Saturday, June 13, 2015

Why Arizona?

People ask me that question all of the time.  I’ll take the compliment; folks must think I’m writing and drawing stories that have potential nationwide, if they’re asking why I’d limit myself to Arizona.

One of my newest friends, Cynthia Black, curator of Hub, the Melrose District post-modern furniture co-op graciously hosting my 24 Hour Comics Challenge this month, was the latest to ask.  As an admitted novice to comics, she inquired, “Are all comics as regional as yours?”

Without skipping a beat, I answered immediately, “Absolutely.”

Yes, all comics are regional comics.  Look no further than Marvel Comics.  

Lee, Kirby, Ditko, Romita, and the other Founding Fathers of Marvel wrote timeless origin stories for some of America’s most enduring modern myths, but something grounds them: New York City.  Stan and company didn’t choose New York because it was our country’s Big Apple -- that really was just a coincidence.  Simply, they lived there, and they just wrote and drew what they knew.  They wrote and drew what they saw in their own backyard, which just happens to be America’s most beloved city.

Erik Larsen Marvel Comics Amazing Arizona Comics New York
I only know there’s a Forest Hills in Queens because of this panel from Amazing Spider-man #347, the issue I claim as my first conscious superhero comic.  Panels like this throughout that issue set the standard: these are real places, layered with an incredible fiction.  That’s the power of comics; reality is a viable foundation for the most fantastic stories you’ll ever read.
While DC Comics strays from this theory with its made-up cities, like Metropolis and Gotham, an argument can be made that these settings are merely amalgams of what the writers and artists were experiencing in the world around them.  The street crime of Detective Comics #27 was easily that of Bob Kane’s native New York City.  The political corruption of Action Comics #1 was easily Cleveland in the 1930s.  Presumably, by renaming their cities with these iconic monikers, Simon, Shuster, Kane, and Finger made the settings that inspired their heroes as timeless as those myths n their entirety would become.

So, even if a comic isn’t regional in name of title (like my on the nose Amazing Arizona Comics), it’s always inspired by the world around the artist.  As close to the bone as the music in his iPod, to as prevalent as the evening news, whatever happens around the artist is sure to end up in his work, and comics, as a visual medium, are a great place to explore and exploit the world around us.  It’s in comics’ DNA.

So, why Arizona?  Did anyone ask Stan why New York?  Did anyone ask Harvey Pekar why Cleveland Heights?  Now, I offer that example because Cynthia revealed that she was Harvey Pekar’s neighbor, and that my argument for regional comics was essentially his (sans the emphasis on superheroes, I presume), as I apparently reminded her.  Why here?  Because I live here!
So, it’s in this context that I offer a happy birthday to Sheriff Joe Arpaio, one of the most catalytic characters in our country and my comic -- a man that epitomizes the importance of local superheroes, whether you believe he is one, or should have one stand against him.

-- Russ Kazmierczak, Jr., #ArizonaAmbassadorOfComics

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