October 27, 2014

New York Comic Con. Red Moon. Rust 3. Spera 4..

The New York Comic Con has hulked out and grown into an absolute monster.  What was once a two and a half day convention for comics industry fans and professionals has swollen to a 4 day carnival of brightly colored fantasy-made-flesh  overflowing the 1,800.000 square feet of the Javits Center and meandering out into the streets of New York.

And I love it for all of its excess, perhaps because of the excess,  for those moments of sublimely surreal humor interspersed with the chance to discover brilliant new works or talk with comics publishers and professional.  I suspect it is the only place where you can have a conversation with publisher Mark Siegel of First Second press (purveyor of high quality literary comics like Gene Yang’s masterpiece Boxers and Saints) only to glance over your shoulder as a nine foot tall zombie staggers by supporting himself on the shoulders of two zombie nurses.   A totally normal occurrence at the Comic Con.

In years past the Con had a day set aside for professionals and on those days it was easy to sweep the entire show floor to make a quick first pass and then cycle back to the exhibits you needed to stop by to get business done.  With the swelling popularity of the Convention, that day is now gone.  As of last year the Thursday professional day began selling one day tickets and now every day is a Tokyo-rush-hour crush of costumed lunacy, with every aisle packed with a bazaar of the fantastic and bizarre.

So okay it makes it tougher to get serious business done, shuffling along at the pace of a medicated madhouse patient, pausing every few seconds to gawp or to make room for people to take pictures of each other in costume, but once you get into the rhythm and allow things to take their time, you will still make great discoveries and get into interesting conversations with the people who make imagination their life.  The trick then is to simply take your time, and let the con come to you.  Or go every day all day for a few days in a row as I do.  It took a determined effort but I did in fact manage to hit the whole show and to twice pass through Artists Alley (in another warehouse section separated from the show floor) and to chat with the folks who crank out the ideas and images that find expression (in costumes and movies and books and video games) throughout the rest of the building.

Which is the best part:  meeting artists whose works I admire, or better yet find new works that are begging for a wider audience.  Best of all, every year I come back loaded down with GREAT NEW BOOKS to share with you all.  Both on our shelves at the Library and in reviews in these pages.   (See after the jump), and watch this space for a preview of more new books added to the shelves of our collection. Continue reading

September 10, 2014

How to Be Happy: Eleanor Davis, Monday Sept 15, 7:30

Monday Sept 15 at 7:30, Eleanor Davis (and maybe husband Drew Weing) visits with her slideshow presentation of life, work, art, etc and also to share her new work:  How to be Happy.  Come talk comics, process, the struggle between freelancing and working on personal projects, etc.  Takoma Park MD Library, 101 Philadelphia Ave, Takoma Park MD 20912.   (or a short-ish walk down the hill from the Takoma Park Metro stop on the Red Line).

Eleanor Davis, excerpt from How to be Happy,  Fantagraphics (c)  2014

Eleanor Davis, excerpt from How to be Happy, Fantagraphics (c) 2014

 

Eleanor Davis is one of those artists you know, even if you don’t know you know her.

Libraries love her for her stellar all-ages book The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook.  But magazine art directors seem to love her for everything else she does; and you will see her illustrations in every brainy and literate newspaper or magazine on the rack.

Continue reading

August 27, 2014

MOUSEGUARD! David Petersen visits the Library. Thurs Sept 4, 7:30

Mouseguard author/artist David Petersen comes to chat with us and talk about his process, works in progress, plans, whatever — in another in our series of visiting artists coming to the Takoma Park Maryland Library (101 Philadelphia Ave  Takoma Park MD 20912) at 7:30 PM on Thursday 9/4/14

mouseguard-blackaxe3

Stunning artwork,  beautifully painted, appealing characters, small heroes proving stoic and determined against outsized odds — if you have not yet met the valiant warriors of Mouseguard then you are in for a treat.  If you have read them you know the story:  the woods and wild spaces are patrolled by an intrepid band of determined guardmice.  They protect the towns of civilized mousedom against constant threat in the form of predators and politics.

Where Mouseguard soars above most other comics is in the meticulously detailed and lush art.  Divinity is in the details, the architecture of the buildings is both credible and to scale.  If you happened to know any mouse-sized carpenters you could actually assemble these forts stone by stone, plank by plank. Realism promotes this book out of our ‘all-ages’ section where little kids might be frightened by plausible snakes and weasels taking swords through the eye and such like.  But that realism lends verisimilitude to a world peopled by sword-carrying varmints.

Continue reading

May 19, 2014

The Return of Zita! Ben Hatke visits this Weds 7:30PM, May 21

Author/illustrator/busker/roustabout/dad Ben Hatke will show up in our Library to hang out, talk comics, maybe draw, entertain sign books and sell copies of The Return of Zita The Spacegirl,  his new installment in the Zita the Spacegirl series, hot off the presses, just released last week.  7:30PM in the Children’s room at the Takoma Park MD Library, 101 Philadelphia Avenue in Takoma Park,  Maryland.

