Tag Archives: Graphic Novels

Action, Adventure, Monsters! or Some Comics I Want to Read

Since mid-December, I’ve been neck-deep in the process of buying a house and then renovating it. This has severely cut into my comic book reading time.

To keep me from going insane with all the (hopefully) good books I’m missing, I’ve compiled a want-to-read list.

Fables Volume 20: Camelot by Bill Willingham and various wonderful artists
fablesFables starts out with showing how fairy tale characters have adapted to life in present-day New York City, but has morphed into something much deeper and more epic over the ten-plus years of its run. The past few volumes have been beautifully devastating, so I’m both excited and scared to find out what happens next.

Fatale Volume 5 by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
fatale5I’ll read anything by Ed Brubaker. He does crime noir so well, it’s like he invented it. This particular series mixes the femme fatale and horror genres to create a dark, twisted mystery.

 
 
 

Ms. Marvel Volume 1 by G. Willow Wilson

msmarvel1When Marvel announced the new Ms. Marvel would be a shape-shifting Iranian immigrant Muslim lady, and that it would be written by a real live Muslim woman, I was psyched. Sales for this have been going steady, so I’m thinking it’s going to be even more awesome than the concept alone implies. I suggest following author G. Willow Wilson on Twitter–she posts interesting tweets about religion, social justice, and of course, comics.

Rat Queens Volume 1 by Kurtis J. Wiebe and various artists
ratqueensLike a Dungeons and Dragons quest, only with ladies kicking butt. Need I say more?

 
 
 

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

-Kelly

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Food Books That Aren’t Really About Food

Cookbooks, memoirs and novels are my most checked-out items, and as I’ve recently discovered, there’s a sort of magical thing that happens when those worlds collide. You don’t have to be a hardcore gourmand to appreciate the fact that food plays a central role in all our lives, making it a vibrant and relatable conduit for storytelling, exploring memories, making analogies and creating a sort of shorthand between the author and food-savvy readers.  Cooking and baking can be the hook that gets you interested or a thread that ties the story together, but it’s never the whole story.   Here’s a look at some of the recent selections I’ve enjoyed in the subgenre I’m calling food-books-that-aren’t-really-about-food, both fiction and nonfiction.

Julie and Julia

“Maybe I needed to make like a potato, winnow myself down, be part of something that was not easy, just simple.”

Julie & Julia – Julie Powell

The movie adaptation of this memoir was released few years ago, when I first started being interested in cooking. I thought it was sweet movie with nice performances, but it was all-and-all pretty forgettable to me. As is so often the case, the book is so much better! I loved Powell’s sharp, foul-mouthed humor. The story isn’t so much a treatise on the wonders of Julia Child as it is about about finding meaning and purpose when you are feeling adrift. After finishing this, I added Powell’s more recent memoir, Cleaving, to my to-read list.

Seconds – Bryan Lee O’Malley

Seconds has been praised time-and-time again by CLP staffers, so I’ll keep my synopsis short: The author of Scott Pilgrim is back with a faced-paced story featuring magic mushrooms, mistakes and second chances, and a house fairy in a graphic novel set in the restaurant world. It takes about one sitting to read, and it’s definitely worth your time.

Heartburn – Nora Ephron

For my first experience with a Nora Ephron book, I went for this short novel about a cookbook author grappling with her husband’s affair. While it doesn’t sound like a setup ripe for hilarity, Ephron manages to pull it off with trademark wryness. A book about cooking-as-caretaking, relationships and Rich People Problems, I have to admit, I don’t know that I would have enjoyed it half as much if I hadn’t listened to the audiobook which is narrated brilliantly (of course) by Meryl Streep.

Excerpt from Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley. Online source: http://comicsalliance.com/lucy-knisley-relish-review/

Relish:  My Life in the Kitchen – Lucy Knisley

Lucy Knisley was born and raised surrounded by an eclectic collection of restaurant critics, artists, chefs, home cooks, farmers and gardeners, and she has the stories to prove it. I quickly devoured (heh, see what I did there?) this adorable graphic novel filled with food-centric memories, stories about growing up, and reflections on the value of friends, family and food. Comic-style recipes, like this one for huevos rancheros, punctuate the book.

