Category Archives: Story

City of Seattle Commissions Graphic Novel To Promote Historic Steam Plant

Drawing by David Lasky

Has a major American city ever commissioned a graphic novel as a public art piece before? Seattle is on board! Cartoonist David Lasky and writer Mairead Case have been selected (from 71 applicants) by the City of Seattle to create a fictional graphic novel centered around the historic Georgetown Steam Plant. The goal is to increase awareness of this unique landmark with a graphic novel geared toward young adults.

Panel from “The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song”

David Lasky is the co-author (with Frank Young) of the Eisner-Award-winning graphic novel biography, “The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song.” Chicago writer Mairead Case is the author of the acclaimed prose novel, “See You in the Morning.” A story by Lasky and Case, “Soixante Neuf,” was featured in Best American Comics 2011.

West elevation exterior of engine room.
The Georgetown Steam Turbine Station, built in 1906 is now a National Historic Landmark. The plant is owned by Seattle City Light and has been working to restore the plant. It is open for tours the second Saturday of each month and is occasionally used as a teaching facility for steam power engineers and hobbyists.

Here is a brief email interview I did with Mairead Case today:

What went through your head when you got the news about being chosen for this special graphic novel project?

Well I was, am, sincerely grateful: to be from a city that celebrates public monuments with comics, and to have visibility and support for the creative relationship David and I have pretty much always had, even when nobody else was looking. Grateful to have work that includes time for oral histories and site-specific research (no screens!). And aware of the responsibility to accurately represent Georgetown’s diverse history—we want to use this platform to amplify and illuminate the stories that are already here, not co-opt them. For real. (Also, I was really happy to have news that would make my mom proud.)

Are you already envisioning what your routine will be like with the project?

David and I are both pretty focused, detailed nightowls so I expect we’ll have a focused, detailed, nightowl routine. That said, it’s amazing to have financial support for this project so it’s really exciting to think about how we might work in new ways with that gift. (We might even work in the daytime, ha!) But no matter what we’ll be collaborating closely. And we will probably listen to Bowie at some point.

Did you ever think you’d be creating a graphic novel about a steam plant?

I feel like I’m supposed to say no here, but why not? When I was a kid I wanted to be a tightrope walker so maybe this is not that far off.

What do you think this project might say about the role of graphic novels in America?

Ah, I think our role is to make the book and then other people can tell us! But it is terrific terrific terrific that Seattle is supporting a project like this—it’s really wonderful that an American city in 2017 is using art to build community, as defined and remembered by that community. I’m used to telling (maybe yelling a little too) at the government about that, and am still gobsmacked that this time the government was all “we know. Go.” I hope that other cities say “Go” too. The talent is here! American cities, if you want me to send you lists about the talented storytellers I know in your neighborhoods, just send a flare.

You can keep up with this intriguing project right here.

And, if you’re in Seattle this weekend, be sure to stop by and see David Lasky at the annual comic arts festival, Short Run.

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Filed under Comics, David Lasky, graphic novels, Mairead Case, Seattle, Seattle-Georgetown, Short Run, Short Run Comix & Arts Festival, Story, Storytelling, writers, writing

Story: Photo Finish

Sprint finish: Dunaden (top) beats Red Cadeaux to win the 2011 Melbourne Cup at Flemington racecourse (Photo: Reuters)

It has been some years since I’ve gone to the races. Here in Seattle, the racecourse to head to is Emerald Downs. I will be making a return to it on opening night, for the first live race of the season, which is set for April 8th. The race will kick off the 22nd season and it starts at 5 pm. There will be a fireworks show presented by Washington Cedar & Supply to follow. I will place my bet. And I sure hope to be counting my winnings followed by a good cocktail. Such is the plan. For now, I can share with you a story about horse racing.

Now, any sports bet is a highly sophisticated endeavor. Even if your betting is based upon a feeling in your gut. Most likely, you’ve done some sort of research and/or are following some reasoned logic. Maybe it’s just the fact that you always bet on your favorite team. Maybe your dog touched your sleeve and it was Wednesday, your lucky day. Whatever works for you.

How about horse racing? Now, that seems pretty exotic for some folks. You could rely upon the name of the horse for good luck. That’s a start. Following the odds is good. Researching is good. Add whatever extra sprinkle of good luck, and hope for the best.

Ah, then there’s the classic nail-biter of a race with a couple of horses neck and neck. It happens more often than you might think. The horses are out their giving it all they’ve got. They’re competitive in their own way. They’re in it to win it! There are no ties, only one winner. And the photo finish results can prove it down to the slight tilt of a nose.

But getting back to what happened to me. I was a young carefree guy with a bit of a swagger and attitude. This was back in my college days in Houston. We were at Sam Houston Race Park. And I decided that day to place a good healthy fat bet on a horse that caught my fancy for some reason. Hey, I’m no horse guy. I’ve never ridden on a horse. I don’t know that much about them one way or another. But I was there with a few guys and I was dating a girl who I wanted to impress. This was many years ago, mind you. And then the race began. They were off! Sweat was already rolling down by back as I took in the scene and my girlfriend gave my hand a squeeze.

Just like you’d expect, the race got tighter and the real contenders closed in towards the last leg of the track. It was a fierce competition. The horses, the four that had emerged as the finalists, were tearing down the course. It was literally a blur. The announcer rattled off the names of each so fast as to mimmick what we were all seeing. In those seconds I lost myself in the sensation of primal competition. What goes on in the mind of a horse?!

