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Not All Comics Have Capes

Oftentimes the things that scare us the most are what is left unsaid—that unsettling fear of the unknown or intangible. It is those moments of uncertainty that toy with our imagination, ushering in that irksome moment when we are left alone with our thoughts and insecurities. It is this notion that makes husband and wife [...]
Danny Hamen

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Oftentimes the things that scare us the most are what is left unsaid—that unsettling fear of the unknown or intangible. It is those moments of uncertainty that toy with our imagination, ushering in that irksome moment when we are left alone with our thoughts and insecurities.

It is this notion that makes husband and wife duo, Lisa Sterle and Matthew Erman’s, horror comic series, “Long Lost,” so thrilling. Sure, they use evocative imagery, like twisting viscera creeping past the gutters of the panels, but it is their aptitude at slowly building tension that creates a unique and unsettling kind of drama.

“It is so much about what is not said, and what is left up to the reader’s imagination,” said Erman, who wrote the 12-issue series, leaving Sterle to illustrate. “It is about trying to build a feeling through tone and imagery. [Sterle] is as much of a writer of this as I am, because I rely on her ability to create tension through space and time. Without that, you can’t have horror. You have to build that moment before something happens.”

Scout Comics, an indie comic publisher out of New York, picked up their 12-part series last October, giving them a little more than a year to bust out a final product. Even before its initial release, “Long Lost” has already garnered national press for its engaging storytelling and unique style.

Sterle’s imagery combines viscerally charged elements from American known indie artists such as Charles Burns and Daniel Clowes with styles of Japanese manga, particulary in the use of exaggerated facial expression and lack of color. The comic lives in a sepia tone with the occasional addition of color to intensify a moment.

“It just feels right to me—having a horror comic without color,” said Sterle. “It is where all my inspiration comes from. As the issues go on, there is more exploration that happens with color.”

Each chapter—or entry—is titled after a song that they believe evokes the precise emotion of the release, nudging the reader to put it on while reading. The artists chosen range from Dirty Three, Blonde Redhead, Fleet Foxes, and Fleetwood Mac. The first issue, “The Exact Color of Doubt,” mirrors the cathartic and spacious aesthetic of The Liar’s recording, adding an additional, almost Easter-Egg-like layer to the series.

“A lot of the cultural references we plucked helped cement the tone,” said Erman. “Comics don’t have the benefit of film in that you can rely on sound to create atmosphere, so this is my way of circumventing that. I can name a chapter after a song that I think most emulates the feel of that chapter, or lyrics that speak to specific themes.”

At its core, “Long Lost” tells the story of two separated sisters, Piper and Frances, who must travel back to their small hometown to see their mother. The sisters, while sharing similar mannerisms, are polar opposites—Piper being the guarded worrywart while Frances is the bubbly optimist—in a way, symbolizing the two sides of a perfect human consciousness.

“There is a little bit of both of them in both of us,” said Erman. “Piper is an introverted person that is at odds with the world and her place in it, and Frances is this person that is settled, and OK with her place and embraces life as it comes at her. I have really grown to identify with these characters and how they navigate the world.”

Erman masterfully brings these characters to life through conflict, whether that means exploring the nuances of sisterhood or putting them in danger. Although there are strange and often frightening creatures within the series, they seem to serve as an abstract connection to the psychological conflict of the day to day.

“The themes of ‘Long Lost’ are purpose and trauma—feeling misplaced in the world—home, feeling, and belonging,” Erman said. “Sometimes you need the visceral, psychical nature of—whatever it is, a monster or a ghost—to [talk] about those real life fears.

Another unique element of the series is that there are, not including Piper’s puppy Pockets, no male characters, a conscious decision made by Erman and Sterle when creating the series.

“Originally, Piper and Frances were supposed to be brother and sister,” said Erman. “The problem with that is it really limits the roles they can play in your story—the reader is going to have an expectation. We thought really hard about why that particular character needed to be a man. And there was no good reason. And then, once we started writing the characters and their relationship with their mother, we kind of realized that is really a story about women.”

This is a refreshing change to what many has called a male-dominated media—a comic that favors emotions and subtlety over senseless action—an intelligent and witty shift in the conversation of what comics are actually supposed to be.

The first chapter of Long Lost will be released later this month. Copies will be available at your local comic shop or through their social media page,
facebook.com/longlostcomic. 

SHOUTOUTS

Lisa Sterle and Matt Erman spread the love on the local comic scene:

Cartoon Crossroads

This was our first year attending and it was so wonderful. With Tom Spurgeon running the thing, it’s putting a big spotlight on Columbus for creators.

CCAD’s Comic Major 

We’re so jealous of the kids going through this major because it is an absolutely unheard of experience. The work these students will end up producing is going to be stellar.

The Laughing Ogre 

Gib Bickel is a treasure in the city and his shop is nationally revered for a reason. He has seen it all. The staff there is so knowledgeable about comics—it’s the reason we’re semi-regulars.

The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library 

An incredible place to have here in Columbus for every aspiring creator or fan of comics/cartooning.

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Arts Fest Preview: See BalletMet live outdoors!

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BalletMet’s Friday night’s headline performance at 8:30 p.m. at the Arts Festival is sure to be a highlight of weekend. One of the nation’s top 20 largest professional companies, BalletMet consists of dancers hailing from across the nation and the world and boasts a premiere academy for aspiring professional dancers, one that’s been recognized as an institution of local and national stature.

