24HCD 2015, cluster headaches and how to continue

  
I made it to page 13 before being hit with an awful cluster headache, which put me out of commission for a good fourteen hours. 

It was a big disappointment not being able to finish, but I’d still like to. So next week stay tuned for Kalin’s 24HCD 2015s noble failure part two: the finishing. 

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On Team 12 or how to break your brain with comic books

The following is a somewhat disjointed and long winded take on my wonderful failure of a comic and the long road that brought me here.

As I mentioned in my previous post my boyfriend and I had a booth at the 2015 Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo and that my original plan was to have a table of baked goods. Needless to say that didn’t quite work out and I ended up producing a comic instead. I thought it would be easy, I’ve made comics in the past, I’ve finished Twenty-Four Hour Comic Book Day three years in a row.

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The thing with Twenty Four Hour Comic Day is that it’s all very spur of the moment and whatever you produce has to be in the moment and final. You don’t get the opportunity to go back and change things, whatever goes on the page, stays on the page. There’s no room to edit or expand on your ideas. You’re supposed to go in blind and pull the pages from your head and hand. It’s a great exercise, but it’s not exactly the way writing and drawing a comic works. You don’t get a lot of time, so you lose detail. When you’re artistically challenged like me, everything sort of turns into a blob. Faces become caricatures, arms and legs become too long and hands become stumps.

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Over the past few weeks I’ve been trying to find the best way to talk about Team 12, this strange little idea that’s been swimming around my head for over a decade. You ever have an idea that sits at the back at your mind occasionally popping into the forefront of your thoughts and derailing whatever you’re working on? No? Well that’s what Team 12 is for me.

I think in the long, long ago the seeds for Team 12 were first planted in the form of some poorly written, but well reviewed Digimon fanfiction. From what I remember (this might be a little hazy, as this was well over fifteen years ago) I got tired of the constraints of fanfiction and ended up transplanting all of the original characters from the fanfiction into an original setting and it sort of evolved from there.

At first it was an homage to my favourite movie AKIRA and my favourite comic series The Authority. It was about a group of twelve gifted children that were one day experimented on and trained to become deadly assassins. Eventually they escaped their handlers and reintegrated themselves into the lives they had been ripped from. The whole thing moved at a snails pace, chronicling each year from the protagonists life. I got to the part where the kids escaped and made it back into the real world, when it started to fall apart and turned into a bit of a soap opera. Back then, and maybe now, when posting original stuff online the best way to keep readers was to make sure that there was lots of drama and a healthy dose of slash never hurt either. I think the team made it into adulthood or maybe even teenagehood before the whole thing imploded and I gave up.

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Five years later I’d refined the story a little, converted my prose into a script and started drawing. The setting became an idealistic utopia, torn apart by an attack by a man with superhuman abilities. The focus was changed from their training period and teenage years to the after the attack, with the occasional flashback thrown in for explanation. As I’ve mentioned before and will again and again, I’m not a great artist, but as pitiful as what I put out now, it’s light years ahead of what I used to do. I used the sims as reference material, which just makes the whole thing hilarious. I worked in print at the time and was actually create a really nice copy of it, nice production values at least.

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Unfortunately on the inside it looked like the above image. My art wasn’t the only problem, I introduced too much too fast.Each character was given an introduction page, some even cramming in twelve panels. I’d also made the mistake of drawing out each panel individually without any idea of where it would fit on the page, which lead to a a bunch of different spacing issues. The whole thing was a mess and I shelved it. It looked so horrible I never wanted to draw again.

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But as it always does, it bit me again and I found myself redrawing everything and it didn’t look as awful and that was enough to keep me going. I had a sense of improvement and a couple of pads of comic paper and I was good to go. I decided to focus on fewer characters, all twelve would still be there, but they’d be introduced slowly and some might not be forefront in the first arc. There was a lot more focus on world building and developing the three characters the first arc was going to be focused on. Over all, it was a lot more consistent made more sense and looked a hell of a lot better.

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Still, it was too condensed, quite cluttered and didn’t have any establishing shots. There’s a lot of dialogue and no matter how many times I redo that first issue, there’s always going to be a lot of dialogue. A lot of the dialogue came after the issue had been drawn and there was no way I could fit everything into the pages I had drawn. So I did insert pages and by the time I started doing those pages I was well into issue two and my style had changed a little and those insert pages didn’t look a whole lot like the issue they were being inserted into.

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At the time of my second attempt I was working at the worlds most dysfunctional print shop and actually scanned, fixed up the inks, coloured and inserted dialogue while I was supposed to be working (it was one of those jobs where when there was nothing to do, you pretended to be doing something or worked on personal projects. It was better to look busy than do nothing and there was a lot of down time at that place). As of writing this, the second attempt is the furthest I’ve ever gotten on the project with two issues completed and a third drawn.

