No Flying No Tights review: Gast by Carol Swain

by Tessa

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I have a review of Gast by Carol Swain up at No Flying No Tights today. I thought this book was something very special.

Helen has just moved to rural Wales with her parents. She’s quiet and solitary, but she isn’t shy. She’s the kind of child whose mother must ask her not to bring any more dying animals to the house. Helen loves watching nature and recording her observations and theories in her journal, as well as the Welsh words she’s learned: “gwennol” is the name for the bird that we call a swallow, and “gast” is Welsh for woman. New to the language, Helen initially thinks the egg seller from town is talking about a dead bird when he mentions Emrys: “A rare bird. Down by here. Cuddig. I don’t know what he’d be called… took his own life… Upset my birds terrible it did.” Soon enough, she realizes he’s referring to a neighbor who committed suicide, and her inquisitive nature leads to an exploration of human life and death.

Check it out over there!

Great Graphic Novels 2015 Noms: Historical Fiction

by Tessa

Read about what this series is here.

Some of these are more historical than others. But they are all set in history, which is what I’m choosing to call historical fiction.

sallyheathcote

Sally Heathcote, Suffragette.

Mary Talbot, author

Kate Charlesworth and Bryan Talbot, artists

Dark Horse 

Anticipation/Expectation level: I hoped it would be more focused on the movement and less on one person (due to my experience with Woman Rebel)

My reality: Please click on the art sample to read a well thought -out review from Forbidden Planet. I liked this title and thought it covered so much, with a realistic, period-appropriate art style, mostly black and white with pops of color that helped define scenes and keep the eye fresh. The reader sees a long arc of the women’s voting rights movement in Britain through the eyes of an orphan, Sally Heathcote, who is rescued from a workhouse by one of the main ladies in her youth and becomes deeply involved with two of the competing societies and a secret guerrilla movement. I knew nothing about this history and it was both sadly familiar and fascinating. It is a lot to take in. I should have read it more slowly. And the prologue that teases the split between two factions, I felt, just served to confuse instead of hook. I never felt like I really grasped why the split occurred- at first I thought it was because of differences in opinion regarding violent protest, but then both sides seemed to approve of that in some way. Still a worthy endeavor, I hope there are more comics coming through with such scope and focused vision.

Will teens like it?: I don’t know. I think it might be great in the classroom and welcome there. A bit heavy for the casual reader, but nothing that screams NO TEEN APPEAL.

Is it “great” for teens?”: Yes, this is one of those that I think belongs on the list despite limited appeal for the browser.

Art Taste:

sally-heathcote-suffragette-talbot-charlesworth-cape-04.jpg

LesMiserablesManga-cover

Les Miserables

Victor Hugo, author

Crystal Silvermoon and Stacy King, Adaptors

TszMei Lee, artist

UDON Entertainment

Anticipation / Expectation level: Les Miserables, judged only by its plotline, is kind of perfect for a manga adaptation. If you’ve read it or seen the musical, you know it is full of personal relationship drama enmeshed with life or death, youthful idealist vs. the ruling class drama. It deals with class issues, being a fugitive from the law, etc. So despite the fact that it is a long-ass book being made into a shorter ass book, I thought that this could possibly be entertaining.

My Reality: Unfortunately, cutting out all the detailed moral drama, description of setting and feeling from the book, plus losing the opportunity for maddeningly catchy and heart-pulling music makes for a bland soap opera of a plot. Even the art lacks the usual verve and dynamic panels that are part of most manga (this is probably why it’s the only manga I’m not covering in a manga-only post).  Which is not to say that I think the adaptors or artist did a bad job or made bad choices. Just that when the job is done, well or badly, it takes away something integral to the enjoyment of the story. I never felt immersed in the drama. I got the songs stuck in my head without the benefit of having heard them sung. The politics of the time is the vaguest backdrop – the war itself a blip. This is the least connected to history of these 3 novels.

Will Teens like it?: I wonder if manga loving teens would go for the classics in manga form. The ones I know would rather read a classic.

Is it “great”for teens?: No.

Art Taste:

FCBD-LesMis-Preview-4

47ronincover

47 Ronin

Mike Richardson, writer

Stan Sakai, artist

Dark Horse

Anticipation/Expectation Level: I’ve heard great things about Stan Sakai!

