Reading the Great Graphic Novels 2015 nominations: a hidden Holocaust story, an American dust bowl, tragic trenches, and a controversial birth control crusader

by Tessa

Read about the reasons for this series of posts here.

Sometimes I think reluctance to read about history or historical fiction is that it takes a bit more effort to get into the world (same with sci-fi). Comics that deal with historical events do a lot of the work for you, adding in the dress and buildings of the time. Which leaves you to drink it in and emotionally connect. Since I had a backlog of titles to talk about, I’ve been able to separate them into genres for these posts, and this is a post about comics wtih historical themes.

hidden

Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust

Loïc Dauvillier, writer

Marc Lizano, artist

Greg Salsedo, artist

First Second

 

Anticipation/expectation level: None. I’d skimmed some positive reviews. I liked the cover design.

My Reality: Hidden is a deftly done look at the Holocaust for younger readers. A small girl learns about what happened via her grandmother, Dounia, who was so young herself during the War that at first her parents don’t even tell her what the Star of David is meant to signify when the Jews are forced to wear it – she thinks she’s a tiny Sherriff. If that sounds too cutesy, don’t worry. Hidden walks the line between gentle and real. Dounia goes through a heartwrenching separation from her parents, and the stakes are high for her throughout the war, but she doesn’t have to survive the concentration camps, and she does get a happy ending. The fact that she’s telling her story for the first time to her granddaughter adds an extra emotional layer. The art has that Bande Dessinee feel to it (I will get better at describing this but not today) in its detailed backgrounds and muted color pallette, but the characters are simply designed, which may lead to confusion in younger readers who can’t tell all the adults apart .

Will teens like it?: I think this is geared much younger. Readers are meant to identify with the granddaughter and Dounia, and they can’t be more than almost tweenage.  Teens can definitely enjoy it, but I wouldn’t say it’s for them.

Is it “great” for teens?: It’s great, but teens are ready for a harder look at this time period.

Art Taste:

a page from Hidden, via Haaretz

a page from Hidden, via Haaretz

 

greatamericandustbowl

The Great American Dust Bowl

Don Brown, writer and illustrator

Houghton Mifflin

Anticipation/expectation level: Again, great cover design.

My Reality: This book is great! It’s small (but tall) and retains the air of a picture book, in the deceptive way that Raymond Briggs’ books can. Brown uses the page to emphasize the immensity of the environment in western America, the small person constantly in comparison with the huge sky, the stretching dirt vistas, and the towering clouds of grit that would more and more frequently come to destroy homes and lives, or at least make them a daily struggle. Brown takes us through the facts of the situation, including quotes from people who lived through it, inserted into text bubbles from his drawn characters. I find it hard to imagine reading this book and not wanting to know more.

Will Teens like it?: If someone pushes them to read it.

Is it “great” for teens?: Oh yes.

Art Taste:

DustForBlogSlide

treatiestrencheshale

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood

Nathan Hale

Amulet Books

Anticipation/expectation level: HIGH. I have read and cherished the reading experience of each book in this series: One Dead Spy  (American Revolution), Big Bad Ironclad (Monitor and Merrimack (why isn’t that a rap duo yet)), and Donner Dinner Party (cannibalism frontier tragedy).

My Reality: I dunno, this might be the best one yet. I have read about World War I in the context of history, art history, English Literature, and War Movies, I knew that it basically shocked Western Civilization to the core, but I have never encountered a book that got through to me exactly how and why it was so shocking and stupid and a waste of life.

If you haven’t read a Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales book before, the premise is that Nathan Hale, Revolutionary patriot/spy is on the gallows. He utters his famous last words: “I only regret that I have one life to lose for my country,” and they are so historic that the gallows become a history book, snap him up, give him knowledge of the future, and spit him out. He then drags out the time before his execution explaining historical events to the dumb, always hungry executioner and the arrogant British soldier.

The books are packed with small panels, done in 2 or 3 colors, very factual but also very funny.

 

World War I is a huge subject, and much bigger of a focus than any of the other books in the series, but Hale makes it work by casting countries as representative animals (like Maus, but with less psychological weight to the animals) and making good use of maps. Each section of the book opens with a representation of the war as a hungry mechanical Ares, that gets increasingly scary and full of bloodlust as the book goes along:

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It’s very effective.

Will teens like it?:  I think so. I should foist some on some teens.

Is it “great” for teens?: Yes. It’s great for adults, too. And I think it’s marketed to younger ones.

Art Taste: see above for my stunning cell phone pics.

womanrebelbagge

Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story

Peter Bagge, writer and illustrator

Drawn & Quarterly

Anticipation/expectation level: Low. In my time during grad school I somehow managed to pick up the ONE BOOK in Pitt’s library about birth control/obscenity laws that was not pro-Sanger or directly about Sanger (for some light reading? I can’t remember). It’s called The Sex Side of Life: Mary Ware Dennett’s Pioneering Battle for Birth Control and Sex Education by Constance M. Chen, and I’m pretty sure it’s the only book of its kind because I spent a lot of time tracking it down by finding the correct subject headings and doing many searches in Pitt’s library catalog. This was before I had Goodreads aka the Dark Ages. ANYWAY. Mary Ware Dennett did some pretty rad things for women and birth control information dissemination, and Margaret Sanger was threatened and made jealous by it, according to Chen, who sees Sanger as more focused on the press than reform.  Sanger doesn’t come off too well in the book — here’s one choice description: “Like other unthinking people, whether liberal or conservative, Sanger was myopic and intolerant.” (162). Chen’s low opinion was convincing, so much so that that is almost the only thing I remember about the book lo these years later, even though the book is about a whole other person. (Seems like Margaret Sanger had that effect on people for most of her life.)

On the other hand, that is one side of the story. A side with research to back it up: Sanger was intolerant. For instance,  a reader of the NY Times wrote the paper in response to a review of Sanger’s life to note that in”her 1926 Vassar College graduation address, entitled “The Function of Sterilization.” Sanger praised the infamous anti-Semitic and anti-Italian Immigration Act of 1924, which she said had “taken . . . steps to control the quality of our population. . . . While we close the gates to the so-called ‘undesirables’ from other countries, we make no attempt to cut down the rapid multiplication of the unfit and undesirable at home.”

But she also had a really interesting life, one that was recently touched upon in an excerpt of Jill Lepore’s new book on Wonder Woman, published in the New Yorker. In it, Sanger’s unusual marriage situation is discussed – it was an open arrangement. So I was interested to read a book about her and get a better view of her.

My Reality: I wish that this book had provided a better view of Margaret Sanger. I realize that Peter Bagge deals in hyperbole and grotesque figures, and this could work with Sanger, who was a sensationalized figure and used it to her advantage in pushing her agenda forward. I don’t think his drawing style worked to the advantage of the book. When it comes to real people in a comic book, they can be drawn without a slavish devotion to realism, but the way Sanger and her contemporaries are drawn leaves little to their characters but big gestural emotions – either bug eyed and gape mouthed or glaring and growling, with a pace that sets Sanger continually clomping from one place to another, one bed to another, and one year to another with no time for the reader to catch their breath or find their place in the story.

