Sunny day… everything’s… A-OK… OR IS IT?

August 10, 2006

Of all the happy, smiley childhood illusions that have fallen away over time, I find myself disproportionately distressed by this look into the almost scientific underbelly of Sesame Street in The New York Times. (Free registration required.) I guess I never really thought about how things work at the Children’s Television Workshop, but I never imagined that there were focus groups lurking behind every trash can.

It’s undeniably weird to think of a program as benevolent and inclusive as Sesame Street as struggling with one of the same issues that seems to confound superhero comics publishers – developing a popular marquee character who also happens to be female:

“But it’s not just a high-minded interest in gender equality that drove the search for a strong female character. The success of ‘Dora the Explorer,’ a show built around a strong female lead, has not gone unnoticed by its competitors at ‘Sesame Street.’ ‘ “Sesame Street” is living in an increasingly competitive market,’ Ms. Nealon said. ‘We used to be the only game in town, and now we’re having more conversations about where are all the points of appeal of our cast. We’re trying to be as absolutely broad-based as we can be.’”

Illuminating and strangely depressing reading.


Random Thursday thoughts

August 10, 2006

Recommendations are starting to come in via Dave Carter’s 100 Comics Giveaway Contest at Yet Another Comics Blog. I might have to enter just so I can suggest books like the terrific Lackluster World, self-published by Eric Adams, or Nothing Better by Tyler Page. (I hope there’s a print collection of NB soon, as it’s really grown on me over time.)

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Comic Foundry’s Tim Leong not only subjects himself to an issue of Wizard, he does so on camera, which sounds kind of like a Fear Factor stunt. I wouldn’t have thought it possible for Wizard to push the boundaries of bad taste any further, but turning some poor guy’s death into a weak lead for an article on Mighty Avengers makes me think I’ve underestimated the magazine’s editorial ambition.

Seriously, I’ve written some tacky stuff in my time, not even factoring in the first drafts that never see the light of web, but this… I mean, someone wrote it, then someone edited it, then someone at Marvel probably signed off on it, then someone else edited it for layout, and nobody thought it was a bad idea to make fun of a dead person who just happened to have the misfortune of passing away near one of the creators?

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I’m a bit slow to note it, but I’ve really enjoyed Rivkah’s tutorial pieces on paneling, pacing and layout. What I like about them is that they seem like part of a tool box instead of a style sheet, if that makes any sense.

One thing that I’ve noticed as this season of Project Runway progresses is that the designers who have the strongest set of basic design skills – they can sew, they can sketch, they understand color theory and pattern-making, etc. – are best able to articulate a personal aesthetic vision. Even if they’re breaking rules, their cognizance of those rules and the understanding of them as fundamentals lend authority and polish to their work.

I think something of the same thing is going on with Rivkah’s pieces. She’s not really telling anyone how to draw so much as indicating how someone’s choices can lead the eye and to be aware of whether or not they’re heading in the desired direction.