Writing Comics and All That Comes With It…

Comics have always been a part of my life. Rolling back the years to my childhood at my hometown in Madurai, India, I can distinctly remember the excitement I felt every weekend awaiting the delivery of the weekly comics magazines that accompanied the local newspaper.

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Siruvarmalar and Thangamalar, the literal translation beings “Kids’ Flower” and “Golden Flower,” provided a mashup of a children’s activity book mixed in with folktales, fables, and short stories presented in the format of a comic book.

           

(Left) Sample cover of a Siruvarmalar  issue, and (Right) a sample comic strip from within detailing a mythological tale of the Hindu God Shiva. The characters observed are of my native language, Tamil.  

I would spend hours on end pouring over the enormous collection of said magazines that my grandfather stored away in his closet, and that would be a weekend well-spent.

My family’s departure from India to Egypt would result in a break of sorts from comics and my full-fledged introduction to their animated counterparts in cartoons and anime. A few more years down the road, and following the commencement of my post-secondary studies at university, I would rekindle my love for comics in Japanese manga, and other Western staples including DC, Marvel, and an assortment of graphical novels.

As an avid comic-book fan and as an aspiring writer, the goal of kick-starting my own comic-book had always been on my mind. Now, two weeks into writing the script for what I hope will be my first graphical novel, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the diverse challenges that seem to crop up on every front as I try to bring my story together. A large part of these challenges originate from my unfamiliarity in tackling not only a new genre of writing but also a new medium.

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It’s a steep learning curve, but one worth embarking on. 

So, what have I learned so far:

1. Writing a comic is not exactly the same as writing a novel. They say a picture is a thousand words. That has become the driving motto of my work thus far, being that I spend a lot of my time imagining the outline of my story before settling down on the script. It is like constructing a silent motion film in my mind.

2. Attention to detail is important, but so is also being concise with what you want to convey to your readers. In writing the script, I found my greatest challenge in getting used to the fact that my dialogues would remain in a world separate from the art work that will serve to provide the emotions to my story. Thus, I had to keep my dialogues effective, concise, and kind of resonate with the emotions I wished to convey in the scene.

3. Writing a script may seem relatively easy ONLY at the start. This was somewhat of a lesson in humility. I began with lofty expectations, assuming that I would be able to complete the script to my comic over the period of a weekend. Boy, was I wrong! Let’s give it at the least till the end of summer, or maybe the end of the year.

4. Don’t overthink. Every writer has a quirk that makes them unique. Overthinking may be a popular category for many writers, and I can certainly be counted in that special group. It’s difficult but sometimes the best way to go about writing a script, not to mention a story in general, is to not overthink to the point where you hinder your own writing.

5. Temper your expectations. This is more of a personal challenge, in that I’ve always been the greatest critic of my own works to the point that my expectations get heavier and heavier. In writing my script, on several occasions, I had to step back and tell myself to relax and not place lofty expectations on myself, especially when it was my first outing in a new medium. Most importantly, I’ve learned my lesson in patience and perseverance. 

What I’ve said thus far may make it seem that resultant process of writing my novel script has turned me into

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The reality is quite different. As frustrating as the process can be, I’m relishing in the challenge, and it has only motivated me towards my goals. In 2 weeks, I have written 2 chapters, and that’s great while trying on one hand to balance my PhD studies. I hope to keep up the pace, maybe even go a little faster, and keep the ball rolling. Once the script is done, my efforts will be fully directed toward the necessary art work, but that’s a story for another day!

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So What’s Next?

In my latest post, I discussed what exactly makes my imagination click.I thought it would be most appropriate to now carry forward the discussion to where my imagination takes me next, at least in the current scheme of things.

Ever since I started my PhD back in September 2017, my focus has largely been towards completing my course requirements for my degree. This has taken a predominant amount of my time, barring me from any measure of progress in my personal writing goals. Now, with the academic year having come to an end, I look forward to a summer extravaganza of writing and a revival of my previously planned projects.

The prior summer I had published my second work in A Little Bit Of Everything, a spiritual successor to my first work, Our Last Summer.

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Both books shared a similar origin in that the foundation of their plots were largely based on my life experiences. Having written the two books, I felt a great measure of happiness in coming to terms with various significant events that had occurred in my life over the span of the last few years.

Closing the page on my personal experiences, I wished to set the stage for my next writing challenge in a series of projects I had envisioned covering the genres of fantasy, science fiction, and politics etc. Intermixed with my new passion to write comics, I’ve spent the last year gradually aggregating ideas on the plots for two different books I intend to write over the course of this summer, and possibly well into next year.

