With an adult comics enthusiast (me, for the record) and a seven-year-old in the house, comics and their representations in other media often factor into the holidays in our homestead. This year was no exception, with Santa dropping off a super-hero video game for the boy, among other items.
My wife — aware our son has been learning how to play chess at his after-school program and that my father, brothers and I often played chess during my youth — picked up this little number when she spotted it at a discount dollar store in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
My son and I opened it up today and sat down for our first father-son game of chess. That it was set in the conflict-riddled backdrop of the Marvel Universe just made it more fitting. I was also thoroughly impressed with his full knowledge of how the pieces are meant to move on the board.
The art on the box is by none other than comics-industry veteran Tom Raney (though the art is unsigned, I confirmed it with Raney on Facebook), and it turns out he handled the figures on the game pieces as well — front and rear views. That an artist would be tasked with rendering dynamic poses for a Marvel chess piece is to be expected, but that part of the job would include illustrating their posteriors amuses me to no end.
I emerged triumphant, which is no accomplishment for a man in his 40s over a child to tout. However, in addition to teaching him basic strategy, I need to impart upon the boy the need to learn how to lose gracefully and to learn from the experience. (He moped for a short time but got over it.)
I don’t usually get comics-related gifts at Christmas. I get it; it’s difficult to buy something for a guy who buys comics and associated merchandise year-round without chancing getting an item he already has. But those close to me have tried and succeeded in getting me something meaningful that’s connected to my deep interest in the medium, and it happened again this year.
A dear and close friend who lives on the other side of the country sent something along. We don’t usually exchange gifts, but he knows 2017 was a rough year for my family, and he sent a Christmas gift as a means to show he’d been thinking about me and wished a better year ahead.
It was a copy of Chris Ware’s Monograph, an oversized hardcover that I hear contains ample evidence of his innovative approach to comics and his mastery of the medium. I’ve never sampled Ware’s work before. For someone who loves comics and who even earned his living for a time writing about comics, such a shortcoming is appalling, I know, but in my defence, some of his recent works (including this one) have boasted a hefty price tag. Nevertheless, I look forward to rectifying that gap in my knowledge and experience of and in the medium.
Thanks and happy holidays to you, my friend, and to you, readers of this occasionally updated (and trying for more) blog.