Sooooooooo … can you tell I’m a new dad? My wife and I welcomed our first daughter into the world a couple of months ago and I’ve been feeling a lot of new, fatherly emotions since then. I wanted to express these emotions in a comic, but I didn’t want to use someone else’s words and I didn’t want to do a straight-up autobiographical comic. I wanted to adapt my own words into a unique story just like I would any other quote.
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This quote is taken from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1836 essay Nature, which can be read in full here. The essay laid the foundations of the Transcendentalism movement and launched Emerson’s career as a writer and public speaker. Henry David Thoreau was greatly influenced by Emerson and wrote his famous book, Walden, after living alone in the woods on land owned by Emerson. This quote was also the basis of the science fiction short story Nightfall by Isaac Asimov.
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No famous quote for this comic, I just had a fun idea that I wanted to draw. Quite a few readers enjoyed the To Love at All comic but wished the roles had been reversed – instead of a guy rescuing the girl, what about when a girl picks a guy off his feet? Although my wife doesn’t have bleach blonde hair and tattoos, she’s definitely given me a boost or two over the years.
Epictetus (50CE-130CE) was one of the key Stoic philosophers, along with Seneca and Marcus Aurelius. Born as a slave, Epictetus was given permission by his master to study philosophy and eventually became a free man, opening up his own philosophy school in Ancient Rome. When Emperor Domitian banished all philosophers from Rome in 89 CE, Epictetus fled to Greece and continued his teachings. Although no actual writings of his survive, Epictetus’ philosophy was written and published by his student Arrian as The Enchiridion and Discourses, which can be read for free online.
– Forgive me if updates get a bit sporadic for the next month or two, my wife and I just welcomed a new member of the family 🙂
– Get 20% off posters this week – visit the Zen Pencils store.
– Thanks to reader Matthew for submitting this quote.
Lang Leav is the best-selling author of three poetry collections: Love & Misadventure, Lullabies (winner of the 2014 Goodreads Choice award for poetry) and Memories.
Lang has been featured in various publications including The Straits Times, The Guardian and The New York Times. She currently resides in New Zealand with her partner and fellow author Michael Faudet.
C.S. Lewis – To Love at All
Sylvia Plath – The Fig Tree
Robert Frost – Road Not Taken
Charles Hanson Towne – Around the Corner
Frank Herbert – Litany Against Fear
Maya Angelou – Phenomenal Woman
Bill Watterson – A cartoonist’s advice
Shonda Rhimes – A screenwriter’s advice
My Spirit is a Roaring Sea
– Follow Lang on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
– Thanks to everyone who suggested I check out Lang’s work.
– Full disclosure: Lang’s publisher Andrews McMeel also publish the Zen Pencils books. They have good taste!
Jack Kirby (1917-1994) is the greatest and most-influential comic book artist that’s ever lived. He laid the foundation for the entire Marvel universe, creating or co-creating Captain America, The Avengers, The X-Men, The Fantastic Four, Hulk, Thor, The Silver Surfer, Black Panther and The Inhumans (to name a few). He also had a hugely creative run at DC comics, where he created the Fourth World universe.
Before Kirby revolutionised superhero comics in the 1960s, he had been working in the field for over 20 years as its most in-demand artist. He had a long and successful partnership with Joe Simon, the two having their biggest hit in 1941, when they created Captain America for Timely (now Marvel) comics. The hero capitalised on the approaching war with Nazi Germany, with the first issue featuring Cap punching Hitler right in the face. Kirby would postpone his career to go fight in the war himself, serving in the 11th Infantry under General Patton.
After the war, Kirby returned to comics, continuing his collaboration with Simon. The two produced a variety of titles, including war, adventure, horror and romance comics for different publishers until 1959. After they parted ways, Kirby was forced to return to work for Timely. There, Kirby partnered with editor and writer Stan Lee. The two would become the Lennon/McCartney of comics.
Their first big hit together debuted in 1961. Fantastic Four #1 launched a new era of superhero comics and kicked off the industry’s Silver Age. The book’s combination of cosmic adventures, flawed and bickering heroes, hip dialogue and larger than life action had never been seen before. The duo would follow with a string of hits, most notably The Hulk, The Avengers and The X-Men. Like Lennon/McCartney, Kirby/Lee connected with the youth and counter-culture of the ’60s and transformed Marvel Comics into a worldwide success.
Out of necessity and due to the number of titles they were creating each month, Kirby and Lee worked together using the ‘Marvel method’. They would have informal meetings and once a basic story was decided upon, Kirby would go home and get to work. He would plot the story, stage the action scenes, design any new characters and draw the entire comic. Lee would then write the dialogue over Kirby’s penciled pages. This method resulted in some of the finest comics ever made, but also caused problems later when trying to figure out who created what exactly.
