Digital Comics Now on Hoopla

Sandman Preludes and NocturnesI have been waiting for libraries to carry digital comics for years.

And now, thanks to Hoopla and a few major comics publishers, they do. (Read this for information on why the Library may not have the eBook or digital comic you’re looking for.)

Hoopla now carries comics published by DC, IDW, and more. Image (my current favorite publisher) will hopefully be added to that mix in the near future.

There are a few quirks to watch out for as you browse. Some comics are collected into digital “trade paperbacks” (most of DC’s are like this) and some are available as single issues.

For some comics the series is broken up and you have to look in two different places to find it. (Example: Princeless issue one is here, and the other three are over here.) For others (like Adventure Time), only select issues are available (30 to 36 as of this writing.)

To celebrate this momentous occasion for comic nerds everywhere, I made a list of my top six digital comic picks.

  1. The Sandman by Neil Gaiman: If you haven’t read this classic wherein Death, Dream, Destruction, Destiny, etc. are godlike entities who get wrapped up in the mundane world in various ways, you absolutely should. This is the series that made Gaiman’s name, and for good reason. It’s fantastic.
  2. Fables: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham: This is another of my all-time favorites. (I talk about one volume a little in this post over here.) Fairy tale characters are living in modern Manhattan after the Adversary takes over their homelands. There are murder mysteries, epic battles, magic, sarcasm, and plenty of tender moments.
  3. John Constantine, Hellblazer by Jamie Delano: I have had a major crush on John Constantine since I first read Hellblazer back in high school. He fights demons, chain smokes, and generally embodies the spirit of punk in a totally kick butt way. (There’s also a movie, which I recommend only if you are fond of Keanu Reeves, and one season of a television series–now cancelled–that began airing last fall.)
  4. Lumberjanes Issue 1Lumberjanes by Grace Ellis and Noelle Stevenson: This band of girlfriends is the kind of group you’ve always wanted to belong to. Maybe you do. If so, all of you should read this together.
  5. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller: My first introduction to this classic Batman tale was the cartoon adaptation of the early 1990s (which is fantastic, too, by the way). This is a “what if” scenario: What if Batman weren’t there to save Gotham? Now you can find out, 24/7, without leaving your couch/bed/gaming chair.
  6. Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughn: What if all men died? Not just humans, but all male animals, too? Except for one. Follow him and the awesome ladies he encounters as he searches for his fiancee, who might be somewhere in Australia.

You’re smart, so you probably noticed most of these are DC Vertigo titles. It’s true. I love DC Vertigo. There are so many more comics on Hoopla though, like biographies of Barack Obama and Kate Middleton for young adults, and classics adapted into comic form.

But the best thing about Hoopla? There are no wait lists. Every title is available to everyone all the time. So go on, read some comics!

-Kelly

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Me and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Part II

I told you I’d be back with a review of the film adaptation of Pittsburgh-native Jesse Andrews‘ debut novel Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.

In case you need a refresher on the plot, Greg (Thomas Mann) and Earl (RJ Cyler) make no-budget films inspired by their favorites. The 400 Blows becomes The 400 Bros. Eyes Wide Shut becomes Eyes Wide Butt. Peeping Tom becomes Pooping Tom. You get the idea. Their lives are changed forever (as is often the case in coming-of-age stories) when Greg’s mom, played with subtle shrillness by Connie Britton, forces Greg to hang out with leukemia-stricken Rachel, played by the adorable Olivia Cooke.

Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, whose only directing credits prior were episodes of Glee and American Horror Story and a remake of The Town That Dreaded Sundown, has assembled quite a team for this film. Cyler’s Earl endeared himself to me just as he did in the book. Mann is great at playing dopey and awkward; it makes him relatable. Cooke, who seemed set on becoming this decade’s scream queen, shines in her role as the dying girl. With eyes bigger than hubcaps, you can tell exactly what she’s feeling just by looking into them. She’s got a real silent film star quality about her.

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© Fox Searchlight and Indian Paintbrush

The rest of the casting is pitch-perfect as well. SNL alum Molly Shannon gets to flex some dramatic muscles as Rachel’s mom, always with a drink in her hand and warning Greg to never end up like her absentee husband. Nick Offerman is great, albeit underused, as Greg’s tenured professor dad (but I could watch him all day). Jon Bernthal is also good in his role as Mr. McCarthy, the tattooed teacher whose mantra is “Respect the Research” and may or may not have drug-laced soup that inadvertently causes Greg and Earl to trip.

The camera work, fluidly kinetic and reminiscent of a Wes Anderson film, whip pans around showing off the beautifully simple muted color palette, courtesy of Chung-hoon Chung (cinematographer of Oldboy, Thirst and Stoker). Oftentimes that beautiful imagery is paired with music by the likes of Brian Eno, Ennio Morricone and Explosions in the Sky.