Bagge works in roughly chronological order, stringing together important scenes from Sanger’s life. We see some of her personal experiences that he uses to show her opinions being crystallized, and we see more public moments in her life, where Sanger is speaking and fighting entrenched ideas about women, and we see personal anecdotes that show her as a woman with radical sexual ideas. I didn’t get a great sense of context, of who else worked in the movement and helped Sanger, or even of personal growth. Sanger as a character here comes pretty much intact, only gaining the confidence she needs to speak out and make her voice be heard. The way she is drawn and written makes her one-sided. And that’s fine. History needs people willing to be assholes sometimes, especially when the culture is an asshole to you. But I wouldn’t call this a nuanced portrait of an asshole. It’s very frenetic, bombastic, and jumpy, leaving me with a mish-mash of impressions of Sanger giving eye-daggers to one and all. I’d probably gain more respect for Sanger from other sources and learn more about the movements she helped start or continue.

Will Teens like it?: It’s attention catching enough that teens into social justice or social movements could be attracted to it.

Is it “great” for teens?: I don’t think that this covers the bases that I want to be covered with a historical biography, so no.

Art Taste:

WOMANREBEL-bagge38

And, the real Margaret Sanger:

sanger

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Reading the Great Graphic Novels for Teens 2015 noms: Gandhi, giants, and other real lives

by Tessa

Read about the whys of this series here.

It’s always fun to see what kind of comic biographies and memoirs are published in a year. You never know who you’re going to learn about.  Here’s my take on the nominated bios and memoirs.

gandhiquinn

Gandhi: my life is my message

Jason Quinn, writer

Sachin Nagar, illustrator

Campfire Bookas

Anticipation/expectation level: I wasn’t a fan of the other Gandhi graphic novel I’ve read (that got on a GGNT list), so I just hoped that this one was better. I had enjoyed Jason Quinn’s take on Steve Jobs from Campfire press, as well.

My Reality: I am convinced that no one should try this again unless they are Osamu Tezuka and want to do a bio of Gandhi in the same vein as the multi-volume Buddha – that is, comprehensively, with humor, and not so concerned with the facts. Because the fact is that there are a lot of facts about Gandhi, and when they try to be shoehorned into one book it tends to turn into a mess of jumping around in time, explicating things, and hero worship. Which is how I feel about this.

The setup doesn’t make sense to begin with. Gandhi is near the end of his life about to go out to a rally, and starts to reminisce. It doesn’t ring true that anyone would reminisce about their life as if they were explaining it to an audience, in chronological order. Why the weird framing device?

The art and panels are well-designed, with an eye to keeping the eye fresh. Characters are portrayed in a realistic style that has an energetic aesthetic – a nice change to comic biographies that feature leaden art that seems to be worried it won’t be realistic enough, and sinks under those worries.

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Here’s a terrible cell phone photo for an example.

The thing is that they tried to fit too much into too small of a book. As you can see there are Too many words, but the art has a light, life-filled energy, and the panels fit the story, instead of constraining it into a fixed number per page. Yet even creative paneling can’t help pacing that is jumping years with each page turn. There’s not enough time or room to explain who everyone is or give a proper context to the social and political situations. The authors use Gandhi to gloss over any uncomfortable issues in his life (probably leaving worse ones out, I don’t know, I haven’t read a proper biography that tries to be objective). I was left with the general feeling that Gandhi was a great guy, and the rest of it was a blur. And that’s why I don’t think it’s a very good introduction or short overview either – I just get the feeling that we’re not getting the whole story.

Will Teens like it?: Teens will definitely like to use this for any reports or papers they need to do on Gandhi

Is it “great” for teens?: To be great it would need to be a lot longer and more comprehensive.

Art Taste: see above.

boxerhaft

The Boxer: The True Story of Holocaust Survivor Harry Haft

Reinhard Kleist, writer and artist

Self Made Hero

Anticipation/expectation level: I knew nothing about this and barely looked at the cover or jacket copy before starting to read it.

My Reality: This was fantastic! And heartbreaking. My visual literacy failed me because I didn’t notice the people on the cover who are clearly entering a work camp during World War II. The book opens with a boy on a mysterious drive with his angry, menacing father – Harry Haft. Soon it goes to flashback and the man that was just so alarming and unlikeable becomes sympathetic in short order. (Not a)Spoiler: at the end of the book the trip at the beginning is revealed and, if you are like me, will leave you sobbing. I feel like most people could just pick up the book and read the story fresh – no synopsis needed, but if you want one:

Harry gets sent to the concentration camps early in the war, and even younger than the age limit at which the Nazis were then taking people – because of a simple mixup that might easily never have happened. He endures years going from camp to camp, making what allies he can, protecting who he can, and being made to box other inmates. Even when he makes it through he has anger, grief, and life to contend with.

Kleist’s art reminds me of Nate Powell’s. He’s very adept at using black brushstrokes and maneuvering around light and shadow to make powerful splash pages and to bring out the oppressive atmosphere of the camps. The world opens up on the page, with panel borders often eschewed in place of white space.

Will Teens like it?: They might not pick it up off of the shelf without a hand-sell but it’s an engaging story that is tightly paced and has a great chance of hooking a teen brain.

Is it “great” for teens?: Yes

Art Taste:

Boxer Title Slide 3

dumbestideaever

The Dumbest Idea Ever!

Jimmy Gownley, writer and artist

Graphix/Scholastic

Anticipation/expectation level:   I’d read the last of Gownley’s Amelia books, and liked it, but didn’t have the attachment of reading the full series.

My Reality: Gownley tells the story of his own adolescence, framed through his rediscovery of comics and discovery of seeing himself as a comics artist, due to being grounded by illness. He struggles with first love, being bored in a small town, and the perils of success at a young age. As a writer, Gownley knows how to keep on the level of tweens and teens – his pacing is steady and hits the right notes of pratfalls and embarrassments and dumb jokes but doesn’t forget the depth and immediacy of feeling that comes with growing up and feeling grown up. He also treats the creative journey seriously and shows it as work, and work that teens can do – not something that’s magic, and not viewed through a hackneyed lens of nostalgia. It’s a hard balance to strike! His art is simple, with the heightened physicality and gestural faces suited to the story (think Raina Telgemeier and Lynn Johnston)

Will Teens like it?: Teens are the best audience for this (not that adults won’t enjoy it) – and they already do like it.

Is it “great” for teens?: Yes, it has fun, understands them, and treats them like humans.

Art Taste:

Dumbest-Idea-Ever-page-19-46d99

andreboxbrown

Andre the Giant: Life and Legend

Box Brown, writer and artist

First Second

Anticipation/expectation level: High. At some of my most impressionable times in childhood I watched The Princess Bride (over and over) and saw the first Andre the Giant Has a Posse stickers before Shepard Fairey became famous. But I didn’t know much about him or his wrestling career, and so was looking forward to the comic.

My Reality: I did learn so much more about Andre. Box Brown goes to great lengths to research his life and provide a picture of the whole man, warts and all, drawing heavily on interviews, videos of wrestling matches, and articles (detailed in a lenghty endnote/bibliography section). It’s a book about Andre, but it also necessarily presents a backstage view of the business of wrestling, and that proves fascinating as well.