Maman’s Homesick Pie – Donia Bijan

I picked this up with a few other Middle Eastern cookbooks for my monthly themed potluck, and was happily surprised to find it wasn’t really a cookbook, but a memoir with recipes (written by an award-winning chef) interspersed throughout the chapters.  Maman’s Homesick Pie chronicles the life of author Donia Bijan and her family members as they adjust from a happy, well-to-do life in Iran, to living as immigrants in America as a result of Islamic revolution, to Bijan’s training as a professional chef in Paris.  All of her memories are woven together with stories about food: how food was used as a bridge to the family’s Persian heritage, and how adapting to American food rituals is a big part of the enculturation process. The story is engrossing, as is the rich, descriptive food writing. Even if you aren’t interested in that, I say it’s worth a checkout for the recipes alone.

Some related selections from my to-read list:

The Language of Baklava: A Memoir – Diana Abu-Jaber
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake – Aimee Bender
Shark’s fin and Sichuan pepper: a sweet- sour memoir of eating in China – Fuchsia Dunlop
Food: A Love Story – Jim Gaffigan
Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India – Madhur Jaffrey
The Sweet Life in Paris – David Lebovitz
The Baker’s Daughter: A Novel – Sarah McCoy
Aftertaste: A Novel in Five Courses – Meredith Mileti
Cakewalk: A Memoir – Kate Moses
Baking Cakes in Kigali – Gaile Parkin
Yes, Chef – Marcus Samuelsson
Stuffed: Adventures of a Restaurant Family – Patricia Volk
The Truth about Twinkie Pie – Kat Yeh

-Ginny

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2015 Reading Resolutions: Onward and Upward!

With another year of books under our belts, it’s time to look ahead. To bring the blogging year to a close, some Eleventh Stackers have chosen to share their reading resolutions for 2015. There’s nowhere to go, but up, and our team has aimed high — check it out!

Jess

Every time someone asks for a mystery recommendation, I cringe. Despite my love for serialized crime shows (Criminal Minds, Veronica Mars, Murder She Wrote…), I just have a hard time with the genre in book form. 2015 is the year I step up my game and have some titles in my back pocket for the next time I’m put on the spot. I have Anthony Hororwitz’s Moriarty on my list (I read The House of Silk last year for our Tuesday book club, and liked his take on Sherlock). And a regular patron suggested the Ian Rutledge series, by Charles Todd. Readers, if you have any must-reads, maybe some non-historicals that are maybe a bit John Grisham-y, please send ’em my way.

suzy

Unfinished business.

Unfinished business.

I’m going to finish some books in 2015. This year, for whatever reason, I’d get almost to the end of a book and stop reading it. It didn’t matter whether I liked the book or not: I just stopped. I don’t know if this is a sign of mental illness or a newly shortened attention span. Here is a sampling of the books I started, thoroughly enjoyed, and never finished. Feel free to tell me the endings.

Ross

In 2010 I started Stephen King’s It. “Started” being the key word here.  That book is thick, yo.  Maybe 2015 will be the year I finish it.  Or maybe I’ll focus on the classics that I missed out on for one reason or the other, like Animal Farm or Moby-Dick.  Maybe I’ll go back to the books of my childhood, like the Narnia books. Or, since I just started re-watching Gilmore Girls, maybe I’ll focus on a Rory Gilmore reading list.

Irene

I’ve never had much use for audio-books, but I recently discovered how much I like listening to them on long runs. So my reading resolution for 2015 is actually more of a listening resolution: to delve into the library’s collection of super-portable Playaways. I just started listening to Runner.

Scott

I plan to read some more Anne Sexton. I am also slowly re-reading all of the Song Of Ice And Fire novels using the eCLP format.

Leigh Anne

I like to play along with formal reading challenges, to make sure that I regularly step out of my favorite genres and formats to try a little bit of everything. Luckily the magical internet is filled with such opportunities, most of which I find via A Novel Challenge, a terrific blog that collects news and info about different reading games. Of course, I always load up on way too many challenges, and rarely finish any of them…but I sure do have a great time trying!