My Reality: 47 Ronin is a national legend in Japan, a tale about honor and revenge. As far as a story with a lot of talking in interior spaces can be, it is well-adapted for comics. Richardson has done a ton of research and Sakai’s art is so pleasing – it’s round and cartoony but solid and realistic. The colorist does a great job as well, giving the whole thing the muted but rich feel of art on parchment (or I guess rice paper in this case?).

Will Teens like it?: I can see kids who are very into Japan really liking this.

Is it “great” for teens?: It’s a solid entry in the legendary adaptation, so I would say yes.

Art Taste:

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Get ready for even more posts in even less time as I try to get everything mini-reviewed by the end of the month!

Great Graphic Novels Noms 2015: Memoir and Contemporary Stories

by Tessa

Read about this series of posts here.

FUN FACT: All of the selections today are by writer-artists (one person writes and draws the book). They are the singer-songwriters of the comics world.

eldeafocover

El Deafo

Cece Bell, writer and artist

Amulet Books

Anticipation/Expectation Level: I’d heard lotsa good things about this one.

My Reality: All the praise is deserved. It’s a mildly fictionalized memoir about Cece Bell growing up with deafness, outside of the Deaf community – it’s about feeling awkward because she’s afraid she looks so different and because of the challenges of navigating a world that doesn’t always make the allowances it should for a lip-reading child, and it’s also about basic growing up stuff: friendships, family, school. Bell has a good ear for social detail and her chronicles of trying to find a true friend and feeling lonely will win her many readers (I hope). And she’s also funny.

Will teens like it?: Yes. Fans of Raina Telgemeier and The Wimpy Kid/Big Nate will be into this for sure.

Is it “great” for teens?: Yes.

Art Taste:

ElDeafo_TXT_page1

allstarcover

All Star

Jesse Lonergan, writer and artist

NBM ComicsLit

Anticipation/Expectation Level: None. I knew nothing about this going in.

My Reality: Great realistic fiction which I think sometimes is thin on the ground in the comics world, especially for the high school level. All Star is squarely high school oriented. It’s not the baseball story that the cover may lead you to believe it is. It’s about the golden boy becoming aware of his golden boy privileges and trying to do the right thing. I’m always fascinated to read about fictional or nonficitonal characters trying to do the right thing. (All Star may seem autobiographical but it’s not). Lonergan writes clean, beautiful action pages that made baseball not so boring even for me. His characters are exaggerated – a little boxy like Jeff Lemire’s but more like walking skeletons.

Will Teens Like it?: Teens might not get all the cultural references going on, but hopefully that won’t turn them away from the story.

Is it “great” for teens?: Yeah.

Art Taste:

154-All-Star

tomboycover

Tomboy: a graphic memoir

Liz Prince, writer and artist

Zest Books

Anticipation/expectation level: I got a personal recommendation for this from several people whose taste I trust.

My Reality: Loved it! Prince doesn’t try to tamp down on the ambiguity of her feelings about how she wants to be in the world. Because these go against culturally built up norms for gender expression she struggles with how she feels about girly things, how she has been taught to think about being a girl, and how she feels comfortable and if that has to fit into a gendered behavior. But it’s told as a story that is open, using a black and white, thin-lined style that I think of as “refined sketchbook cartoon” – really accessible and enjoyable for a huge age range.

Will Teens Like It?: I put this on display on Tuesday and a teen immediately picked it up.

Is it “great” for teens?: YES.

Art Taste:

tomboyjedi

T0724

I Think I Am In Friend-Love With You

Yumi Sakugawa, writer and artist

Adams Media

Anticipation/Expectation Level: I had read this on Tumblr or something before it was published. I thought it was cute to a point.

My Reality: I like how the format: small and square, with one text panel and one picture to each spread, makes the reading go more slowly. More like a picture book for adults. Sakugawa has a very appealing drawing style. The narrator of this book is a of a monstery design, sort of a cyclops Cousin It. She draws with a thin, textured pencil line, with a good eye for design. While I have experienced friend crushes and support the idea of more talk about the importance of friend-love and friendship as sustaining relationships, I feel like this book is more about friend-crush desperation. A reviewer at Rookie reads it as an exchange between the crusher and crushee, but I see it as a long declaration from the protagonist to an oblivious friend crush. A declaration that would make most people uncomfortable because it lacks confidence. And it is steeped in the social media world of today, and those references will become dated and take away from the chance of this being a classic book with a universal message. So I can’t fully get behind this as a great book but I do think it is cute and harmless – even maybe confidence building?

