Monday, May 27, 2013

Real History in a Fictive Universe

Christian Science Monitor October 1914
My involvement in the Future Bear project goes beyond my interest in comic book. As a historian, I study urban planning and development history.  Much of the contemporary debate around environmental problem in the United States reflects questions that first emerged with close of the western frontier in the 1890s and recognition of negative consequences of massive urbanization and industrialization in the United States.

These pressure gave birth to social reform focus on civic betterment and conservation that evolved to become modern city planning and environmental movements.  In our contemporary debates, we arguable about finding viable solution to the pressure associated with sprawl, housing, pollution, and access to municipal services.  These are not new concerns, instead they are same ideas expressed between 1890 and 1920.  The planning and conservation movement that emerged in that period provided a variety of possible solutions that continue today.

 In crafting the Future Bear narrative I'm borrowing from historical debate about public welfare and regulatory standards that began in the 1890s. Replicated decade after decade, the details have evolved, but the ideological positions inherent to groups on both side remain familiar.   For me thinking about how to approach this debate is heavily influenced by my research into the American Civic Association (ACA).  

The ACA was founded in 1904 and was one of the most active organizations promoting rural and urban planning.  The early 20th century was a period of grassroots activism driven by private groups such as the ACA. Ultimately, regardless of the group, the aim was to improve life in the United States.  More often than not, these groups challenged corporate interest and demanded greater government action.  Sound familiar?  I'm tempted to mention history repeating itself, but the truth is repetition is to simplistic a description of debates around environmental regulation.  Indeed, history shows a growth in regulation throughout the 20th century.   Understanding the contours of that debate informs the Future Bear narrative.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Future Bear Flashback: Sequential SmArt May 2012

Sequential SmArt was a conference held at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. The conference brought together comic creators, scholars, librarians, and educators from a range of disciplines who teach using comics or were interested in learning more about the comics in the classroom. The keynote addresses were given by Matt Madden co-author of Drawing Words and Writing Pictures and author of 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style and by Eric Shanower author of Age of Bronze, two-time winner of the Eisner Award as Best Writer-Artist.

Rachel Simmon and I attended the conference and presented Future Bear. Billed as "The Fine Arts" in the conference program and paired with Eric Shanower's plenary talk, I must admit thinking I was outside the box marked "history."  After Shanower gave a reflective and interesting discussion of his research needed to create Age of Bronze, Rachel and I presented Future Bear to the entire conference.  On display throughout the event, Future Bear was well received by scholars and creators well verse in comics practice and theory.  It was great validation for the interdisciplinary dialogue at the heart of this project.

My thanks to the conference organizers Jay Hosler, Jim Tuten, and David Hsiung. As faculty at Juniata College they conceived and organized a truly interesting conference to support educators interested in comics. In addition to presenting Future Bear, I also presented a paper entitle "Superhero Comics: Artifacts of the U.S. Experience" that explored how superhero comics can be an engaging tool for historical study.  Ultimately, Sequential SmArt  provided all the participants with a dynamic examination of comic art form. I know I learned a great deal.  Proof comics are cool.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Make the World

 The second issue of Future Bear is coming. A unique comic/fine art hybrid, each issue of Future Bear is a creative endeavor. Rachel Simmons is a printmaking marvel:-)

As the writer, I get to sit around and think of every more amazing things that could happen. The working draft to the second issue has plenty of twists and turns. As Rachel showed me some of her test images, I started to pull out some of the elements I created as I wrote the second issue. I'm not blessed with drawing skills, but I recognize if Future Bear is to be a successful story, the world of Future Bear needs to grow.

So, who or what is VARANGIAN?

 Keep Watching!