Chris Schweizer’s Paper Nativity Informational Notes: Part 6

Over the next month, Chris Schweizer will be offering thoughts on the Nativity set model (a large papercraft crèche) mentioned a week or so ago that you can find and download here:

https://gumroad.com/l/ThkR

Rather than run it everyday Chris has given us permission to run it every few days.

Advent Calendar Day 21: The Innkeepers

innnYou’ve probably seen a Christmas pageant or cartoon or book or something where Joseph, leading Mary atop a donkey, knocks on the door of the inn (Bethlehem’s population was small enough that just one inn is probable) and is told by the innkeeper (sometimes sternly, sometimes regretfully) that there’s no room.

The Gospel of Luke states that there was “no room in the inn,” and from this line we’ve extrapolated an innkeeper to convey that bit of exposition.

I don’t know when the innkeeper first appeared, but I’d expect it was in the middle ages, once crèche scenes led to dramatizations. Sometimes the innkeeper is depicted as a married pair, with the wife a hard-hearted harpy impatient at yet another traveler, or even a cutthroat capitalist granting the limited rooms at a premium beyond the financial means of the Holy Family, with the husband secretly offering them room in the stable out of pity over the notion of a pregnant woman without a roof. There’s a definite message in this, the old “if you let your wife have the power in your marriage then you’ll be dragged along in decisions to which you have a moral objection and become complicit” warning, which is why I suspect we don’t see a gender reversal of this interpretation; there isn’t really a cautionary narrative tradition associated with the husband taking the reins with business decisions.
It’s not unusual for characters to spring up to fill in the missing pieces in stories about important moments in religious stories (as we’ve seen with previous entries), but what’s unusual about the innkeeper(s) is that, despite being textually absent from the gospels, they’re yoked with mainstream theological interpretation, which is surprising to me.

The standard reflection on them is this: the innkeepers, who are either awash in the prosperity of their business or so frazzled by the bustle as to be indifferent DO permit the Holy Family lodging (this operates on an assumption, likely born of that first narrative inclusion, that the innkeeper has proprietorship of the stable), but in the little space that is left, not that which would inconvenience them. This is used as a metaphor for religious folks who profess sincerity of faith but who only give their time/attention to God when all other earthly matters have been attended. God, in this metaphor, is relegated to the stable of the person’s life.

dguyThere’s a current school of thought that the “inn” isn’t an inn at all, but a mistranslation of guest room, suggesting that it was Joseph’s relatives that turned them away, itself an interpretation rife with meaning (Joseph’s relatives, judging Mary to be an unwed mother, refused her entry, can be easily read as a refutation of those whom would deem to judge others based on their own assumptions of legality or morality). I think this is unlikely, though, as there’s no context in the verse to suggest anything other than that which is stated: there was no room. The relative idea puts a lot of emphasis on “for them”, and in doing so likely misses the point.

If the guest room translation is valid, it probably refers to one that functioned much as an inn would have: a community guest room in lieu of an inn, in which case the innkeepers remain its administrators even if their title is no longer the same.

I don’t like any of these interpretations, partially because I like to think the best of people, and partially because of personal experience. When Liz and I were first married, we managed a hotel in Mississippi, on the river across from Louisiana. When Katrina hit, we were, thankfully, spared all but the most minor cosmetic damage, but (as many of you will remember) our neighbors across the river weren’t so lucky. With more people needing a place to stay than there were places for them, we ended up housing much more than our commercial capacity, with guests bringing families and extended families, packing into every corner of the building

Liz did her best to accommodate as many as we could, and I like to think that the innkeepers in the story (which I’ve depicted as a married pair, absent those aforementioned associations with which the wife is sometimes saddled) made no less of an effort, and that the stable was a creative way to extend their hospitality well beyond their means.

Advent Calendar Day 22: The Tempter

putxThe Eastern Orthodox Church has its own nativity traditions, and one of them is depicting an old shepherd dressed in animal skins. Byzantine art pretty much always shows sad-sack Joseph sitting despondent and pouty off in a corner (just google search “Byzantine Nativity Art” and take in dozens of Josephs who make Keanu Reeves look positively jubilant by contrast). Nature, and with it any semblance of Joseph’s paternal/husbandly authority, has been vanquished by a sexless conception, and Joseph, his world upended, doesn’t take it well.

