Posts tagged ‘classics’

April 29, 2015

Last of the Sandwalkers, by Jay Hosler. Beetle scientists! Action science adventures!

Come Meet Jay Hosler at the Takoma Park MD Library tomorrow night!  Thursday 4/30, 7:30 PM.  As he introduces and reads from his epic tale Last of the Sandwalkers.  Reviewed below.

LAST OF THE SANDWALKERS (First Second Press, 2015)

Six bold beetles gear up to explore the world beyond their small oasis in the desert.  Is there life in the great sandy wastes?  Or will the anger of the great god Scarabus smite them for the heresy that is curiosity…

sandwalkers look what I found smallerlast_of_the_sandwalkers_bat

Biology professor Jay Hosler writes interestingly complex and amusing comics that are fairly rustling with intelligence and humor.  Best known for his Xeric Award winning Clan Apis, a friendly and personable look at the life cycle of bees, Hosler has also penned a handful of other amusing and edifying graphic stories.  Whether we listen in on conversations between Charles Darwin and a follicle mite that lives in his eyebrow (Sandwalk Chronicles) or dive into the soup of human imagination to retrieve a lost eyeball and learn how the structure of the eye evolved over time (Optical Allusions) Hosler clearly loves the process of blending education and entertainment,

In Last of the Sandwalkers Hosler tackles a more straightforward but perhaps more ambitious project:  to tell a stand-alone story entertaining on its own merits, while hiding all the biology in the narrative.  This is the epic quest of a small band of inquisitive bugs whose inquisitive nature dares them to question the dogma that keeps them in line.  Well equipped for anything they could anticipate, except perhaps for jealousy and betrayal…

The characters are well drawn, funny, with distinct differences in appearance and abilities.   Their insect technology is cleverly imagined, and aside from some mechanical wizardry, highly plausible.  It’s neat to see a biology professor imagineering what innovations bugs would invent to tackle the problems of their world.  The plot is tight, great dialogue, the friendship and teamwork of the crew animates the action and adds charm.  The secondary plot suggests the political  swordfighing of academia and the struggle of rigorous science against blind faith.  Friendly upbeat with tense action and fun ‘ick’-factor’ moments  (in one moment trying to placate corpse beetles that they are not trying to steal a semi-liquified dead rodent or eat the grubs it contains).  Ultimately the tone of the book suggests the optimism and irrepressible nature of science, that the quest for knowledge is a joy in and of itself, that satisfying one’s curiosity is something of a sacred mission.  Or to quote from the philosopher Calvin in dialogue with his companion Hobbes::

H:  Whatcha doin’?
C: Looking for frogs.
H:  How come?
C: I must obey the inscrutable exhortations of my soul.
H:  Ah, but of course.
C:  My mandate also includes weird bugs.

Which would seem to be the genesis of how one becomes a biology professor, or even a cartoonist known for drawing the lives of weird bugs,

Last of the Sandwalkers is highly recommended for all ages of readers, basically anyone who likes, bugs, science, adventure, humor, cyborgs, and great action.

September 1, 2010

All-Action Classics No. 3: The Odyssey

adapted by Tim Mucci; layouts by Ben Caldwell, Rick Lacy; color by Emanuel Tenderini.

Adaptations of classics are rarely high quality.  Often they read as vanity projects for the artist, showcasing vivid rendering skills and painterly sensibilities but lacking narrative drive.  They rarely take advantage of the kinetic momentum possible in panel-to-panel art.  The story takes a back seat to the static prettiness of the art itself.

Elsewhere  they may read as overly earnest if dumbed down distillations of  a larger more complex or nuanced work.    Here they tend to lack depth, like set dressing for a puppet show.  They read clearly as though  some publisher, distraught that kids aren’t really reading nowadays, thought it a good idea that we publish a book with more pictures and the like.   You know:   kids have no real attention span for anything else.   ‘We’ve got to get into this comics deal.  Kids are actually reading those.  Get me an artist who can do comic books’.

Adaptations that work are generally books with a plot that translates well to the medium.   Sequential art works great with action sequences, driving plot, witty dialogue, fantastic terrain and settings.  Like any other good comic.  ‘Who gives a rip if this is is a hoary old classic, the point is it’s a cracking good story!  I want to draw that! ‘

This attitude animates comic veterans Tim Mucci and Ben Caldwell’s excellent adaptation of the Greek classic Odyssey.

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