Here are some challenges I’ll be signing up for in 2015:

The Bookish 2015 TBR Reading Challenge. I have two bookcases at home filled with books I own that I haven’t read yet (I blame the Library, both for being so excellent and for fueling my book-buying habit). It’s getting a little bit out of hand, so I’ve decided to dive into those TBR shelves and decide whether to keep or regift what I’ve got.

It's not bragging if it's true.

It’s not bragging if it’s true.

Janet Ursel’s We Read Diverse Books Challenge. It’s no secret that the publishing  industry is still predominantly white, which means there are a lot of stories out there untold or overlooked. This bothers me both professionally and personally, so I’m on a constant mission to make sure my own reading and reviewing is as inclusive as possible. This challenge was inspired by the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign of 2014.

The 2015 Ebook Reading Challenge. Ebooks are an important part of the reading landscape these days, and I really should be looking at more of them (Overdrive READ is my friend right now, until I finally decide which tablet I want). Ebooks are also sometimes challenging for me because of my vision impairments, but I’m hoping Consumer Reports , a little web sleuthing, and input from other users (maybe you?) will help me pick out the tablet with the best accessibility features. Thanks in advance!

The 2015 Graphic Novels & Manga Challenge. This one’s kind of a cheat, as I adore comics of all kinds. The problem is, I rarely make time to read them, mostly out of guilt because they’re so much fun and there are many other Terribly Serious Things I should be reading dontcha know. However, this means I missed a lot of good stuff in 2014, so I’ve decided to ditch the guilt and spend 2015 savoring the fine art of comics. Woohoo!

Four challenges is do-able, right?  I’ll report back regularly in upcoming blog posts.

Melissa F.

Browsing the historical fiction section

Browsing the historical fiction section

I’ve become a little too comfortable insofar as my reading habits go. On one hand, I don’t see any problem with this, since reading is something I do for fun and entertainment. Still, there’s something to be said for expanding one’s knowledge and horizons.

In 2015, I’m planning to do more of my reading from the World Fiction and Historical Fiction sections on the First Floor of CLP-Main. I’m not setting an actual numerical goal for this resolution, just challenging myself to read more from these areas (which I admittedly tend to overlook while perusing the new fiction, nonfiction, and short stories).  Your suggestions are most welcome.

And there you have it! Do you have any reading recommendations or advice for the Eleventh Stackers? Do you set yourself reading goals or just let the books fall where they may? Share the wisdom, leave a comment!

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Graphic Novels from a Woman’s POV 2

Some time ago I talked with you about my specific interests in the area of graphic novels. That previous post provided suggestions for reading material by female graphic artists. I’ve been reading more items along those same lines as of late, so here are a few more to put on your “to read” list, if you haven’t already.

aloneforeverAlone Forever by Liz Prince – Liz Prince is trying to find someone, a man, to share her life with. Problem is that she can’t seem to get the guys she’s interested in to even look at her sometimes. She worries that it’s her approach, her looks, how she dresses or the types of music she listens to. Trying to find love in the big city is never easy. Not in person and not online either. At least she has cats…

Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag by A.K. Summers – When you look like a fat guy instead of a pregnant woman, people will not offer you a seat on the subway. This is just one of the hard lessons pregnantbutchlearned by the author as she carries the child for herself and her partner Vee. Coming to terms with this most feminine of body functions was difficult for Summers. How do you adjust your view of yourself when your body is changing constantly? This is a sentiment that all pregnant women can relate to, no matter what their gender or sex identification is.

lenafinkleLena Finkle’s Magic Barrel by Anya Ulinich – Being an immigrant is never easy. Trying to adjust to your new country is almost as difficult as never feeling at home again in your old one. Add to that a childhood trauma, a long distance relationship, a bad marriage or two and online dating, and you have one person in need of friends. As long as those friends give you good advice!