His pared down figures and carefully composed panels have a surety to them that adds to the feeling that this a story that comes from dedicated time – an analogue to a long-form profile in a magazine like the New Yorker. The world that Andre lives in is clear and unchangeable, and often cruel, just as Andre’s disease is unchangeable and inevitable. Andre has to navigate both as best he can, and the struggle, kept inside, is shown through his actions more than his words. At the end of it, I didn’t feel like I knew Andre as a person, but I felt like I knew his world. I couldn’t tell if it was because Brown wanted to stick closely to his sources and not speculate about Andre’s feelings, or if it was because Andre was naturally a private person, and no one really knew him in that way. But it’s definitely a book that sparks an interest for more – and that is something that I think makes a nonfiction comic great.

Will Teens like it?: Teens who are into wrestling will definitely like it. I wonder how many teens know who Andre the Giant is… but he has a story that is interesting regardless of his level of fame, and the anecdotal nature of the story is good for teen readers.

Is it “great” for teens?: I’m on the fence.

Art Taste:

Andre-Giant-Acromegaly

fifthbeatle

The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story

Vivek Tiwary, writer

Andrew Robinson, artist

Kyle Baker, artist

Dark Horse

Anticipation/expectation level: Skeptical. There are a number of Beatles comics from different angles (okay, I don’t know if there are a number. There’s at least one other). What angle is this working, and what does it add to what’s already out there? How does it stand up?

My Reality: It’s very hard to argue that anyone involved with the Beatles was more important than the Beatles. One might be able to make a case for Brian Epstein, their manager, who worked tirelessly to get them signed after rejections all over the place, and had a lot of great PR ideas and ambitions for the band. However, I don’t know if this is the book that really seals the deal on that argument. The endeavor feels uneven as a reading experience. For example, Baker and Robinson’s art is in some ways a perfect fit for the time period it’s representing – the faces are fresh but a bit mischievous and elfin, the bodies fit well in their jaunty, modern clothing, all angles and curved, swooping hair. The light of Liverpool is foggy and hushed, except when Epstein falls into his daydreams of matadors – but the faces also look too posed – they’re not speaking, they’re cutouts behind speech bubbles. The establishing scenes are reused in several places as if to cut corners, and the art can at times take a turn for the too-digital, clashing with the penciled feel of the rest of the pieces. The story, too, propels itself on Brian’s ambition. He feels a connection with the Beatles – which is explained through a confusing mashup of a live show and an anecdote about a matador. Then the reader is left to take the drive at face value and go along for the ride – as are the Beatles themselves, mostly shown as jokey and game for Epstein’s help – the lucky recipients of his magic touch. Then there’s Moxie, the figment of Epstein’s imagination who is also sort of real? I’m not sure what the book is trying to impart other than an awareness of Brian Epstein, but it looks good doing it.

Will Teens like it?: Unless the teen is a huge Beatles or 60s nerd, probably not.

Is it “great” for teens?: I would not say it’s great. Or for teens. But I don’t regret reading it.

Art Taste:

fifthb1p3

 

Next week: more books!

Reading the GGNT 2015 noms: X-Men and L’il Gotham

by Tessa

Read about the whys of this series here.

I’m starting off with these 2 superhero books because it’s easier for me to write about stuff that I don’t enjoy. I like categorizing things so I made categories loosely related to how I would read things for the committee, with the knowledge that I have only the other nominations to compare them to because I haven’t been reading feverishly all year, and no teen feedback, so it really isn’t like a real committee reading experience.

One of the great things about the Great Graphic Novels for Teens committee is that there are 11 people on it, all with different tastes in comics, so hopefully no type of comic is given short shrift. Being on the committee exposed me to so many comics I never would have read. I still haven’t developed a depth of knowledge about Marvel and DC, but I do have a bit of breadth now, and a few new favorites. Full disclosure of personal biases: I’ve read enough to know that I have reservations about the usefulness of the superhero story and I might be a tad reactive to overused tropes. But I’d never say that I hate all superheroes. I just want better for them.

Batman_Li'l_Gotham_Vol_1_1

Batman: Li’l Gotham V. 1 & V.2

Dustin Nguyen, artist & writer

Derek Fridolfs, writer

DC Comics

Anticipation/expectation level: Guessing I’m going to enjoy it.  I like Batman comics, like a large number of people.  I like Dustin Nguyen’s art, and this book is no exception – just flipping through it ups the appeal.

Reality: The first volume has small stories that are all centered around holidays, some more popular and some that feel like a stretch. This seems like the one concession (other than the art) to Gotham being “Li’l” – the crimes and hijinks happen around something relatively frivolous like a holiday, so it’s cuter? Instead, it feels trivial and disjointed. And as much as the art is beautiful, it doesn’t quite fit the subject. The watercolors make the action more hectic & unfollowable, the chibi-izing of the characters, especially all the Robin iterations, make their features more indistinguishable, and creating some confusion. And Damian is annoying as usual, which doesn’t help.

Good to Know: I read these in a dour mood.

Will Teens like it?: I think younger teens will, for sure. I’d put this on the upper-elementary middle grade side of the library.

Is it Great (for teens)?: I don’t think it coalesces as a comic enough to be great, but I’d totally recommend it to a teen.

Art Taste:

Batman_Li'l_Gotham_Vol_1_1_Textless

X-Men: Battle of the Atom

Brian Michael Bendis, Brian Wood, Jason Aaron,  Frank Cho,  Stuart Immonen, David Lopez, et al 

Marvel

battleoftheatom

Anticipation/expectation level: I enjoyed the lead up to this event, All New X-Men: Yesterday’s X-Men, which if I remember correctly, was on the 2014 GGNT list. In that one, the X-Men of the past are brought into the future/present to scare them into making better choices. Also, I generally like the idea of the X-Men, and reading what Bendis writes, so I was expecting an interesting and pleasant ride.

Reality: It was so hard to force myself to finish this. The basic plot is that the X-Men from the past have stayed in the future-present because they feel they’re doing good there. But then X-Men from the future-future come in to tell them they are wrong and must go back to the past-past, but they can’t say why. No one trusts anyone, everyone fights with each other, even more future X-people become involved.Unless you are really into X-Men genealogy via time travel and enjoy the type of plot that consists of people sniping at each other endlessly, I find it hard to believe that this book holds an appeal to comics lovers who appreciate exciting art combined with an exciting story. Although if you read it as a cautionary tale about the drawbacks of being born a mutant in a world that will drive you and your kind to an extinction by infighting, then it is very interesting indeed. I found myself wishing for an alternate universe where X-Men stories were told in seasons like Star Trek, and could be enjoyed on their own. Each season’s strengths would make readers want to explore the universe as a whole, without creating events, crossovers, and time travel dilemmas.

Will Teens Like it?: Probably? Most of the teens I know read manga -this is one where I’d like to hear teen feedback.

Is it Great?: It’s a great big something.

Art taste: Standard superhero

6-battle-of-the-atom

Reading the GGNT Noms Preface: What is it and why is it.

by Tessa

For the previous 3 years, I was lucky to be chosen to volunteer as a part of the Great Graphic Novels for Teens selection list committee. This list might be unfamiliar to anyone who is not a librarian, so I’ll explain: Librarians have a professional association called ALA (American Library Association). There are divisions within it, and the one that serves librarians working with teens is YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association). YALSA’s work includes selection lists and book awards that help librarians across the country know about the best books of the year for their readers and libraries, including audiobooks, books for reluctant readers, and more. Full info is here.