Will Teens Like it?: Yeah, this is built for sharing on Tumblr.

Is it “great” for Teens: I don’t know. I see it more as a novelty picture book?

Art Taste:

friendlove2

Great Graphic Novels 2015 Noms: Fun Fantasy series – Adventure Time, My Little Pony, Three Thieves, Skyward, Zita and Philemon

by Tessa

Read about why I’m reading these books here.

Today I’m taking a look at the light fantasy series that have been nominated this year.

fionna_cake_tpb_cvr

Adventure Time with Fionna & Cake

Natasha Allegri, artist and author

KaBOOM! Studios

Anticipation/expectation level: High. I can’t remember how, but I was following Natasha Allegri’s livejournal before she graduated from undergrad and was pleased to see that she got a job on some show called Adventure Time. 

My reality: Yep, this book is the whole package. It’s gorgeous, it has humor and heart (see, respectively: when Lumpy Space Prince uses a wishing wand to make himself beautiful, the whole conclusion which I won’t spoil for you). Allegri’s genderswapped Adventure Time universe is as strong as the original, keeping the basic dynamics of the characters’ relationships the same, but still creating original situations. Cake is not Jake, but is how Jake would be in cat form. There are also little shorts at the end from writers and artists like Lucy Knisley and Noelle Stevenson. How do these comics all turn out so well? The only part that didn’t work for me is a short digression about a cat and its nine lives, which was sort of related but came out of nowhere.

Will teens like it? I know some teens who are already all about Bee and Puppycat, so yeah.

Is it “great” for teens?: Yes – I realize it’s hard for me to be objective, but I did read these comics before I watched Adventure Time and greatly enjoyed them, so I think that knowledge of the show isn’t a huge stumbling block.

Art Taste:

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check out Natasha Allegri’s tumblr, you won’t be sad. There’s a small pitch for a show called Cat Mommy

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adventuretimev5

Adventure Time, Volume 5

Ryan North, Writer

Braden Lamb, Mike Homes, Shelli Paroline, artists

KaBOOM! Studios

Anticipation/expectation level: I could safely predict that I’d like this. The first 3 made it onto GGNT 2014. I’m wondering why Volume 4 wasn’t nominated? (I did go ahead and read it, and it isn’t the strongest volume but it’s not so off game as to not be nominated, but anyway).

My reality: This one is all Bubblegum – and Lemongrab. It’s a bit about how Princess B struggles with feeling like she’s a ruler when she has to rely on Finn and Jake so much, and a little about her mistakes in the past… and how they ALL COME TOGETHER. Again, it can be read as a standalone adventure.

Will teens like it?: They do.

Is it “great” for teens?: Yes

Art Taste:

AdventureTime_21_preview-10

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My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Volume 5 

Katie Cook, writer

Andy Price, artist

IDW Publishing

Anticipation/expectation level: Low-ish. I’m old enough to have lived through the first Ponies craze, but wasn’t inspired to watch the show or the documentary about the people who love the show, even though I don’t have anything against it.

My reality: Volume 5 of the comic series is about Celestia’s history with an alternate version of Equestria/Canterlot, and the trouble it is causing everyone. She enlists the special pony brigade or whatever they are called to help fix it before reality as they know it is destroyed. The main points of the universe were easy to pick up on. I still don’t know each pony’s name, but it didn’t affect my reading of the comic as far as confusion goes. It was a nice story about friendship and magic where the stakes were suitably high. One thing that annoyed me: I was a bit irked that, in a universe built on the concept of friendship, the small dragon always gets forgotten and ignored. What is up with that? Double standards.

Will teens like it?: I think this would be popular with younger teens.

Is it “great” for teens?: It’s a solid comic. It wasn’t transcendent or something I’ll independently enthuse about. But I can’t say it’s not perfectly positioned for its audience and age group.

Art Taste: mlpmultiverse

kingsdragon

The King’s Dragon

Scott Chantler, artist and writer

Kids Can Press

Anticipation/expectation level: I’ve read two other volumes of this series (called the Three Thieves) and always found them to be exciting, well-plotted, and drawn with a lively, accomplished hand. Actually I’ve read all the volumes but the first one.