 

return of zita cover

If you don’t know Zita the Space Girl by now, well, you oughtta.  (Spoilers of the first two volumes follow below.  So get right out there and read them right now!)

Ortherwise read on.  As you all now know Zita is a spunky feisty tough and occasionally naive young hero who travels the outer reaches of otherspace righting wrongs and finding trouble.  In volume one she jumped through a portal to a world far away trying to rescue her friend Joseph.  That she managed to kinda sorta save a whole world as well was a byproduct of her determination and ability to make friends in the oddest places.

We found her in volume two stranded and left behind in these strange worlds and her fame turned on her as she was branded a criminal when a robot doppleganger assumed her identity.

In volume three of the series Zita has been captured and must survive the trials and tribulations of life on a dungeon planet.  A dungeon planet controlled by the terrible race of beings known as the screeds.  (Last seen in Zita vol one as the be-tentacled kidnappers of her pal Joseph).  Will she survive?  Oh come on– you know the answer to that one,  don’tcha?

Zippy plot, witty repartee, charming characters, nasty villains, this is a great all-ages series for kids looking for what else to read after Bone, Missile Mouse, Amulet, and other great adventure comics.  Characters are cartoony and iconic, action is well animated and richly colored, dialogue makes for a great read-aloud in our monthly ‘Comics Jam’.

Come hang out this Wednesday and we’ll all have a great time.

 

April 1, 2014

Danica Novgorodoff. The Undertaking of Lily Chen.

Danica Novgorodoff visits our Library Monday April 7th at 7:30 PM in support of her new graphic novel The Undertaking of Lily Chen (First Second Press, 2014).  She’ll present recent work, maybe do some live drawing, talk about her process, hang out, have a good time.

novgorodoff chen lily mule

In The Undertaking of Lily Chen a young Chinese man is confronted with a daunting task.  After accidentally causing his brother’s death, Deshi’s parents demand that he find a corpse bride to join his brother in his journey to the afterlife.  Deshi is haunted like Hamlet, agonized with guilt and familial responsibility, driven to find a suitable bride for his brother,  but what bride could satisfy his parent’s memory of their beloved first born son?  The world is short of eligible and lovely young corpses, perhaps it would be best if he made one of his own…

Continue reading

February 26, 2014

Comics Jam hits: The Monster on the Hill, by Rob Harrell

monsteronthehill_lg-540x713

I’m always looking for great comics for  our monthly ‘Comics Jam’.   This is a program once a month where we use a video camera to project comics up onto a big screen, and then animate the story by reading aloud in character voices.  Kids occasionally help out with the voice-acting on short excerpts, but if a story is really good I’ll take over and we’ll read until the time or runs out (or my voice does).   In these stories what we’re really looking for is a tale that grabs the audience’s attention well enough that they want to pick up where they left off and show up next month as well.

Snappy dialogue, good humor, fast paced plot,  interesting characters — these are all elements that draw a loyal audience.  More so even than stellar draftsmanship, though of course that doesn’t hurt at all.   In January and February’s Comics Jam  we blazed through a good one, with all of the elements above:   Rob Harrell’s charming The Monster on the Hill.

The year is 1867.  England is infested with monsters.   Tentaculor roars through the small burg of Billingswood, terrorizing the villagers and leaving destruction in his tracks.  And this is no isolated incident:   Monsters!  Beasts!  Horrors!  Every town has them, a fact that excites the imagination of the populace and enlivens their humdrum days with the chance of excitement.

Well every town has it’s own monster, but some lack the verve and glamor of others.   Stoker-on-Avon has a bit of a problem in that department.  Their monster isn’t– well– all that monstrous.  Bit of a disappointment really.  Hasn’t given a proper rampage in years.  It’s something of an embarrassment when you get down to it.  Something must be done.

“Something’ comes in the form of disgraced local inventor Dr Charles Wilkie, who has been barred by the town fathers from practicing his trade due to a spate of awkward incidents and failed experiments.    In the name of killing two birds with one stone, the town fathers decide he’s just the man to solve the problem of the hangdog dragon.  If he fails, perhaps he’ll be eaten, if he succeeds well fine then he will be allowed to re-open his laboratory.  Either way his problem will be solved.  Packing up a trunk he hauls himself to the hinterlands seeking the lair of the monster…

Continue reading

January 27, 2014

A visit with George O’Connor and various Greek Gods.

Come hang out with George O’Connor and his Olympians, Wednesday evening at 7:30 in the kids room at the Takoma Park Maryland Library.   Talk process, research,  story, characters, etc. with the artist.  Plus he can sign for you, as our friends at Politics and Prose will be selling books on site.

All the gods, in one panoramic class picture.

All the gods, in one panoramic class picture.

 

George O’Connor broke into daylight with his graphic  non-fiction work Journey into Mohawk Country, (First Second Press, 2006).  Set in the 1600’s this meticulously researched book illustrated the journal entries of a 23 year old Dutchman who attempted to make contact with the Mohawk and Oneida  tribes northwest of Albany in order to establish better trading relations.

