Featured image above by Samantha Hautea.
It’s been a long time since the power of comics stopped at being panels on a page. But in the transmedia age, increasingly widespread is the idea that comics are also incredibly powerful launchpads for ideas and creativity in all manner of mediums. From technology futurism to heavy metal music, Saturday’s panels at Emerald City Comicon highlighted the ways that comics inspire across so many disciplines.
Love Machines: Robots and Romance in Comic Books
By Samantha Hautea – @MannerMinded
Technology is intrinsically linked to even the most intimate part of our lives: social media, online communities, and dating apps provide a wealth of opportunities for us to interact in different spaces. Butt while we think of online communication as a relatively new invention, machines have been influencing the way humans interact for much longer than that, through innovations that allow us to reach each other more quickly and affect the environment around us. Whether one loves them or hates them, the fact that society as we know it would not exist without machines is undeniable.
It should hardly be any surprise that humans have such a fascination with the idea of falling in love with the inorganic. This panel focused on Love Machines, written by Josh Trujillo, a series of stories on ‘robots and romance’ that explores far more than just the standard trope of humans falling in love with humanoid machines. Also on the panel were artist JB Wolfe and letterer Adam Pruett, who chimed in with their insights on the process of working on Love Machines, and moderator Matt Baume.
Trujillo opened the panel with a discussion about the types of robots or automatons commonly seen in stories, and how the concept variously manifested at different points in history, citing several examples from ancient and contemporary media. From the mischievous puppet Pinnochio to Metropolis’ Maria, writers and artists have explored a variety of themes on how humans relate to their creations, and will likely explore many more.
However, there are still many areas for this type of fiction to explore: human concepts of machines have not evolved significantly, and one can observe human biases even in the narratives we have today, such as feminine robots being treated as objects while masculine robots are treated as protagonists. As Trujillo observed, most stories of robots and self-awareness contain an element of the narcissistic, since they’re derived from the assumption that the robot or creation desires to be like a human being. Unfortunately, this is an unavoidable limitation of the medium, creators, and readers, Trujillo muses: “You can only relate to your experiences as an organic being.”
Heavy Metal Fantasy
By Shefali Sain – @ShefaliSain
A panel comprising of authors Steven Erikson, Peter Orullian, and Shawn Speakman and moderated by Seattle book designer Vlad Verano discussed epic fantasy and its crossover with heavy metal music on Saturday.
As a genre, fantasy is able to adapt itself to almost any medium of expression, and music is no exception. According to the panel, heavy metal fit the genre of epic fantasy like a glove. Heavy metal bands usually have anthem-like songs with fantasy-based subject matter with strong choruses, creating a theatrical, dramatic, and emotionally charged sound. It’s the blend of surreal imagery and music that is unique to heavy metal sound that does a great job of conveying elements of the fantastic through music.
Also the lead singer in a metal band, Orullian said that heavy metal, just like epic fantasy, has a rich tradition of narrative where music albums tell epic stories of morality, internal conflicts or countries at war. In a concept album, symphonic progression is made from one track to another, creating epic fantasy that elevates the listener to a more emotional place. In heavy metal, vocalists embody a visceral energy to create realism. All panelists agreed that origins of the heavy metal genre are deeply rooted in the emotions of the marginalized blue-collar class.
The panelists also highlighted that describing metal music as “grimdark” is not prejudiced but rather descriptive. “It’s a kind of nihilistic end of despair,” remarked Erikson. For epic fantasy writers, he advised to be dramatic vs. melodramatic by building a sense of camaraderie and giving a sense of catharsis amidst all the negativity.
If you’re interested in heavy metal fantasy, here are some bands you must follow: Deep Purple, Nightwish, Sevendust and Dream Theater.
Comics and Pop Music: Making New Noise
By Samantha Hautea – @MannerMinded
What do comics and pop music have in common? The answer is: more than you might think. Patrick A. Reed moderated a panel composed of creators who’ve made a name for themselves with comics that derive influence from music, including Jen Van Meter (Hopeless Savages), Kieron Gillen (Phonogram, The Wicked + The Divine), Matthew Rosenberg (We Can Never Go Home, Twelve Reasons to Die) and Jen Hickman (Playlist Anthology) where they discussed what it might be that ties music and comics together and makes them work together so naturally.
The idea of creating comics incorporating or based on lyrics is not a new one, as Jen Hickman pointed out. Everyone at some point has listened to a song or a record and thought that its lyrics or tone might make a new narrative. What’s interesting is that reactions to music can often be very personal and profound, shaped by experiences and knowledge that is entirely their own. No song affects two people the exact same way.
Like music, comics allow for the art of remixing the way one would create a mix tape or a band, as several of the panelists pointed out. The writer and artist teams must collaborate and find the right ‘sound’ to bring the story together, and each one has a distinct tone it evokes.
For Matt Rosenberg, comics and music make such a natural and powerful pairing because they complement each other’s missing pieces. Comics gives you the words and the art, but not the auditory component, while a song can give you words and something you can listen to, but you have to visualize it within your own mind. But in some ways, leaving this gap unfilled has its benefits: “When you’re struck by a comic or a piece of music, it’s powerful because of the things comics and music don’t have.” By making your brain do more work to comprehend it, it makes it more emotionally compelling, and we become more attached. And perhaps it is that attachment of personal meaning that allows comics and music to cultivate such a strong fan base.