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi – If you thought the 80s here was rough, try the 80s in Iran. It seemed to Marjane that all of a sudden things changed for the worse. her school became segregated by sex, she had to wear a veil,persepolis people were always watching for her to behave inappropriately. At home, most of her family were political activists, and her uncle was ultimately executed. Because she was always taught to stand up for herself and the oppressed, Marjane was eventually expelled from school. Her parents thought a life in Europe might be better for her, but she never quite found a safe place and ended up living on the streets. After returning to Iran her life became even more confused. This graphic novel explores life behind a curtain many Americans never see.

ageoflicenseAn Age of License: A Travelogue by Lucy Knisley – Lucy Knisley is fast becoming my favorite graphic novel artist/writer.  Her travel memoirs are always studded with the great food she eats wherever she goes. Since traveling and food are two of my favorite hobbies, this combination really speaks to me. In this latest work, Lucy is planning an extended trip to Europe. This trip begins with an invitation to speak at a comic fest in Norway and continues with stops in Sweden for a love affair, France for wine and Paris, because well, Paris. Along the way, she realizes that the chaos she feels as she’s in her mid-twenties is exactly where she’s supposed to be. As her mom says, “If you hadn’t been screwing things up along the way – then I’d be worried.”  A-men!

Happy Reading!

Melissa M.

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7 More Ways to Get Sher-LOCKED

If you are patiently–or not-so-patiently–waiting for the next season of the BBC’s Sherlock, consider this:  a keyword search for “Sherlock Holmes” brings back over 900 results in the Library catalog, while a subject search for Holmes, Sherlock (no quotation marks needed) nets you another 600+ results. This means you have plenty of material to obsess over focus on during the show’s hiatus (that is, when you’re not on Tumblr reblogging otters who look like Benedict Cumberbatch).

Original meme by Red Scharlach. Image reposted at RadioTimes.

Original meme by Red Scharlach. Image reposted at RadioTimes.

Given the large number of written pastiches, plus the fact that the character of Sherlock Holmes has appeared in television and film more than anyone else except Dracula, this shouldn’t surprise you at all. You may, however, find yourself overwhelmed by your good fortune: where, with so many adventures to choose from, should you start?

Here are seven suggested points of entry*, in various formats:

1. Sounds familiar…

To bridge the classic and contemporary fandoms, you might want to try the audio book Sherlock1The Rediscovered Railway Mysteries and Other Stories. Author John Taylor uses the conceit of a locked cedar chest that contains Watson’s notes on cases that, for various reasons, were never made public. These tales, which feature the science of ballistics, stolen goods, and a baffling murder, stack up favorably with Amazon reviewers. But, of course, with audio books, it’s the narrator that makes or breaks the story…and our narrator, in this case, is none other than Otterface Whatsisname. Try not to break your fingers while making the catalog reservation, okay?

2. Across the pond

sherlock2American versions don’t always ruin everything. Exhibit A: Watson and Holmes vol. 1: A Study in BlackJon Watson’s internship at Convent Emergency Center in Harlem gets a lot more interesting when the mysterious S. Holmes shows up shortly after the victim of a vicious beating is brought in. Intrigued by what he learns from Holmes, Watson tags along on what seems, at first, to be a simple kidnapping case, then blossoms into a far more sinister conspiracy. A gorgeous color palette of blacks, browns, and purples (with some luscious golds and icy blues for contrast) enriches a comic that is incredibly faithful to Conan Doyle’s vision (Irregulars, fetching haberdashery, and all).

3. Media Studies 101

Rather than start a knock-down, drag-out argument over which actor made the finest manyfacesSherlock**, make the time to familiarize yourself with The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes. This documentary covers eighty-five years of stage, film, television, and radio portrayals of the master detective, and is narrated by Dracula Saruman Sir Christopher Lee. At a run time of only 48 minutes, you can have yourself up to speed on the topic in the space of a lunch hour. And because you can download the film to your portable device, you can still have lunch outside, if you like.

4. Worth the wait…

company holmesLaurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger–two authors you can trust on this topic–invited a group of well-known contemporary authors to write new stories inspired by Arthur Conan Doyle’s original work. The result, In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, is definitely worth putting yourself on the waiting list for it. Contributors include Michael Connelly, Cornelia Funke, Jeffrey Deaver, Sara Paretsky, and Harlan Ellison, so you know King and Klinger took this project very, very seriously. Tied together with a terrific introduction, and the promise of a second volume to come, this short story collection should be on your don’t-miss list.