Though there are shepherds, including old hide-wearing ones, in early nativity icons, one in particular becomes a narrative figure by the early 1300s: The Tempter, who stands next to Joseph, stoking Joseph’s doubt about Mary’s virginity. This is either a man doing the devil’s work (though some early versions treat him instead as a man doing the Lord’s work, reminding Joseph of ancient words of Isaiah that Christians would take as prophecy regarding a virgin birth) or the devil himself in disguise.

By the mid-1300s, you see James, Joseph’s son, interceding, attempting to ward this tempter (this is also, I believe, the first usage of James in Nativity art) to save his father from doubt, or maybe to just give the really, really sad guy a little space.

Advent Calendar Day 23: Roman Soldier

There are plenty of traditional nativity characters whose inclusion is meant to foreshadow something in either Jesus’s adult life, including having a burial shroud as his swaddling and an encounter with the thieves with whom he’ll later be crucified. To my knowledge, though, there isn’t a traditional Roman soldier character (though they do often turn up in more sprawling nativity sets with other Bethlehem denizens and are a staple of church walk-through-Bethlehem setups).

The soldier here isn’t, like you see in the walk-throughs, a fancy Roman in the lorica segmentata armor of popular imagination. He’s a rural reserve, stuck in Bethlehem, a deputy constable in a podunk hamlet. So his armor is the minimum a provincial soldier might be issued while still being identifiable as a Roman soldier.

Advent Calendar Day 24: La Befana

lfLa Befana is the Italian gift-giver, just like we get Santa Claus, the Spanish get the Three Kings, and the Austrians get Baby Jesus (he doesn’t come down the chimney; I checked). Her original story is heartbreakingly sad, and its traditional alternative is kind of lackluster, so I’m offering a variation that marries the two.

The Three Kings, on their way to see baby Jesus, ask for shelter for the night at a rural house. In it, La Befana (whose name derives from a mispronunciation of “Epiphany” and who probably has OCD) is busy cleaning, as she always does. Learning that they’re taking gifts to a baby, she volunteers to go, too; her kids are grown and she’s itching to get rid of their old toys. Following the kings, she gives Jesus the toys, delighting him, and in thanks he bestows upon her immortality and a magic hamper perpetually full of toys so that she can bring other children as much joy as she did him. She also uses her broom to tidy up the manger for Mary. You could eat off that floor.

La Befana now rides her broom from house to house, leaving toys for youngsters and flying up the chimney.

Advent Calendar Day 25: Baby Jesus
Merry Christmas, friends!
br

 

br

 

Tom Palmer in Splendid Black and White

What good is running a website if you cannot feature majestic Tom Palmer uncolored art?

btt

Avengers #287 cover. Marvel Comics, 1987. Pencils by John Buscema. Inks by Tom Palmer

colan

Comic Book Artist #13 cover. TwoMorrows Publishing, 2001. Pencils by Gene Colan. Inks by Tom Palmer.

cb

Captain Britain #28 page 5. Marvel UK, 1977. Pencils by John Buscema. Inks by Tom Palmer.

palmer ch

 Star Wars #76 cover. Marvel Comics, 1983. Pencils and inks by Tom Palmer.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10154368750481258&set=pb.605636257.-2207520000.1451035416.&type=3&theaterseaa

 

Star Wars #86, page 3. Marvel Comics, 1983. Pencils by Bob McLeod. Finishes by Tom Palmer.

pun 

 

 

Punisher #2, page 8. Marvel Comics, 2004. Pencils by Lewis LaRosa. Inks by Tom Palmer.
byrne
X-Men: The Hidden Years #1, pages 2-3. Marvel Comics, 1999. Pencils by John Byrne. Inks by Tom Palmer.

 

aveng
Avengers poster. Marvel Comics, 1989. Pencils by Paul Ryan. Inks and painting by Tom Palmer.
sw sun
Star Wars #62, page 22. Marvel Comics, 1982. Layouts by Walt Simonson. Finishes on duo-shade board by Tom Palmer.

 

The Moment: Huck

huckIn this week’s edition of The Moment, I detail how in some ways Huck reminds me of Mark Millar’s 1998 Superman Adventures run.

Superman Adventures remains the high point so far 0f Millar’s work, serving return to that form dating as far back as 1998. Huck is an incredibly likeable character in the way he is characterized in these first two issues there’s an unseen optimism to him I don’t know if it will last but all I know is it’s really a refreshing change from a lot of comics currently on the market. The moment that hooked me was from issue 2 when he could have quit but he chose to presevere and help people as he always does.