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Then my life completely fell apart and that second attempt still really reminds me of that. Part of why I’d immersed my self in the project so deeply was to avoid some serious problems I was having. The way all of that imploded, still makes attempt two hard to look at. Despite the fact that after the fallout I’d plotted out the first arc, I put the whole thing away and I didn’t know if I wanted to touch it again.

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A couple of years passed and I changed careers, I didn’t draw so much but I still participated in twenty four hour comic book day. I tried not to think of my little comic and kept myself busy enough not to think about it. Then the 2015 Calgary Expo happened, my boyfriend and me had a table and because starting a food based business takes more money than I had time to save up for, I decided that I could make a comic in less than a month.

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After all, I’d done Twenty Four Hour Comic Day three years in a row and I’d drawn that first issue twice before. What could possibly go wrong? Well, everything. It didn’t take long to do the inks and pencils and as sad as it was, it was the best thing I had ever drawn. Within two weeks I had a detailed comic that actually made sequential sense and at the time I thought it looked great.

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Then the problems started. All I needed to do was get the thing scanned, touch up my lines, shade and add my dialogue. It should have only taken a week; from what I could remember from my previous attempts a week was more than enough time. Only I was forgetting that I did most of my previous attempts while pretending to work and looking at the dates on my files, it took a lot longer than a week.

I lost a day when I took it to be scanned and UPS not only was it scanned at the wrong dpi and and in B&W instead of greyscale, but the glass was dirty as well. I ended up calling in a favour from a friend to get the job done properly. Shading took way longer than I thought, photoshop crashed and the files that were open became corrupt and unusable. I had to start all over again and now I was a week behind.

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I stopped sleeping. It was not longer twenty-four hour comic day or even forty-eight hour comic book day. I was staying awake for seventy-two hours at a time. Not only was a hazard to myself and everyone around me, but I was hindered in every way possible. I was making mistakes at work and home. I was living and breathing my comic. What little sleep I got was spent worrying about finishing.

After a few snafu’s with trying to put the dialogue in, only finishing after my boyfriend offered to drop it in with a superior knowledge of illustrator, I was finished and with less than a day to get it printed. Despite the fact that it didn’t look great, I got a 100 copies printed. This was partly because after my last go at twenty-four comic book day I’d gotten a couple of messages requesting a printed copy. So I took the chance and brought my finished comic to the Expo.

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After four days I sold one copy. Other than a few close friends, I couldn’t give it away for free. I couldn’t even get my family to read it. Even though I put on a tough face, it got me down and it took me a couple of weeks to recover from everything. I tried not to let it get me down, but it was hard and a little heartbreaking. I’d put everything I had into attempt three and it completely failed.

So here we are a month after the fact and there’s a box or comics sitting in my office, but I think I’m okay with it. I’m still proud of what I achieved and while it might not be the best looking comics or, hell, the worst looking thing out there. I achieved a lot in a short period of time and it’s the most complete attempt at my vision. It’s the only version I can look at and not feel a whole lot of shame. It’s certainly not the best comic, but it’s mine and for the most part, I did it on my own.

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24HCD 2013

Here is my comic book from 2013. Because someone at work abruptly (and unprofessionally) quit I ended up having to work a full eight hour shift before starting my comic. I crashed before I could do a cover, but if I did it would have been called Paranormal Investigators, Poltergeists and Puppies. As I no longer work in the print industry, I no longer have access to a large format scanner so this one was photographed.

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On 24 Hour Comic Book Day

This Saturday is twenty-four hour comic book day and will be the third year that I’ve participated. I’m not much of a drawer, most everything that’s ever come out of my fingers looks like poorly imitated anime drawn by a twelve year old. But, I still love drawing, even if it’s not one of my stronger skills.

The goal of 24HCB is to write, draw and ink a twenty-four page comic in twenty-four hours. The twenty-four hour time frame includes any time you take to eat, stretch, nap or go to the bathroom, the clock does not stop. In addition, every time you finish a page or just want to show your progress you snap a pic and post it to an archiving platform of your choice. (In my case anything I post here goes to twitter, tumblr and dirty ole facebook) In it’s purest form you are supposed to go in blind, with absolutely no preconception of what you’re planing on drawing. In most cases this is the hardest part. The closest I came to this was last year, when all I knew was that my comic would contain a pretty girl and a crotchety old detective. While chatting with some friends we came up with the non-drawing alternative Twenty-Four Hour Novella Day, where you write a 24 000 word Novella in the twenty-four hour time span.

