Remember a couple years ago when I reviewed the first volume of iPlates? Of course you don’t. So here’s a link. But to sum up, it was mostly very good and you should read it. Now, after a successful Kickstarter, Volume II is out and available for your ingestion. And ingest you should.
Although I would recommend [re]reading volume one before reading two. (It took me three quarters of the book to fully remember everyone and get back in the emotional swing of things. But that’s on me. I’ll have to reread them. They’re worth it. And I’ll need to reread them again before three, in order to stay on top of the still-open plot points.)
What’s great about these adaptations is how they veer away from the story-as-in-the-scriptures in order to develop characters and situations, then suddenly they plop you right back into a verse you know. Volume two is, after all, 150 pages covering two chapters in Mosiah, resulting in a pace both frenetic and steady as the characters run to and fro creating new story, while arriving at each next verse right on time.
This volume lacks interstitial art, which I miss, but a higher quantity of pop-culture references (ranging from Princess Bride to Sound of Music), some nice parallelism (the good sister does bad; the bad sister does good—each while trying to do right as they understand it), and the first time I’ve ever leapt for joy at the phrase “A POLITICIAN!”
In short, the book lives up to its claims of providing “witty dialogue” and “dramatic plot turns” within the framework of the story as we know it.
My only regret is that the Kickstarter didn’t quite get high enough to result in color printing. Although I like the black-and-white, the preponderance of night scenes in this volume makes it sometimes hard to tell who is who. And I know my kids would prefer color, them being young that way. But regardless, this volume, like the last, is a success. Let’s wish for many more to come.
I’ll be in Salt lake City this weekend for Fan Experience. I’ll be giving an updated version of my Mormons and comics discussion from the first SLC Comic Con which will, among other changes, mention Nathan Shumate’s Cheap Caffeine, incorporate information from a couple AML presentations (James Goldberg on The Garden of Enid, Stephen Carter on Book of Mormon comics), and the Kickstarter campaigns for iPlates and From the Dust. Mike Homer will give his presentation on representations of Mormons and Utah in comics over time. (240 seats)
Fifteen minutes before that rerun, a panel of Monsters & Mormons participants will be publicly talking about their work and what’s become of it. I’m a bit confused over the final makeup of the panel (this story is personally embarrassing, but that’s a story for another day), but expect at least seven people you definitely want to hear from. (220 seats)
Then fifteen minutes after the comics rerun, I’ll be on a Sherlock Holmes panel which I really really hope has no Mormon tie-ins. (400 seats)
Based on the numbers here, I think I should be able to take 10.75 days off teaching and still reach the same number of people. Sweet.
Although we miss many worthy projects, Kickstarter has become a funding home for many Mormon artists, including some explicitly Mormon projects. Such as Stephen Carter and Jett Atwood’s iPlates.
I’ve written about the first volume before, and I anticipate this volume to improve on the first. (I have no good proof this will be the case; I’m just extrapolating from a trend.) The story will be 128 pages based on Mosiah 12-13.
And: if the project is successful, they’ll start right away on their next project. Volume three will star Abish.
First, although I know this book is aimed at a young audience (say, 12 to 14?), the cover image by Galen Dara makes this hard to believe. It’s a more explicitly terrifying cover than anything I can remember seeing on any other book aimed at the audience—or for many adult audiences, either. Dara’s work manages to show horror while implying an even deeper terror. Which is not easy. Usually, revealing horror dissipates terror, especially in visual art. And outside of Richard Upton Pickman, Dara may be the best I know.
Her work also appears inside the novel—most of which images are substantially more subtle than this one. And while they illustrate moments, rather than the novel as a whole, from a purely marketing standpoint, I have to wonder if they mightn’t be more appropriate for the cover. I have a hard time imagining an elementary-school librarian ordering this for their shelves.
