Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Haley Reading Group: “Astonish Me: Anticipating an Eclipse in the Age of Information”

[The Best American Science and Nature Writing (2018)]

In “Astonish Me: Anticipating an Eclipse in the Age of Information,” Susannah Felt meditates on the looming eclipse and the meaning behind it. She compares the difference in preparation for eclipse saying that while people in this millennium celebrate by throwing viewing parties and selling T-shirts, “centuries ago, a total eclipse was cause for panic, a sign of doom—or a moment of great discovery” (246).

Felt focuses on how with information provided by science, society’s view of the world shifts while also diminishing the wonder and fear attached to discovery and surprise. For Felt, tracking the exact moment of an eclipse and breaking it down into our science feels like “a hubristic offense” (246). Felt uses the article to question the best way to restore “some measure of its power and surprise,” in a world where information is often at everyone’s fingertips.

In one word, what's one useful idea or way of thinking did you gain by reading the article? Why is that word or concept important to you as a result of what you read? 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Illustrating a black girl superhero: Luciano Vecchio and Matt Milla presenting Ironheart

Vecchio and Milla

Artist Luciano Vecchio and colorist Matt Milla have been doing excellent work on Ironheart, which will wrap up in the next couple of months. I hate to see the title come to a close, as I've been following the book, written by Eve L. Ewing, since it began. Beyond the storylines, I've really appreciated how Vecchio and Milla have illustrated this black girl superhero.

Much of the early coverage on Ironheart understandably focused on Ewing. It's rare for a major comic book company like Marvel to hire a black woman as a lead writer. That's news. Too, writers generally receive more extended coverage than artists and colorists in comics, despite the centrality of visuals to the art form.


So even if you heard about Ironheart, it's possible that you haven't heard much or enough about Vecchio and Milla's collaborative work on the title. There are others too. Amy Reeder has done covers for the book, and Stefano Caselli has done a cover. Kevin Libranda did some of the art on issue #1 with Vecchio, and Libranda was the main artist on issue #6. All the other issues were done Vecchio. The layouts are by Geoffo.

"The question of how you represent a black teen girl hero, how we show her world and her family and her friends and her body and her feelings, is immensely political," Ewing has noted. "Luciano gets that." Some years back, controversy surrounded illustrations of Riri Williams when a cover image by J. Scott Campbell "appeared to over-sexualize" the teen character. Issues like that, concerning how a black girl is represented, is part of what Ewing's comments signal.


In Ironheart, Vecchio has presented us with a range of black girls and women, including Riri's mom and, more recently, a group of other heroes: Shuri, Silhouette, and Okoye. Vecchio has done really well depicting the action of Ironheart while giving us a variety of looks and angles on the main character.

 Ewing is right about how immensely political it is to represent a black girl character. Just as important, as Vecchio's works demonstrate, it's been a deeply artistic endeavor made possible by his high level of drawing expertise. Seeing images of Riri soaring through the air in many issues always gave me reason to pause and marvel at the progress.


Milla has ensured a vibrantly colored viewing experience with Ironheart. The exciting energy of the issues are a result of Milla's coloring. The wide spectrum of hues displayed in the series constitutes additional elements of the politics and artistry of illustrating a black girl.

Since 2014, we've seen the emergence or re-appearance of a variety of black girl and women superheroes in comics. Storm. Lunella Lafayette from Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. Shuri. The Dora Milaje. Kayla Tate from Superb. Naomi. Future Nwafor Chukwuebuka from LaGuardia. Livewire. And more.  The collaborative work of Ewing, Vecchio, and Milla on Riri contributes to that important body of works.

Related:
A Notebook on comic books

Friday, October 11, 2019

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Bryan Hill, black men, and diversity in comics


When it comes to black men and comics, I've been reading quite a bit of work by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Bryan Hill. I read others, and clearly, I read more than just works by black men. Still those two -- Coates and Hill -- do take up some space in what I cover and discuss with folks.

You hear quite a bit of talk about diversity in comics these days, and the overlapping and divergent careers of Coates and Hill create considerable opportunities for what differences among black men in the field means. 

I've been reading Coates's work on Black Panther and Captain America. Of course, I began reading him more than a decade ago when I followed his work as a journalist. He was recruited into comics based largely on the acclaim he won for "The Case for Reparations" (2014) and Between the World and Me (2015).

Based on his overall reputation as a major author and public figure, Coates is now one of the more well-known and actively reviewed African American comic book writers. It helps that he is writing such popular characters with T'Challa and Steve Rogers.

Hill, by contrast, is not as widely known as Coates outside of comics, but he's far more prolific across multiple titles. To name just a few works in recent years, Hill wrote American Carnage, Killmonger, Postal, The Wild Storm: Michael Cray, and Detective Comics. Right now, he's writing Postal Deliverance and Batman and the Outsiders. He's also one of the writers for the television show Titans. So with Hill, you get a much broader range of output, at least in the realm of comics.