Throughout the ’60s, as Marvel’s popularity and financial success grew, Kirby, the main creative force behind it all, was not receiving any financial compensation to match the company’s growing profits. During that time, creators had zero rights when working at the big publishers and Kirby was getting royally screwed. He wasn’t on a salary, received no major pay rise, no benefits or long-term security and he wasn’t even allowed to keep his original pages. He also had growing resentment that Stan Lee was getting most of the credit for Marvel’s success. Lee was charismatic, funny and charming in interviews. Kirby was shy, spoke in a strange cadence and spent most of his time at home in his basement working. In any newspaper or magazine articles about Marvel, Lee was often painted as the man with all the ideas, while Kirby was the mindless drone who just drew what he was told.
Finally, in 1970, unhappy with the treatment he was getting at Marvel, Kirby left to go work for rivals DC Comics (Lennon/McCartney split in 1970 too, the analogy continues!). At DC, Kirby worked on a variety of titles, the most well-known being his Fourth World books, which dealt with the New Gods, Orion and his father Darkseid (characters who will play a major role in the upcoming Justice League movies).
Kirby eventually returned to Marvel in 1976, but would ‘retire’ from comics in 1978, sick of the industry that had given him so little after he had given it everything. He starting working in animation where the pay was better and to his relief, where there were health benefits for the first time in his life. After a lengthy legal battle, Marvel returned over 2000 pages of original art to Kirby in 1987. Selling them to fans became the main source of income for Kirby and his wife, Roz, for the rest of their lives. In 1995, a year after Kirby’s death, Marvel gave Roz a modest pension. In 2014, Marvel and the Kirby family settled out of court in a high stakes battle over the copyright of the Marvel characters.
Like he says himself, Kirby wasn’t the best or most-polished artist. His anatomy was often incorrect, his character’s hands were the size of basketballs and their faces sometimes looked a bit weird. But they jumped off the page with power and energy that no one could match. His layouts were more dynamic, compositions more awe-inspiring and his imagination absolutely limitless. His style became Marvel’s house style that all other artists would follow, and he largely built the language of superhero comics that we’re all familiar with today.
Not only were Kirby’s pages more original than anyone else, he could draw them FASTER than anyone else. During his peak Marvel days, between 1962 and ’64, Kirby penciled a stupefying 3130 interior pages and 285 covers. To put that in perspective, the average comic book penciler, working on a monthly 22-page book pencils 528 interior pages and 24 covers over the same period. Just like his beloved Silver Surfer, it seemed like the Power Cosmic flowed through Kirby’s fingers and onto the page, where he created entire universes all while working out of his humble basement office.
It’s crazy, unless you’re a comic fan, you’ve probably never heard of the name Jack Kirby (am I right?). But from the mark he’s left on pop culture, his name should be as well known as Walt Disney, Charles Schulz or Chuck Jones. So just remember … when Captain America: Civil War makes hundreds of millions of dollars next week, when your son wants an Avengers cake for his birthday, when your friend dresses up as the Hulk for halloween, when you play Contest of Champions on your iPhone, whenever you come across ANY superhero related toy/game/movie/tv show/merchandise that the world is saturated with right now … just remember the name Jack Kirby. Remember the KING OF COMICS!
Bill Watterson – A cartoonist’s advice
Ira Glass – Advice for beginners
Chuck Jones – An animator’s advice
Kevin Smith – It costs nothing to encourage an artist
Neil Gaiman – Make good art
– Find out more about The King at the Kirby Museum website.
– The quote used in this comic is taken from a Q&A session Kirby participated in at the first ever San Diego Comic Con in 1970. He had just been asked “What would your advice be to a young cartoonist trying to break into the field these days?”
– Most of the info in this post was sourced from the fantastic biography/art book Kirby: King of Comics by Mark Evanier.
– Further reading: Jack Kirby, the abandoned hero of Marvel’s grand Hollywood adventure, and his family’s quest (Los Angeles Times). It’s Stan Lee’s Universe (Vulture).
Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) was an Austrian writer and is considered one of the greatest poets of the 20th century. Although he is rightly recognised for his poetry, he is also famous for his correspondence with a young writer collected in Letters to a Young Poet.
Rilke was the son of an army officer who was sent to military school to follow in his father’s footsteps. Thankfully, he managed to leave and pursue his calling of becoming a writer. Knowing this, 19 year-old aspiring poet Franz Kappus, who was then a cadet in military school, wrote to Rilke asking for advice as to which path he should choose. In his 10 letters to Kappas, Rilke offered profound advice on life, love and art, amazing considering that Rilke wasn’t even 30 at the time. Kappus published the letters in 1929, after Rilke had died.
In his first letter, after Kappus had asked him to critique his poetry, Rilke wrote:
“You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you – no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write?”
