Archive for ‘all ages comics’

February 3, 2015

A return visit from George O’Connor and the Olympians!

Come hang out with George O’Connor and his Olympians, Thursday Feb 5th at 7:30 in the kids room at the Takoma Park Maryland Library.  He’s introducing Ares: Bringer of War, the newest in his Olympians series.

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.

November 26, 2014

Gossamyr and Stuff of Legend.

Th3rd World Studios has a couple sneaky-good comics out there for people looking for a new story to disappear into.   Some years past I found myself reading Stuff of Legend cover to cover while standing at their table at the New York Comic Con.   This year at Small Press Expo in Bethesda they caught me with another one:

Finding Gossamyr, Volume 1. by David A. Rodriguez and Sarah Ellerton.

Finding Gossamyr Volume 1

The story itself is familiar enough, a brother and sister are pulled into another world through a magic portal.  There they find beautiful evil sorcerers, get caught in great conflicts between powerful antagonists, struggle to survive, that sort of thing.

The unusual angle in this case is that magic in that far realm is enacted via abstruse mathematics, solving arcane equations to trigger the effects.  In our protagonist Denny we find a hero uniquely suited for that environment, even if it causes him distress.

At mathematics Denny is a natural talent, a boy genius.    His sister Jenna has been taking care of him in the absence of her parents and she needs all the help she can get;  if he can be cared for at school, then she can go to college herself.  If only Denny can keep it together during the admission process to an exclusive academy then she has a chance at a normal life…

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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.

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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.

 

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…

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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.

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).

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July 29, 2013

Historical Fiction and Non-Fiction. Crogan’s Loyalty; Big Bad Ironclad

crogans loyalty sniper

Brother is set against brother in the excellent Crogan’s Loyalty, historical fiction set in the Revolutionary War.

This year during school visits we discussed historical fiction and I figured I’d take this space to highlight a few standout titles in our Graphic Novel collection.

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales:  Big Bad Ironclad.

This book works hard to do a great deal all at once in a very small space.  Pages are always cramped in a digest sized book, and while this works fine for manga where often one entire page is filled with a single panel,  here Hale manages to cram action, information and dialogue into dozen or more panels per page.

Within those size constraints Hale does fairly well.  Young comics readers won’t have to guess to untangle the flow of action sequences. and his flash-forward narrators (soon-to-be-hanged spy Nathan Hale and the Greek chorus of participants at his hanging) only occasionally obtrude on the flow of the story.   Now and again the nincompoopery of the hangman character fails to hit the funny bone, but otherwise the story serves its purpose:  teaching younger grade-level readers about a significant period of history in a breezy easy way.

The book is not trying for resonance or humanity or perspective. It seeks to make history kid-friendly. For graphics non-fiction it works pretty well, even if here at the library it doesn’t create its own audience or compel readers in to eagerly yank it from the shelf. To me well-done period fiction or non-fiction works best when it ignites further interest in the topic or era.  I ask myself not whether I learned something but: do I care to know more?

Crogan’s Loyalty by Chris Schweizer

Contrast with Chris Schweizer’s excellent The Crogan Adventures series.  These well-researched historical fiction action graphic novels follow the adventures of various ancestors of the Crogan family.  Tales of morality and moral ambiguity are told father to son to illustrate ethical lessons and a bit of history.

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December 21, 2011

Science Fiction graphic novels for middle school readers.

Letter from a Grad Student at the University of Maryland, college of Information Sciences

Hi Dave,

I am looking for suggestions for graphic novels or comic that are either 1) science fiction or 2) contain science content in some other way (ie a prose example would be half brother by kenneth oppel) for an afterschool program I will be designing for 6th graders in DC. Any thoughts? I welcome all suggestions. Thanks!

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November 18, 2011

More action packed YA books for Girls (Celadore, Gunnerkrigg Court)

Many of the best comics produced today begin as webcomics.   The reason is simple, it costs little to nothing to post your content online seeking an audience, where back-in-the-day creators would self-publish only after maxing out credit cards for the initial print run, or going the ‘zine route and taking a job at a copy shop for the free print-outs.

Now the world is wide open, we’re in a renaissance for comics art as the technology provides both new tools for production and an instant outlet for an audience to find the work.

Granted the traditional publishing houses often overlook these series as they don’t fit the industry standards, however since the entire web-scape can track them down and lay eyeballs on the content, occasionally these books attract enough readers to encourage a real-world publisher to risk a print run.

(Better still, librarians who are searching for new books but want to get a preview may take a peek to see if the book fits their own standards).

Here are two in that category that I’d recommend you enjoy.

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