Though I certainly hope they do. Continue reading “Stephen Carter scares the kiddies”
One perk of being “the” recognized expert in Mormon comics is that every once in a while, people come to me and share what they’re working on. These past couple weeks, I’ve gotten all sorts of free swag in the mail from creators. The Book of Mormon stuff I’ll share with you now.
Today I’m writing about iPlates, tomorrow will be From the Dust (this link will go live tomorrow morning). I read both for Family Home Evening last Monday with my three boys, aged three to nine.
iPlates is the ???ly named Book of Mormon adaptation that first appeared in Sunstone. The first story featured Ammon arriving in the land of Ishmael, and the tale never quite gels. But the script is by Sunstone editor Stephen Carter and the drawings are by Sunstone‘s most visible cartoonist Jett Atwood and they gave themselves another shot.
I’m glad they did. The Ammon story was too indebted to manga (it even, in a rather clever move, read right to left from the back of the magazine) with those cheezy face changings, etc. You should never judge a serial comic by its first appearance, however. The nature of working with the same material over and over again means things will be refined, both writing and drawing. To illustrate, consider the following: Continue reading “Sharing the new crop of Book of Mormon comics with my kids iPlates”
I had planned on reading Stephen Carter’s What of the Night? on the side, as I worked to plow through other books I wanted to get through. It was a book of personal essays, so it would be easy I thought to read one or two a day, while focusing on the full length fiction on my new pile of books I wanted to read and review. About a day and a half after starting the first essay I had read the entire book in two sittings. Granted, the book is a slim one (168 pages), but the book had caught me off guard with how entrancing and poignant it truly was.
Carter’s voice is intimate–exposed. He speaks of faith and doubt and spirit and family and struggle with the disarming honesty that causes you to lay your judgmental attitudes aside and simply listen to his complex thoughts and simple heart. His tales include his time with Eugene England before he died, the disappointments and triumphs of a Mormon mission, a tutorial through clippings with his grandmother, bright Alaskan lights and dark Alaskan doubts, a black sheep brother who showed him the way, the weight of priesthood, and the liberation of the Spirit. Each essay was carefully crafted like a sonnet or a piece of excellent cinema. Ponderous, vulnerable, honest, loving, good, afraid. Many of the things we carefully sidestep, Carter plunged into and felt his way through it, even when it became painful. It’s a brave, beautiful piece of work. Personal essays aren’t my typical reading, but this particular collection had me enraptured and made me want to pick up some more of Eugene England just to get some more of that style of intimacy and quietly spoken lives.
Now I do have a beef with one of the essays, “The Departed.” I started writing it about in this review, but then realized how disproportionate my discussion about that one essay was becoming in regards to the context of the whole book. So if you’re interested in reading my comments about Richard Dutcher and Eugene England in context of What of the Night? go to this other post here.
As it is, though, I wanted this short review to highlight how truly moved I was by Carter’s work. I recommend it enthusiastically without hesitation. Those who read it will be blessed by an insightful mind, a compassionate soul, and a troubled heart.
One of my favorite personal essays in Stephen Carter’s book What of the Night? is “A Brief Tour of England: My Year With Gene.” It told Carter’s perspective of that mistreated hero of Mormon literature, Eugene England, and his last days on earth. Carter was England’s assistant at UVSC (now UVU) and in the essay he paints a picture of a tireless, slightly eccentric, and loving man who pushed the cause of Mormon Letters (and Mormonism itself) with his entire will and force of character. After running into problems at BYU and being chastised by certain General Authorities, you could feel England’s broken heart when Carter recorded his words, “You don’t know what it is like to hear what I heard from men I believe have authority from God” (p. 18). Knowing England’s background and how he was forced out of BYU, it was all the more powerful then, after that experience, England stated firmly his continued commitment to the Gospel, “Some people don’t believe me when I say this, but I have spent my entire life being an apologist for the Gospel, because I know it’s true”(p. 23).