One of these books will be a comic while the other will be a novel, with both being relatively unfamiliar grounds to tread upon. Having taken an extensive course in figure anatomy, I have only just begun my journey in becoming an artist. It is a difficult path, most recognizable in the horrible doodles I have had to endure with far whenever I put my pencil to paper. On a similar note, I have never written a novel, and in the case of the one that I have in store, my goal is to get it published at a traditional publishing house unlike my self-publishing efforts so far.

As I have done earlier, I hope to share my progress on this new journey, amidst my other weekly posts,with everyone on this blog. Tomorrow will be Day 1, and hopefully in a year from now, I will be close to, if not, accomplished my goals with regards to these two books. Let’s see what the year brings!

With that being said, I look forward to entertaining everyone the following weekend with a new post. Until then, toodles!

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What Makes My Imagination Click?

Just about anything to everything, and trust me, that speaks volumes.

In fact, my imagination is largely reflective of my approach to writing, which in the works I have published in Our Last Summer and A Little Bit Of Everything, can be described as an internalization of the reality that is my daily life. This process of internalization has paved the way for the construction of a landscape of epic proportions filled with a randomized but continuous menagerie and flux of thoughts and ideas that I frequently document in my journal. As such, more so than often, when I begin a new story, I would tend to look back to notes and inspirations I had garnered years earlier.

Moving forward from there, it would be a game of connecting the dots,

intermixed with the logical intricacies of how to put together a good story, and how well I emotionally synchronized with the characters and the worlds I wished to portray. Not surprisingly, the completion of said stories would leave me in an almost melancholic stupor stemming from my inability to accept the ending of the very realities I had created.

In that vein, I could say that I exercise my imagination at an almost constant basis through an assortment of activities from:

Transient visions drawing my interest on anything that randomly strikes my mind on an occasion where I may be bored as heck (particularly during university lectures).

Vivid dreams that would lead me out of bed and to the solitude of my desk on those frequent late nights where I would flesh out the details of my thoughts.

Inspirational knowledge from what I read in books, to what I watch on TV including anime, movies, the news, and of course, the internet, and at times even my own research. Speaking about books, it helps to live a block away from the Edmonton Public Library and Chapters bookstore, not to mention, a bunch of other outlets such as Wee Book Inn, making it all the more perfect to maintain my thirst for reading.

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And last, but not least,

Personal introspection, which is almost like a favorite pastime of mine.

Bat-Mode on…Time to introspect on my decisions and choices.

This could be the sweet stock of my imagination, as a large part of it is infused with the inspiration I find in relating to my daily experiences, from everything including friendship, family, love, and life as it is. Consequently, a crucial element of my writing is to translate the complex intricacies of emotions and feelings I experience in confronting the realities I face or learn from in my daily life, perfectly summarizing the internalization I mentioned earlier.

And that’s pretty much all there is to it.

Though it may seem that all I have said thus far may be geared towards writing, I’ve recognized their greater application in my recent foray into art and comics. I could even go so far as to say that it is my own way of life, and one that I find personally fulfilling as it offers me the sweet reminder in not missing out on the beautiful opportunities that lie around every corner, waiting to tickle my imagination.

All the same, it also provides me the inspiration to follow up on the things that I love most, and in a way, bring the desires and wishes I express in my writing to become the reality I live and seek…

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It’s always nice to take a step back and just immerse yourself in what is around you…

The Prince, A Reflection Of Our World

Hi everyone, it’s been a while!

My absence over the last month has coincided with my directing a war upon many fronts, mostly revolving around my studies and research at the university. The slew of paper work resting by the side of my computer monitor serves as evidence of the ragged battlefield that has become my home over the last few months.

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Studying…it’s a hard fought battle between Expectations…
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and Reality…

But, with the semester coming to an end, I’ve had several windows of opportunity to kind of sit back and take a break from these daily battles. In setting the stage for the statesmanship of the enduring war that has been my PhD degree so far, I found an interesting perspective and a read worth the time in Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince.

Setting aside the  intricacies of 16th century Italian politics that often made me reference Wikipedia (since my purchase of a discounted edition of the book came without supplementary notes), Machiavelli’s realpolitik treatise was quite the enjoyable read.

Unlike the idealism portrayed in Plato’s Republic, Machiavelli’s distinctly non-idealistic guide to the nature of statecraft is obvious within the first few pages of reading. The amoral pragmatism expressed in his perspectives on how a prince should establish and maintain his power make it all the more obvious as to why the author’s name is considered synonymous to the devil, and an adjective for devilish cunning.