The awards process is much more secretive (and prestigious) than the selection list. The selection committees read within their charge – ours was to find the best graphic novels published from September of the preceding year through December of the selection year (eg. Sept. 2013-December 2014 for the 2015 list – the list is named for the year in which it is published and NOT the year most of the books were published, SO CONFUSING). The committee members (there are 11) nominate titles by reading as much as they can get their hands on (this can be difficult for comics), solicit feedback from actual teens about the titles, and meet to discuss nominations twice a year during the ALA conferences.

The nominations list is finalized at the end of October, and the list is voted on and published at the end of January/beginning of February in the following year.

Which is all to say: being on the committee was a lot of work and 3 years was enough, but I totally miss it because it was like the best book club ever. I don’t miss having to read books whether I liked them or not (and you can see the toll it has taken on my reading pace here:)Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 10.20.57 AM

But I do miss feeling like I’m on top of what’s new in comics, despite having a fun gig reviewing at No Flying No Tights.

So I’m reading all the nominations this year and I’m going to do mini reviews here.  This is extra exciting because, even though our meetings were open to anyone at the conference, we were discouraged to talk about the books on social media/blogs, even if we didn’t explicitly say we were on the committee.

But now I’m not on the committee! Let the reviews begin – they will start tomorrow and go up every Friday.

I also want to note that anyone can nominate a book  (as long as you’re not a creator or publisher of the book)- there’s a form on the YALSA site. That doesn’t mean it’s an official nomination, but it brings it to the attention of the committee and they are then supposed to read it.

Summer Reads Pt. 2: Sisters and The Book of Bad Things

by Tessa

It’s part 2 of my “books I’ve read this summer about summer” posts! Today I’m covering 2 dece reads for middle schoolers (and other people who read and like books). Unfortunately, both of them won’t be published until the end of August. Which is a great time to read books about summer in order to hold on to that summer feeling.

[Disclaimer: I’m reviewing Advance Review Copies of these books, so between now and when they’re actually published, things could have changed in the book.]

Sisters

Raina Telgemeier

Graphix, 2014

sisterstelgemeier

 

Raina Telgemeier is a godsend for realistic comics lovers who want to read stories about the middle school years. This is her follow up to her first book, Smile, which was about her totally falling on her face/mouth and having to deal with the messy dental aftermath of it for a long time, during her most awkward years.

This one’s about her sister. Actually, spoiler alert, it’s still about Raina and her feelings about her sister Amara. The framing is a road trip that she, her mom, her sister, and her little brother take, going from California to Colorado to visit family, and is punctuated by flashbacks that explain more about how the sisters grew to have their tense relationship, and why Raina won’t sit in the front seat of the van.

The flashbacks have a neat yellow filter on the pages, making it clear that the story is in the past. I wish all of the ARC I saw was in color, but that would be crazy expensive and I understand why it switched to black and white, but I’m glad I got a preview of what the coloring will be like (done by Braden Lamb, who does stuff for the Adventure Time comics!). The past sequences, with the filter, look like yellowed color photos, while the present sequences, and the present sequences capture the color of the late 80s, which is when I think this was set (maybe early 90s?), as does the fashion, of course.

Telgemeier’s writing and drawing makes me feel comfortable, like I’m reading a surprisingly interesting (and long) cartoon in a newspaper. Her family stories have the rhythm of a good sitcom, replete with punchlines and realistically wacky situations. I was so happy to slip back into those rhythms that I wasn’t bothered at first by the arc of the story. There is one scene at the end, though, that packed a big emotional punch, and it’s delivered by Amara. That made me realize that I didn’t know much about her. It’s a function of Raina not being allowed/distancing herself from Amara, so she doesn’t know what her sister is like. But it also leaves much of the book’s story obscuring half of what the book is about. It’s Sisters, not Sister, and it would have been a more powerful book for me if the big realization weren’t related to one sister not really being present in the story except as a mystery and antagonist to the other. This misstep in plotting won’t hurt the book with its core audience, though, and there are many solid scenes in there for fans to savor.

 

The Book of Bad Things

Dan Poblocki

Scholastic, 2014

bookofbadthingspoblocki

A colleague of mine brought this back from… BEA? And when I saw that it was middle grade horror and that SLJ compared it to R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, and John Bellairs, I gladly took it off of her hands.

I’ve never heard of Dan Poblocki before, but he has written a lot of MG horror. Thanks for keeping the torch alight, Dan Poblocki. But you need to work on your tumblr.

The Book of Bad Things is about Cassidy Bean. She’s part of an exchange program in New York City, possibly part of a social work program, that lets her go and live with rich people in upstate New York during the summer. She’s visited one family, the Tremonts, for a couple summers, but this summer she’s arriving late to Whitechapel because the Tremonts took a while to say that Cassidy was welcome to come.

Something happened last summer to Cassidy and the Tremont’s son, Joey. They went out to the big house where Ursula Chambers, the town hermit lived. She yelled at them, and then later, Joey’s dog died, and for some reason, those two things became connected for Cassidy and Joey. Cassidy blamed herself for having the idea in the first place, and the summer seemed ruined.

Now she’s back with a new journal: The Book of Bad Things, where she writes down her fears and anxieties. Joey isn’t talking to her, and Ursula is dead. All her belongings are being raided by the townspeople, because Ursula didn’t have a family. Then, the people who took Ursula’s things start seeing her. And they start dying.

What I liked most about this book was that it wasn’t afraid to be scary and gruesome. It makes its characters question the line between reality and what they’ve seen in horror movies that feels more sophisticated to me than most horror setups in books for the younger set. Poblocki plays with the ideas of ghosts, zombies, psychic/emotional manifestations, and curses, and the real life scariness of hoarding, anxiety and hurt friendship. Sure, Cassidy’s narration is a bit stiff at times, but she’s a very serious girl, so it fits her. It also never states what race Cassidy is, so it’s possible to read her as black, which is important for many kids.

As an adult reader, I wasn’t terrified, but I can tell that if I had read this when I was a tween, it would have firmly lodged itself in my psyche.

 

 

 

 

Summer Reads Pt. 1: Celebrated Summer and This One Summer

by Tessa

 

Summer: anything can happen, freedom, transitional state of adolescence, blah blah blah. I just read a bunch of books set in summer! Two were more high schooly and two were more middle schooly, so I’ll cover them in two parts.

Celebrated Summer

Charles Forsman

Fantagraphic Books, 2013

celebratedsummerforsman

 

The cover copy calls this a “graphic novella” because it’s relatively short. I call it “self-aware nostalgia” because the narrator, Wolff, is thinking about this one time that he and his friend Mike took LSD and decided to drive to the beach from their small town in Pennsylvania (Forsman is from Mechanicsburg so I’m picturing there). But even as he’s recalling it he doesn’t think it’s magical. Yet he’s not feeling sorry for himself.

Forsman has a spare line that still manages to capture summer days that are unrelentingly hot and humid. Or maybe it’s the way he writes Wolff, who is drifting and so uncomfortable in his skin, but not ready to do anything about it, that is coming through in the atmosphere of the book. In the same way, the LSD in Wolff’s body warps his environment, so he stops knowing what’s inside and what’s outside:

celebrated2

 

More previews at Fantagraphics!