5. Three pipe problems

If your vocabulary organically includes terms like “heteronormative,” “deconstruction,” or21st century holmes “paradigms,” you will most likely enjoy Sherlock Holmes for the 21st Century, a fascinating bundle of scholarly essays. Contributing editor Lynette Porter has assembled a collection of work that examines the relationship between a broad spectrum of cultural themes (which include sexuality, fandom, information literacy, and tourism) and the recent Holmes canon. The connections the authors draw between present and past iterations of the consulting detective make for a fascinating look at how, in each generation, we create the Sherlock we need, want, and–perhaps–deserve.

6. Get ’em while they’re young…

death cloudYA readers keen on historical fiction might enjoy Death Cloud, the first in a series of teenage Sherlock Holmes mysteries authorized by the estate of Arthur Conan Doyle. If you can imagine the highly functioning sociopath as a bored, bright youngster on holiday, the concept isn’t at all far-fetched. While staying with relatives over the summer, young Sherlock makes a friend, confounds his tutor,  and encounters a mysterious cloud that’s followed by a series of puzzling deaths. Obviously somebody has to investigate, and who better than Holmes? Fun historical fiction that functions as a gateway to the real deal.

7. And, inevitably, tea

While visiting the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland, Julia Carlson Rosenblatt and her dininghusband got the idea for a dinner showcasing food from Conan Doyle’s era. That dinner, held on June 2, 1973, paved the way for Dining With Sherlock Holmes: A Baker Street Cookbook. The foodies in the fandom will appreciate this Herculean effort, which is clearly a labor of love by people who did their homework (with the help of the Culinary Institute of America). Every recipe is either tied to a direct quote from the original canon, or its inspiration is thoroughly explained. If you’re thinking about having a Sherlock party, and really want to take it over the top, you’ll want this cookbook in your hands…though a healthy dose of kitchen proficiency is definitely a pre-requisite.

That’s a lot of Sherlock, and we’ve barely scratched the surface. Do you have a favorite Holmes, or Holmes-inspired book/film? Tell us about it in the comments section!

–Leigh Anne, whose own gateway drug was Young Sherlock Holmes.

*I’m assuming, of course, that you’re already well-versed in the Conan Doyle canon. If you’re not, what are you waiting for? Go get those books!

**Even though the answer is clearly Basil Rathbone.

 

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Surprise! This Book Just Transformed Into My Worst Fear

I love Halloween because it’s the one time of year wearing a costume is socially acceptable. It’s the time you can be someone or something you’re not. You can taste what it’s like to be a monster, or your favorite fictional character, or a concept.

zombinatorLots of people in Pittsburgh, pretty much everyone apparently, wants to “taste” what it’s like to be a zombie—there are zombie walks, massive humans vs. zombies games on college campuses, zombie literature, a zombie store, and new zombie movies all the time.

Before I go any further, let me say this: I don’t scare easily.

Spiders? I put them outside so they can eat annoying bugs. Snakes? I had a pet snake when I was a kid, and the only reason I don’t have one now is because my dogs would probably try to eat it. Bats? I squeal with delight when I see one because I think they are super adorable (and they eat half their body weight in insects per night!). Insects? As long as they aren’t trying to bite me, dive bomb me, or fly into my mouth or ear, I don’t bother with them. And I love the ones that help my garden, like bees and lady bugs.

I do have one mortal fear, though: Zombies.

That’s right. I think bats are the cutest things ever, snakes make great pets, and spiders are my friendly household helpers, and yet I’m Terrified—with a capital T—of zombies.

It’s the idea that a monster could scratch you ever-so-slightly and yet still infect you with a disease that turns you into a mindless husk of a body with cannibalistic leanings. It’s the slow and relentless onslaught. The overwhelming numbers. That once they start coming, you can fight, but humanity’s demise is inevitable.

Walking Dead Book OneOnce, I tried reading The Walking Dead, and got ten pages in before I slammed the book shut. “Nope. No way. Not going to happen,” I told the book.

Miniature WifeLately, I’ve been stumbling onto zombie stories everywhere. This past weekend, I was reading The Miniature Wife and Other Stories by Manuel Gonzales, and BAM, surprise zombie story! I had to read it, because I have this compulsion about finishing books, and aside from the surprise zombies, I really enjoyed the delightful weirdness of the collection.