There have been criticisms of 24HCD, along with the similar challenge nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month, where challengers try to write a novel length work within a month) where people point out that you shouldn’t need a challenge to do something creative, that if you want to write and draw comics that’s what you should do. In a perfect world I’d agree, but we don’t live in a perfect world. I have both a full and part time job, meaningful relationships, social life and plans to start my own business. There are a million creative things that I want to do, but sometimes they get put on the back burner because life takes precedent. I try to put aside an hour a day to do something creative, but a lot of times I’m so burned out or tired I’d rather just relax with a good book or watch something silly. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that.

What I love about 24HCD is that it’s an event that kind of forces you to get your ass in gear and prove to yourself that you’re capable of pushing your limits and comfort levels and creating something. It’s not about whether you’re a good artist or even creating a coherent plot, it’s about setting a challenging goal and following through.

The other major complaint I’ve heard is how can you put out anything good in that tight a time frame? My answer, maybe you can’t, but you can use it as a rough draft, something to build from. It’s a challenge built to pull those ideas from your brain and put them into a tangible form. It’s about punching writers block in the face and letting your creative juices flow, even if that process gets a bit messy, disjointed and disorganized.

Both years that I’ve done 24HCD I’ve completed that challenge with time to spare. The first year I’d finished a twenty-four page comic along with a cover with two hours to spare. Last year I finished with an hour and a half left, I’d also taken a nap at some point since I’d worked a full eight hour shift before I’d started. Both efforts, while good for my skill level aren’t very detailed. In fact, most things I draw aren’t. So since I’ve finished the challenge twice, my goal this year is to not finish.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll get my twenty-four pages done…well the pencils that is. I’m going, hopefully, outline the pages in under twelve hours giving me the remaining twelve to go into as much detail as I possibly can. I’m a completionist by nature, not finishing something is far outside of my comfort zone, which makes this a pretty good challenge and isn’t that the point of this whole venture?

So if you’re interested keep an eye on the blog and see what kind of nonsense my brain turns out powered on determination, tea and very little sleep.

Let’s see if I can push past my boundaries and not finish this thing.

Top Ten Thirteen Female Characters – #6 Alana (Saga)

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As I’ve mentioned before Saga is the best comic book, I’ve ever read. The plot is epic, the universe vast and the characters memorable. The story can seem slow moving at times, but that’s because the author (the always amazing Brian K. Vaughn) allows his characters to breathe and develop organically. As mentioned before, Saga is the tale of Alana and Marko, a pair of star crossed lovers who face an entire universe of foes trying to kill this infant child.

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Alana and Marko are both amazing in their own right, personifying the wonder and heartache of what it means to be new parents. Since this is a list about awesome ladies, I’m going to talk about Alana. When Alana was a child she was recommended the reading material of D. Oswald Heist and would change her life. After her father married a good friend of hers, who she had met in summer camp, Alana left home and joined the military. Because of her compassion, Alana hesitated during a crucial attack and as a result was demoted to guard duty on Cleave. It was there that she met Marko, a handsome prisoner and her species sworn enemy. While there was a little animosity at first, the two quickly bonded over a D. Oswald Heist novel and eventually fell in love. Alana breaks Marko out of the prison and the two escape. During their escape, they eventually marry and give birth to Hazel, the story’s narrator.

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Alana is headstrong and a bit of a loner at times. When she first gives birth to Hazel, she’s overcome with the overload of motherhood and is willing to do anything to protect her child, even if it means killing her so she won’t have to undergo torturous experiments. Motherhood leaves her completely baffled and at a loss, but she never gives up and learns quickly as her new family’s life is thrown into turmoil. She flips out when Hazel’s umbilical cord falls off, because it’s all so new to her. She’s completely out of her element, but at the same time she loves it.

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So why is Alana a great female character?

Alana is passionate, short tempered and flawed, but that’s all part of her charm. She can be a little over protective of Hazel and Marko, but that’s because they’re her whole world. You get the impression that her life was lacking before she met Marko and that they truly needed each other to become whole people. There’s a point in the story where the rest of the cast has a bit of an intervention with Alana because she’s being to protective over Hazel. She almost loses her identity in motherhood, but after a good soul searching talk she’s ready to pass off some responsibility and start to find herself again. As someone who eventually plans on having children, this is something I can really relate to. Having children is a huge life altering experience and a huge responsibility. It’s not just your own life that you’re responsible for, but the life of vulnerable child. It will change you, but it’s up to you how.

As a character Alana is understanding, compassionate and ready to do whatever she can for those she loves. Even if she can be a bit over protective, she’s an amazing mother. Plus, I get a huge kick out of what a fangirl she can be at times. Because really, who doesn’t love a good fangirl?