If all that wasn’t enough to entice you, remember that it was filmed in Pittsburgh and as such is peppered with Pittsburgh flair. The Point Breeze house where Andrews grew up is used as Greg’s house. At one point, Earl scoffs at the idea of going all the way to Lawrenceville. Rachel urges Greg to apply to University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh State University. A boy is seen wearing a yarmulke with the Pittsburgh Pirates logo on it. I figured that had to be a prop made for the movie, but it’s totally a thing.

Jesse Andres at a recent Writers LIVE event at CLP - Main. He's such a chill, down-to-earth guy. I wanted to get a beer with him after.

Jesse Andrews at a recent Writers LIVE event at CLP – Main. He’s such a chill, down-to-earth guy. I wanted to hang out with him and listen to everything he had to say.

It’s clear the filmmakers love movies as much as Greg and Earl. When the duo are looking for new inspiration for a film they’re making for Rachel in a High Fidelity-esque movie store, filmed at Mind Cure Records in Polish Hill, we catch glimpses of obscure films such as Chris Marker’s La Jetée along with more mainstream fare like Miyazaki’s Spirited Away and Kubrik’s Paths of Glory on the packed shelves. When Greg finally premiers his film to Rachel it’s a perfect union of visually stunning imagery and moving music. Such an emotionally charged scene would have been ruined if the two had been presented as teens in love throughout.

That Greg and Rachel aren’t presented as star-crossed lovers is one of the things I loved most about this movie. There is no “lifesaving” romance. No grand, sweeping gestures or romantic getaways to Amsterdam. It’s grounded in the world of a weird teenager and his very sick friend; no depictions of manic pixie dream girls (or boys) here. It’s something I’ve been longing to see in cinema since the end of Garden State.

I cannot overstate how refreshing it was that no love story was shoehorned in. Their friendship is more beautiful than any teen romance ever committed to celluloid. It’s also refreshing to see a young adult movie that isn’t set in a post-apocalyptic dystopia; I can only imagine the fun Greg and Earl would have spoofing the current glut of such films.

With Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Gomez-Rejon and Andrews, who doubled as the screenwriter, have given us a new classic in the pantheon of coming-of-age movies. It circles well-known tropes without ever succumbing to their clichés. For me, this earns a spot on the shelf with Stand by Me, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Little Miss Sunshine and The Way Way Back. If you loved the book as much as I did, I’d wager that you’ll also love the movie.  When it opens in a town near you, I hope you’ll get out there and see it. I know I can’t wait to go see it again.

–Ross

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June 2015 Recap

You’re a busy person with many worthy internet essays to read, so we thought we’d try something new to help keep you in the loop with all things Eleventh Stack: recap posts!

On the last weekday of every month Eleventh Stack will publish  a list, with brief descriptions, of posts you might have missed the first time around. Since it’s never too late to discover a good book, film, or other library item, you’ll get a second chance to make your TBR list even longer. Read on to see the topics we tackled in June!

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Art by MikaylaM on RedBubble.com (click for portfolio!)

If you enjoyed this highlights reel, you’ll love what the Eleventh Stack team has cooked up for July. See you tomorrow with books, movies, and more!

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What Book Changed Your Story?

Happy end of Pride Month, everyone! We celebrated with you this June at PrideFest by making a community quilt, and now I want to share what a wonderful experience we had. We asked PrideFest attendees to write a title of “A Book That Changed Your Story” on a quilt square, and the finished quilt will start to travel around our 19 branches in the fall. Here’s a teaser:

Photo taken by the author.

Photo taken by the author.

So, “What book changed your story?” I love this question for a few reasons. First, reading is a highly personal activity. We pick what we read, and we read what we love, which makes bookshelves probably the second window into the soul. (Raise your hand if you, too, make a beeline to someone’s bookshelf as soon as you spot it.)

Second, I like that this question makes us think about the profound effect reading has on our lives. There’s probably that one line you’ve read that you never came back from — that changed how you saw yourself, the world and your place in the world.

And then I like this question because, at PrideFest, it became abundantly clear that a concomitant joy of reading is living in the company of readers. There’s the thrill of excitement and sense of affirmation seeing someone read a book that’s dear to you as they wait for the bus and the fun of talking to someone about that book, or them asking you about it.

Photo by Maggie McFalls.

Photo by Maggie McFalls.

At PrideFest, some of you knew right away what book changed you. Others left the table, thought about the books they’d read and themselves, and came back hours later to answer the question. And when you answered, some shared stories about those books: reading Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love in the early nineties after the AIDS crisis, naming a beloved daughter with some clever wordplay from the The Velveteen Rabbit (which is read by Meryl Streep on OverDrive). Many people answered that Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues changed your story, but almost all of you had different reasons why. One person praised Winnie the Pooh’s values and the character’s disregard for “gender role or size”. (It’s all about that honey!) We talked about children’s novels (Mommy, Mama, and Me), YA (I Am J, How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship and Musical Theater, The Miseducation of Cameron Post), fiction (Rubyfruit Jungle, The Front Runner) and non-fiction (Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity, anyone?).