Forsman is really good at pacing his panels. Some of them unspool like frames of film, he always pauses for reactions that make the story flow as if it were in real time, giving conversations real pauses, and some, going off into pure abstraction, still follow their own logic.

I also really liked his The End of the Fucking World, and recommend it. And he runs(?) this comics press/distro called Oily that sells subscriptions and it looks pretty rad. Do more research about it than I just did here, on its site.

 

This One Summer

Written by Mariko Tamaki, Drawn by Jillian Tamaki

First Second, 2014

thisonesummertamaki

 

Hope I’m not scooping you on a review, Rebecca, because I know how much you loved Skim. (Regardless I’d like to read your review of this book, though).

I’m including This One Summer on the high schooly side of things even though it’s about two kids on the cusp of adolescence. Because Rose and Windy are obsessed with the high school/post high school kids at Awago Beach. Because it’s also nostalgic in a way, being that Rose is thinking back to previous summers compared to this one. And it has adult intrigue that Rose understands, but adults reading it will connect to on another level. I think that whatever age reads this book will get different things out of it, and it’s a book to keep coming back to to measure yourself against the feelings it gives you.

It’s gorgeous, no surprise, since Jillian Tamaki is fantastic and wonderful. It’s printed in blue inks, and the lines are brushstrokes. J. T.’s figures are simplified enough that eyes don’t have separate pupils and irises, but retain a sense of depth and weight in the space of the image, so a realism comes through. The backgrounds and splash pages are delicate, detailed, and finely observed, like obsessive studies for full on paintings, grounding the story in place.

The story is Rose’s summer at Awago Beach, where her family has been going forever. She has a beach friend named Windy, who’s a bit younger than her. This summer she has a crush on the video store clerk, he’s having drama with his maybe girlfriend, and her parents are not getting along. Her mom won’t go to the beach and she’s pushing Rose’s dad away. It’s a summer made of moments, and some of them will affect Rose in obvious, rememberable ways, and some of them are the kind that pass by and come back in embarrassment or with a laugh years later, or might never be remembered at all. Here we get to see them play out and wonder which are which. Mariko Tamki is fantastic and wonderful as well, writing another layered and immediate story, with characters that are perfectly themselves.

 

 

Morsels: Delightful little things I’ve recently read.

by Tessa

There are few things more miraculous to me than a really good picture book. It must be economical in prose and relatively bold in picture, but immediately suggest a whole world and character, or cast of characters. It has to have details that mark it as a unique thing, but carry a universal message so it can be quickly resonant to its readers. Comfort and novelty in a well-designed, beautiful package.

I just read a slew of good, short books. Some are picture books, some are books with  pictures. But they all share a talent for attention-catching. Here are my morsels:

1. Herman and Rosie by Gus Gordon

hermanandrosie

I was tipped off to this title by super-librarian Betsy Bird’s Fuse No. 8 review on SLJ. As usual, her review covers all the bases illuminatingly, but I’ll add my personal likes.  The basic plot is that Herman and Rosie love similar things (Herman: “potted plants, playing the oboe, wild boysenberry yogurt, the smell of hot dogs in the winter, and watching films about the ocean” Rosie: “pancakes, listening to old jazz records, the summertime subway breeze, toffees that stuck to her teeth, singing on the fire escape. . . and watching films about the ocean.”), and live near each other. They both are sustained by their music and their routines despite feeling sort of lonely. . .until things fall apart. Will they find each other?

I’m not a NYC-fetishiser, but I do enjoy a city-in-the-winter, lonely-in-a-crowd vibe, and this captures it. Gordon’s palette ranges from bright blue piercingly sunny winter days to muted brown snowy nights. Nothing’s ever too bright; he brings the duality of neon and worn down floorboards of ajazz club to the picture book. He plays around with the page, repeating formats occasionally, but not over and over. Because the story is about 2 characters who are experiencing similar life journeys (and who obviously must meet by the book’s end!) there’s a lot of mirroring going on, in a seamless fashion. The art itself is full of collage and faux-scribbly elements, with a base of watercolory wash.

2. Fata Morgana by Jon Vermilyea

fatamorgana

Koyama Press and I both described this as “a feast for the eyes” . . . independently! Actually, I said “visual feast” and they said “feast for the eyes and mind”. Potato potahto. The day after I read this I looked up what Fata Morgana means, and listen to this: according to the Oxford Dictionary of Weather, 2nd ed. (by STORM DUNLOP!!), Fata morgana is a specific type of mirage, “in which the image of the actual surface appears in the form of a wall. The effect occurs when the temperature profile has an inflection, but is also relatively gentle. The atmosphere exhibits lensing properties but these are astigmatic, resulting in a redistribution of brightness within the image, often creating the effect of light and dark arches, and distant buildings.” and, according ot the Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, 2nd ed., comes from “a mirage seen in the Strait of Messina between Italy and Sicily and attributed to Morgan le Fey, whose legend and reputation were carried to Sicily by Norman settlers.” And if you don’t know, now you know.

Jon Vermilyea‘s Fata Morgana is a wordless, mostly plotless book of not-quite-psychadelic fever dreamscapes. So I’d say the title is apropos. Vermilyea’s cartooning suggests the weight of its characters. It has a real density to it, and he covers every landscape with intertwining details that push to the forefront of the page, forming a wall of round, drippy lines forming trunks and faces and bridges and who knows what. The coloring is bright, mixing pastels with bold, almost neon tones. It’s disorienting at times, and my only wish is that it were a series of fold-out posters so the gutter hadn’t gotten in the way.

3. The Bramble by Lee Nordling & Bruce Zick

thebramble

Fun fact: It turns out that Lee Nordling was the comic strip editor for Nickelodeon’s Rugrats comic. It’s not apparent right away, but after knowing that, I can see the influence of the Rugrats in the human characters of The Bramble. But the kids in this story skew more towards older picture books. They could exist anywhere from the 70s to now, and that’s what I like about them, with their skinny limbs, bulbous noses, and giant heads.

The Bramble is printed in blues and browns, and concerns a boy, Cameron, who bravely tries to make friends by crashing a game of tag, but is obliquely muscled out of his notions of friendship by the other boys refusing to play along with him. Instead, they just shout “You’re It!” over and over. Dehumanizing, no? Funnily enough, there’s a giant bramble patch right at the edge of the park. A creature is spying on the failed tag game, and Cameron catches a peek of it. In its haste to hide itself, it leaves its necklace behind. So Cameron follows it into the Bramble to return the necklace.

Thus follows a not-so-vaguely Wild Things type adventure. Cameron ends up defeating a weird sentient blob/tongue/wave thing by using the same bullying Tag tactics that were used by him, which endears the creatures of the Bramble to him and makes him more confident and able to leave the Bramble and befriend the bullies.

Clearly I have issues with that part of the story. What resonated with me was the wordless sequences where Cameron opened himself up to rejection, was rejected, entered a new, strange situation, and this time found acceptance. The emotional tone was spot on there, and it’s worth taking a look at the book just for that. I’m excited to see more picture books take a darker tone at times, since the shelves can sometimes feel glutted with pastel bunny love fests (they have their place, for sure,  but shouldn’t be the only thing out there.)

4. The Hole by Øyvind Torseter

thehole

“The Hole has simple, expressive drawings created by pen and computer, and there’s a hole punched right through the book, so it exists in real life, even if it can’t be explained.” – Enchanted Lion Books description

So, apparently Enchanted Lion Books has been around since 2003 and I’m just learning about it via The Hole. Now I have a whole backlist to discover!