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“You’re the devil in disguise…” – pretty much what all religious institutions had to say about Old Nick.

Despite the crude and downright insipid methods that Machiavelli purports for use in the struggle for power, I couldn’t help but be drawn into his work, especially when considering the legacy it has left behind in world history and its persistent influence in the prevailing political climate.

Across the world, politicians continue breaking their promises or rather continue making empty promises; the meaning of politics has become distorted amidst what is a solicitation of power, followed by corruption, and atrocities of various sorts of nature. While it may seem that the democracies of the world have not advertised their affinity to Machiavelli’s teachings, elements of his work are prevalent in the administrative institutions of several nations around the world, and by their many leaders who have taken note of his recommendation to appear benevolent, moral and religious.

“It is necessary for a prince wishing to hold his own to know how to do wrong, and to make use of it or not according to necessity…” (ch XV)

“A prince ought to take care that he never lets anything slip from his lips that is not replete with the above-named five qualities, that he may appear to him who sees and hears him altogether merciful, faithful, humane, upright, and religious. There is nothing more necessary to appear to have than this last quality…” (ch XVIII)

Machiavelli’s teachings are inherently a reflection of the state of the world, and therein lies the power of its influence. No matter the millenia that may come to pass, the emphasis of Machiavelli’s teachings largely depend on the basic tenets of human nature, especially when confronted by the opportunity for power. In that front, it is not difficult to observe the diverse constructs of power integral to various institutions that serve as the foundations of modern-day society, from education to government.

Nevertheless, Machiavelli’s obtuse perspectives on the employment of power can also serve as a case study for the positive outcomes that could be drawn from the knowledge of its opposite. A black and white perspective on the myriad complexities that dictate the ritualistic facets of human life is far too extreme, and while the idealism most often romanticized by philosophers and religious stalwarts may be a far-cry from reality, Machiavelli’s The Prince by describing one side of the extreme, leaves much for argument on the establishment of a grey middle ground of sorts.

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The Tao of “The Prince” kind of borders between these two extremes.

In that vein, I suggest The Prince for anyone willing to engage and wrack their mind in a work that can essentially be described as a game of chess about human ethics and the corrupting potential of power.

As for myself, having completed my fair share of reading for the semester, I look forward to getting started on the next set of writing projects that have been stewing in the back of my mind for quite a while. As such, I hope to see you all again very soon in my next post where I will provide another short discussion of what writing means to me, both as a blogger and an aspiring author, and what exactly makes my imagination click!

Lunar Awesomeness

Having fallen sick the prior weekend, I was hard pressed to be dedicated in my efforts toward a speedy recovery while ruing the lost opportunity of posting a new article on the blog. A sudden cold, and the ensuing fatigue left me out of sorts; the origins of which could be traced back to a persistent cycle of late-night at work along with irregular sleep.

The past week has helped me recover, and now that I’m back, I would like to recapitulate on my original plans for a post dedicated to the lunar awesomeness coinciding with the final and initial weeks of January and February 2018.

The night of January 31st hosted a special treat for amateur and professional astronomers alike with three lunar events coinciding upon the occasion: a supermoon, a blue moon, and a blood moon.

Unfortunately, the weather in Edmonton was less than accommodating  with a rapid slew of snowfall enveloping the city at January’s end, and resulting in quite the cloudy forecast on the night of the occasion.

While this was a mild disappointment, I drew delight by watching the video recordings of the event that were made available online the following morning. With that being said, what do astronomers mean when they use the terms supermoon, blue moon, and blood moon? Your friendly neighborhood astronomer is here to explain.

Simply put, the supermoon refers to a full moon or a new moon where the moon is at its closest distance to our planet in its orbit. This makes the moon appear slightly larger and brighter than usual.

A supermoon would be at least 14% bigger and 30% brighter as opposed to a “normal” moon.  

The moon’s average distance is 382,900 km from Earth. To get some context, if we were to scale the Earth’s size or diameter (12,756 km) to that of a beach ball (16 inches), the distance from the Earth to the moon would be an equivalent of 40 ft. Thanks to its elliptical orbit, the moon tends to experience both a closest (perigee) and farthest (apogee) distance of approach to our planet.