My reality: It might be strange to read The King’s Dragon and go back to catch up on the story, because this volume focuses on a man who has so far been the villain of the tale, the man chasing the titular Three Thieves, Captain Drake. It gives us his backstory and, as usually happens with these things, makes him a more sympathetic and complex character. There’s very little movement in the story’s plot – most of the action occurs in flashback. But I still think that it would be easy to read this apart from the other books and not feel lost. It is Captain Drake’s story. Chantler does pacing well, and his is very cinematic. I could almost hear the strings of the suspenseful soundtrack as I moved back and forth in his memory. It’s a series that should get more attention from readers.

Will teens like it? Yes, even though it’s primarily marketed for middle grade readers, it’s a good adventure for anyone.

Is it “great” for teens? Yeah!

Art Taste:

KingsDragonThe_2206_spr2

returnofzita

The Return of Zita the Spacegirl

Ben Hatke, writer and artist

First Second

Anticipation/expectation level: I’m an unabashed Zita pusher to parents, teachers, aunts, and all other readers.

My reality: As a fan of the series, the last book paid off. But it’s been awhile since I read the 2nd installment, and I couldn’t recall each member of the ragtag team’s situation/quirks from where they were left off. For the most part, this is Zita’s story of defeating someone hellbent on destroying Earth out of spite and escaping a prison camp, so the intermittent flashes to her other friends all over the galaxy aren’t that much of a distraction. But they do eventually come into play. For someone coming in cold to the universe, the story won’t have much extra emotional resonance, and the emotional hook depends on being familiar with Zita’s journey. But the main things that I love about Zita are there: absurd humor, lots of cute and weird creatures, struggle overcome by pure will and help from friends, triumph over evil, and there’s the extra punch of wistfulness at the end.

Will teens like it?: It might read younger, but I think teens will like it.

Is it “great” for teens?: It’s great if you’ve read the other volumes. Alone, I don’t know if it’s great.

Art Taste:

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SKYWARD_CVR_NOTFINAL_TRADE_1SKYWARD_CVR_TEMPLATE_TRADE_2-674x1024

Skyward Volume 1: Into the Woods 

Skyward Volume 2: Strange Creatures 

Jeremy Dale, writer and artist

Action Lab Entertainment

Anticipation/expectation level: All that I knew before I read this was that its creator had suddenly and tragically died. And that people had really liked the comic.

My reality: From reading the letters from fans printed in the collected editions, I can see what people like about this title. It’s a new fantasy world. It’s imaginative, filled with warrior rabbits and other magical stuff. It’s got a bit of joking camaraderie. It’s built to be a fun ride – a search for a missing boy by the forces of good and evil caught in a war that’s much bigger than him, etc. It feels familiar. For me, it felt too familiar and it wasn’t my type of humor or art – but at least the clothes are equal opportunity painted on. When characters are alone they tend to narrate whatever they’re thinking, which always strikes me as unnecessary. I can see the merits for readers, but this one didn’t do much for me.

Will teens like it?: I don’t know if I can see heavy investment potential, but there’s nothing here that would be an immediate turnoff.

Is it “great” for teens?: I think this is decent.

Art Taste: Comparing the pencils to the colored version, I’d have to say that I prefer the pencils. The coloring makes everyone look really shiny and covered in vinyl and obscures a lot of the artistic talent.

skyward

castawayonthelettera

Cast Away on the Letter A

Fred

TOON books

Anticipation/expectation level: Neutral. TOON Books does interesting stuff. When I got this in at the library, it was very slim like a picture book and looked like it was a reprint/revival of a classic european adventure comic. (The introduction confirmed this).

My reality: Philemon is hugely popular in France, a beloved character. In his introduction to general American eyes he explores a well on his rural French property that keeps burping up messages in bottles. He finds himself stuck on the letter A in “Atlantic Ocean” – a fantastical adventure befitting such an illusory place ensues. I appreciated the imagination and history that come with the comic, and I’m glad that more European comics might get printed over here and find a wider audience, but I’m not going to rave about it to teenagers.

Will teens like it?: Due to the length and lightness of the story, plus its cultural cache, I think this will appeal to mostly young readers or adult readers. The pacing and plot don’t fit modern teen comic book standards.

Is it “great” for teens?: Nah

Art Taste:

fred-slide4

Reading the Great Graphic Novels 2015 Noms: spooky scary comics

by Tessa

Read about why I’m reviewing these comics here.

