Making Logo Sketch Cards

This and all logo images © DC and Marvel comics appropriately.

Recently I wrote here about my new idea for something to sell at the Baltimore Comic-Con on Oct. 18-20: Logo Sketch Cards. The popularity of “sketch covers,” comics with an alternate cover having only the logo and trade dress printed, leaving the rest blank for a unique artist sketch, gave me the idea of doing the same sort of thing, but with marker sketches of comics and character logos on Strathmore drawing paper cut to the size of a comic, as above. I’m not sure how well they will sell (my asking price at the Con is $30 each), but I’m having a lot of fun making them. I’m enjoying revisiting many old friends in logo form, and it’s giving me a good reason to spend a lot more time at my drawing board than I have in years. I like that, too. I thought I’d show how I’m making them here.

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Rereading: THE OTHER WIND by Ursula K. Le Guin

From the illustrations by Charles Vess.

Concluding my coverage of “The Books of Earthsea,” the recent omnibus edition of all Le Guin’s Earthsea material beautifully illustrated by Charles Vess in color and black and white.

“The Other Wind,” published in 2001, is the sixth and final long book. Not only does it continue some of the stories from the earlier books, it tackles a major problem in the structure of the imaginary world itself: the fate of those who die. In previous books we’ve learned that they are relegated to wandering a gray, dry, barren land beyond a wall of stones, unable to recognize or interact with those they knew in life, unable to rest or find any solace. This was always a grim fate dealt to the people of Earthsea’s island kingdoms, though some on the fringes thought they had another path. Ged, the main character of the series, made a harrowing journey through the land of the dead, and was stripped of his magic there in “The Farthest Shore.”

As “The Other Wind” begins, a village sorcerer, Alder, is being tormented by dreams about his dead wife in the land of the dead. He is repeatedly drawn to the stone wall at the edge of it while the dead reach for him, asking to be set free. Alder seeks out Ged, in his retirement on the island of Gont, and Ged sends Alder on to Havnor to tell his story to the king, Lebannen, Ged’s companion on that journey through the land of the dead. When Alder arrives, he finds the kingdom already threatened by dragons who are attacking from their strongholds in the west, even the western shore of Havnor. Ged’s adopted daughter, Tehanu, part dragon herself, goes with the king and his troops to confront the dragons, and what she she learns there brings everyone to a meeting on the island of Roke, the heart of Earthsea’s wizardry. Great changes are coming, and Earthsea will never be the same.

I found this novel much more satisfying in this reading after having gone through all that came before it recently. I salute Le Guin for taking on this rethinking of her classic world-building and making it all work extremely well.

Beyond the last novel are some shorter pieces. “A Description of Earthsea” lays out the entire history and structure of the world in a long essay. There’s not much new in it, but it’s interesting all the same.

“The Word of Unbinding” and “The Rule of Names” are early stories written before Le Guin had solidified her ideas about Earthsea. Interesting but not of major import.

“The Daughter of Odren” is a sort of ghost story about a family blessed by wealth then cursed by wizardry. It’s well told, but again not of great importance.

“Firelight,” on the other hand, is important because it tells of the last days of Ged. Though short, it’s exquisitely written by an author who had reached an age herself where she understood old age perfectly.

Finally, “Earthsea Revisioned” is a lecture given by Le Guin in 1992 when she had finished “Tehanu,” and she explains the changes she is making to her world.

I certainly gained a great deal of pleasure from reading this new edition of the Earthsea stories, and the illustrations by Vess make it even better. Highly recommended.

And Then I Read: JIMMY OLSEN #3

Image © DC Comics. Written by Matt Fraction, art by Steve Lieber,
colors by Nathan Fairbairn, letters by Clayton Cowles.

The story being told here is chopped into short vignettes of two to six pages. It covers a lot of ground, from ancestors of Jimmy Olsen and Lex Luthor in the frontier town that would become Metropolis, to Luthor and Lois Lane in the present, to friends of Jimmy facing death and more. Each vignette starts with an overblown caption in the style of the old comics, but laced with absurdity and humor. The vignettes themselves tend to be more serious, especially for Jimmy himself, though there is certainly a funny side to them. Metamorpho and Jimmy bringing the above seen Decoy Corpse into Jim’s apartment, for instance, and what happens immediately after. There are elements of farce and parody, but Jimmy takes it all quite seriously, as he must to make it funny. I don’t always get the jokes, I suspect, but I’m enjoying the ride all the same.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: THE LIGHT FANTASTIC by Terry Pratchett

The second Discworld novel continues right on from the first, in fact they are essentially one long story. The main characters, the failed wizard Rincewind, who is acting as a tour guide to TwoFlower and his magical Luggage, had fallen off the edge of Discworld at the end of “The Colour of Magic,” and are saved by the Octavo, a powerful book of eight spells because of the those spells has lodged itself in Rincewind’s brain. The Octavo changes reality to return them to the center of Discworld, where they continue to get into all kinds of trouble. Now even more groups are after the two, because they want the spell, or the Luggage (which can, at times be full of gold). Meanwhile, Discworld itself is in danger from a star that is approaching it, threatening cataclysmic destruction.

While amusing at times, this book felt like something of a retread of the first one, and I did not enjoy it as much. Perhaps Pratchett rushed to capitalize on the success of the first one, I don’t know, but later Discworld books I’ve read have more and better ideas. Mildly recommended.

And Then I Read: THE DREAMING #12

Image © DC Comics. Written by Simon Spurrier, art by Bilquis Evely, colors by Mat Lopes, letters by Simon Bowland, cover by Yanick Paquette & Nathan Fairbairn

Comics today are written in story arcs that can be neatly published in standard-size collections. This issue finishes the second story arc of the title. As a continuing series, a story arc should appear to have a beginning and an end allowing closure, but leave room and teasers for more issues. The arc has focused on the search for Dream (Daniel), who went to the waking world, had an affair that ended badly, and then on to other realms such as Faery and Hell. The characters Dora and Matthew the raven have been tasked with finding him, using Dora’s innate ability to travel to any realm. They were given the task by the current ruler of The Dreaming, a strangely moth-like being who is also said to be a machine intelligence.

Sensing change and a vacuum of power, emissaries of other realms have gathered at the gates of Dream, where Abel and the moth creature must deal with them. Some of them would take The Dreaming for their own, by force if necessary. Meanwhile, Lucien has been brought back to The Dreaming, but is very ill, and Dora and Matthew have returned with their report. Elsewhere, men who have brought about the current situation are scheming.

Not a bad issue, some things of interest happen, but I don’t think the illusion of closure is very well served by Spurrier’s script this time. It was not satisfying on that level. Still, recommended.