Tag Archives: Comics

If Hellboy’s There, Hell Is Going to Be Awesome

Hellboy in Hell: The DescentLast year, Hellboy turned 20, and this year, he went to Hell.

Although the library doesn’t yet have a copy of Hellboy: The First 20 Years, a collection of art celebrating Mike Mignola’s comic creation, you can start placing your holds on Hellboy in Hell: The Descent, the first collection in Hellboy’s new story cycle, out this month from Dark Horse Comics.

So what has Hellboy been doing the past 20 years? How exactly did he wind up in hell? Why should you care?

If you’re only familiar with Hellboy through Guillermo del Toro’s two blockbuster movies, Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army, I should warn you that the comics are completely different–but each incarnation has its charms.

Hellboy Volume OneIf you’d like to start at the beginning, I suggest reading the collected hardback library editions instead of the individual trade paperback volumes. Volume One might seem vaguely familiar if you’ve seen the Hellboy film, as it tells the red demon’s origin story and introduces most of the recurring characters in the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, B.P.R.D. for short.

The main two differences between the movies and the comics is that there’s no love interest between Hellboy and Liz Sherman in the comics, and no civilians freak out when they see Hellboy or the other members of the B.P.R.D. People act totally normal when the big crimefighter shows up at the scene of a haunted house, supernatural carnage, or other strange happening. I prefer it this way–the freak trope is pretty over-used in comic books and Hollywood movies, and dispensing with it allows Mignola to get right down to the meat of the story.

B.P.R.D. Plague of Frogs 1After you read Hellboy’s first two hardback collections, you’ll want to pick up the first hardback volume of the spin-off series B.P.R.D., entitled Plague of Frogs 1 (see this website for a full reading order, and this page of the Hellboy Wiki for what material is collected in which volume). Fire-starter Liz Sherman, fish-man Abe Sapien, ecto-plasmic being Johann Krauss, homunculus Roger, and the other members of the BPRD make do without Hellboy and work toward solving the world’s growing frog problem. Although there’s lots of icky gore, funny hijinks, and paranormal investigative goodness, the best part of B.P.R.D. is the way the characters develop over the course of the series.

By now you’ve probably realized I’m not actually going to tell you how Hellboy winds up in hell. If you want to find out, you’ll have to read the series (there are only five hardback volumes–trust me, you’ll be itching for more when you close the cover on the last one). If you’re not sure you want to commit to 20 years worth of material, try one of the off-beat collections or shorter spin-off series, like Hellboy: Weird Tales, Abe Sapien, or Lobster Johnson–a series about a supremely bizarre crime fighter.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Somewhere Inside the Rainbow: Pride 2014

Pride Pittsburgh is only a few days away, so this week the Eleventh Stack blog is highlighting selections from the Library’s LGBTQ collections. We’ll be covering a wide selection of materials, from movies to memoirs, written by, for, and about LGBTQ people and their families, friends, and other allies.

Pride week 2014

Of course, the term LGBTQ isn’t an end in itself, but a jumping-off point for exploration; there are millions of ways to be in the world, including pansexual, asexual, intersex, genderqueer, and androgynous (click here to see one blogger’s list of frequently used terms and definitions). You could say that LGBTQ is a continually evolving conversation from a chorus of voices, simultaneously complicated and enriched by considerations of race, religion, and class.

If you are–or would like to be–part of that conversation, there are as many points of entry in the Library as there are kinds of people in the world: comics, biography, short stories, history, theology, cultural studies, YA lit, wedding planners, you name it. Whether you’re reading to broaden your horizons, or to see your own experiences reflected in the literary/ cultural record, we’ll be happy to help you find the perfect title (or fifty).

Welcome inside the rainbow – we hope you’ll enjoy reading along with us this week.

–Leigh Anne



Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Watching More Books

A while back, I featured some books that would making their way to the small screen with adaptations (That was in August? Holy smokes!). Well, now that the networks are announcing their choices for the next TV season, it’s clear that more folks jumping on board the comic book party train for their source material.  Let’s check out a few of the books that I can’t wait to watch in a few months.