So far, Coates works primarily in the superhero sector, mostly concentrating on a few key figures. Hill does heroes, but with Batman and the Outsiders, he's really presenting characters and their team dynamics. He also does non-superhero work like with Postal Deliverance, where he's narrating a multi-layered tale about groups of people and crime, among other topics.

I think about Coates and Hill in the larger context of comic books, but I also spend time thinking about them as part of an artistically productive generation of black men writers and visual artists, which includes Colson Whitehead, Jay-Z, Aaron McGruder, Paul Beatty, Black Thought, Kehinde Wiley, and so forth.

There are a steady stream of reviews of the monthly comics by Coates and Hill, but we could definitely stand to see more extensive examinations of what they're doing. It would be helpful too seeing how their works are in conversation various others across the field and beyond.

Related:
 A notebook on comic books

Black girls, representation, and Ironheart


Back in September, I was moved by Ironheart #10. The issue presents not one, not two, not even three, but four black female characters on the same pages. It caught my attention in part because it's so rare to see such occurrences in major comics.

Here in issue #10, Eve L. Ewing (writer), Luciano Vecchio (artist), and Matt Milla (colorist) are presenting us with Riri Williams, Shuri, Silhouette, and Okoye. Oh, and the action takes place in Wakanda.

We've been seeing some progress with black representation among major companies over the last several years. But rarely does that progress involve a combination of central black girl and women characters, interacting with each other.

Some people recall the Bechdel–Wallace test, which questions whether at least two women appear in popular media representations and talk to each other about something besides a man. Many movies, television programs, and comic books fail the test, because creators somehow to struggle to bring girls and women together for their own missions, conversations, and other activities.

Ironheart offers something different. We see these characters in a major fight scene with what are in effect zombies. The team is looking for answers to a larger puzzle. Such a scene is fairly normal for comics, but it's unusual to showcase a group of like Riri, Shuri, Silhouette, and Okoye.

Related:
A Notebook on comic books

Digital Humanities Club: Week 4


On October 8 during our session, we expanded our work on collages. The members are having a good time blending the images and producing work that they view as aesthetically pleasing.

We're continuing the work that we did last week. On the one hand, we worked on the East St. Louis postcards, and at the same time, folks spent time searching for and producing collages with a range of historical figures and characters.

Related:
The East St. Louis Digital Humanities Club Fall 2019

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Haley Reading Group: “The Squeeze"

[The Best American Science and Nature Writing (2018)]

Sophie Brickman’s “The Squeeze: Silicon Valley Reinvents the Breast Pump” focuses on the evolution of the breast pump and the most efficient and modern version of it, the Moxxy Flow. Brickman details the difficulties four women engineers encountered when trying to create, market, and sell this product.

To explain the awkwardness of trying to incorporate pumping into daily routines at work, Cara Delzer, cofounder of the Moxxy Flow, likened pumping to “having to take off your pants for half an hour before hopping into a boardroom to deliver an important presentation” (50). She partnered with other businesswomen, marketers, and engineers in 2014, to create multiple versions of a breast pump which would evolve into the current Moxxy Flow. This article highlights how this breasts pumps aids in making women’s lives as mothers and working women practical and efficient.

What's something concerning women in business or women in engineering from the article that really caught your attention? In brief, state why.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Digital Humanities Club: Week 3



We had a good time during our session on October 1. We spent time experimenting with BeFunky -- an online photo editor.

First, we made collages based on East St. Louis postcards. Then participants became especially interested in collages focused on different teams: movie stars, superheroes, various cartoon characters.

Samples of some of the work.

Based on postcards:


Based on various cartoon images



Related:
The East St. Louis Digital Humanities Club Fall 2019

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Haley Reading Group: “The Squeeze: Silicon Valley Reinvents the Breast Pump”



[The Best American Science and Nature Writing (2018)]

Sophie Brickman’s “The Squeeze: Silicon Valley Reinvents the Breast Pump” focuses on the evolution of the breast pump and the most efficient and modern version of it, the Moxxy Flow. Brickman details the difficulties four women engineers encountered when trying to create, market, and sell this product.

To explain the awkwardness of trying to incorporate pumping into daily routines at work, Cara Delzer, cofounder of the Moxxy Flow, likened pumping to “having to take off your pants for half an hour before hopping into a boardroom to deliver an important presentation” (50). She partnered with other businesswomen, marketers, and engineers in 2014, to create multiple versions of a breast pump which would evolve into the current Moxxy Flow. This article highlights how this breasts pumps aids in making women’s lives as mothers and working women practical and efficient.

What's one way this article shifted, expanded, or enhanced your views about women in business or women in engineering?