Rafael Albuquerque on art is merely icing on the cake.

RIP Luis Bermejo Rojo

According to Down the Tubes website:

arttt3

“We’re sorry to report the passing of Spanish comic artist and editor Luis Bermejo Rojo (frequently credited as Luis Bermejo or, simply, Bermejo), best known in the US for his work on titles such as Creepyfor Warren Publishing. His work for British comics included strips such as “Heros the Spartan” for Eagle (taking over from Frank Bellamy), and “The Missing Link”, which became “Johnny Future” for Fantastic in the 1960s – but who also drew for titles as diverse as Boys’ WorldGirl’s Crystal, Tina, Tarzan Weekly and the private eye stories “John Steel” for Thriller Picture Library.

He was also notable for his war stories for Fleetway’s Battle and War Picture Libraries, and strips such as “Phantom Force Five” for Buster.”

Down the Tubes has far more info.

Lovern Kindzierski Looks Back at P. Craig Russell 2002 Spectre Colored Covers

You cannot be more understated than what colorist Lovern Kindzierski said the other day.

And then there were the Craig Russell Spectre covers I coloured.

5

One of my favourite Craig Russell covers! I love playing my colours off of a stark white.

 

 

4

sp2

Craig Russell, orange and me!

 

sp3

Craig Russell and me-self muddling about with that Spectre fellow.

 

sp16

I hope this Craig Russell / Lovern Kindzierski piece doesn’t bug you.

s27

SmashPages Q&A: Tim O’Shea on Interviewing Comics Creators

tjo2
I first got to know Tim O’Shea in 2008, when he interviewed me about a new blog I had started, Good Comics for Kids. Later on, when I joined the Robot 6 team, he welcomed me warmly and was always quick with a kind word.

Tim blogs here at SmashPages now, but you can find his older comics interviews, as well as his music and other pop-culture writing, at his blog Talking with Tim. When he was diagnosed with brain cancer earlier this year, he asked me if I would be interested in interviewing him, and we spent a lot of time on the phone talking about comics and other matters, including his struggle with depression. This Q&A is edited from those transcripts.

I came to know you as a comics blogger. When did you start reading comics?

The first comic I read was in 1975. It was a Fred Flintstone comic. It was a piece of shit. I hated that I read it and I didn’t read another till 1977. I have read comics ever since on a daily basis.

When did you start writing about comics, and what made you make that transition?

Jennifer M. Contino [the writer for the early comics site The Pulse] had no time to interview Geoff Johns about Stars and Stripes so she said “Could you?” I had never done it, but she said “Give it a try!” David LeBlanc of CBEM [Comic Book Electronic Magazine, a now-defunct website] ran it.

When I realized I was good at writing I started doing it.

Did you ever aspire to make your own comics?

No, because I enjoy comics and I enjoy helping people succeed in comics and I enjoy reading comics. I don’t aspire to do my own comic book, I aspire to help promote people and for people to succeed. All I want is for Jeff Parker to write two titles that can make sure he pays his bills and has time to spend time with his family. I want every single person who wants to be active in comics to be active in comics. I don’t want to be the guy who Tom DeFalco can’t get a job because I am competing with him.

You are particularly known for your interviews. How do you approach an interview? How do you prepare for it? Is there a particular balance of questions you are looking for?

I always go back to past interviews I have done, and I look at Tweets where they have talked about aspects of things. I prepare by doing 10 questions. I say “Once I get you the questions, ignore or revise them to satisfy your needs, because if I am asking you about shit that doesn’t matter to you you are going to talk shit and we are both going to be pissed off.”

The way I do an interview that is balanced is I engage the person in a way that gets them to consider something they hadn’t been thinking of before I told them that. I had an interview with Scott Allie about a Dark Horse issue where Kevin Nowlan was drawing 20 different Murder She Wrote-type characters in this book because that was amusing the hell out of Scott, the writer. All of a sudden I said, “Take out Jerry Orbach, who were the best guest stars on Murder She Wrote?” And Scott said “Well, fuck! Thanks for taking out Jerry. Now we can talk about the others.” The number of people in Murder She Wrote who got blacklisted and couldn’t work for years was astounding.

The way I do an interview that is balanced is I engage the person in a way that gets them to consider something they hadn’t been thinking of before I told them that.

What’s the hardest part?

