Psst

Hey Class,

I’m Peter. I’m not working towards a Communication degree, but instead in English, and have spent some my time studying old and dusty works instead of flashy and exciting works. And, more than that, studying self-contained works of literature written in a distinctly different time period.

Thankfully, this class is about fiction that is both larger than an individual story, and almost all of its reading materials are roughly from the present, or directly influenced the form of what is now in the present. I look forward to the change in pace.

But if it is a change in pace for my academic studies, it certainly isn’t for my personal interests.

I first really got into reading through comic books, by buying this one: With some lawn-mowing money I plunked down the cash for this beauty:

it was a total stealth purchase, too. No way would my mom let six year old me buy this

A masked man breaking Batman’s back and staring at you from the grocery store rack. Nothing says This is happening, AND NOW more than that.

While I was initially lured by the power of the image, more than that kept me reading them. When you’re reading comics, following them weekly by going to the shop, nothing feels more like it’s happening in the present than plucking a comic off the racks. These things were either going to be entombed in a long box in a couple months if they were lucky and sold at a comic shop. If you were buying them at a newsstand (as I was for the first four years), then they would even be destroyed, their covers ripped off and thrown in a big pile. And that was if they lasted long enough to be returned to the publisher after being handled by all the kooks and kids who bought comics in grocery stores during the nineties.

This made it so the reading of many of these stories was incomplete, at best. I’d gather an issue here and there, and maybe a trip to that comic shop forty five minutes away could complete a run. Stories were fragments that only occasionally, gloriously, became an epic, and complete, experience. Even better were the storylines across multiple titles. I would later find out that the number in the top right corner of that Batman comic was no joke, and that it was part of a much larger narrative.

(For those interested in specifrics, Bane, the big baddy, engineers a prison break at Arkham Asylum in order to weaken and fatigue a Batman with a city suddenly full of foes).

Buying the rest of the comics in that series (which wasn’t complete until about five years later, and they were bought in back issue bins instead of from newsstands), especially the ones I could follow in real time, was really cool. Each month, the storyline would become bigger. So, unlike a single sitting movie, each comic would just be a single instance of getting to know a superhero. The comic, although ending with a nominally resolution, had a constantly shifting status quo. Sometimes, it would change as drastically as a main character’s spine cracking, or sometimes it would be a much more subtle change in a character’s relationship over time. Either way, this distribution method, of a little bit each month, is able to communicate long term change in a way that’s impossible if you have, and can read, an entire story at once. The “reading” of the comic invariably involves remembering the issues before it, and speculating about what will happen later.

I think that the in between time, even if it’s about talking about a long-form novel instead of a comic series, is what really makes stories get close to you. It’s how events and circumstances happen in real life, after all.

And while this class isn’t going to involve following a series serially, it will involve looking back at stories published serially, as well as a final project that can involve pieces intended to be published over a long period of time, even if they are read at one sitting.

Hmm, some more stuff about myself, so I’m more than a temporally obsessed comic nerd.

I work sporadically for KRTU as the Live Recording supervisor, meaning that I set up for local bands to record for the station and then engineer the audio for said recording session. On Wednesdays I have a show of synthesis or sample based music every week called Melodies from the Machine: Wednesdays from 11-12! Listen to this week’s show here at any time, although my summer time slot from last week was 10-11 on Tuesday, and the site is still (mis)labelled as if it was Spring semester of 2010, placing my show soon after Friday begins.

When not presenting myself as Peter Hensel, I moonlight under the pseudonym XyphaP, freestyling as soon as a beat dropsand blogging at the big brother blog to this: Psychopomp and Circumstance. I see these skills as similar, both involving the promotion of self and manipulation of language, and both helped greatly with a computer.

When not looking at a computer screen or comic page, I play Super Smash Bros and Tetris more than any unprofessional video game player should. Just kidding in the preposition up there! I go outside, sometimes, and always after listening to this song a couple times on repeat to get amped about it.

To close things, a picture of my bodyguard:

-P

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