However, I couldn’t help juxtaposing that beautiful essay about Eugene England with the one Carter wrote about Richard Dutcher, “The Departed.” I still really like Dutcher, and think his Mormon films are some of the best in the genre. He’s a man who I have met briefly and still very much admire. So I’m going to try hard not to judge Dutcher too harshly in my following comments, as I believe he still has a valuable voice and I believe, even after he left the Church, his legacy for Mormon Cinema and the Mormon Arts is an extremely positive one. But I have to say my peace about Carter’s approach to Dutcher’s moment in the sun in the history of Mormon Letters. Continue reading “Eugene England and Richard Dutcher in Stephen Carter’s _What of the Night?_”
Stephen Carter’s 2010 essay collection, as you might expect, provides plenty stellar examples of the form, what with the personal essay being The Great Mormon Form (or so I hear) and Stephen Carter being Stephen @#(*&$^ Carter.
Before taking the helm at Sunstone, Carter racked up a few Eugene England Memorial Personal Essay Competition notations, had been cited in Best American Spiritual Writing, and scattered his work through the major Mormon literary rags. He’s Stephen Carter, folks!
(Obligatory note: Although I paid for my copy, I still may be biased as Stephen is a friend of mine. Who knows.) (In similar news, see Wm’s earlier review.)
First, as an object (this is not relevant if you’re planning on saving money and ). The cover has really grown on me since the book was first released. The type is huge making this 168-page book an even quicker read.
But the words, the words. What about the actual words? Continue reading “What of the Night?“
Before I can write about this story, I need to talk about Stephen Carter’s “Winter Light” (in What of the Night?) because as I read “The Week-end” I kept thinking This could have been May Swenson.
Carter’s Aunt May is one of the Twentieth Century’s great poets and she was an expat Utah Mormon living in the wilds of New York, leaving behind family and faith for poetry and pretty girls. “Winter Light” discusses May’s career from the point-of-view of her family. Over the course of the essay, Carter becomes more sympathetic to her plight, but the family in general views her as a lost soul, eternally trapped in a waiting place, separated from the family she loved.
What’s lacking from “Winter Light” (and Carter knows it) is May’s own perspective.
And as I read Marshall’s “The Week-end”, I kept wondering if this is what May would have become had she never left Logan. Continue reading “Bright Angels & Familiars: “The Week-end” by Donald R. Marshall”
I’ve been following Stephen Carter’s career for several years — from his participation on the AML-List during it’s heyday, to his graduate studies in creative writing, his work on the Sugar Beet and then as editor of Sunstone. I like Stephen, and I like his essay collection What of the Night? (Zarahemla Books — note that the e-book editions, including Kindle, are only $2.99) I’ve put off this review long enough (not because of lack of interest, but because of lack of time) so I’m not going to go into detail about the collection, but I will make a few points.
1. What of the Night? is like a really good album. It’s of one piece but with variation. Themes repeat, tone modulates but doesn’t swing to extremes, length varies but within a range. These essays go together. There’s a rhythm to the collection and the reader (or at least this reader) feels that they were all written within the same energy.
2. There is humor. There is earthiness. There is doubt. But on the whole I like that the Church’s pull on Stephen is generally a good thing. Sometimes a perplexing thing, but a good thing. And that the essays are more about Stephen figuring out where he is located in relationship to the LDS Church, to Mormon culture, to the gospel, to his family than trying to make grand, global pronouncements about how the reader should feel about such things. He’s a dude trying to figure things out. I can relate, even if my particulars are very different because I never quite felt the pressures of Utah culture that he did growing up.
3. I like the cover.
4. There are a few sections where the writing seems too honed and needs to loosen up and breathe a bit. Endings end too early sometimes. Stephen seems at times too allergic to sermonizing or drawing larger conclusions. But really, that’s okay — he needed to err on that side of things as he learned his craft, and so does Mormon letters in general, I think. Right now honed and more personal, less socio-cultural is good.
Note: this review is based on a free PDF of the book provided to me by the publisher