The wry humor of O’Connor’s pen animated the dry prose of this travel diary and brought to life what must have been a mind-expanding life-changing journey for the author.  In reading a fairly bland account O’Connor recognized the drama and absurdity of these three young men who sorta stumbled and blustered their way through the wilderness — despite being basically unprepared and armored chiefly with good-natured ignorance.

This love of history as a living thing serves O’Connor  well in his retellings of the tales of the Hellenic deities.  Projected to be a twelve issue series, these books depict the greater figures among the gods of ancient Greece.  Faithful to the mythology, O’Connor nevertheless finds new angles to tell these stories, often from the perspective of the gods themselves.

The art is bright, clear, pastel colors and whimsical line.  Dialogue is modern,  but only rarely with a jarring anachronistic phrase (and hey, they’re immortal gods, clearly they can transcend time and learn a phrase or two  from another era).  Kids who discover the Greek gods via Rick Riordan’s  ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians’ series, will get a good dose of the real thing in these slim light volumes.

O’Connor also gives a peep into his methodology in the back of each book, discussing various aspects of each myth, things he discovered in research, challenges of drawing certain characters,  illustrating some difficulties or victories in his process.  These paragraphs are as valuable as the rest of the book in teaching kids how the study of history can be approached as an opportunity for adventure and discovery.

Pretty good,  each of them, a useful add to any library collection.  Some volumes are in our All-ages collection, others promote themselves to our young adult shelves because, well you know, these Greeks did not always behave themselves all that well.

December 9, 2013

Webcomics on paper. UMD Follow-up.

We’re in an era of an explosion of creativity in comics.  Technology often seems to drive innovations in comics.   The information era has proven a great boon for comics artists finding a new voice for themselves.  The good and bad of this is that it now costs nothing to put your work in front of the public.  The trick lies in finding ways to get noticed and to get paid for it.  Still, artists are developing their work directly online and many find this as the easy on-ramp to success.

Whether finding a jumpstart through crowdsourcing websites, or philanthropic organizations like Kickstarter, or recognition via awards like the Eisner or Ignatz awards that now recognize webcomics, artists no longer need to please an editorial board to show that their work has value, their portfolio need not be vetted by a jaded pro at one of the big houses, nor do they need to staple a zine together and spend a few hundred dollars at Kinkos copying their pages them selling them to friends.  The wide open nature of the web means all they need to do is put in the work of developing a great property, then find some way of drawing attention to it.

Selling their strips as apps or funding their work via advertising space on their pages and publishing online alone are two ways artists make money without even printing books.  Fortunately for those of us folks who are still living in “the 1900’s” (as my students say) much of the best work does find its way into print. Many savvy publishers buy properties that have already garnered an audience via webcomics.  Some publishers even give a free taste of the books online before publishing in print knowing there is a crossover between the various media.

As a buyer the ability to see snippets of content before publication helps in the selection process.  There are few reliable sources of reviews of comics and so much of what makes a comic valuable is whether the art works to tell the story (more than to add supporting detail).  To be able to do more than glance through a few pages allows library and school buyers to confidently buy a book with the limited budget they may have for comics.

After the jump we’ll see a few titles that first found their audience online before jumping to the page.
Continue reading

December 4, 2013

Mental Health in Comics, Recommended Books list, and follow up to our UMD College of Information Studies visit.

We had another great visit with Professor Ching’s evening class in Children’s Literature and Materials at the University of Maryland’s graduate College of Information Studies.   We tend to haul a few boxes of books up there to show examples of great books, but spend more time discussing the history and relevance of comics.  I always enjoy the back and forth with the students that follows since its fun to talk comics with bright and interested people.

Here I’m circling back to follow-up on a few questions raised or books we discussed, as well as to offer resources helping you find other great books we recommend, especially those in our collection.

As promised our Recommended Graphic Novel List is available as a Google doc that we periodically edit to add more titles that make it into our various collections.

You will also find more recent reviews on here of course, and on the Takoma Park Maryland Library’s Comics Page.

After the jump (and in following blog entries) I’ll suggest books that relate to some of the topics we discussed, starting with 3 books on mental illness.

Continue reading

November 17, 2013

Smash: Trial by Fire, by Chris & Kyle Bolton

SMASH-Cover-500

Good-hearted but impulsive kid contracts super-powers, tries his best — but being a hero is never easy.

We featured this book at our most recent Comics Jam, projecting the book up on the screen to read with the kiddies of the after-school crowd.  A fun read-aloud, the dialogue is clever and funny, the story lopes along at an easy pace once it gets rolling.  The feel is something of a cross between Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Spider-man — though unlike Greg Heffler (protagonist of the Wimpy Kid series) fun-sized hero Andrew Ryan isn’t, you know, a jerk.  He’s a good kid who idolizes the local superhero named Defender, trying to live up to his example.  Even without powers Andrew attempts to make his world a better place, to confront bullies or  help kids in need (in one sequence attempting some dashing derring-do involving a tire swing to rescue Halloween candy from the greedy clutches of sidewalk goons — with the usual disastrous results). Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.