The Massachusetts Independent Comic Expo (2014)

Back in October I had a friend who lives in North Carolina queue me in on a comic expo I had never heard of before that just happened to be around Boston… Cambridge to be exact. Of course, I go to school in Western Massachusetts so it was not exactly within my access at the moment.

Massachusetts Independent Comic Expo (2014)



I read a bit about it and then my finger slipped and I somehow accidentally booked a bus ticket for that weekend home. This was mostly after seeing that Emily Carroll would be there. She’s a fairly known online comic artist who had done artwork for the story and exploration computer game Gone Home (2013), as well as her recent graphic novel Through the Woods (2014). Find more about her on

There were many great cartoonists and comic artists there like:

As well as an amazingly huge array of other artists you can check out more of them here.

I love these sorts of things because I get to meet all sorts of artists I had never heard of, each with a table filled with their artwork, prints, originals, t-shirts, comics, and so forth. Several of which had been special guest artists who designed covers for such comics as Adventure Time, Regular Show and so on.

It was all just so inspiring. But I had a goal. To meet Emily Carroll, buy her graphic novel, say several words to her without drooling or passing out, and then getting her to sign it.

All of which I achieved!

through the woods (2014)

Signature and drawing from Emily Carroll!

At the end of the day I had amassed nearly every artists business card or anything else they were handing out, since I didn’t have enough money to buy literally everything I saw…because that is what I wanted to do.

Either way, it was pretty awesome and amazing. I’m hoping to go next year…I’ll probably definitely go…but what I’m really hoping is to have my own table next year. Maybe I’ll see you there!

Until next time!

(Also this was sitting next to me through most of the speeches. I’m not saying I would have stolen him…but I did consider it).


When Marnie Was There & Depression in Animation

The latest from the Japanese animation team at Studio Ghibli is an adaptation of the Joan G. Robinson children’s novel When Marnie Was There. Hayao Miyazaki, one of the main founders and acclaimed director at Studio Ghibli had listed the novel among his Top 50 Recommended Children’s Books so it wasn’t surprising to see this film in the works.

When Marnie Was There (2014) ©Studio Ghibli
When Marnie Was There (2014) ©Studio Ghibli

When Marnie Was There or Omoide No Marnie (as it is called in Japan) was released in Japanese cinemas July 2014. It will be released Summer 2015 in U.S. cinemas by the New York based foreign animation distributor GKids. GKids has been responsible for distribution of many amazing foreign animated films, from the French film Ernest & Celestine (2012), the Irish film Song of the Sea (2014) and many of the prior Studio Ghibli films including From Up on Poppy Hill (2011) and the Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013) [which hits U.S. shelves this month on DVD and BluRay].

When Marnie Was There is directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, known for directing the previous ghibli film The Secret World of Arrietty (2010). Marnie is centered on a 12-year-old girl by the name of Anna Sasaki. She is a foster kid who spends much of her time alone, until she moves to the countryside and meets a mysterious girl named Marnie who lives in the old house on the marsh.

When Marnie Was There (2014) ©Studio Ghibli
When Marnie Was There (2014) ©Studio Ghibli

While I have not yet had the pleasure of seeing When Marnie Was There for myself, I have read the novel, watched the Japanese trailer over thirty times and listened to the magnificent soundtrack from Priscilla Ahn and score by Takatsugu Muramatsu on repeat for days on end. When Marnie Was There tells a story from the perspective of a child in great depth and detail, much like Ghibli’s prior films, however, this time it deals with a more poignant look at isolation and depression.

With one listen of the title theme Fine On the Outside, written and sung by Priscilla Ahn, it is clear what the main character, Anna, is feeling. “I never had that many friends growing up, so I learned to be…okay with just me, just me, just me. And I’ll be fine on the outside.” The song continues on with a sense of loneliness and isolation. “Would you cry if I died, would you remember my face.” You can give it a listen for yourself right here. More interesting is that the song was not simply written for the film, but submitted for consideration. It was actually written by the artist when she was in high school, based upon her own experiences.