I didn’t do phone interviews until the past year because my depression made it that I thought I was always going to get facts wrong. When I first started doing email interviews, so many people wouldn’t do them. Then there were a lot of years when nobody wanted to do a phone interview. I have gone through waves of never being able to interview anybody, then everybody wanting to interview me, and now I have a balance. If I can figure out a way to auto-transcribe stuff I will probably go to phone interviews by 2016.

The hardest part is people who will not do an interview with me. Gail Simone. [Tom] Spurgeon has been reluctant to be interviewed by me. Kurt Busiek I would interview every week if I could, but he will interview with me once every blue moon.

Is there an interview, or maybe more than one, that you are particularly proud of?

There are numerous ones, but for now the one that will stand out is the one with Joshua Cotter several years ago where he point blank discussed in detail his depression, because of the number of people that recognize themselves in Josh and because of the number of people that reached out to him. The fact that he took that risk, he changed people’s lives—how can you not be proud of that interview?

Ed Piskor’s Mini-Analysis of Classic X-Men #11

Yesterday Ed Piskor ruminated a bit on Classic X-Men #11.

Chris Claremont injecting some autobiography into X-Men.

 

pyws33

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think this guy’s supposed to be Jim Shooter.

oisseee

Sales of Value: TwoMorrows Publishing

Happy Holidays! Now through December 1, get 40% off books and magazines at www.twomorrows.com! 

It’s our Annual TwoMorrows Holiday Sale, and we’re getting it started well before Black Friday, to make sure everyone gets their orders in time for the holidays. Save at least 40% on:

Alter Ego
Back Issue
Draw
Comic Book Creator
Jack Kirby Collector
Modern Masters
How-to Draw Comics publications
Artist Biographies
American Comic Book Chronicles volumes
Companion Books
even BrickJournal and LEGO publications!

For easy ordering, you can download an interactive PDF file of our full catalog by clicking this link:

http://www.twomorrows.com/media/2015CatalogOnline.pdf

axgs

Smash Pages Q&A: Jim Gibbons and Ryan Yount on Stela

You need to understand one thing about a guy as talented as Jim Gibbons. There are some people that are born to be leaders — born to be damn good editors. I firmly believe Jim came out of the womb that way. There are few comics editors that I put on par with Tom Brevoort. Jim is on that par. He has never steered me wrong when it came time to praise a note. To learn he is one of the leaders of the new Stela venture does not surprise me and it makes me want to think that this thing will succeed out of the gates. To say I was eager to talk to him about this goes without saying and I can’t wait to see what is store for Stela in 2016. Please enjoy the interview as much as I did.

Tim O’Shea: What first attracted you to get onboard with Stela, Ryan and Jim?

Jim Gibbons: First, Tim, thanks so much for giving us the opportunity to chat about Stela!

In answer to your question, it’s not every day that you have the opportunity to help build a new comics publisher from the ground up! That was a huge selling point for me. I love editing comics, but at a certain point I think I realized that every company in comics has a pretty established way of doing things and a pretty established type of content they provide. The chance to blaze a whole new trail is pretty exhilarating!

Stela_comment - EditedBut, even more so than that, the format of Stela—by delivering premiere and exclusive comics content built for mobile devices directly to your phone—really impressed me. It seems like the eternal question of comics is “How do we grow the market?” And even while the market is currently the most healthy it’s been in a long time, there are still—for example—millions of people who are enjoying comic book movies, but aren’t necessarily finding their way to comics.

We really believe that by making the entry into comics as easy as, literally, beaming new comics by creators like Victor Santos, Jen Bartel, Irene Koh, Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer, Fabian Rangel Jr., Jason Copland, Haden Blackman, Stuart Moore, Sandra Lanz, and Ethan Young (to name a few) directly into your pocket has huge potentially to grow comics readership. That alone was a huge part of the attraction of working at Stela. And then, talking with Ryan, our CPO Sam Lu, and CEO Jason Juan, three guys who are just so passionate about comics, art, and storytelling and about getting into this industry in the best way with big goals… You can’t ask for a better team to sign on to than that!

Ryan Yount: I got a message, out of the blue, from Sam Lu (Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer). Sam and I had worked together for years at Ubisoftwe used to talk about the “Future of Comics”. Over boba tea in Oakland he started describing what they wanted to do, and I was sold pretty much immediately.