Thanks to the fantastic Arrow series on right now (Scott was not wrong about that show), we’ll get to see The Flash this fall. Arrow has done some legwork in building this spin-off in the past few months, with characters popping up and even setting the stage for Barry Allen’s transformation from skinny nerd to The Fastest Man Alive. I really hope these series work together in the BuffyAngel mold, in that they support two strong, separate plots, but allow for movement between shows in a seamless way.

I’m beside myself over Gotham. I love the idea of a show living in the world of Batman, but focusing on the people around Bruce Wayne in the years leading up to him putting on the cape and cowl. This hasn’t been explored much in the comics, but I think Gotham Central might be the closest match, in that it revolves around the work Jim Gordon and other members of the Gotham PD are doing to solve crimes in their city.

I knew Rob Thomas (this one, not that one) was working on a new show and there would be zombies, but I had no idea that it was based on a comic series. iZombie follows a young woman who happens to be a zombie – as she consumes new brains, the memories of the dead person take over and she works to fulfill their last request. The show is moving away from the graveyard of the comics to a coroner’s office for a more defined detective story angle. Slightly gory Veronica Mars? Sign me up.

Are there any comics/graphic novels that you’d love to see turned into a TV show?

– Jess, who is still holding out hope for a Y: The Last Man series


Filed under Uncategorized

Read It, Loved It, Bought It


It’s like this Erasmus guy knows me. My Amazon wishlist is larger than my book-buying budget, but thanks to the Library I can make better decisions about which books I want to own by checking them out first. Here are just a few of the many titles I’ve purchased after the “try before you buy” period.

Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh. Why would you buy a book when you can read the blog posts for free on the internet? hyperboleBecause some people are just so darned funny that you want to support their livelihood. Brosh’s blunt descriptions of her weird childhood, adult struggles with depression and the oddball dogs with whom she has shared her life, are required reading for anybody with a dark sense of humor and an affinity for awkward people (or a similar awkward past). Illustrated with colorful vignettes just a few steps up from stick figure art (that’s not a complaint), Brosh’s collection is the perfect addition to my home library, so that I can go back to its absurdity and humor whenever I like, and not just when I’m near a screen or a device. Maybe if I’m really lucky, she’ll publish another book…

yogaThe Woman’s Book of Yoga and Health, Linda Sparrowe. When I decided to try yoga, I was too embarrassed to actually go to a class and interact with other human beings. I had the mistaken notion that all yoginis were a size two and incredibly spiritually advanced, and since I was neither, I should probably practice at home until I was a lean, laid-back adept (or could fake it reasonably well). Of the flurry of library books I tried, Sparrowe’s was the first one I bought: its clear illustrations/instructions, use of modifications and otherwise sensible advice about both the physical and spiritual practice of yoga helped me calm down a little and focus on the learning process instead of the person next to me at the studio I eventually started attending. Thanks for helping me get over myself, Linda Sparrowe!

Happy Herbivore Abroad, Lindsay S. Nixon. It’s really important to take cookbooks for a test drive before you buy them. happyOtherwise you’re going to end up with a shelf full of books you’ll never use, which is neither cost-effective nor tasty. Nixon’s collection of plant-based recipes made the cut because it presents a global sampler of delicious meals that will suit adventurous palates, but not send you all over town hunting for expensive, exotic ingredients. Nixon also tells interesting stories about the places she’s visited, which makes this a fun book to sit down and read at length. This cookbook paid for itself when I shared the recipe for German lentil stew with my parents, who enjoyed it so much that they made it again when I came to visit, then sent me home with a huge container of it as a thank-you. Now, that’s what I call the circle of life.

TFIOSThe Fault in Our Stars, John Green. I know, I know. Truth be told, I actually resisted this book for quite some time, despite hearing great things about it in the media and from other readers, because I’m always a little leery of the book “everybody” is reading. As it turns out, “everybody” is reading the book for very good reasons, some of which include Swedish hip-hop, a rant about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and the inescapable truth that the world is, indeed, not a wish-granting factory. You don’t get to choose whether or not you get your heart broken in this world, but you do get to choose the books that break your heart…and I choose this one, because I know that if it ever stops breaking my heart, I’ve probably lost some essential human quality that makes both love and empathy possible.