I love horror and I love comics. I love it when a book can visually creep me out. There are a good number of horror-y titles on the list this year. This isn’t all of them, but all of these are supernatural in some way.

afterlifewitharchie

Afterlife with Archie: Escape from Riverdale

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, writer

Francesco Francavilla, illustrator

Archie Comics

Expectation/Anticipation Level: Low. Archie comics aren’t really my bag, but I don’t actively dislike them.

My Reality: I loved this! Francavilla does a more realistic take on Archie and the gang and that somehow makes me take them more seriously as characters. Maybe because I don’t find bulbous hair attractive. Everyone is in deep shadow and the palette is strictly goth. It’s one of those zombie comics where it’s Halloween so the truth takes a bit to sink in, and then it becomes a bit of a claustrophobic survival story (with teen drama), so I’m all over it.

Will Teens Like it?: I bet they totally would. I’d bet at least a dollar.

Is it “great” for teens?: This has the qualities of GGNT greatness: great art, fun story, a bit of depth, something that makes it stand out from its genre or typical audience, and teen appeal.

Art Taste:

Afterlife-With-Archie-4

bad-machinery-v2

bad-machinery-v3

Bad Machinery V.2: The Case of the Good Boy

Bad Machinery V.3: The Case of the Simple Soul.

John Allison, writer & illustrator

Oni Press

Expectation/Anticipation Level: Well, I knew what I was getting into because I’m a regular reader of the webcomics, so… neutral? But wait, high, because I am a fan.

My Reality: Reading these comics collected really brings out how funny and charming they are. One of the best things about Allison’s writing and drawing style is is control over whimsy – it’s always a bit weird and tender instead of being too sweet or, god forbid, wacky. Although the strips are written to be enjoyed thrice a week and thus have punchlines at the end, the story reads as a whole and it is clear that Allison has created these new stories with the collection in mind. The stories always involve creatures or some kind of supernatural occurrence, but with a light touch. The focus is much more on the team of young mystery solvers finding more out about themselves and their town via the mystery than about being terrified or haunted.

Will teens like it?: The books are published in biiiig floppy editions so hopefully teens will pick one up and be sucked in.

Is it “great” for teens?: I think so. I think it’s great for you, too.

Art Taste: If you like this, I highly recommend reading the archives and ongoing comics at Scary Go Round.

shaunashousejohnallison

graveyard-book-1

graveyard-book-2

The Graveyard Book, Volume 1

The Graveyard Book, Volume 2

written by Neil Gaiman

adapted by P. Craig Russell

Kevin Nowlan, Scott Hampton, P. Craig Russell, Galen Showman, David LaFuente, Tony Harris, Jill Thompson & Stephen B. Scott, illustrators

HarperCollins

Expectation/Anticipation Level: Medium. I liked the Coraline adaptation. (In fact, I don’t think I’ve read Coraline proper yet).

My Reality: I thought this was really solid. Most of the artists worked in complementary styles, except for changes during parts of the story where the narrative takes a side journey, and the art style changes to reflect that. (And one artist that makes everyone look weirdly Hobbity). The text adaptation retains Gaiman’s narrator and warm tone, and it still feels like a story that’s been told and retold and fished out of the collective unconscious by Gaiman. A storyteller’s story. So that even though it’s about murder and ghosts and goblins, it’s about life and it feels cosy. The only thing I really don’t like is the cover of the second book. Bod looks posed, and that scene doesn’t happen, and also it’s a bit of a spoiler.

Will Teens Like it?: Teens will be into this, especially if they know it’s by the Coraline guy.

Is it “great” for teens?: I think it’s a very successful adaptation and that makes it great for me.

Art Taste: I particularly liked the chapter openers, as seen here:

graveyard-book-chapter-open

cemeterygirl

Cemetery Girl Book One: The Pretenders.

Charlaine Harris and Christopher Golden, writers

Don Kramer and ??? Rudoni, illustrators

InkLit

Expectation/Anticipation Level: Low, though I did read all of the Sookie Stackhouse novels. I haven’t had much luck finding good comic books that seem to be made just to trade on the name of an author who got famous writing prose books.