That night, I made my husband hold my hand after we turned out the lights, because I couldn’t stop thinking about the zombies and their gray teeth and slurping sounds.

bprdhellonearthoneLast month, I was reading B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth, and BAM, zombies! I’ve encountered the traditional slow-moving raised-from-the-dead zombies in Hellboy before (and those don’t really scare me), but these were mindless mutated half-animal creatures that got turned into zombies from breathing a gas released from a gigantic monster. UBER CREEPY.

weliveinwaterEven Jess Walter’s seemingly normal collection about class and race issues, We Live in Water, contains a surprise zombie story. It’s not a typical zombie story—people are turned by taking a recreational drug that changes their brain chemistry—but it’s still a zombie story.

stitchedIf you look at the cover of Stitched by Garth Ennis, a writer I greatly enjoy, it looks like a war comic with some scary reaper dudes. NOPE. It’s about voodoo zombies who can’t be killed. I read this one anyway, but man did it freak me out.

All these zombie stories act kind of like zombies themselves. You think you’re safe and comfortable and then all of a sudden your best friend has become a flesh-eating monster, and you have to fight for your life. I think I’m safe and comfortable reading fun quirky short stories about miniaturized wives or class issues in a decaying city, and then all of a sudden I’m reading a story about zombies and I’m terrified.

I guess this is one of the risks of being a science fiction and fantasy reader in the zombie-obsessed 21st century. It makes a kind of sense—lots of people believe we’re all turning into zombies because of too much work, because we listen to the same talking heads and don’t think for ourselves, because there is always a new virus that does scary, scary things to the human body.

So I’m not going to stop reading these types of stories, even though they make me want to hide under the covers like a five-year-old afraid of the monster in the closet.

How about you? Do you love zombies? Hate them? What’s your favorite zombie story?

-Kelly

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Celebrate Banned Books Week With Your Favorite Comic

Comics Code Authority Seal

Almost all comics published between 1954 and the 2000s bore this seal, indicating they met a set of rigid standards pertaining to sexuality, violence, and other things.

Yesterday began this year’s Banned Books Week, and lists maintained by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the American Library Association show that comics are as susceptible to banning as their prose cousins.

In a way, it’s flattering to the medium that comics and graphic novels are being challenged and banned in public school systems and libraries each year alongside well-known literary classics (“challenged” means someone wanted the book removed but was unsuccessful in their bid, and the book remained on the shelves).

It means kids are reading these books, that they’re making it onto curricula and reading lists, and that they’re making people uncomfortable.

But kids have been reading comics since adults have been publishing them. And the history of censorship and banning comics goes back almost just as far. Church groups and educators attacked crime and adventure comics for their content as early as the 1930s, according to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

Comic book censorship would have remained on the fringe, though, if not for noted social scientist and psychiatrist Dr. Fredric Wertham, who believed comics harmed children and turned them into delinquents.

Seduction of the Innocent by WerthamWhen Wertham’s book Seduction of the Innocent came out in 1954, America rallied behind his crusade to ban comics, including superhero comics, which he thought harmed children by making them believe incredible and fantastical things.

A round of congressional hearings later that year resulted in comic book publishers agreeing to self-regulate to avoid government legislation. Publishers formed the Comics Magazine Association of America and the Comics Code Authority, which had to approve every single comic that went up for sale on newsstands. Newsstands refused to sell any book that didn’t display the Comics Code Authority seal (remember: comic shops didn’t exist yet!). If you’ve ever bought a comic, you’ve probably seen the black and white seal that reads “Approved by the Comics Code Authority.”

Among other things, sexuality, corrupt police and government officials, too much violence, and things like werewolves, ghouls and zombies were banned from comics altogether. Read a 1940s Batman comic and then a 1960s Batman comic, and you’ll see the difference immediately. 1940s Batman has a lot more in common with contemporary Batman — he’s pretty darn dark.

The code went through numerous revisions as times changed, and was finally rendered obsolete when the last two major publishers printing the seal on their books — DC and Archie — dropped it in 2011. Changing distribution channels helped comics out greatly in overcoming this form of censorship — not many books are sold on newsstands anymore, for example. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has since acquired the intellectual property rights to the CCA seal.

This issue of Saga wasn't sold in the Apple store immediately upon publication, but appeared later, after protests.

This issue of Saga wasn’t sold in the Apple store immediately upon publication, but appeared later, after protests.