The guy in The Hole has moved into an apartment. It has a hole, and the hole keeps moving. Of course, the hole is not moving, the drawings are moving. But the drawings are reality, if the reader accepts it, so the hole is moving. We see the dude realize what’s happening, call someone about it, capture the hole, and take it somewhere (I won’t spoil it, ha ha.) The one simple conceit is magical in and of itself, and Torseter’s simple lines and open spaces make it more charming, like you’re watching someone drawing the story for you (very Harold and the Purple Crayon!) There are some good photos of the art at the Brain Pickings review.

5. Hilda and the Troll by Luke Pearson

hildandthetroll

Hilda’s been around a while. This is the Flying Eye Books edition of Nobrow’s Hildafolk. Luke Pearson also wrote and illustrated Hilda and the Bird Parade and Hilda and the Midnight Giant, the former I’ve read and really liked, the latter of which I am looking forward to reading. He says that The Midnight Giant is “a follow up to Hildafolk, my 24-pager of one year ago, but it’s more of a reboot than a sequel and is hopefully the first of a series of albums exploring the same world.”

I had no trouble reading them out of “order” – Hilda is a self-assured girl and goes about her world so matter of factly that I couldn’t help but folow with a sympathetic attitude. (As in, my brain tuned into her vibes or something).

In this adventure, Hilda goes out to draw rocks, finds a troll rock (a troll that is in rock form), puts a bell on its nose for safety, and falls asleep instead of getting back to her house. The troll wakes up, and Hilda has to find her way home and also find a way to make things right with the troll. Trolls hate bells and she has set it up for eternal torment, because its arms can’t reach the bell on its nose to remove it.

The magical Scandinavian world here is a delight. It’s our modern world, but a more tuned into things like trolls and horned foxes and tree men. I love Hilda -she’s serious about her self and her interests, and still realistically a kid. She learns to see a bit more about her assumptions in this book, and her carelessness, and in the Bird Parade this learning continues. And she knows the value of being cosy in a rainy tent:

hil5

I hope all of you have something nice to read while sitting on a couch or in a tent, watching the snow fall or the rain drizzle or the breeze blow things around.

Awesome Horror Comics, Part 2!

The Second Half of a List of My Favorite Creepy Comics

Crawl to Me Orchid Tom Morello

by REBECCA, October 28, 2013

On Wednesday, I posted Part 1 of the Awesome Horror Comics list! Here’s Part 2. It may or may not surprise you to note that there isn’t a single woman, either as writer or illustrator, on either of these lists, even though many of the most famous gothic and horror novels were written by women—Mary Shelley, Shirley Jackson, etc. Do you know of any horror comics written or illustrated by women? I hope so! If so, please tell me in the comments.

Frankenstein: Alive, Alive!11. Frankenstein: Alive, Alive!, by Steve Niles & Bernie Wrightson

“Few works by comic-book artists have earned the universal acclaim and reverence that Bernie Wrightson’s illustrated version of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein was met with upon its original release in 1983. Nearly 30 years later, Wrightson returns to his passion project with a comic series that picks up at the end of the classic novel, hailed as one of the greatest horror stories of all time. Frequent Wrightson collaborator Steve Niles provides the script for this epic, decades in the making. While appearing to be in black and white, each page was scanned in color to mimic as closely as possible the experience of viewing the actual original art, showing off the exquisitely detailed brush work of one of the greatest living artists in comics today.”

Uzumaki by Junji Ito12. Uzumaki, by Junji Ito

“Kurôzu-cho, a small fogbound town on the coast of Japan, is cursed. According to Shuichi Saito, the withdrawn boyfriend of teenager Kirie Goshima, their town is haunted not by a person or being but by a pattern: uzumaki, the spiral, the hypnotic secret shape of the world. It manifests itself in small ways: seashells, ferns, whirlpools in water, whirlwinds in air. And in large ways: the spiral marks on people’s bodies, the insane obsessions of Shuichi’s father, the voice from the cochlea in your inner ear. As the madness spreads, the inhabitants of Kurôzu-cho are pulled ever deeper, as if into a whirlpool from which there is no return . . .”

The Walking Dead13. The Walking Dead, by Robert Kirkman & Tony Moore

“An epidemic of apocalyptic proportions has swept the globe, causing the dead to rise and feed on the living. In a matter of months, society has crumbled: There is no government, no grocery stores, no mail delivery, no cable TV. Rick Grimes finds himself one of the few survivors in this terrifying future. A couple months ago he was a small town cop who had never fired a shot and only ever saw one dead body. Separated from his family, he must now sort through all the death and confusion to try and find his wife and son. In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally begin living.”

Echoes14. Echoes, by Joshu Hale Fialkov & Rahsan Ekedal

“From acclaimed author Joshua Hale Fialkov (Tumor) and rising artist Rahsan Ekedal (Creepy) a disturbing story of murder and mystery wrapped in questions of sanity. Brian Cohn was learning to deal with the schizophrenia inherited from his father. Supportive wife, new baby on the way, drugs to control the voices. But, when on his father’s deathbed he learns that he also inherited the trophies of his father’s career as a serial killer, will his madness send him further down into the crawlspace of his father’s mind?”

The Beast of Chicago by Rick Geary15. The Beast of Chicago: An Account of the Life and Crimes of Herman W. Mudgett, Known to the World As H.H. Holmes, by Rick Geary

“He was the world’s first serial killer and he existed in the late 19th century, operating around the Chicago World’s Fair, building a literal house of horrors, replete with chutes for dead bodies, gas chambers, surgical rooms. He methodically murdered up to 200 people, mostly young women. The infamous H.H. Holmes is the next subject of Geary’s award-winning and increasingly popular series.”

From Hell Alan Moore Eddie Campbell16. From Hell, by Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell

“‘I shall tell you where we are. We’re in the most extreme and utter region of the human mind. A dim, subconscious underworld. A radiant abyss where men meet themselves. Hell, Netley. We’re in Hell.’ Alan Moore turns his ever-incisive eye to the squalid, enigmatic world of Jack the Ripper and the Whitechapel murders of 1888. His Ripper’s brutal activities are the epicentre of a conspiracy involving the very heart of the British Establishment, including the Freemasons and The Royal Family. A popular claim, which is transformed through Moore’s exquisite and thoroughly gripping vision, of the Ripper crimes being the womb from which the 20th century, so enmeshed in the celebrity culture of violence, received its shocking, visceral birth.”

Batman Arkham Asylum17. Batman: Arkham Asylum, by Grant Morrison & Dave McKean

“The inmates of Arkham Asylum have taken over Gotham’s detention center for the criminally insane on April Fool’s Day, demanding Batman in exchange for their hostages. Accepting their demented challenge, Batman is forced to endure the personal hells of the Joker, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Two-Face and many other sworn enemies in order to save the innocents and retake the prison. During his run through this absurd gauntlet, the Dark Knight’s must face down both his most dangerous foes and his inner demons. The classic confrontation between the Dark Knight and his archnemeses, this story is well known for its psychological intensity and probing portraits of Batman and the Joker.”