My Reality: It was funny to go from one good comic about a boy who lives in a graveyard to a bad comic about a girl who lives in a graveyard. It really brought out the reasons why Cemetery Girl failed so much. Art? Uninspired and unsure about the proportions of its main character. Some of the backgrounds looked like photos with the comic book filter on them. The story moved sloooowly, and was packed with characters who were one note: evil teenagers, folksy cemetery groundskeeper and neighbor, martyred ghost, etc. Calexa is really on top of waking up with no idea who she is and immediately parkouring around the neighborhood performing B & Es in order to get food and clothes, which makes it seem like she’s street smart and practical, but then she witnesses a murder and is handed proof of the murder that she could easily drop off at the police station or give to the groundskeeper or something and she dithers fully half of the book away not doing that because she’s scared that somehow the people who left her in the cemetery will find out. Not fun, not even easy trashy fun.

Will teens like it?: I’m sure there are teens who would like this; I won’t hold it against them.

Is it “great” for teens?: Nope.

Art Taste: I’m going to post 2 images so you can compare how Calexa’s proportions change from page to page.

lying down, looks normal

lying down, looks normal

cemeterygirl2

Standing up, has lost a couple inches on her legs, also her pants are baggy now.

baltimorev3

Baltimore vol 3: A Passing Stranger and Other Stories.

Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden, writers

Ben Stenbeck, illustrator Dave Stewart,colorist

Dark Horse

Expectation/Anticipation Levels: I think the first volume of this comic was on a previous GGNT list on one of my volunteer years, and I remember liking it.

My Reality: How weird that Christopher Golden was involved in Cemetery Girl and Baltimore: A Passing Stranger and I liked the latter and not the former. Charlaine Harris, the onus falls on you. Anyway. This is a nice little collection of short stories set in the alternate historical timeline of the Lord Baltimore universe, where vampires have laid waste to Europe in WWII. Baltimore is chasing the big baddie vampire and he meets some weird things along the way. These aren’t life changing stories, but they are nice little moody treats of the fantastical. Some alternate histories feel like they’re always poking you in the ribs, saying “See what I DID there??!!?!?!?” and this one does not. The way things are going feels appropriate and believable.

Will Teens Like it? Yes, especially if they like The Walking Dead/Game of Thrones

Is it “great” for teens?: It wouldn’t be on my top ten, but I think it’s a decent book. It’s not written FOR teens, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not appropriate and enjoyable for them.

Art Taste:

bdlr1p3

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!

Goth Girl Vampire Comic? Heck Yes!

A review of Dark Ivory, by Eva Hopkins and Joseph Michael Linsner

Image Comics, 2011 (originally published 2010)

Dark Ivory Eva Hopkins Joseph Michael Linser

by REBECCA, March 11, 2013

characters

Ivory: dissatisfied New Jersey high schooler with a love of gothy dance clubs and a healthy fascination with the undead

Samson: Ivory’s best friend, a super responsible writer-by-night/Borders-employee-by-day and constant reality check for Ivory

Xander: Gateway drug to the vampire world

Sally: Ivory’s sympathetic grown-up friend with a vampire boyfriend, Esque

hook

From Goodreads: “Ivory is a frustrated goth girl who escapes from her everyday world by sneaking out to dance at night. Her best friend Samson is always there to help her keep her feet on the ground. As Ivory’s club world fills with attractive, vampiric strangers, she thinks it would be so cool to be like them—until it happens. Be careful what you wish for . . .”

review

I found Dark Ivory at Forbidden Planet in Edinburgh when Tessa and I were there last week. I hadn’t heard of it, but I mean, a comic about a goth girl who is into vampires? Obviously I had to get it. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Dark Ivory Linsner HopkinsIvory doesn’t get along with her family and is bored by school, so at night she takes the train to New York and dances into the wee hours at goth clubs with her friend Sally. One night, after a fight with her mother, she is dancing in her own world when she’s approached by a handsome man named Xander who gives her a private invite to an exclusive club. Distracted, as she’s walking to catch the train home, Ivory comes across a girl whose neck has been cut and is bleeding on the street. Ivory is terrified and runs home, thinking how it could have been her. And everything only gets creepier from there. When she goes to the exclusive club with Sally, she takes a pill and has the most vivid hallucination . . . or is it a hallucination? Is Ivory becoming a vampire? Suddenly, it doesn’t seem nearly as appealing as she might have imagined.