Your turn: do you use the Library to pre-shop for your permanent bookshelf? What titles have you checked out that made you say…


Leigh Anne
supporting the literary economy, one enjoyable read at a time


Filed under Uncategorized

Snow White, Master Swordswoman?!

Happy National Library Week 2014! Help us celebrate by visiting any Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh location this week to tell us about the books that changed your life.

Like most any kid, Disney animated films figured hugely into my childhood. My favorite one changed, depending on which villain scared my little brother more at the time. For a while I’d demand we watch The Little Mermaid over and over until, I guess, sheer exposure desensitized him to the terror of Ursula. Then I moved on to torturing him with Beauty and the Beast. When I was feeling magnanimous, we watched The Lion King, which we both enjoyed.

Snow White and the Seven DwarvesOne Disney movie neither of us could get into, either to enjoy or be scared of, was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. We thought it was boring. And that the songs were meh. And maybe that the dwarfs were a little creepy.

Fables vol. 1: Legends in ExileSo in high school, when I discovered Bill Willingham’s comic Fables, the story of basically every fairy tale character you’ve ever heard of living undercover in modern Manhattan, the character of Snow White did not interest me. I wanted to know more about Bigby Wolf, the chain-smoking, trenchcoat-wearing sheriff of Fabletown, who in his previous life went by the Big Bad Wolf and can transform into wolf form any time the situation calls for it.

Willingham’s portrayal of this fairy tale princess drew me in, though. Snow is the deputy mayor of Fabletown, the neighborhood of Manhattan the “Fables” created for themselves when they fled their homelands in front of an invading army led by a tyrant dictator known only as the Adversary. When we meet her, she’s already divorced Prince Charming for being a womanizer and all around terrible husband, and she just might be attracted to Bigby.

And then you find out that those dwarfs were definitely NOT helping Snow when she was lost in the woods, and that she forced Prince Charming to teach her sword fighting shortly after they got married so she could enact her revenge. She does so. Bloodily.

Fables vol. 19: Snow WhiteThe latest trade paperback volume to come out, volume nineteen, is aptly titled Snow White and highlights all of this character’s strengths: She’s intelligent, she’s a fierce mother, she’s a loyal and loving wife, and she keeps those physical fighting skills sharp in order to protect her family.

But most of all, she is willing to make hard choices. In this volume, characters who are physically much stronger than Snow fail, and it is she who must save the day, using not only her master sword fighting skills, but her wit and strength of will.

No meek, pale princess, this, but a modern warrior woman.

Once Upon A Time Season 1Snow White has gotten makeovers in other media as well. In ABC’s Once Upon A Time, the fairy tale characters don’t know who they are because of a curse. In this version, pre-curse Snow White is a wiley woods woman who would do anything for true love. Her cursed alter ego Mary Margaret, though, does start out rather meek.

Mary Margaret doesn’t stay meek for long. Even before she recovers her memories, and therefore her true identity, she begins to stand up for herself and the things she wants. When her daughter Emma breaks the curse and Mary Margaret recovers her memory, her ferocity comes out full force.

Although I can’t help but look at the similarities between Once Upon A Time and Fables and think, a little possessively, “Fables did this first!” (I have been reading this series for ten years, so I’m just a little bit attached), I’m exceedingly glad that Disney’s version of Snow White is no longer the only visible version in our culture.

Excellent, woman-empowering retellings of Snow White and other fairy tales give us role models we can look up to, examples we can hope to follow. Willingham’s Snow and ABC’s Mary Margaret are much closer to real women than their fairy tale princess counterparts; they just have a few extra powers. But they have problems, they make decisions, they take actions, and they deal with the consequences themselves instead of always relying on others to protect them.

And when the situation requires, they pull out their swords and fight.



Filed under Uncategorized

Geek Assistance Needed

Oh, the things I’ll do in the name of professional development. I have had the opportunity to learn pop songs on the uke, figure out how to play X Box (and subsequently get trounced upon by a bunch of grade school kids in a Just Dance 4 dance off), and brush up on my trivia for a game of Stump the Librarian at Market Square Reading Room, all in the name of doing my job. Whatever it takes to get folks excited about the library, I’ll do it.

