! Man, that was a dream. That month-subscription has easily been the best thirty bucks I’ve spent in a long time.

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