Clive Barker's Hellraiser18. Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, by Clive Barker, Christopher Monfette, Leonardo Manco, & Stephen Thompson

“Clive Barker has ‘touched’ Hellraiser only twice before: once to write The Hellbound Heart, and once more to write and direct the original Hellraiser film. With the Hellraiser ongoing series, witness Barker’s long-awaited return to tell a new chapter in the official continuity — a trajectory that will forever change the Cenobites . . . and Pinhead! So prepare your soul for an epic journey into horror from one of the medium’s greatest voices, and starring one of the medium’s greatest characters, in an unforgettable new chapter of Hellraiser.”

Orchid Tom Morello19. Orchid, by Tom Morello (yes, that Tom Morello), Dan Jackson, & Scott Hepburn

“When the seas rose, genetic codes were smashed. Human settlements are ringed by a dense wilderness from which ferocious new animal species prey on the helpless. The high ground belongs to the rich and powerful that overlook swampland shantytowns from their fortress-like cities. Iron-fisted rule ensures order and allows the wealthy to harvest the poor as slaves. Delve into the first chapter of Orchid, the tale of a teenage prostitute who learns that she is more than the role society has imposed upon her.”

20. Crawl To Me, by Alan Robert

Crawl to MeWire Hangers creator/hard-rock musician, Alan Robert, is back for blood with an all-new horror tale, Crawl to Me, which centers on Ryan as he struggles to protect his family from what appears to be an evil entity living within their basement’s crawl space. It is only after a series of violent events occur that Ryan realizes he must set aside all he believes to be true in order to face his shocking and inevitable reality.”

Happy horror comic reading, folks! Did I miss your favorite? Have you thought of any horror comics written or illustrated by women? Tell me in the comments!

Awesome Horror Comics, Part 1

The First Half of a List of My Favorite Creepy Comics

Batman The Long Halloween The Chuckling Whatsit by Richard Sala

by REBECCA, October 23, 2013

One of the things I love about horror comics is that I have total control over reading them, so I can make them feel more or less scary, unlike when I watch a horror movie, which moves relentlessly forward. With Halloween right around the corner (yay!), here is the first half of a list of my favorite horror comics. There’s a wide range here, from the slightly creepy to the grisly to the existentially horrifying—certainly not all of them are horror in the classic sense. All descriptions are from Goodreads.

Batman The Long Halloween

1. Batman: the Long Halloween, by Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale

“Taking place during Batman’s early days of crime fighting, this new edition of the classic mystery tells the story of a mysterious killer who murders his prey only on holidays. Working with District Attorney Harvey Dent and Lieutenant James Gordon, Batman races against the calendar as he tries to discover who Holiday is before he claims his next victim each month. A mystery that has the reader continually guessing the identity of the killer, this story also ties into the events that transform Harvey Dent into Batman’s deadly enemy, Two-Face.”

30 Days of Night2. 30 Days of Night, by Steve Niles & Ben Templesmith

“In a sleepy, secluded Alaska town called Barrow, the sun sets and doesn’t rise for over thirty consecutive days and nights. From the darkness, across the frozen wasteland, an evil will come that will bring the residents of Barrow to their knees. The only hope for the town is the Sheriff and Deputy, husband and wife who are torn between their own survival and saving the town they love.”

The Chuckling Whatsit by Richard Sala

3. The Chuckling Whatsit, by Richard Sala

“In The Chuckling Whatsit, Sala weaves the gothic cartooning traditions of Edward Gorey and Charles Addams with a densely constructed, melodramatic murder mystery involving astrology, ghouls, academia and outsider art. Part noir, part horror and part comedy, this labyrinthian tale of intrigue follows an unemployed writer named Broom who becomes unwittingly ensnared in a complex plot involving mysterious outsider artist Emile Jarnac, the shadowy machinations of the Ghoul Appreciation Society Headquarters (GASH), and the enigmatic Mr. Ixnay. Sala’s deadpan delivery makes this ingeniously layered narrative a roller-coaster ride of darkly pure comic suspense.”

Hellboy4. Hellboy, by Mike Mignola & John Byrne

“When strangeness threatens to engulf the world, a strange man will come to save it. Sent to investigate a mystery with supernatural overtones, Hellboy discovers the secrets of his own origins, and his link to the Nazi occultists who promised Hitler a final solution in the form of a demonic avatar.”

Johnny the Homicidal Maniac

5. Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, by Jhonen Vasquez

“The series focuses on the 20-something year old anti-hero Johnny C, also known as “NNY” (pronounced ‘knee’). He is a deranged serial killer, mass murderer, and spree killer who interacts with various other characters, generally by murdering them. He elaborately kills anyone who even slightly irritates him, then drains their blood and paints one of the walls in his house with it. Johnny is also willing to murder “innocent” people who, in his twisted mind, deserve their fate for some reason or another. The number of Johnny’s victims is in the dozens, if not hundreds — or perhaps even thousands. Authorities are unable to capture Johnny and seem unaware of his existence, even though his crimes are often witnessed in public and reported by the few who manage to survive.”

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/97486.The_Crow6. The Crow, by James O’Barr

“Murdered along with his fiancee on Halloween eve by a vicious street gang, Eric Draven returns from the dead and led by a crow, seeks vengeance on the killers who killed him and raped and then killed his beloved Shelly.”

Rachel Rising by Terry Moore7. Rachel Rising, by Terry Moore

“Rachel wakes up at sunrise on a shallow grave in the woods and discovers the freshly murdered body in the dirt is her own. With events of the previous night a blur, Rachel seeks out her boyfriend Phillip. But Phillip has a new girl now and Rachel is beginning to suspect she rose from the grave for a reason . . . revenge!”

Cinema Panopticum by Thomas Ott

 

8. Cinema Panopticum, by Thomas Ott

“T. Ott plunges into the darkness with five new graphic horror novelettes: “The Prophet,” “The Wonder Pill,” “La Lucha,” “The Hotel,” and the title story, each executed in his hallucinatory and hyper-detailed scratchboard style. The first story in the book introduces the other four: A little girl visits an amusement park. She looks fascinated, but finds everything too expensive. Finally, behind the rollercoaster she eyeballs a small booth with “CINEMA PANOPTICUM” written on it. Inside there are boxes with screens. Every box contains a movie; the title of each appears on each screen. Each costs only a dime, so the price is right for the little girl. She puts her money in the first box: “The Prophet” begins. In the film, a vagrant foresees the end of the world and tries to warn people, but nobody believes him. They will soon enough.”

Harvest9. Harvest, by A.J. Lieberman & Colin Lorimer

“Livers, kidneys, and rogue medical teams, oh my! Welcome to Dr. Benjamin Dane’s nightmare! His only way out? Bring down the man who set him up for murder by reclaiming organs already placed in some very powerful people. The only people Dane can count on are an ex-Yakuza assassin and a six-year-old drug fiend. If Dexter, ER, and 100 Bullets had a three-way and that mind-blowing tryst somehow resulted in a child, that kid would read Harvest!”

Locke & Key

 

10. Locke & Key, by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodríguez

“Locke & Key tells of Keyhouse, an unlikely New England mansion, with fantastic doors that transform all who dare to walk through them . . . and home to a hate-filled and relentless creature that will not rest until it forces open the most terrible door of them all . . .”

 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Awesome Horror Comics!