Another reason I love this question is because we identify ourselves in so many different ways. Identifying and claiming a title is empowering. Sometimes, we find community, and we find ourselves when we do so. The only thing I know for sure is that on a fundamental level I am a reader, and I’ve always loved meeting my own people. Pittsburgh makes a lot of best-of lists, but one thing that isn’t mentioned explicitly is the people. So let me say explicitly that the best thing about Pittsburgh is yinz. Thank you to all who shared, thanks for being… my neighbor.

–Isabelle

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A Summer Reading To-Do List

My blanket summer reading goal is to chip away at my ridiculous to-read list. But I think, more than that, I’d like (need) to be a slightly more intentional and finally get to a few things I might have had checked out a little too long (sorry, owning libraries!).

  

 

–  Jess

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Anniversaries

I like to ponder past significant events. This month there are two giant ones. I would like you to consider: The signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 and the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

The Magna Carta was a signed agreement between the despotic King John (1166-1216) and his fractious Barons on a field at Runnymede near Windsor, England in 1215. That was 800 years ago. Hard to wrap your mind around an event which took place that long ago. That initial agreement very quickly failed and John and his Barons were back at each other’s throats. So why do we care? The Magna Carta is described as one of the “most celebrated magnacartadocuments in history.” Some historians claim that this document is thought to be the precursor of modern Democracy. It influenced the American founding fathers as they created the Constitution. Four of the early copies of the Magna Carta still exist. These manuscripts are so rare and revered that during WWII, the British government shipped a copy to the United States for safekeeping. That copy lived at Fort Knox, Kentucky until the war was over.

Many published books discuss this document and the time in England when it came to be. I recommend the fascinating 1215: The Year of Magna Carta by Danny Danziger and John
Gillingham.

Then there is Waterloo, which occurred 200 years ago. Just about everyone knows about the famous battle, the final defeat of Napoleon, and the end to a European war which had lasted 23 years. The Battle of Waterloo took place on June 18, 1815 in what is now Belgium. Tens of thousands tragically died on both sides; the carnage was enormous.

sageMany books , both fiction and non-fiction, describe the events of this military campaign. A recent edition to this body of work is a small volume entitled The Sage of Waterloo: A Tale by Leona Francombe. This novel relates what happened during that fateful battle. On June 17, 1815, the Duke of Wellington amassed his troops at Hougoumont, an ancient farmstead not far from the town of Waterloo. On June 18th, the French attacked. It is believed that both Napoleon and Wellington thought that holding Hougoumont was key to winning the battle.

What makes this telling so different is that it is told by a modern young rabbit named William who lives on what remains of the old farm. Under the teachings of his mysterious and wise grandmother, Old Lavender, William learns about the famous conflict and begins to absorb the “echoes and ghosts of the battle.” Gradually, William comes to realize how profoundly the deeds at Waterloo two hundred years before continue to resonate.

“Nature,” as Old Lavender says, “never truly recovers from human cataclysms.”

The Sage of Waterloo is a satisfying retelling of a key turning point in human history.

–Audrey

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Life on the Disc

The world lost one of the best recently when Terry Pratchett died. Our own LAF wrote this beautiful piece about it.

I have also written about Pratchett on this blog in the past.

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Fab pic of Terry Pratchett culled form a Google Image Search

Quite recently, the brilliant folks over at Book Riot published a piece by A. J. O’Connell about Pratchett’s daughter announcing that there will be no more Discworld books. She will not write any, and the series will end with the upcoming Tiffany Aching book The Shepherd’s Crown later this summer. In addition, The Long Utopia (co-written by Pratchett and Stephen Baxter) will round out the “Long Earth” series (that featured The Long Earth, The Long War and The Long Mars).

The Shepherd’s Crown marks the 41st Discworld book. That’s a lot. Maybe you’ve read all of them, or maybe you’ve never even heard of them. Might I propose, dear Eleventh Stack reader, that since we know there are not going to be any more, this is the perfect time to discover, or re-discover this excellent series. Starting at the beginning is never a bad idea, and The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic are the first two.

That said, one of my favorite things about the Discworld series is that you can pretty much start anywhere. Might I suggest Feet of Clay, Thud, or Unseen Academicals? They are all brilliant. The Fifth Elephant was the book that got me hooked. I also love Monstrous Regiment and Night Watch. Get into it! They are all wonderful.

Eric

-who is reading both The Long Mars and Raising Steam right now, and thinking about starting Lords and Ladies next!

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