But that doesn’t mean comic creators are free from worry. In addition to challenges in school districts and libraries, censorship comes from unexpected places–like Apple. In 2013, Bleeding Cool reported that Apple required French publisher Izneo to pull 1,500 comics the tech giant considered “pornographic” (even though the comics were meant for adult audiences).

2013 also saw a huge hullabaloo over issue 12 of Saga involving digital comic distributor ComiXology, the Apple Store, and portrayals of gay sex.

Thankfully, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund stands ready to help fight censorship of comics where it can, not to mention the scores of librarians and level-headed adults who stand up for books of all kinds in their cities and towns across America. The future of comics looks pretty great from where I stand.

Even award-winning graphic novels are challenged and banned.

Even award-winning graphic novels are challenged and banned.

To celebrate how far we’ve come, and to remind ourselves of how far yet we have to go, why not pick up one of these “banned” comics this week from your favorite Library?

–Kelly

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How Comics Become Graphic Novels, or Which Volume One Do I Pick?!

Saga Monthly vs. Saga Trade Paperback

Six issues of the Saga comic book series equal one trade paperback collection. Photo by Kelly (Yeah, the comics are hers, too.) Click through for a link to Saga in the Library catalog!

The books you find in the graphic series sub-section of the Library’s graphic novel collection don’t start out as nicely bound books with shiny pages, introductions, and insights into the artist’s process in the back.

(If you’ve been reading comics for any length of time, you are thinking “duh!” and rolling your eyes at me. If you’re new to comics, you might find this blog post helpful and informative. So read on!)

Comic series are (for the most part) published monthly in 32-page installments. Often, about 10 of those pages can be taken up by advertisements. Many comics also feature letter columns, where readers can email the author and/or artist and have their thoughts about the book printed, along with a response from the creative team. Some books have other “back matter” too, like Image’s Lazarus, which features a monthly update on real-life scientific research that relates to the story.

New issues come out every Wednesday, but we comic book nerds call just call it “New Comic Book Day.”

So how do comics go from monthly serial to book form?

Saga monthly vs. trade paperbacks

Eighteen issues of Saga shrink down into three trade paperback collections. The trades take up a lot less room and are easier to care for, but are worth less cash money. Photo by Kelly.

It’s pretty simple. Publishers like DC, Marvel, Image, and others put complete story arcs from the monthly serials into collections commonly called graphic novels or trade paperbacks (as this is the format in which they are most often published). Of course, they remove the ads, letter columns and other back matter and add introductions and things like character designs from the artist’s sketchbook.

These days, trade paperbacks come out shortly after the final issue of the story arc, which is great for readers. In the overall history of the comic book, though, graphic novels/trade paperbacks are a fairly recent invention. Marvel did publish a few “graphic novels” in the late 1960s and ‘70s, but the format didn’t really take off in mainstream comics until the ‘80s (thanks to the success of “true” graphic novels like Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Will Eisner’s A Contract With God, And Other Tenement Stories, as well as the collected reprinted editions of Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns). You can read more about the history of the graphic novel over at Wikipedia’s Graphic novel article.

Story arcs span anywhere from one to six or more issues, but four and six are standard, and are usually the number of issues that get collected in those “graphic novels” you see on Library shelves.

The Walking Dead volume 1

This is about zombies, so Kelly tried to read it once but got too scared. But the 10 pages she read were good!

So the first trade paperback of, say, The Walking Dead, really consists of issues 1 to 6.

Okay, okay, you say. But why is there a trade paperback volume one AND a hardcover volume one of The Walking Dead? And Y The Last Man (links to paperback and hardcover, respectively)? and Fables (paperback and hardcover)? And Hellboy (paperback and hardcover)? And a bunch of other stuff?

When a comic becomes really popular, publishers often collect multiple trade paperback collections–usually two–into special hardback collections. Vertigo has a line of “Deluxe” hardback volumes for most of its popular series. Image has done this for The Walking Dead, and I expect it’ll do the same for Saga, another super-popular series (and my current favorite), in the near future.

Which version should you read, though? It all depends on what you like. I usually read both the monthly issues and the trade paperbacks, because I adore letter columns and I don’t like to wait, but I also like the additional material that comes with the collected editions.