Now, this doesn’t imply that a supermoon will occur every month as the moon’s orbit changes orientation as our planet revolves around the sun. Thus, a full or new moon won’t always happen at apogee or perigee. 12-13 full or new moons are possible every year, with 3-4 usually being classified as a supermoon. The most recent supermoon occurrence will be followed by another at the year on December 22, 2018. The closest supermoon of this century is set to occur in the relatively far future on December 6, 2052.

blue moon refers to an additional full moon that appears among the months of a year. The term can refer to either the third of four full moons in a season or the second full moon over a month of the calendar year. The existence of the second definition is due to an erroneous parallel drawn by amateur astronomer James Hugh Pruett (1886-1955).  Having misunderstood the measures for calculating the seasonal blue moon, Pruett would publish an article in 1946 in the Sky & Telescope magazine writing instead that the a blue moon was the second full moon in a month. The phrase “blue” has nothing to do with the actual color of the moon. Nevertheless, varying atmospheric conditions may cause the moon to take on a tinge of blue e.g. elevated fires or volcanic eruptions that may result in particles being spewed into the atmosphere resulting in the preferential scattering of red light.

Lastly, the blood moon refers to a lunar eclipse, when the moon passes directly behind our planet and into its shadow. This occurs only when the sun, Earth, and moon are aligned exactly or at least closely enough, with the Earth smack-dab in the middle.

This is also why a lunar eclipse can only occur on the night of a full moon. January 31, 2018 witnessed a total lunar eclipse, a perfect alignment that resulted in sunlight being completely blocked by the earth’s shadow.

The moon’s “color” is nothing more than the reflection of the sun’s light upon its surface. During a total lunar eclipse, the only light seen is refracted or bent through our planet’s shadow. This light is mainly of a “red” nature thanks to the scattering of its bluer spectrum (an opposite process to what may occur in a “literal” blue moon). Therefore, a total lunar eclipse is also called a blood moon as the moon takes upon a reddish color during the event.

So, what is so special about January 31, 2018?

Well, this was the first time in 152 years that these three lunar events coincided with each other making it a rare gem of a beautiful lunar display. Pretty much everyone in the UK missed out on the spectacle while those in the US, Asia, Australia, and Russia got to see the full eclipse. But not to worry, if you missed this lunar awesomeness of a super blue blood moon, the next one is up for grabs in 2037.

Finishing up with this astronomy treatise for today, unlike the 19 year wait in the case above, I hope to see you all soon again the following week with another interesting story to share.

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Red Hot Chili Peppers, and all about being a PhD student

It has been a vivacious start to 2018, and I have been immersed in my studies over the last few weeks, teeing up for another set of courses this winter semester while putting the last touches on a research paper I intend to publish very soon.

Given my absence for so long, I was quite torn about what to post on my return but it didn’t take me long to realize that the answer sat in plain view. So today, I intend to provide all of you a brief glimpse of my daily life, and exactly what keeps me so busy. Let’s dig in.

We begin with the usual wake up call at 7 a.m in the morning, a goal which in the immediate outset of things provides for varying rates of success depending on the season. With winter, it is an issue of hustle, when the purpose of an alarm is lost over several snooze snippets, resulting in a hustle to get to classes on time. With summer, it is an issue of hassle, when the purpose of an alarm is moot, thanks to my bed bathing in sunlight in the early hours of 5 a.m. in the morning. Welcome to Edmonton!

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Much like the amusing contrast of my forgetful friend Bucky Barnes’ season oriented fashion and epithet, the ritual of morning alarms in my life is largely hyperbolic in nature. 

Now, assuming things do go as planned, I begin my day at the university around 9 a.m. in the morning, jogging along to my courses or engaging in research otherwise, with a finely conditioned but old package of a portable workspace aka my Lenovo G505s laptop. Ideally, I finish at 5 p.m. returning home to proceed with dinner, going to the gym, and engaging in my hobbies (writing, art, music) before heading to bed by around midnight.

Now, with that being said, we all know the obvious outcome: when it comes to life, things never go as planned…

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I often relate my academic life to the act of cooking; I enjoy both equally. While I do love my Indian spices, I have no problem flirting with various cuisines from around the world. In the end, cooking is often about finding a delicate balance, and most importantly, maintaining it.

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Unless I’m asking to be caught at the end of a Gordon Ramsay rant. 

It is the same with my studies. Not one to be attached to a single subject of interest, I’m a fan of interdisciplinary science; a notion that parallels my current research on “hot electrons,” but more about that another time. Ultimately though, it is all about discipline, organization, and a strong ability to multi-task.