When Marnie Was There (2014) ©Studio Ghibli
When Marnie Was There (2014) ©Studio Ghibli

The soundtrack features additional similar tracks by Ahn, such as I Am Not Alone, Deep Inside My Heart and You’re a Star.

The film even presents lines straight from the character of Anna, such as the one where she is seen sitting on a bench sketching as other girls play in the distance. “There is a magical circle in this world that no one can see. Those girls are in the circle, and then there’s me, on the outside. But I don’t care about any of that. I hate myself.”

When Marnie Was There (2014) ©Studio Ghibli
When Marnie Was There (2014) ©Studio Ghibli

I found it so intriguing to have a character be presented so clearly as being depressed in an animated film. Though this isn’t uncommon in Japanese animation. We see similar feelings and expressions in many films, such as Colorful (2010) or Neon Genesis Evangelion. Another example is the Australian stop-motion animated film Mary & Max (2009), which even shows concepts of suicide. What makes Marnie different is the fact that its target audience is primarily children, though animation in countries outside of the U.S. are not often shoved into confining categories as being “for kids,” like they are in the U.S.

However, there was quite a hubub with the recent Walt Disney Animation Studios film Frozen (2013) and how people believed it accurately portrayed concepts of depression, anxiety and PTSD. Many who suffer from depression found the character of Elsa highly relatable. It may have been a huge part of why she has become so popular with the teenaged audience. With quotes from her featured song like, “Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let it show,” it’s hard not to view it as an allegory. [Elsa’s depression and anxiety was later officially confirmed by one of the films directors on twitter].

Frozen (2013) ©Walt Disney Animation Studios
Frozen (2013) ©Walt Disney Animation Studios

What is also interesting (but essentially expected) is the fact that while Frozen was an extreme box office success for Walt Disney Animation Studios, When Marnie Was There was pretty much the opposite for Studio Ghibli. The quaint and quiet nature of the film had a hard time competing with the intense, dramatic, musical, CGI, box office champion when it premiered in Japanese cinemas so close to its release.

This is also suggested to have been a reason behind the closure of the animation department at Studio Ghibli. No more films will be releasing for quite some time and the studio will focus solely on its distribution rights, products and museum.

I made sure to snatch a few When Marnie Was There items (actually I asked my friends mom if she could pick them up while she was visiting Japan). They’re quite lovely.

What do you think of When Marnie Was There and depression in animation? Does the film look interesting to you? Do you think it’s okay to show children these concepts? I’ll leave you with that, and my own sketchbook doodle of Anna and Marnie below!

Until next time!

illustration by Damian Alexander (2014)
illustration by Damian Alexander (2014)


LAIKA/house Creative Challenge – September 2012

This is my entry for the September 2012 LAIKA/house (the people who made ParaNorman and Coraline) Creative Challenge.

The challenge was to create a character “Missing from ParaNorman” and so I decided to create the mentioned (but never shown and nameless) character of Mitch’s boyfriend. If you haven;t seen ParaNorman,it is a stop-motion animated zombie comedy for kids that is defiantly more than the trailers let on. [trailer] Mitch is a big jock and at the end of the film it was revealed that he has a boyfriend in the line “my boyfriend is a chickflick nut!” this actually lead to a bit of controversy from hateful, repressive parental units.

Meet Trent. He is a lanky, awkward teenager who spends a little too much time watching movies, reading and playing video games. He likes to watch “chick-flicks” because they give him a good cry as he’s mildly emotionally tormented. The simple mind of his boyfriend helps straighten out his stress and sadness. He likes Elvis, cartoons and says “Dude,” a lot. He was cut because he wasn’t necessary to the initial plot of the story and might have caused a bit more controversy then any one animation company could handle just now. He was also busy at a comic convention in New York City.

I decided to have Trent over Mitch’s shoulder because of the way he does this with his little brother during the film. (Also, I did not win the contest).