YA Loves . . . Comic Books!

A List of YA Books That Love Comics!

by REBECCA, June 19, 2013

Here at Crunchings & Munchings we love young adult literature and we love comics! So, here is a list of books that combine two of our favorite things: YA books featuring comics and comic culture, and books about superheroes. All quoted descriptions are from Goodreads.

Hero by Perry MooreHero by Perry Moore

Hero by Perry Moore (2007)

“The last thing in the world Thom Creed wants is to add to his dad, Hal’s, pain, so he keeps secrets. Like that he has special powers. And that he’s been asked to join the League–the very organization of superheroes that spurned his father. The most painful secret of all is one Thom can barely face himself: he’s gay. But becoming a member of the League opens up a new world for Thom. There, he connects with a misfit group of aspiring heroes, including Scarlett, who can control fire but not her anger; Typhoid Larry, who can make anyone sick with his touch; and Ruth, a wise old broad who can see the future. Like Thom, these heroes have things to hide, but they will have to learn to trust one another when they uncover a deadly conspiracy within the League. To survive, Thom will face challenges he never imagine. To find happiness, he’ll have to come to terms with his father’s past and discover the kind of hero he really wants to be.”

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (2000)

“Joe Kavalier, a young Jewish artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdini-esque escape, has just smuggled himself out of Nazi-invaded Prague and landed in New York City. His Brooklyn cousin Sammy Clay is looking for a partner to create heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit America – the comic book. Drawing on their own fears and dreams, Kavalier and Clay create the Escapist, the Monitor, and Luna Moth, inspired by the beautiful Rosa Saks, who will become linked by powerful ties to both men. With exhilarating style and grace, Michael Chabon tells an unforgettable story about American romance and possibility.”

Rise of Heroes by Hayden Thorne

Rise of Heroes (Masks #1) by Hayden Thorne (2008)

“Strange things are happening in Vintage City, and high school goth boy Eric seems to be right in the middle of them. There’s a new villain in town, one with super powers, and he’s wreaking havoc on the town, and on Eric’s life. The new super hero who springs up to defend Vintage City is almost as bad, making Eric all hot and bothered, enough so that he almost misses the love that’s right between his nose. Peter is Eric’s best friend, and even if he does seem to be hiding something most of the time, he finds a way to show Eric how he feels in between attacks on trains and banks and malls. The two boys decide to start dating, much to the chagrin of their other best buddy, Althea, who has a terrible crush on Peter, and a secret or two of her own to keep. As the fight between the villain, known as the Devil’s Trill, and superhero Magnifiman picks up, Eric’s relationship with Peter almost ends before it begins when Eric finds out about Peter’s special talents, which might just rank Peter as a superhero in his own right. When the Trill takes an interest in Eric, too, Peter and Althea, along with Magnifiman and Eric’s normal, middle-class family all have to work together to keep Eric, and their city, safe. Can they figure out the super villain’s plan in time?”

After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn

After the Golden Age (Golden Age #1) by Carrie Vaughn (2011)

“Most people dream of having superheroes for parents, but not Celia West. The only daughter of Captain Olympus and Spark, the world’s greatest champions, she has no powers of her own, and the most exciting thing she’s ever done is win a silver medal in a high school swim meet. Meanwhile, she’s the favorite hostage of every crime boss and supervillain in Comemrce City. She doesn’t have a code name, but if she did, it would probably be Bait Girl, the Captive Wonder. Rejecting her famous family and its legacy, Celia has worked hard to create a life for herself beyond the shadow of their capes, becoming a skilled forensic accountant. But when her parents’ archenemy, the Destructor, faces justice in the “Trial of the Century,” Celia finds herself sucked back into the more-than-mortal world of Captain Olympus—and forced to confront a secret that she hoped would stay buried forever.”

How to Repair a Mechanical Heart by J.C. Lillis

How to Repair a Mechanical Heart by J.C. Lillis (2012)

“Eighteen-year-old Castaway Planet fans Brandon and Abel hate bad fan fiction—especially when it pairs their number-one TV crushes of all time, dashing space captain Cadmus and dapper android Sim. As co-runners of the Internet’s third most popular Castaway Planet vlog, they love to spar with the “Cadsim” fangirls who think Cadmus will melt Sim’s mechanical heart by the Season 5 finale. This summer, Brandon and Abel have a mission: hit the road in an RV to follow the traveling Castaway Planet convention, interview the actors and showrunner, and uncover proof that a legit Cadsim romance will NEVER, EVER HAPPEN. A Brandon and Abel romance: also not happening. Brandon’s sick of his struggle to make “gay and Catholic” compute, so it’s safer to love a TV android. Plus Abel’s got a hot new boyfriend with a phoenix tattoo, and how can Brandon compete with that? But when mysterious messages about them start popping up in the fan community, they make a shocking discovery that slowly forces their real feelings to the surface. Before they get to the last Castaway Planet convention, Brandon’s going to find out the truth: can a mechanical heart be reprogrammed, or will his first shot at love be a full system failure?”

My complete review of this amazing self-published debut is HERE, and my interview with author J.C. Lillis is HERE.

Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks

Evil Genius (Genius #1) by Catherine Jinks (2005)

“Cadel Piggott has a genius IQ and a fascination with systems of all kinds. At seven, he was illegally hacking into computers. Now he’s fourteen and studying for his World Domination degree, taking classes like embezzlement, misinformation, forgery, and infiltration at the institute founded by criminal mastermind Dr. Phineas Darkkon. Although Cadel may be advanced beyond his years, at heart he’s a lonely kid. When he falls for the mysterious and brilliant Kay-Lee, he begins to question the moral implications of his studies for the first time. But is it too late to stop Dr. Darkkon from carrying out his evil plot?”

The Summer I Became A Nerd by Leah Rae Miller

The Summer I Became A Nerd by Leah Rae Miller (2013)

“On the outside, seventeen-year-old Madelyne Summers looks like your typical blond cheerleader—perky, popular, and dating the star quarterback. But inside, Maddie spends more time agonizing over what will happen in the next issue of her favorite comic book than planning pep rallies with her squad. That she’s a nerd hiding in a popular girl’s body isn’t just unknown, it’s anti-known. And she needs to keep it that way. Summer is the only time Maddie lets her real self out to play, but when she slips up and the adorkable guy behind the local comic shop’s counter uncovers her secret, she’s busted. Before she can shake a pom-pom, Maddie’s whisked into Logan’s world of comic conventions, live-action role-playing, and first-person-shooter video games. And she loves it. But the more she denies who she really is, the deeper her lies become…and the more she risks losing Logan forever.”

My full review of The Summer I Became A Nerd is HERE.

Dull Boy by Sarah Cross

Dull Boy by Sarah Cross (2009)

“What do you do if you can deadlift a car, and you spend your nights flying to get away from it all? If you’re fifteen-year-old Avery Pirzwick, you keep that information to yourself. When you’re a former jock turned freak, you can’t afford to let the secret slip. But then Avery makes some friends who are as extraordinary as he is. He realizes they’re more than just freaks—together, maybe they have a chance to be heroes. First, though, they have to decide whether to trust the mysterious Cherchette, a powerful would-be mentor whose remarkable generosity may come at a terrible price.”

SO, what YA books about comics, comic culture, or superheroes am I missing? Tell me in the comments!

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