As Jim already said, it’s a rare thing that you get the chance to spin up a new comics publisher from the ground up. Being able to lead the Editorial voice for Stela, and set up an environment around treating creators fairly (and paying them fairly!) was huge. And I’m a true believer in the big concept – bringing great comics to mobile gives us a real shot at expanding the readership of comics.

How did you pick the name?

Jim Gibbons: I wasn’t here for that, so I’ll leave that one to Ryan. But, as a big classics nerd, a name derived from Latin in reference to informational tablets from the ancient world was right up my alley!

Ryan Yount: You know that scene in Silicon Valley, where the group is brainstorming names and then picking them apart one by one? Yeah, like that. [Laughs] Everyone brought in their own contributions, and a couple of us came up with Stela independently. A tall stone marker inscribed with words and pictures… the term just seemed to resonate with everyone here.

What criteria allows you to be involved?

Jim Gibbons: If you’re a currently working comics creator or a prospective talent with a story to tell, then you’re meeting our criteria to do comics with Stela

But to elaborate a bit more, for the past six months or so, we’ve been reaching out to different writers, artists, colorists, and letterers and partnering with them on—primarily—new creator-owned comics. We have over 30 projects currently in the works and we’re reaching out to even more creators now to line up more material. 

As we’ll be delivering comics to current comics readers and brand new readers via an entirely new delivery method, one of the most exciting things about lining up creators has been our freedom to go out and find work from extremely talented creators who don’t necessarily have a long history in comics. We don’t have to worry about how creators have sold previously in the direct market, we can simply find great content from up-and-comers on Tumblr, as an example, and add that to the line up readers will have access to via our subscription model. It’s all about lining up new, fresh content that’ll stand alongside a handful of other creator visions for an amazing, interesting, entertaining, and diverse reading experience! 

Ryan Yount: So far, we’ve been reaching out to creators we want to work with and commissioning new work from them. Technically, we’re not an open-submission publisher. Not yet, anyway. So creators have to know someone who is working with us. This isn’t meant to be an exclusionary club thing—both Jim and I are have been actively pursuing talent we want to work with (not just folks we’ve worked with before). Open Submissions take a lot of extra time; time that we need to spend on getting all of our current projects ready for the app.

Logistically what have been some of the early challenges?

Jim Gibbons: The biggest one, aside from obviously building the app that will deliver all this kick-ass content, has been that each conversation with a creator has to start from square one. We’ve been, until recently, under the radar, so we can’t go “We’re [Insert Established Publisher here]. Let’s talk about doing a comic together!” We’ve had to front-load people with a lot of information on us as a publisher and as a delivery method of content, not to mention getting people up to speed on our format.

That said, it’s been very fun to see so many people say they’ve been wondering about when someone was going to do westernized comics in a mobile native format or that they’re already doing vertically scrolling comics on Tumblr and they’re excited that a publisher is jumping into that arena!

Ryan Yount: The vertical format is something that was a challenge at first, not having many examples to show to creators. But every week it gets easier, as we get more amazing work turned in from our creators.

Early on was it easy or hard to get people onboard?

Jim Gibbons: To a degree, yes. But I’d say that mostly came down to scheduling more than anything. Spend any amount of time on Tumblr or Kickstarter or Twitter and there’s no shortage of extremely talented people with amazing-sounding comics pitches, but very few of them are sitting around going, “I literally have nothing at all to do right now, let’s roll on this tomorrow.”

Other than that, we’re paying very competitive page rates in advance for material the creators own, plus we’re sharing profits with them, as well. Creators also retain their entertainment and print rights. So, it’s a damn good deal, and loads of creators have been very excited to cook up rad new material for our format, as well!

Ryan Yount: Getting the first few creators onboard is always tough when you’re an unknown publisher. After the first few, it gets easier and easier. Creators have to deal with so many jerks trying to take advantage of them that they can be resistant to cold calls. But connections and persistence are key, and, as Jim said, paying our creators page rates helps, as does our fantastic rights arrangement. 

Anything we should discuss that I neglected to ask about?

Jim Gibbons: Oh, I’m sure there are! But for now, I’ll just say “Stay tuned!” All the information that’s come out about Stela in the past week has in many ways been the tip of the iceberg. You’ll be seeing our full creator list and more info on specific series as we move closer and closer to our early 2016 launch date. If you’ve liked what you’ve seen so far, great! But you ain’t seen nothing yet! 

Ryan Yount: What Jim said. *High five!*