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Bad Fanart: Days of Futures Past Solved

I can’t be the only one that thought this about X-men: Days of Futures Past.

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This is a quick comic I made about the new X-men movie. It’s a bit of an homage to those silver age Hostess ads that fixed everything in the Marvel Universe. Seriously, Civil War could have been prevented by Fruit Pies.

I don’t have Photoshop at the moment, so this was poorly laid out the old fashioned way with scissors and a glue stick.

Top Ten Comic Book Heroes – #1: Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell)

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When I was six, my mom took me to a garage sale where I had the choice of buying a stack of Archie Comics or a stack of superhero comics. I knew a little bit about the Archies, there was an Archie video that I liked to rent where Veronica was upset that Archie and Reggie weren’t into Chivalry. I was ready to take the Archie comics home with me when I noticed a particular comic within the stack of superhero comics.

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It looked so dramatic and exciting; it felt like the cover might come to life at any moment. I’d never seen a comic cover like that before, far more awesome than Archie. Needless to say, I picked up to comics and my life was never the same.

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If I can attribute anything at all to my love of comic books, it would be this image. To this day there is something about this image that chills me to this day, it’s eerie, but that the same time there’s a haunting beauty to it. While I would have never guessed it as a child, this is one of the mots significant images in the series. I was drawn in by his space origins and his need to protect the human race.

I would later learn that Mar-vell was created solely so that Marvel Comics could have the name Captain Marvel. Through most of his incarnations he was a rip off. You’d think that would have soured me on him, but despite the fact that he was created for marketing purposes, he held a nostalgic charm for me.

Back Story

Originally sent as a spy from the Kree Empire, Mar-vell was assigned the task to see if earth was a threat to the Kree. After finding a deceased scientist that bears a striking resemblance to him, Mar-vell takes on the identity of Dr. Walter Lawson. As Lawson Mar-vell observes the human race. While dawning his Kree uniform to fight a giant robot, the people Mar-vell’s defending mishear his name and dub him Captain Marvel.

Marvel would continue to protect the human race until he was tried for treason and sentenced to death. Mar-vell steals a rocket and takes off for space, but is quickly lost. After being stranded long enough to nearly lose his mind, Mar-vell is manipulated by Ronan the Accuser and Zarek into overthrowing the Supreme Intelligence. They give him some enhancements and a costume that’s a little more than spiffy. Mar-vell foils Ronan and Zarek’s plan and heads back to earth. Unfortunately on his way back he is blasted into the negative zone. Through the Supreme Intelligence, Mar-vell contacts earth boy and sidekick extraordinaire Rick Jones.

Mar-vell leads Rick Jones to the negabands. The negabands, after being struck together, enable Mar-vell and Rick Jones to switch places for three hours. Mar-vell and Rick Jones would have several adventures over the years, including being embroiled in the kree-skrull war. Along with the Avengers, Mar-vell would defeat Thanatos, by destroying the Cosmic Cube. During this adventure, he would gain cosmic awareness and be proclaimed the Protector of the Universe.

Mar-vell would face a series of new villains, including the explosive villain Nitro. In the event that would cause Carol Danvers to lose her military position, Nitro would unleash Compound 13 onto the unsuspecting public. Mar-vell would sacrifice himself to prevent the gas from further spreading.

Mar-vell would eventually be freed from the negative zone, where Jones and him would eventually go on a series of adventures as separate entities before going their separate ways. Rick Jones would continue to pursue his music career and write a tell all book, while Mar-vell would leave for Titan and become romantically involved with an enemy.

On a routine scouting mission involving Thanatos’ followers, Mar-vell would notice a pain in his wrist. After becoming concerned, he’s tested by Mentor and discovers that he has an incurable cancer, caused by exposure to Compound 13. Everyone in the Marvel Universe tries to save him, but it is in vain and Mar-vell succumbs to his illness.

Defining Moments

When I was a kid and buying as many as many Captain Marvel comics as I could, I remember gushing to a comic book store clerk how much I loved Captain Marvel. His response was “you know he’s dead right?” and I was floored. Instead of picking up the comics I was going to buy I purchased the Death of Captain Marvel. To this day it’s my favourite comic.

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There are several moments where Mar-vell has made huge sacrifices  over his career. He’s faced insurmountable odds, intergalactic wars and being inside the head of a teenager. However, it’s when he’s facing death that Mar-vell is his strongest. No, he doesn’t win the fight, but he faces death with courage and dignity.