Thankfully, I do not lack in any of these categories but that doesn’t take away the usual stumbling blocks that appear every now and then. In that vein, with my PhD, it is all about juggling my degree requirements while simultaneously building towards my goals. This largely revolves around  amassing a wealth of scientific publications, advancing my resume, cooking up original research, and last but not least, having fun while avoiding stress as much as possible. All in all, it is a business modeled around a philosophy of accretion. If you have the right balance, you’ve pretty much hit jackpot. Of course, this is not what happens in most cases, and so while I’m strung up like Anakin Skywalker dealing with an annoying Jedi Council,

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two good friends of mine provide some much needed reminders and send me on my way,

Thus, I survive by running a strict diet of activities removed from my academic pursuits, and by this I mean indulging avidly in my long-term pursuit of becoming a writer/mangaka, not to mention catching up on all the reading and fun one tends to miss while at university.

Where does this cycle end? Truth is, in my case, it probably never will, and with time I’ve grown to enjoy it more than anything else. While the journey has its fair share of ups and down, at the end of the day, when I take a step back and think about it, my mind finds rest within the reality that it is no different from cooking a new recipe and making sure to have a healthy balance of spices (especially in the case of adding chilies, where one should only rub their eyes after having washed their hands…)

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It took over an hour of suppressed pain before my eyes cleared up. 

Keeping with that attitude, I hope to add to my list of goals, a steady accretion of weekly blog posts. Winter break oversaw a rapid increase in viewer traffic on my blog,

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leaving me invigorated with new strategies and topics to engage all of you, my wonderful readers in what I hope will be a wonderful 2018! So, until next week, toodles!

TIMELESS

I awoke this morning, my dry eyes struggling to gain clarity amidst my groggy state.  Walking over to the kitchen, I would return and fall back onto my bed, draping a wet compress over my face, sighing in relief as my eyes welcomed the residual moisture.

Taking a moment to clear my mind, I spent the next few minutes recalling the memories of the past year before closing the door upon the roller coaster journey that was 2017. Sitting back against the wall, I looked out the window, only to meet a white landscape. It penetrated the stillness of my surroundings, inciting memories of my crash-landing at the planet Abafar, a few years back, in the company of my good friend R2D2 while ardently binge-watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

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Our motley crew at Abafar discussing the specs of the planet. Awesome show, for all Star Wars fans out there. 

My month long absence has seen me confront the end of a semester of work, and an intense study schedule for final exams. The stress that ensued from said experiences retreated following the two weeks of Christmas break during which I relaxed as I saw fit, by doing absolutely nothing.

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A large part of this nothing involved catching up on the sleep I had missed out on over the school year. Christmas Eve was inspired by the excitement that I crafted for my loved ones. The desolate cold of winter, and I mean the -40 degrees Celsius that we Edmontonians love, was supplanted by the nostalgic memories and rituals of time past with my family and friends that I seem to periodically recollect upon this festive occasion.

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Winter is a complicated affair for those who live in Edmonton…
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but we can always find a way to cozy up. 

Time waits for no one but in it’s passing we find life’s wonderful gifts, memories that forever resonate eternal in our hearts. To embrace and cherish the memories of my past, to live the present, and to happily anticipate the future. This is my mantra. Alighting  upon a new year, these words echoed resoundingly in my mind.

Often, we can’t see the forest for the trees. New Years is precisely such an occasion. Growing up, New Years was an opportunity to look back upon my mistakes, and resolve my lingering doubts in empty resolutions and promises that never saw the light of day.

Not anymore!

A new year, a new beginning, but not because I’m tying up loose ends of my past while forging ahead toward the future. Rather, it is about embracing and paying due respects to the past, those multitude of experiences, those lost instances that have led me all the way to where I am now.

In that vein, I’m thankful for everything that has happened over the past year. All the ups and downs, as well as the lingering staleness of an uneasy equilibrium between the two, all of it…it was just perfect. Why so? In my opinion, because life has to be so, in order to provide some sort of personal incentive and impetus. I found both on a number of unforgettable occasions that will forever tickle the strings of my heart.

Above all, I learned the importance to stay true to myself, to believe in myself, to fall and learn to get back up on to my feet, to fail so that I may succeed, to never give up, to love and to express said love to those who I considered important. More so, I learned to enjoy life and be thankful for all that I have. Making the best of the present, I found fulfillment in the individual that I am and the one I hope to be a few years down the road.

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The past is a reflection of the present, and the present is a gateway to the future in the never-ending journey that is life.

What we consider the present may be nothing more than a temporary and transient construct of time. In a split second, the now may become a window to the past, an instant that is seemingly lost to us, but we always have the choice to make that instant, a timeless memory…

With that said, Happy New Year everyone!

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