To this day, I don’t recall the exact details, mostly the blur and excitement. At that very moment, I let out the highest pitch shriek I have ever yelled. It sounded like a little girl screaming at the top of her tiny little lungs! It was horrible. The race, ultimately, was not quite as close as we thought it would be. Close but not photo finish close.

My girlfriend gave me a wink. “I’ll have to make sure you man up tonight!” Wow, such a crude remark, in retrospect. But, we were crazy kids. My horse, whatever it was called, had lost. But I had come out the winner after all.

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Filed under Emerald Downs, Essays, Horse racing, Seattle, Sports, Story, Storytelling

Story: The Mascot

"The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," written by Frank L. Baum and illustrated by William Wallace Denslow

“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” written by Frank L. Baum and illustrated by William Wallace Denslow, first published May 17, 1900.

It was during high school that I got the idea of trying out for the role of school mascot. This was years ago but that does not matter very much. The story itself is rather timeless. It could happen now or it could have happened, I don’t know, a hundred years ago. I was simply a fresh young and naive kid. It was my last year in high school but my first year at this new school. We constantly moved. My father didn’t think it was such a trauma to uproot us every few years. But that’s another story. This is more or less a sports story. Not exactly football and basketball, although that’s part of it, right? This is mostly a story about the sport of cheerleading. Yes, cheerleading is a sport. Fans of cheerleading are currently seeking an official sport status from the NCAA. Anyway, I did not really know what I was getting myself into when I decided to try out for school mascot.

We had a cool school mascot to rally around, a lion. Lucky for some lion, we did not feel any compulsion to keep a caged lion on campus. That was a different story in college. I went to a university were we actually had a caged cougar. I always liked cats…and lions. I loved the symbolism. I love all the variations on lion designs. I still want to get a lion tattoo someday. So, to get to be a lion seemed pretty awesome. Being a lion mascot would be serving some need I wasn’t fully aware of.

I couldn’t help thinking of the Cowardly Lion. Even with such a compromised character, Bert Lahr in the 1939 MGM classic, “The Wizard of Oz,” retained the energy of that noble animal, the king of all animals. To take on that sort of role spoke to my primal instinct! And then it all came down to a big reality check when I tried on the huge head mask, followed by the rest of the costume which was heavier and more cumbersome than I had ever imagined. How do you walk in this thing? I guess I didn’t exactly feel like I was running wild in the jungle. But I had to get my priorities straight and so I persevered.

When did I see my first lion? This is intergenerational. My father, and his father, and I saw the very same first lion! The Cowardly Lion from the original book, “The Wizard of Oz,” first published in 1900! Those distinctive illustrations by W.W. Denslow captivate any child, even today. Maybe you’d need to be a little patient and seek it out. But just toss aside all the digital clutter we subject ourselves to each and every day, quiet things down, slow things down, and you would have a child caught up in that magic all over again.

Back to my story, thanks to my being part of the journalism staff, I had a certain amount of authority. It was enough to convince Jamie, in charge of the cheer squad that year, to give me a hand. Tryouts were coming up soon. The mascot costume was currently in storage. She was more than happy to let me try it on for size. Better yet, she was all for guiding me through cheers and all the right moves. I followed her masterful instruction every step of the way. I started to feel like a lion—right before I wasn’t.

I wasn’t planning on doing anything fancy inside this big catsuit. I wasn’t going to be doing any cartwheels but that was okay. I had never done cartwheels before so why start now? Mostly, I sweated a ton. And then, I had a rude awakening. I discovered how much I was out of my element when I took an abrupt wrong turn and rolled on my ankle all the way to a major sprain!

What went wrong? Maybe I should never have gotten Jamie to give me a personal tour of the school mascot. Maybe if I’d properly trained. Maybe if I’d been part of a team. Well, all that theorizing could go out the window. What was done was done. I put myself in this situation. I ended up sprawled on the linoleum in a lion costume. But I had Jamie by my side.

Jamie was truly very attentive. What a godsend! I remember her pulling that stupid lion head off me. “Are you alright, Henry? Are you alright?” she kept asking. I pointed down to my giant lion paw feet. “Sprained ankle! Sprained ankle!” is what I kept saying. She looked like an angel, so beautiful and sympathetic. An impulse must have taken over and she passed her hand across my hot and sweaty face. “You poor thing,” she said. I could only close my eyes. I was mortified. I was happy too, all things considered. But I was definitely mortified.

Then she reached down and kissed my cheek. “Call me when you get better, tiger,” she said.

I perked up right away and absent-mindedly blurted out, “But I’m a lion!”

“No, you’re not,” said Jamie, “but that’s okay. I prefer men.”

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Filed under Humor, Sports, Story, Storytelling, Wizard of Oz

Story: The Girl in the Cafe and an Ionized Environment

Pretty-Girl-Seattle-Cafe-Henry-Chamberlain-art

The Girl in the Cafe and an Ionized Environment
Art and fiction by Henry Chamberlain

She sat at her regular table on the second floor of her favorite cafe. It was the same old crowd. It was a steamy summer day. She had the whole world before her. There was the Space Needle right out the window to keep her company. She made herself comfortable. She wiggled her toes. Someone was overheard saying, “An ionized environment really helps.”

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Filed under Feet, Fiction, Seattle, Story, Storytelling, Style, Technology