Dark Ivory was originally published in four issues, collected in this volume with an image gallery by artist Linsner and an introduction by author Hopkins. It is a pretty straightforward comic, and, for me, the art is the strongest element. It’s full color and very detailed, which matches the vivid subject matter really well. I love black and white work, but this story definitely needed the amplification of color, and I really appreciate Linsner’s bright palette, as opposed to the kind of stereotypically dark and limited palette that a “goth-y” comic could use. Bright purples, greens, and reds dominate here, and I especially like the use of color in the pages that show Ivory’s daily life, like this one, depicting a typical morning of Samson driving Ivory to school (what a mensch):

Dark Ivory comic

and this one, the recollection of Ivory and Samson’s (appropriately angsty) first meeting:

Dark Ivory comic

 

The relationship between Ivory and Samson was a really nice contrast to the supernatural elements of the book. And, while Dark Ivory is only four issues long, it manages to do a fair amount of world-building, including its own vampire mythology, even if its only gestured to. The ending is a bit abrupt, but it follows, and it enables the reader to imagine all the future adventures that Ivory will go on to have.

Skim Jillian Tamaki Mariko TamakiAll in all, Dark Ivory will definitely appeal to the reader who found her own ways to escape the workaday life of high school (or dreamed of doing so) as well as to the vampire fans in the room. Ivory’s interest in goth clubs and vampires is decidedly not the depressed, searching attraction of other notable comic “goths” like Skim, in Jillian and Mariko Tamaki’s excellent Skim (see my review HERE). Rather, it’s born of an active love of dancing and the aesthetics of the subculture, which makes it a joyous portrayal, despite the, erm, rather serious repercussions of Ivory’s engagement.

Always thrilled to discover a new comic!

 

 

Dear Diary: A Review of Skim, A Graphic Coming of Age Story

A Review of Skim by Jillian Tamaki & Mariko Tamaki

Groundwood Books, 2008

Skim Jillian Tamaki Mariko Tamaki

by REBECCA, December 19, 2012

“Dear Diary, today Lisa said, ‘Everyone is unique.’ That is not unique!!”

Skim is a teenage Japanese-Canadian Wiccan goth in Catholic school in Toronto in 1993. Basically, I feel like all I need to do is write that one sentence and everyone will see why they want to read Skim. Skim is written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki (cousins!). The writing is dry, it’s thoughtful, it’s lyrical, and it’s a little bit angry; the art is gorgeous: a variety of pen and ink images with sweeping black washes, detailed landscapes, smug expressions, and the kind of minimalism that only the truly self-assured narrative can pull off.

Skim Jillian Tamaki Mariko Tamaki

Skim’s only real friend is Lisa, but as Skim begins, Skim is feeling disillusioned with Lisa, and thinks everything she says is annoying. Around the same time, one of her classmates’ ex-boyfriends kills himself and her whole school falls into a kind of exaggerated mourning. Skim finds herself slowly falling in love with, Ms. Archer, her mysterious, flowy-skirted, tea-drinking rambling-house-living English teacher.

Skim Jillian Tamaki Mariko Tamaki

One of the things I like best about Skim is the way that the words and images are in tension with one another: the words will be bitter and aggressive while the image is calm and minimalist, or the words will be wry and sarcastic while the image is depressing and sad.

“I had a dream/ I put my hands/ inside my chest/ and held my heart/ to try to keep it still”

Also, I really love that none of the characters are pretty—they all have blank expressions and turned-up little noses and wonky eyebrows. It lends the book a level of realism and specificity.

Skim Jillian Tamaki Mariko Tamaki

Skim is a beautiful coming of age story: sexuality, race, body image, gender, spirituality, friendship—this is a book that has it all. I can’t overstate how beautifully paced, drawn, and written this book is. I highly, highly recommend it.