The quote used in the comic is probably the most famous passage from Rilke’s letters and is taken from Letter #4. (You can read all of the letters at that link)
There’s some controversy in Australia at the moment over a government initiative called Safe Schools. It’s a program designed to help LGBT students cope with bullying and deal with questions they might have about their sexuality. It’s brought out all sorts of homophobia and bigotry from those against the program. That got me thinking about doing a comic about a transgender student. I was also inspired by Lana Wachowski’s fantastic Human Rights Visibility Award acceptance speech in 2012.
– Thanks to readers Maya, Tejaswini, Nathan, Pappu and Scott for submitting this quote.
– MARCH MADNESS SALE: 20% off all Zen Pencils posters. Offer ends this Thursday.
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) was an Irish playwright. He wrote over 60 plays and is the only person to have received both a Nobel prize (for Literature) and an Academy Award (for Adapted Screenplay).
After deciding to become a writer, Shaw was supported financially by his mother and by the time he was 25, had completed three novels. But guess what? They were huge failures and no publishers bought them. Shaw found work as a music and theatre critic, while taking up playwriting in his spare time. His most well-known plays include Caesar and Cleopatra, Major Barbara, Man and Superman, Saint Joan and Pygmalion (which was turned into the musical My Fair Lady).
The quote used in the comic is taken from a lecture Shaw delivered titled Art and Public Money. Thanks to reader Gustavo for submitting the quote.
Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi (1207-1273) was a Persian poet, scholar and Sufi master. He is a hugely influential figure in Islamic culture, is one of the best-selling poets in the United States and collected translations of his works have sold millions of copies around the world.
Rumi was a traditional Muslim preacher and scholar until the age of 37, when he met the Sufi mystic Shams of Tabriz. The two formed an intense friendship and Rumi completely devoted himself to Shams, shunning his usual teachings and disciples. The two were inseparable for three years, until Shams suddenly disappeared (some say he was murdered by Rumi’s followers who were jealous of the two). Rumi was shattered by the loss of his great friend and what followed was the greatest outpouring of heartbreak art in history. Over the next 25 years, he produced an astounding amount of poetry, including 3000 love poems to Shams, the prophet Muhammad and God. He also wrote nearly 2000 quatrains (4 line stanzas) and the six-volume spiritual epic The Masnavi (one of the most important books in Islam).
In the centuries following his death, Rumi’s poetry became influential in Iranian, Greek, Turkish, Indian and Asian culture and thanks to popular translations in the 1970s (mainly by American poet and teacher Coleman Barks), Rumi has developed a huge following in the English-speaking world.
MORE POETRY COMICS:
Ithaka by C.P. Cavafy.
Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley.
All The World’s A Stage by Shakespeare.
Desiderata by Max Ehrmann.
To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time by Robert Herrick.
– Rumi would dance in joyful swirling circles while dictating his poems, which became a ritual dance still practiced by his followers today.
– Further reading: Why is Rumi the best-selling poet in the US?
– Thanks to readers Kristen, Shelby, Shannon and Toby for submitting the poem.
– Post your favourite Rumi poem in the comments.
Dr. Jane Goodall is an environmentalist, humanitarian, author, UN Messenger of Peace and one of the most famous scientists alive. Her groundbreaking studies of chimpanzees changed our perception of our primate cousins and consequently, how humans looked at themselves.
Goodall was 23 when she first visited Africa and met the famous palaeontologist Louis Leakey. Although she didn’t have a university degree, Leakey was so impressed with Goodall’s knowledge of Africa and its wildlife, he hired her as his assistant. Goodall was the first of Leakey’s ‘Trimates’ who were chosen to study primates in the wild, the other two being Diane Fossey (gorillas) and Birute Galdikas (orang-utans). In 1960, aged 26, Goodall arrived at what is now known as Gombe National Park where she began her painstaking study of chimpanzees, living among them in their natural habitat.
Besides being the first human to be accepted into a chimpanzee community, Goodall made several pioneering discoveries. She was the first to record chimpanzees eating meat (they were previously believed only to be vegetarian) and use tools for finding food. Tool making was previously one of the traits that scientists believed made humans ‘special’, but with Goodall’s discovery that notion was shattered. Leakey famously said “Now we must redefine tool, redefine Man, or accept chimpanzees as humans.” Even though some experts criticised the unscientific methods of Goodall (she later earned her Ph.D in 1965), her findings were hugely important and defined our understanding of chimpanzees.
In 1977, Goodall founded The Jane Goodall Institute, dedicated to protecting chimpanzees, preserving their habitats and improving the world we all share. In 1991, she founded Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots, a global youth program dedicated to environmentalism, which now has over 150,000 members in 130 countries. Goodall, at 81 years old, still works tirelessly today as an advocate for the planet and its wildlife, travelling for most of the year and spreading her message.
The passage used in this comic is taken from an article Goodall wrote for Time magazine in 2002. In it, Goodall outlines the reasons for hope she has for our planet despite the overwhelming odds facing us. Thankfully, Goodall has recently updated her article for 2016, which can be read in full here.