If you’re picking up a series for the first time, and it’s available in hardcover, I’d recommend going with that, because you’ll need to check out and keep track of fewer volumes. If you take your books everywhere, a trade paperback will be lighter (it never hurts to be practical, right?).

Just be careful about buying monthly series. It’s, um, kind of addicting.

–Kelly

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What I Read on My Summer Vacation

poolRight after school lets out (which, due to a strike and ALL THOSE SNOW DAYS this year, was much later than usual), we like to have a long weekend getaway. Due to circumstances, this will probably be our only summer vacation this year, so we made the most of it. Four days at a lovely resort, including a poolside cabana, and LOTS of reading was what I wanted and what I got. I managed to read five books, more or less, during that time.

Here’s what I read (in reading order):

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue — I started this one before vacation began, but finished it during. So it counts, right? This is a historical mystery is by the author of Room (which I haven’t read yet despite all of the great things I’ve heard about it). Set in San Francisco in the late 1870s, this is a story of an unlikely friendship between two very different women and the life of immigrants in America’s burgeoning western economy, as well a murder mystery. The “frog” in the title has two connotations, for the amphibians one of the main characters catches and sells to local restaurants and also the derogatory term used for the French.

Chose the Wrong Guy, Gave Him the Wrong Finger by Elizabeth Harbison — I’ll admit it. I chose this book because of the title. And the cover. It just looked like a vacation book. Turns out I was right, it read like one too. Quick, light, amusing chick lit. I finished it in a day. Nothing too serious and I’m not sure I ever really cared about the characters, but I did appreciate some of the quirkier ones. Quinn almost marries Burke, but his brother (and best man!), Frank, stops her minutes before the ceremony by telling her that Burke’s been cheating on her. So she runs away with Frank to Las Vegas to clear her head. Only thing is, that makes the whole situation even more muddled. Flash forward ten years and Quinn still hasn’t dealt with her feelings for either brother. When they both come back to town for their grandmother’s wedding and to sell the family horse farm, all heck breaks loose in Quinn’s life. This book is filed under the subject heading Triangles (Interpersonal Relations) — Fiction. Um, duh.

My Venice by Donna Leon — After reading this, I’m not sure that Ms. Leon likes anything. In this collection of essays, she pretty much complains about everything — the United States and its inhabitants, her neighbors in Venice and in the Italian countryside, most countries in the Middle East, the mob, hunting and hunters, men in general, books, operas other than those by Handel, ALL music by people other than Handel, etc. The list goes on and on. I was talking with a library user about this book before I read it myself. She had read it already and was picking it up for her husband. She mentioned that she thoroughly enjoyed Leon’s mysteries, but wished that she hadn’t read this book because now she didn’t like Ms. Leon very much. Now, I understand what this lady meant.

Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story by Peter Bagge — I share a birthdate with Margaret Sanger — September 14th. She’s been on the periphery of my knowledge for a while — advocate for birth control and free love, socialist and all-around rabble-rouser. My kind of gal! When I saw this graphic novel biography, I figured this would be a fairly quick way to find out more about her, and it was. Let me tell you, Margaret Sanger was a hoot! She seemed to always have a snappy comeback for her critics, one that usually ended up making them look foolish. She really knew her way around propaganda, too. But she was also a difficult personality sometimes, especially for her family, and she usually didn’t get along with other women leaders. This book has led me to want to know more about Sanger. Thankfully, the author lists a bibliography of sources, and his opinion of each, at the end. Note: The font size for the forward and afterward of this graphic novel is very small. A magnifying glass may be required.

The Girl: A Life in the Shadow of Roman Polanski by Samantha Geimer — You probably wouldn’t know her just by hearing her name. Add on the name of Roman Polanski and, for those of us of a certain age, you now know EXACTLY who she is. Samantha was just 13 years old when Roman Polanski came into her life for only a few days, but with impact that would last a lifetime. In 2009, when Polanski was arrested for fleeing the United States prior to the sentencing for his crime of unlawful sex with a minor, Samantha knew it was time for her to tell her story.  Especially since others had been telling it for her, incorrectly, for over 30 years.

Happy Summer Reading!
-Melissa M.

 

 

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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.

–Kelly

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