Winter in Paris: French Milk

Saturday was Free Comic Day! In celebration, here is a review of French Milk, a graphic novel by Lucy Knisley

Simon & Schuster, 2007

By REBECCA, May 7, 2012

French Milk Lucy Knisley

characters

Lucy is really the only character that we get to know. She’s a bit melancholy and extremely invested in food, drink, art, and feelings.

the hook

When you’re a graphic artist and you spend a month in Paris, what do you do? You keep a graphic journal and publish it when you’re done, of course!

worldview

Lucy and her mom have rented an apartment in Paris for the month of January, 2007, to celebrate her mom’s 50th birthday and Lucy’s 22nd. They spend most of their time eating, drinking, and wandering around Paris looking at stuff. Since this is a journal, it takes us through the trip day by day, so it mainly focuses on the details of what they ate and drank, where they went, and what they saw. This makes for a sensory smorgasbord of meats, cheeses, pickles, cakes, spirits, cigarettes, rain, and music. If, like me, you enjoy reading about such things, or about Paris in general, you will be delighted by the feeling of immediacy that Knisley’s scenes evoke. (Note: better eat before reading or you’ll be sadly disappointed at the non-Parisian state of your refrigerator when you become hungry halfway through.)

French Milk Lucy Knisley

My favorite thing about French Milk is that although Lucy is in Paris for a month eating and drinking delicious things (god, I’m so hungry now), she still gets in funks, misses her boyfriend, gets annoyed with her mom, has cramps, and generally feels out of place in the world. And, while in moments she could come off as an asshole to those of us not in Paris, it mostly adds texture to what might otherwise be a pretty superficial trip. She has that feeling of being privileged to do something that she’s not fully appreciating: that feeling of “I’m in Paris on vacation so I should be happy but my stupid brain is intruding with my real personality and preventing the word vacation from being synonymous with bliss.” You know that feeling, right?

French Milk Lucy Knisley

what was the book’s intention? did it live up to that intention?

Oscar Wilde's grave

Oscar Wilde’s grave avec kisses!

To celebrate Lucy’s birthday, her father comes to Paris to visit and she and her parents go to Père Lachaise cemetery so Lucy can pay homage to Oscar Wilde, who’s buried there. Lucy talks a lot about Wilde—he’s an apt interlocutor for her journal, which is so invested in physical pleasures, art, and aesthetics. But, while French Milk is mostly delightful drawings of food and wanderings around Paris, the funks that Lucy gets in from time to time begin, by the middle of the book, to touch on real depression: fears of her impending college graduation, anxiety that she won’t be able to find a job, insecurity about her self-worth as an artist. So, woven throughout this story of a Parisian adventure are the real world concerns of a woman in her early twenties trying to find where she belongs.

The strength of French Milk’s journal format is the specificity of Lucy and her mother’s experiences—that cheese, this painting, that bridge, these buildings. That immediacy drew me in and made me feel like I, too, was in Paris for a time, along with all my senses. That format was French Milk’s biggest weakness, too, I think. Because the book was stuck in the realism of what things happened when, it never quite opened up into being more than one woman’s experience with things in a highly unusual setting. Whereas sometimes travel shines a light on the feelings of alienation or belonging that a writer always feels but cannot quite capture when in familiar territory, in French Milk those feelings become so specific as to seem a bit solipsistic.

Paris in the winter

Image: design serendipity

The frontispiece of the book says that French Milk “deals with the valuable and significant influence that we take from our mothers, as well as my own struggle toward adulthood at an age when we so desperately cling to our adolescence.” This is true, in moments, but the journal format doesn’t leave Knisley any room to shape those themes into more affecting art, instead leaving them where they lie. That makes French Milk, for me, an escape piece—more travel writing (drawing) than creative nonfiction. And that isn’t a bad thing; far from it. I thoroughly enjoyed my trek through the streets and foods of Paris—even though I don’t care for milk.

personal disclosure

The one moment that French Milk lost me was this page when Lucy and her mom learn of Saddam Hussein’s execution but then find “humanity redeemed” when they eat good cookies (66):

French Milk Lucy Knisley

I think this is actually a very realistic reaction. So much of the book upholds a Wildean aestheticism (a celebration of taste food, drink, sensuality), though, that the use of taste in this instance—to redeem acts of cruelty and violence—made the rest of the book feel a bit more . . . superficial?

readalikes

Carnet de Voyage Craig Thompson

Carnet de Voyage by Craig Thompson (2004). Also a graphic travel journal, in Carnet de Voyage Thompson finds himself lonely and lovesick during his travels.

Everything is its own reward: an all over coffee collection paul madonna

Everything Is Its Own Reward: An All Over Coffee Collection by Paul Madonna (2011). “All Over Coffee” began as a column of Paul Madonna’s that first appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle. It pairs Madonna’s stunning ink wash drawings with musings about the places he visits, from San Francisco to Tokyo to Paris. Gorgeous!

Procured from: library

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