Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman

I stumbled across a beautiful little book during my weekly visit to the book shop.

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Many commencement addresses have received widespread attention. Steve Jobs’ speech at Stanford with his iconic “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” ending is probably the most famous example. Joanne K. Rowling and Australian comedian Tim Minchkin also delivered speeches which went viral on the various video platforms.

My favorite address of them all however is delivered by Neil Gaiman, one of the most imaginative writers around. Speaking to the students of Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, he talks about his own struggles and how to get through them, inspiring the young students to keep on dreaming.

The value of dreaming in our society is vastly underestimated as many make the decision to choose security over freedom. But it is in dreams where new ideas and ultimately our future take shape. So pursuing them is key to progress. Mr. Gaiman captures the spirit of pursuing one big goal (the mountain as he calls it) and of being determined and working towards it. His speech offers sound advice to the youth of today, especially about enjoying the fruits of your labor. All in all, it succeeds in being deeply motivational and inspiring.

The tiny book is beautifully designed by the graphic artist Chip Kidd. The reader is forced to use his mind, because some pages are written from bottom to top or just filled with one word. His design fits the words perfectly and only underlines the strong message Mr. Gaiman intends to send.

The first sentence of the book sums it up best: “This book is for anybody who is looking around and thinking: now what?”

You can watch the commencement address here:

Have a great Wednesday!

Sincerely yours,
Albert

August reading recommendations

A few months ago, I published my tips for summer reading and I can say I have progressed quite a bit through the books I wanted to read finishing A Clash of Kings by George R.R Martin and the Sandman Series by Neil Gaiman. I haven’t gotten very far on my non-fiction reading, because the world of fiction will not let me go. Currently I’m reading A Player of Games by Iain M. Banks and the Unwritten Series of graphic novels written by Mike Carey and drawn by Peter Gross. But every time I stop by my favorite bookshop, other books catch my attention, pushing some of my picks further down the to-do list. I decided to recommend some of the books <I read the last month.

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Getting into the world of graphic novels

Summer is here and I’m looking forward to spending a lot of time reading and exploring the worlds fantastic authors have created. I wrote a bit about my current reading list in this post. To celebrate the end of my exams I rewarded myself with the complete Sandman series, which I’ve been diving into the last few days.

And I have to say, I love the series so far. The Sandman series chronicles the adventures of the it’s title-giving main character, the ruler of the realm of dreams. His adventures include journeys to the past, greek and norse mythology and modern-era noir fiction. The diversity of stories is striking. It took a while for me to get used to the format, as chapters were first released in different comics before being bound together as the graphic novel, so they felt very disconnected at first. But after grasping the main context, the style became very enjoyable and I’ve learned to appreciate how the story branches out and comes together again.
I’m a big fan of Neil Gaiman and his writing is not only very gripping, but also extremely inventive and beautiful.

Another reason why I want to get into the world of graphic novels is the rise of superhero movies. I looked at the connection between movies, games and books in my blog post last week. Yesterday, I watched the latest summer blockbuster, Man of Steel. While I was impressed by some of the actors (most notably Amy Adams, Michael Shannon and Russell Crowe), I found the movie as a whole to be overly long and disappointing. In my opinion, the newest Superman reboot lacked focus and dragged on for an unfortunate amount of time. Some of the scenes had impressive special effects (the crashing buildings were particularly impressive), but the movie failed to show Superman’s vulnerability to me. He just comes across as too powerful and invincible. At no point of the story I felt as if he was in danger of losing the fight against his enemies. Obviously, this doesn’t make for compelling cinema. His invincibility made me think about the superman comics and if and how they’ve managed to convey his weaknesses. Are they more successful? And if yes, which books should I look into?

My favorite superhero is the other big character from the DC universe: the caped crusader also known as Batman. Growing up, I loved the animated series with their animated “Bam!” and “Pow!”s. In the recent Christopher Nolan films, the Dark Knight is constantly seen fighting with his inner demons or an enemy completely unpredictable and different from him. I feel like graphic novels as a medium are more forgiving of this kind of interludes as they inject some much-needed context and backstory. However, in movies they can feel overly long, especially if the enemy is not threatening enough. While it’s clear that it’s difficult to kill off the titular character, it should at least feel like there’s something at stake during their journey. “The Dark Knight” stands out in this regard, with the late Heath Ledger playing his Joker as a menacing and destructive force capable of anything. Watching the film, you can’t help but wonder what he’s up to next and if he’ll be successful. In general, I feel like a superhero is only as strong as his villains are. And in the comic book universe, there is much more room to explore these villains. So: Which Batman books would you recommend? The Frank Miller series?

This post is just a brief overview of some of my thoughts on graphic novel and comics. Most importantly, I would like to hear some of your recommendation for comics or graphic novels which I shouldn’t miss. So let me know in the comments or on Twitter!

I’m back Friday with Chapter 9 of an elusive hero and some exciting news about the blog.

Sincerely yours,
Albert