String meme

The latest professional challenge facing me, however, may involve a complete change of identity. You see, the Library has embraced geek culture in a big way — see The Den, The Buzz, Out of the Gutter, Hands On Workshops, and a goodly chunk of our Teen programming, to name a few. The library and geeks are natural allies — we love technology, learning, making lists, collecting things, and pop culture. And in my role as an outreach librarian, I have an obligation to go out and bring the library’s mission of lifelong learning and literacy to geeks wherever they may work, play, and LARP.

The problem is, despite my love for the obscure and a deep-seated and strong opinion in the Star Wars v. Star Trek debate, I am not yet a geek.

That’s not to say that I am a prep or a jock or any other non-nerd John Hughes archetype. I simply have never been able to stick to anything long enough to get really knowledgeable about it, which for me is the hallmark of geekiness. Sure, I’ve read some sci fi, played a few video games, read a decent number of comics, watched some movies, and made some stuff, but my knowledge in these areas is too broad for me to even be accurately called a generalist. I’m a dabbler at best.

There’s a bit of a sense of urgency here, because I would love to represent the Library at the Pittsburgh Comicon 2013 on September 27, 28, and 29. When I was working the table at the Comic Art Festival, I got called out as a non-geek because I wasn’t able to identify a web comic character. Never again! Now’s the time to cultivate my inner geek.

That’s where you come in, dear Eleventh Stack readers. Be my Virgil, er, Yoda, and guide me to be a +10 level geek!

Professional development literature. It's a tough job but somebody's gotta do it.

Professional development literature. It’s a tough job but somebody’s gotta do it.

To set the mood for my quest, I’ve started with a book that was recommended to me by both my Dickens-loving brother and a fantasy-loving librarian friend, Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. I have fallen in love with this book, and I’ve got several years’ worth of reading, viewing, and playing suggestions to work through based on the story. If you haven’t heard of this book, check it out immediately. It’s a dystopian adventure story set in a riot-filled, poverty-stricken, environmentally-wrecked near future in which the vast majority of inhabitants of Earth escape the ugly reality by plugging in to a massive virtual reality video game universe called the OASIS. The genius inventor of this virtual world left an “easter egg,”(which I learned is a hidden challenge within a video game that has no bearing on the primary game-play) a series of challenges that will yield to the winner a vast sum of money and a controlling stake in the game’s universe. This book pits our hard-luck teenage protagonist against a massive corporation with dubious intentions and I LOVE IT.

Other recent forays – Joss Whedon’s X-Men series, Twin Peaks, Makey Makey — have been equally promising. But since time is scarce, I need some help! For starters:

  • Do you have to start a comic series from the beginning, even if it goes back 50 or 60 years? Can you just jump in?
  • Manga — I’ve read some Osamu Tezuka, what’s next?
  • What’s an entry point for a fantasy-curious reader?
  • What Superman series will cure me of my tendency to find him boring?
  • If you only have time for one science fiction TV series, should it be Firefly or Battlestar?
  • I’m not a teenager, do I have enough time left in my life to consume and understand Dr. Who or should I move on?
  • I like Red Fang and Sleep, but I fear that these groups are false metal. Please discuss.
  • What’s this Homestuck all about?
  • Do you have a favorite Cthulhu story not written by Lovecraft?

What else do I need to know before Comicon?

-Dan aka Morath, my new Klingon name


Filed under Uncategorized

Daredevil: The Man Without Fear!


Daredevil has always been one of my favorite superheroes. After all, he is “the man without fear!” The character of Matt Murdock always appealed to me. He was a working-class Catholic kid raised by a single father who was a boxer. Blinded in an accident as a youth (by a “radioactive isotope” no less! Ahhh, the brilliant Stan Lee and the 1960s, when radioactive exposure gave you superpowers!), Matt Murdock gains superhuman abilities to compensate for his loss of sight. Everything from “radar” vision, to super-sensitive hearing and smell is now in Matt Murdock’s arsenal. And so, the boy once sarcastically and tauntingly called “dare devil” by neighborhood bullies (for being too much of a bookworm, and on the advice of his pugilistic father, avoiding fights at all costs), adopts the name Daredevil as his superhero identity. Working-class-kid-made-good Matt Murdock follows his father’s advice and studies hard, graduating at the top of his law school class. As a lawyer, Matt works with the downtrodden and is happy to work pro bono, or for barter when he can. He also stuck around his old neighborhood.


