Building a Better Comic Book
When Rodolphe Töpffer drew the first comics in 1837, he couldn’t possibly have imagined where the genre would go. It’s comparable to the Wright Brothers trying to picture stealth bombers while standing on the sands south of Kitty Hawk. Stealthily, comics have grown into one of the most fascinating forms of expression available—an alchemical mix of literature and visual art that achieves effects neither can produce alone. Jeff Zwirek’s Burning Building Comix explodes onto the scene with the latest comic pyrotechnics playing with the concepts of narrative and time itself. Stealthily simple but conceptually complex, Burning Building Comix puts Jeff Zwirek among the best and brightest architects building a better comic book.
Don’t judge Burning Building Comix by its cover, because it’s not until you open the book that you realize you’re in for a different comics experience. What looks like a horizontally oriented 6¼ by 12¼ inch book unfolds and stretches when opened into a 6¼ by 24½ inch tower of power. Zwirek takes full advantage of his unconventional format to create a visual and storytelling matrix striking in its originality.
The premise itself is simple—a 10-story building is burning down. Each story of the building’s a separate story featuring a character trying to survive. Zwirek asks you to start reading from the ground up. As you work your way up the towering inferno, the individual stories interact in your head, igniting new connections and imaginative possibilities. Zwirek achieves all this with a clean, concise visual style (shown above) and a total lack of dialogue. (Word bubbles appear with the context implying what’s said, but you’re left free to fill in the blanks.) On this framework, Zwirek hangs a varied cast of characters fighting the flames: a sleepy old woman and her frantic pooch, a pregnant wife going into labor, an obese shut-in, a pretentious film fan, a suicidal atheist, a resentful latchkey kid, a pentagram-drawing and video game-playing paganist, an abusive drunken couple, and a couple that find each other on the rebound and on different floors. Each story works horizontally, but from the first reading and even more from repeated readings, they work vertically, too. The visual and narrative parallels and contrasts Zwirek builds into his building show a great sophistication in storytelling.
Zwirek thanks, among others, cartoonist Ivan Brunetti, author of Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice (which I reviewed here). Burning Building Comix puts modern cartooning philosophy into practice in the best and most effective way. Zwirek doesn’t tell you his philosophy of comic creation, he shows you and makes you think the philosophy out for yourself. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen remains the standard for manipulating space and time, but if Watchmen is a grand, epic cathedral of storytelling, Burning Building Comix is a small, beautiful chapel. If you’re looking for the future of comics and where artists can take the medium, Jeff Zwirek’s Burning Building Comix will light your way.
Jonathan Zimmerman explains why teachers should invite, not censor, tough classroom debates.
- During times of war or national crisis in the U.S., school boards and officials are much more wary about allowing teachers and kids to say what they think.
- If our teachers avoid controversial questions in the classroom, kids won't get the experience they need to know how to engage with difficult questions and with criticism.
- Jonathan Zimmerman argues that controversial issues should be taught in schools as they naturally arise. Otherwise kids will learn from TV news what politics looks like – which is more often a rant than a healthy debate.
Controversial map names CEOs of 100 companies producing 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.
- Just 100 companies produce 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gases.
- This map lists their names and locations, and their CEOs.
- The climate crisis may be too complex for these 100 people to solve, but naming and shaming them is a good start.
It marks another milestone in SpaceX's long-standing effort to make spaceflight cheaper.
- SpaceX launched Falcon Heavy into space early Tuesday morning.
- A part of its nosecone – known as a fairing – descended back to Earth using special parachutes.
- A net-outfitted boat in the Atlantic Ocean successfully caught the reusable fairing, likely saving the company millions of dollars.
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