Books of Imirillia

Finished the Ruby Prince a little over a month ago, and now I’m waiting for Wanderer’s Mark to come in the mail. Ruby Prince ended on a total cliff hanger, so I can’t wait to get back into the story again. How awesome is it that Beth Brower put them out in such quick succession so that we don’t have to wait years to have our curiosity satisfied? (The answer is, “Way awesome.”)

Super Communication With the Help of Superheroes

When Jordan started watching the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited animated series on Netflix, I thought it was so endearing that he was watching kid shows. I’d hear some of the over the top action-y music or some of the cheesyish lines and giggle in an “isn’t he adorable” sort of way.

But—serves me right—pretty soon I was sucked in too. The thing is that the series actually have some pretty compelling plot lines and they deal with subjects that are way more complicated than what you’d expect in a cartoon. Plus I fell in love with so many of the characters. Batman (I connect better with cartoon Batman than with movie Batman for some reason, though I do like both), Green Arrow, Black Canary, Vigilante… (I like Justice League Unlimited best because of the variety of great characters in it.)

This week I’ve been tutoring a Korean boy in English while he’s here visiting his aunt. We’ll call him “Cool Guy” since that is a phrase he likes a lot and since he is a cool guy and since I don’t want to give his real name. Mostly my job is to get him talking and teach him more English in the course of the conversation. I tutored him last year and I knew he loved super heroes (What 7 year old doesn’t?) so this year that has been our focus.

He has a book all about Superman through the ages. It highlights some other characters too, like the core heroes from Justice League Unlimited and I couldn’t help feeling ridiculously proud of myself for knowing so much about all of it.

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We talked about who they all are and what their special powers are. Then I pulled out the free copy of part 1 of the “All Star Superman” story that we got when we went to Las Vegas Comic Con. The first day it was a combination of telling the story as I showed Cool Guy the pictures and asking him questions about what he saw on the page.

“Who is that?”
“Superman.”
“What is he flying into?”
“The sun.”

Today I made him show me the pictures and tell me the story all by himself. He did a really good job.

“This is Superman. Superman is sick. That is a doctor.”

Since Cool Guy’s English is basic and my Korean is limited, we had to rely on “work arounds” in our communication. Ways of describing things that aren’t always accurate but mean about the same thing.

Cool Guy trying to explain how Lex Luther is remotely controlling another man that he’s basically turned into a monster: “That is Lex Luther. That is a Lex Luther robot.”

Other than the fact that Cool Guy is pretty much a tiny little genius (and hilarious to boot) what struck me was the power of a few pictures to tell a story. And even more than that, the power of a story to transcend, at least somewhat, barriers between language and culture.

It was also a reminder of how our experiences surrounding a story influence how we feel about it. Sitting down and talking Superman with Cool Guy has created very specific memories that will probably keep coming to mind when I see a Superman movie or read a Superman comic. I will remember how in our “Draw and Explain” segment today Cool Guy very meticulously drew every part of Superman’s costume, even the little curl of hair at his forehead, and I will smile about it and I will like Superman a little more because of the memory.

Writing Advice from a Top Gun

I was starting to feel kind of worried about how long it’s taking me to get my Painters book to where I want it to be. Then I saw last Thursday’s Late Night With Jimmy Fallon interview with Val Kilmer.

Val Kilmer as Mark Twain in his one-man show Citizen Twain.

Val Kilmer as Mark Twain in his one-man show Citizen Twain. Doesn’t even look like Val.

While talking about how he took a break from acting in big movies for a while so that he could write a screenplay about Mary Baker Eddy and Mark Twain, Val Kilmer said, “After ten years of blood sweat and tears of writing the screenplay, I’m still about five years away from making it…I didn’t think it would take ten years…but then when I finally got the screenplay together I realized that I hadn’t put the character together.”

I was like, “Wait! That’s what happened to me too.” I’d gotten the plot pretty much sealed, but when I looked at the story again I realized the characters—Zanny especially—just sort of petered out partway through the book. Since the characters are one of my favorite parts of the story, I knew I had to remedy that situation. I’ve been working hard on making them live on the page in the same way they live in my mind, and that’s taking time to do.

I don’t have to feel bad about that. It’s taken genius pants Mr. Kilmer ten years to do his screenplay. If it takes me a few more months or so to get my book to where I’m happy with it, I’d say I’m in pretty good company. I can take the heat.

Val Kilmer in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

Val Kilmer as Gay Perry in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. He’s so stinking cool.