You, True Believer, and lucky Eleventh Stack blog reader, should take a moment to look at a few collections of fantastic Daredevil books that the CLP has in our system. First up is the now classic Frank Miller Daredevil Born Again collection. I’m not a big fan of much of Miller’s stuff (and I’m certainly not into his critique of social issues and movements – I’ll take Alan Moore’s side, thank you very much), but this book is a very good read. It gets into some interesting character development and sets up a fascinating back story that many writers that came after used.

Next up is the Guardian Devil stuff by Kevin Smith. Possibly best known for his films and podcasts, Kevin Smith is also a writer and has written not only Daredevil books, but also Batman and Green Arrow! Kevin Smith’s Guardian Devil material is a very interesting/weird/cool book with a slick cartoonish illustration style. This is also the book that essentially helped to relaunch the title. At the time Smith wrote these comics, Daredevil was really a flagging title with a relatively small readership. This run really re-energized it!


Last up is Mark Waid’s  Daredevil Vol. 1 Collection. This is the newest title of the bunch. Since Waid took over, Daredevil has shifted gears a bit and has become more of a swashbuckling, high flying adventure superhero as opposed to the brooding, noir-esque books that had been written over the last 5 years or so.

So get into it! Daredevil has a rich history, and can be a serious, funny, strange and fantastic comic to read. And I don’t have to tell you…it’s all at your local CLP!



Filed under Uncategorized

Banned Books Week: Fun Home

In celebration of Banned Books Week, we’re highlighting a few of our favorite books (and authors) that have been challenged in schools and libraries because of content or appropriateness.

Used by permission of the American Library Association

Banned and challenged authors frequently state that the books they write are the ones their younger selves always wanted to read, but couldn’t find. Too often, people forget that while a particular book dealing with topics like diverse sexual orientations may not be right for them or their children, it is probably exactly the right book for someone else. —Maren Williams, reference librarian extraordinaire

A dear friend gently reminded me yesterday that comic books–sometimes known by their gentrified moniker “graphic novels”–are still frequently challenged in schools and libraries. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund website is an amazing respository of information on banned and challenged comics, as well as the long, twisted history of comics censorship in America, and reading it got me all fired up!

After deciding to write about a comic for Banned Books week, though, my next problem was huge: which one? There are so many, and so many of them are so good! But the more I thought about it, the more it became clear to me that there was one graphic novel in particular that deserved my shouts and love today: Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home.

Image spotted at Brevity Book Reviews

Bechdel, who made her mark on the world of comics with the hilarious-delicious series Dykes to Watch Out For, spent seven years writing and illustrating Fun Home, a graphic memoir of growing up in rural Pennyslvania. Although it was nominated for multiple awards, including three Eisners (it won “Best Reality-Based Work”), the book was challenged in Missouri for being “inappropriate” and “pornographic” (an honor it shared with Craig Thompson’s Blankets, which was challenged at the same time for the same reason.)

The heart of Fun Home lies in Bechdel’s relationship with her father. A closeted gay man, Bruce Bechdel died in an accident two weeks after his wife asked him for a divorce; this, and other subtle clues, lead Bechdel to believe her father killed himself.  The narrative weaves back and forth through time as Bechdel examines both her father’s life and her own for clues, comparing and contrasting their experiences of being gay and coming out (or not). We also see many scenes of small-town family life, in which the author and her parents, drawn in gorgeous shades of blue-green-gray, bang up against each other’s secrets and difficulties.

Steeped in literary allusion–Bechdel’s father was, among other things, a passionate reader and English teacher–the story almost demands familiarity with James Joyce’s Ulysses just to keep up. It’s also a book about writing and reading as tools for self-discovery, one that exposes pages and pages of Bechdel’s own childhood journals, and shows scene after scene of the Bechdels reading, reading, reading–a poignant bibliotherapy that, ultimately, saves the author, even if it could not do the same for her father.

