Back to Basics.

The Jim Lee Style Suit...unseen for months.

The Jim Lee Style Suit…unseen for months.

I’ve gotten a whole lot of advice about these interviews. A whole lot. There is a really important one on Wednesday that is stressing me out. Similar school concept to what my team and I tried to start before landing where we are now, easy commute, interesting new concepts. A really good place to land.

More than one person has said to me, wisely, “Just be who you are. Don’t be what people expect you to be, or what you think they expect. Just come in, and be straight about what you stand for, and why. Be honest about standing up for the kids, and good teaching, and safety, and all the other things. The rest will work itself out.”

That’s good advice. Quite frankly, I don’t want to work for anyone that can’t stand up for those things. I got my current job, in large part, by standing up for those things. This year, with so much going wrong, I’ve had to stand up for a microcosm of those standards, to stick up for real basics, like a lack of poisons in the building, or First Amendment rights, or even proper procedure for lockdowns. These things…they should just exist, and teachers shouldn’t have to get into battles over them. The deployment of iPads, or the selection of a new principal…these things should be automatic, and handled by qualified people. Possibly people smarter than myself.

I’ve been thinking about how the strip has changed over time. From the fun folly of the behind the scenes workings of a school that had to focus, to change, to be on track…to something darker this year, to something meaner. In prior years, Pledge LA was an organization depicted as having it’s own needs, but helping the heroes. The Darths…whichever Darths they were, were trying to further an agenda that was similar, but were misguided. Even the Union Darths.

This past year…all of these factions have turned on each other. The Darths have turned on each other, and one new Darth has risen to the top of the heap. The Union Darths have all but fled, and characters keep leaving, or being eliminated. Our hero has descended into political battles. Gone are the standardized test plotlines…our educational system has more or less temporarily eliminated those.

The protagonist used to be about whooping the Periodic Assessments, or sending the CST packing. She used to try and make Voltrons bought by Pledge LA work in concert, or go on missions to train harder at her job with agent of GATE. The whole focus was on something different, something lighter. It was focused on the things I actually care about…the behind the scenes actions of adults that make student achievement happen, that lead students to better futures.

That’s why the artwork above. Our hero used to wear a shirt with a star on it. A white shirt, with a black star…or a gold one in the Jim Lee New 52 style. That simple uniform was all about what the hero stood for, and in fact, what I stood for. The gold star was the logo for our proposed school. Subconsciously, when I first drew our hero for no reason in a meeting…that idea, those concepts of reforming education for the kids that get it, was kicking around in my head.

I’m trying really hard to revisit those ideas, and feel those feelings, now that I’m trying to move on. To be that person, who is less angry, and more focused on right outcomes.

I went back in time to an early strip…Giant Sized Tales #1: An Origin! to find the beginning of the star logo. The implication was that our hero was kind of down on her luck, and a tiny alien gave her something to believe in, as well as a new t-shirt. The idea was that with little more than two weeks of fancy training and the right t-shirt…the right attitude, the whole thing could work. It did, for two years.

Here are those three pages, remastered into a fancy three panel setup.

I have gotten better at lettering.

I have gotten better at lettering.

Panel 1

Our hero: “Cool! A midget!”

Alien: “Behold! The heartstar of the space between galaxies!”

Our hero: “Yeah? Is that something on my STULL evaluation?”

Panel 2

Narration: The Alien gives our hero a gift…

Alien: This will empower you to deliver content with Epic Level Rigor…

Our hero: Hey! That was a little inappropriate…! I still need my STULL initial planning sheet…@#$%!

Panel 3

Alien: Indeed. You are empowered. Now go forth and do great things.

Our hero: That’s it?! Seriously, two weeks of summer training, and I get a fancy new t-shirt and some $%#$ talk about rigor?! @#$%ing midget…

I posted that on January 12, 2012, and drew the pages months before. looking back at the post, there is an idealism that I’d like to recapture. A hope, and a focus on the right kinds of concerns.

That’s why our hero is looking at the old shirt. If I want to recapture those things, maybe she does. At Wondercon, a good number of artists drew her in the old uniform, the original uniform, as it were…I think that was a kick in the right direction.

I hope.

Next Issue: Interview!

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