For me, Mar-vell’s defining moment is when he loses his temper and smashes the equipment monitoring him and regrets that he’s going to die. He laments that the world is going to go on without him. This scene always chokes me up. It’s a man embracing his fate as painful and heartbreaking as that can be.

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Why he resonates with me

Mar-vell is one of the few superheroes that has actually died, the poignancy of his death is its permanence. Super heroes die all of the time, but it’s never permanent. While there have been a few revivals and impostors, Mar-vell has never come back. There might be an unwritten rule that if Mar-vell is revived, he must die again before the event is over.

I think that part of the reason is because of how he died. Most comic book characters die in a blaze of glory where no body is ever found and can come back. Mar-vell has a long and arduous battle with cancer. We see him slowly waste away and how strong he is for holding out as long as he does.

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The comic doesn’t sugar coat anything about Mar-vell’s illness or the fact that he’s going to say goodbye. The Avenger’s put there top minds on the case, but there’s nothing they can do, lamenting why they hadn’t looked into this earlier. Mar-vell dies, he slips away in front of his loved ones, while internally facing his greatest foes.

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He’s strong, valiant and can face any odd even when he can’t win and I will always admire that. He’s been my hero since I figured out what a hero was. Mar-vell is the reason why I read comics. Even if he’s a little outdated or that he was never popular, he’ll always be my favourite.

Top Ten Comic Book Heroes – #2: Captain America (Steve Rogers)

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Steve Rogers isn’t the reason why I started reading comics, but he’s certainly been an important part of my life. The first time I grabbed a Captain America issue, it was ridiculous cheesy. Captain America had been turned into a werewolf and shenanigans ensued. Still there was something about the star spangled man with the plan that had me intrigued. It was the early nineties and everything was silly…and muscle bound. The silliness of comics is why I read them today. I know that the hardcore fanboys would disagree with this sentiment, but comics are essentially soap operas with epic battles and fantastic plot twists and that’s why I love them.

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Despite the silliness of the werewolf story and the introduction of Capwolf, I couldn’t get enough of Captain America. As I mentioned before my parents wanted me to read about Canadian characters, luckily for me Wolverine was Canadian and had his fair share of Adventures with Cap. Over the years I would develop a deep respect for Cap and everything he stands for. For a character that started out as propaganda, he became so much more. He stands for freedom, virtue and the average citizen.

Back Story

Everyone knows Captain America’s back story. With the success of the movies and resurgence of comic book popularity, it’s become common knowledge. So I’ll try to keep this brief.

Worried about the rise of the Third Reich during WWII, Steve Rogers wanted nothing more than serve his country. Unfortunately Steve was too frail to serve in the military, however, his resolution to be in the army was noticed by the higher ups and Steve became a candidate for Project Rebirth to try the super solider serum.

Steve would be the first to test the serum created by Dr. Abraham Erskine, which was a complete success, turning Steve into a perfect specimen and Super Solider. As soon as the procedure was complete Erskine was gunned down by Nazis, taking the formula to his grave.

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Steve would take on the mantel of Captain America and along with his partner James “Bucky” Barnes, would become masked war heroes. While trying to prevent the villain Baron Zemo from destroying an experimental drone plane, Bucky is killed and Steve is thrown into the ocean where he is presumed dead. Over the years others would take on the mantel of Captain America, in order to maintain the hero. Eventually he would be found frozen in ice by the Avengers and revived.

Captain America would go on to save the world countless times, becoming a hero among heroes. He would stay true to his beliefs, even if it meant going against the government.

Defining moments

There are hundreds of moments that make Cap one of the greatest comic characters of all time, but for me he really shines in his arc during Civil War. It’s not within the mega event Civil War, but the Captain America and New Avengers series tie ins. We get to see what’s going on in Cap’s head and how deeply the rift within the super hero community is affecting him.

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There’s a great moment when Steve tries to draw to clear his mind. In an inner monologue we learn that when things get hard, Steve uses art as a way to unwind. This touches on his origin, a (possibly) little known fact is that Steve Rogers was originally a comic book artist before he enlisted.

Why he resonates with me

Steve Rogers is amazing because he’s just such a good boy at heart. He treats everyone with respect and dignity, never judging people for superficial reasons. Even when his actions are rash, it’s always for something he believes in. He’s a fighter, but he’s also a thinker. There have been several times when he’s thrown down the Captain America mantel, but still proves to be a great man.

He’s more than just the stars and stripes, which is why he resonates with so many people around the world. He’s not just what American ideas should be, but what international ideals should be. He’s about freedom and equality, fighting for what’s right.

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He’s a man that’s willing to die for what he believes in and does. He’s a man of principle and the world might just be a better place if we all acted a little more like Steve Rogers.