What’s so “inappropriate” about being gay, coping with the loss of a parent, or reading and writing yourself into adulthood? Darned if I know.  Neither, I suppose, did the library board in Marshall, Missouri, which ultimately decided to keep the book in the adult section where it had originally been shelved (hurray!). I fear, however, that I simply haven’t done the book justice; you really have to experience Fun Home for yourself to see just what a powerful story it is.

–Leigh Anne

with love and gratitude for everyone who ever said to her, “Read this comic book.”


Filed under Uncategorized

Hot make angry

Nothing would please me more right now than to craft a wonderful and insightful blog post for you to read and enjoy. Something that might edify as it entertains, inspiring you, dear reader, to explore a book or perhaps a whole genre of fiction or non-fiction, possibly providing you with new knowledge or a fresh outlook, or maybe rekindle a faded interest in something you may have once enjoyed.

I would like to do that but it’s too hot. It’s just too hot. The AC is going full blast and it’s barely making a dent. When this posts on Monday there may be a slight lessening in the hot front straight from the yawning, fiery chasms of perdition, but as of right now, it’s too hot.

When I get hot, when I suffer under the blazing sun and swim though stagnant, humid air, I get angry. It is a primal sort of rage, an anger directed at the universe in general, so it’s no wonder that recently I have been reading reams of comic pages dedicated to one of my favorite superheroes, the Hulk. Not surprisingly, CLP Main is well stocked with  graphic novels starring the green goliath.

For some retro fun you have to check out this reprint of the first ever Hulk stories. In his very first incarnation the Hulk was gray. I had no idea. Even if you are not a diehard comics fan these old school collections are tremendous fun.  For a new look at Hulk’s origin, Hulk: Gray  is a great book for any reader, especially people who may like to pick up a graphic novel now and again but are put off by decades of torturous comic book continuity.

More recent Hulk books are well represented. I picked up Hulk: Abominable last week and was treated to an incredible slug fest between Hulk and the Abomination, one of his oldest foes.

Tim Roth turned in a yeoman performance as the Abomination in the 2008 Hulk starring Ed Norton and Liv Tyler. It’s a solid movie, punching above its weight as yet another big studio superhero flick. I don’t know if Ed Norton needed the money or he had signed some pact with the devil in order to fund more serious work, but he was great as Bruce Banner regardless.

Who can forget the old Hulk TV show?  Joe Harnell’s piano piece, Lonely Man, has to be the saddest TV theme ever. Unfortunately much of the pathos of fugitive Bruce Banner’s life was lost on me and my brother as we waited impatiently, counting the minutes until Lou Ferrigno finally showed up, ruined a set of clothes, and started wrecking the place.



Filed under Uncategorized

The Cure for Winter Blues.

As we inch closer and closer to the shortest day of the year (and the subsequent three months of winter), I have begun stockpiling my winter survival resources. I tend to feel pretty dreary and sluggish in the winter months, which is why I try to incorporate as many happy-making rituals into the dark days as possible, namely by making lots of soups and reading lots of comics. Luckily, this has been a swell year for comics, and I’m excited that Kate Beaton’s long-running web comic has finally been released in an handsome book edition, simply titled Hark! A Vagrant. If you’re a follower of Beaton you’ll delight in the re-packaging, and if you’re new to her work then you’re in for a very special treat. Her comics deal largely with historical and literary figures, brought to life with fun, jaunty line drawings and wonderfully goofy facial expressions.

Lynda Barry also has a collection coming out called Everything: Volume 1. This is not a collection of new comics, but probably the next best thing–a collection of her earliest (and little seen) work from back in her college days. More volumes to come!

I am also a fan of the lovely, colorful, and whimsical art work of Maira Kalman. Her latest, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manifesto, is also not a new work, but instead a collaboration between the artist and Michael Pollan that reimagines and dresses up his original book from 2009.

As if these three books weren’t enough to keep us all busy well into winter, here are some bonus suggestions from friends and co-workers:

Life with Mr. Dangerous by  Paul Hornschemeier

Daytripper by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba

The Essex County comics of Jeff Lemire

Habibi by Craig Thompson

Marzi by Marzena Sowa

Happy winter reading,



Filed under Uncategorized