I thought I was going to be an illustrator before I became a writer, and M.C. Escher was huge for me. Of course, I ceased to think about him much after high school and relegated him to a youthful passion. North Carolina Museum of Art’s blockbuster Escher exhibit, The Worlds of M.C. Escher: Nature, Science, and Imagination, was a blast from the past, but it also renewed my appreciation for Escher in the present. Check out my INDY cover story, which also features Chris Vitiello’s piece on the Leonardo da Vinci notebook exhibit ticketed with the Escher (hence the cover we cooked up above), here.
The INDY paid for me to live it up for two days in the pair of boutique hotels, 21c Museum Hotel and The Durham Hotel, that opened within blocks of each other in former bank buildings this year. These are luxury institutions claiming to contribute to downtown life, and we felt it was important to give people who can’t afford them a look inside. The result is this cover story, part experiential on-the-town piece, part examination of class, privilege and nostalgia, and part Yelp review. I felt like I gained a lot of perspective on New Durham by getting inside it, and I hope the story reflects that sense of clarity. Read it here, with terrific photography by Alex Boerner.
We went all out this year on what has to be one of our biggest Fall Guides to arts and culture ever. We’ve got substantial stories on Black Ops taking on local theater’s race problem, a Pulitzer winning author coming to the Triangle, a Nasher Museum reimagined for its 10th birthday, an influx of new “luxury cinemas,” a pickleball league at Wheels Fun Park and major renovations in NC State’s arts presentation. We’ve also got my personal must-see picks for fall theater, dance, visual art, readings and more, with Grayson Haver Currin covering concerts and Craig D. Lindsey tipping big-name comedy. And we devised what I think is a pretty hilarious cover, much pumpkin spice respect to art team of Chris Williams, Maxine Mills and Skillet Gilmore. Dive in through the landing page here.
I have done some comics stories in the INDY, but I’m pretty sure this is the first time we’ve ever done a whole special section on comics. Based on how it turned out and the number of local comics stories there are to tell, I think it’s something we’ll do again.
Our main angle this time was diversity in comics, with a story by me on Jazmin Truesdale, who is trying to start a new line of ethnically diverse female superheroes in Aza Comics, and a story by Zack Smith on Jeremy Whitley’s Princeless and its new spinoff, which feature biracial princesses who can save themselves just fine.
We round it out with my Q&A with the producer of new doc The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? (an incredible inside-Hollywood story about the dissolution of a late-90s Superman movie starring Nicolas Cage), a hilarious anecdote of the convention life by local comics writer Brockton McKinney, and a report on Durham’s Ultimate Comics shop expanding into Raleigh.
It’s all wrapped in amazing illustrations, including Handbook of the Marvel Universe-style dossiers of the story subjects, by the redoubtable Chris Williams. I signed off my intro “Excelsior!” and fulfilled a lifelong dream of being Stan Lee. Hope you enjoy. You can easily access all the stories through the landing page.
For the INDY‘s annual summer arts and culture preview special, I wanted to do something different this year. I love the swimming hole and other traditional summer fun as much as the next guy (more, probably), but it’s all but hopeless to put a fresh spin on them. So I decided to look at summer differently: Through a wintry lens. Our writers dream up creative ways to turn summer days in the Triangle into snow days, and things get pretty out of hand. And, of course, our critics preview the summer season in visual art, theater, dance, film and more. Props to Chris Williams for the Mad Magazine-style fold-in cover, Alex Boerner for the inspired photos, and Maxine Mills and Skillet Gilmore for the vivid interior design. Dive into the package through the handy table of contents here.