Since 1978, BalletMet has brought incredible dance to theaters in Central Ohio and beyond and their commitment to bringing dance to the Columbus community, especially in underserved areas, is unparalleled.

Art of War Photo by Jen Zmuda

From in-school programs to theater field trips, scholarships and free performances, the company is dedicated to making dance accessible to all. More than 10,000 children attend the company’s Morning at the Ballet field trip performances each year. And thanks to a grant from PNC Arts Alive, BalletMet’s second company, BalletMet 2, has performed at free events at the King Arts Complex, Franklin Park Conservatory and more, throughout the 2018-19 season.

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In addition to the free performance at the Arts Festival BalletMet will perform at Dance on Dakota on Friday, May 10, from 5 to 8 p.m. in Franklinton. This performance is also free.

Dance on Dakota, co-hosted by Franklinton Arts District, is part of a weekend-long block party in Franklinton and features free food and drink and a collaborative performance with TRANSIT ARTS. The event will take place at Dakota Ave. and Town St.

Dancers Grace Anne Powers and William Newton Photo by Jen Zmuda

BalletMet’s Columbus Arts Festival performance will include a mixed repertoire of shorter pieces from its past productions and will be preceded by music from DJ Donnie M. of Damn Girl.

And if these performances capture your interest, the company recently announced its 2019-20 season, which includes ALICE, based on the later stories of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll, Twisted 3, a collaboration with the Columbus Symphony and Opera Columbus, and, of course, The Nutcracker.

More info at www.balletmet.org. For all your Arts Festival details visit www.colubmusartsfestival.org

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Arts Fest Preview: You wood hate to miss local crafter

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Woodworker and Art Makes Columbus featured artist Devon Palmer has been working with his hands since his upbringing in northeast Indiana. His mother a wood carver and his father a carpenter and cabinet maker, Palmer took a more mechanical route by obtaining his pilot’s license and attending Purdue University to pursue a career as an airplane mechanic.

But as his career transitioned from maintenance to the tech field, he yearned to work with his hands again. Originally he considered pottery, before a class he planned to attend got canceled. But a trip home the weekend before Thanksgiving led to his father introducing him to woodturning.

That was more than 15 years ago. And though he is largely self-taught, Palmer also credits local woodturners from the Central Ohio Woodturners (a chapter of the American Association of Woodturners) for taking him under their wing. In 2005, he opened his first studio just north of Downtown, and in 2007 he began teaching woodturning at Woodcraft Columbus.

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Today, Palmer does a bit of mentoring of his own. He teaches classes in blade and bowl turning, resin cast pen turning and more advanced projects like hollow vessel turning in his studio at the Idea Foundry. He is also adding a series of LGBTQ date night pen turning classes to his growing schedule of classes, shows and demonstrations.

Palmer says his work represents “family and connectedness” with work ranging from salad bowls and laser engraved pens to funerary urns and ornaments. The details in his hand-crafted tableware and home goods manage to invoke a warm sense of community, fellowship, and hospitality.

Devon Palmer works in internet technology and is also a pianist and ordained minister.

Make your own wood turned pen with Devon Palmer at the Columbus Arts Festival, June 7-9, at the Big Local Art Village located at the Festival’s Franklinton entrance. Learn more about Devon at www.columbusmakesart.com/stories/devon-palmer and get all your Arts Festival details at www.columbusartsfestival.org

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Arts Festival Preview: Dr. E uses voice to overcome adversity

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Dr. E, singer-songwriter and author Cleveland-born singer-songwriter Dr. Elaine Richardson — known by her stage name Dr. E — has used her voice to detail the incredible circumstances she encountered while overcoming great adversity. Born to a musician father and Jamaican immigrant mother, Dr. E begun tapping into her talent while singing in church, her school’s choir, and in girl groups.

Dr. E continued to sing despite the difficult path she faced. As a teen, she became a sex trafficking victim and fell into addiction. In her recovery, she pursued higher education at Cleveland State University and Michigan State University. During this time Dr. E also began performing as the frontwoman for a number of cover bands and placing her original music on various TV shows. She recorded her first album, “Elevated,” in 2010.

Dr. E’s introspective song lyrics reflect the often difficult process of healing while defending those who share her experiences or face exploitation and discrimination in other ways.

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On her sophomore album, 2017’s “Songs for the Struggle,” she gives a soulful retelling of her journey from sex trafficking survivor to university professor, Ph.D., author and advocate. Blending elements of soul, rock, funk, rhythm and blues, and jazz, Dr. E sings with an astonishing amount of hope and positivity; Though the album details the trauma and exploitation experienced by Dr. E during her teen years, her power message ultimately expresses affirmations of self-love and acceptance employed with an equally powerful and joyous voice.

Dr. E is currently a professor of literacy studies in the College of Education at The Ohio State University. She has written a number of books on African American literature as well as a memoir, “PHD to Ph.D.: How Education Saved My Life.”

See Dr. E. perform at the Columbus Arts Festival, Saturday, June 8 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on the Big Local Stage on Rich St.

For hours, artist listing and all Festival information go to www.columbusartsfestival.org

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