Thursday, September 12, 2013

Graphic Novel Book Club Selections 1T 2014

Hi all!  Here are some new and some old graphic novel book club selections we could talk about.  We've got to pick and vote on four. 

Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection by Matt Dembicki

In Trickster more than twenty Native American tales are cleverly adapted into comic form. Each story is written by a different Native American storyteller who worked closely with a selected illustrator, a combination that gives each tale a unique and powerful voice and look. Ranging from serious and dramatic to funny and sometimes downright fiendish, these tales bring tricksters back into popular culture in a very vivid form. From an ego-driven social misstep in “Coyote and the Pebbles” to the hijinks of “How Wildcat Caught a Turkey” and the hilarity of “Rabbit’s Choctaw Tail Tale,” Trickster provides entertainment for readers of all ages and backgrounds.

Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm

Trinity, the debut graphic book by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm, depicts the dramatic history of the race to build and the decision to drop the first atomic bomb in World War Two. This sweeping historical narrative traces the spark of invention from the laboratories of nineteenth-century Europe to the massive industrial and scientific efforts of the Manhattan Project, and even transports the reader into a nuclear reaction—into the splitting atoms themselves.

X-Men: Days of Future Past by Chris Claremont

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times: Relive the legendary first journey into the dystopian future of 2013 - where Sentinels stalk the Earth, and the X-Men are humanity's only hope...until they die! Also featuring the first appearance of Alpha Flight, the return of the Wendigo, the history of the X-Men from Cyclops himself...and a demon for Christmas!? Collecting UNCANNY X-MEN (1963) #138-143 and X-MEN ANNUAL #4.

Over the Wall by Peter Wartman

A great wall separates a magnificent metropolis from the surrounding countryside. All humans are banned from ever entering the city. A young girl is determined to enter the forbidden city in search of her lost brother. When she crosses over, fantastic adventures ensue in narrow medieval streets, ancient temples, and abandoned bazars of the haunted city. To save her missing brother, she must grapple with mythical creatures, explore the mystery of the missing inhabitants, and cure the amnesia of an entire civilization. Over the Wall immerses the reader in a richly imagined world of coming of age rituals, lost worlds and the nature of memory. The beautiful two-color art vividly brings to life the fantastical architecture of mysterious metropolis and faintly evokes the crisp lines of Japanese anime. Over the Wall is a stunning debut from a young and talented cartoonist Peter Wartman.
Cairo by G. Willow Wilson

The creative team behind the new monthly series AIR brings together ancient and modern Middle East with a Vertigo twist. A stolen hookah, a spiritual underworld and a genie on the run change the lives of five strangers forever in this modern fable set on the streets of the Middle East's largest metropolis. This magical-realism thriller interweaves the fates of a drug runner, a down-on-his-luck journalist, an American expatriate, a young activist and an Israeli soldier as they race through bustling present-day Cairo to find an artifact of unimaginable power, one protected by a dignified jinn and sought by a wrathful gangster-magician. But the vastness of Africa's legendary City of Victory extends into a spiritual realm - the Undernile - and even darker powers lurk there...Don't miss the incredible graphic novel Publishers Weekly called "lush and energetic...a beautiful book," and The Los Angeles Times Book Review praised as "lyrically beautiful."

Before Watchmen: Minutemen/Silk Spectre by Darwyn Cooke

The critically acclaimed and Eisner Award-winning creator of DC: THE NEW FRONTIER Darwyn Cooke lends his talents MINUTEMEN. As the predecessor to the Watchmen, the Minutemen were assembled to fight against a world that have more and more rapidly begun to spin out of control. Can these heroes from completely different backgrounds and with completely different attitudes on crime come together? Or will they fall apart before they begin?

SILK SPECTRE takes an introspective look at the WATCHMEN feature player's struggles with her overbearing superhero mother and her scattered path toward taking the mantle of the Silk Spectre. With gorgeous art by co-writer and illustrator Amanda Conner (POWER GIRL, The Pro), SILK SPECTRE takes a very different perspective at the world of BEFORE WATCHMEN.

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh

This is a book I wrote. Because I wrote it, I had to figure out what to put on the back cover to explain what it is. I tried to write a long, third-person summary that would imply how great the book is and also sound vaguely authoritative— like maybe someone who isn’t me wrote it—but I soon discovered that I’m not sneaky enough to pull it off convincingly.

So I decided to just make a list of things that are in the book:

Stories about things that happened to me
Stories about things that happened to other people because of me
Eight billion dollars*
Stories about dogs
The secret to eternal happiness*

*These are lies. Perhaps I have underestimated my sneakiness!

Sweet Tooth vol. 1: Out of the Woods by Jeff Lemire

Following on the heels of THE NOBODY, his Vertigo graphic novel debut, writer/artist Jeff Lemire pens his very first ongoing series SWEET TOOTH. A cross between Bambi and Cormac McCarthy's The Road, SWEET TOOTH tells the story of Gus, a rare new breed of human/animal hybrid children, has been raised in isolation following an inexplicable pandemic that struck a decade earlier. Now, with the death of his father he's left to fend for himself . . . until he meets a hulking drifter named Jepperd who promises to help him. Jepperd and Gus set out on a post-apocalyptic journey into the devastated American landscape to find 'The Preserve' a refuge for hybrids.

John Constantine Hellblazer vol. 1: Original Sins by Jamie Delano

The very first Hellblazer collection ORIGINAL SINS is available in a new edition that includes John Constantine’s appearances in SWAMP THING. This is the first of a series of new HELLBLAZER editions starring Vertigo’s longest running antihero, John Constantine, England’s chain-smoking, low-rent magus.
This first collection is a loosely connected series of tales of John’s early years where Constantine was at his best and at his worst, all at the same time.

Sandman Mystery Theater vol. 1: Tarantula by Matt Wagner

The hero of Sandman Mystery Theatre shares little more than a moniker with Neil Gaiman's Sandman, star of one of the most successful graphic novel series ever, but those who prefer the down and dirty to the airy and fantastic may also prefer SMT, which features the comics' original Sandman, millionaire Wesley Dodds, who, clad in trench coat and gas mask and armed with sleep-inducing gas, fought criminals in the 1940s. Wagner backtracks Dodds to pre-World War II New York City and models Dodds' adventures less on superhero comics than on 1930s pulp magazines. He and cowriter Steven T. Seagle create twisted crime stories--the arc this volume collects involves a series of grisly murders--that Guy Davis illustrates by expertly evoking the period looks of the pulps. SMT story lines are far franker than their 1930s inspirations. This one depicts, besides the killings, a circle of lesbian lovers, and the dialogue is R-rated. Although it hasn't matched the popularity of Gaiman's creation, SMT is one of the most successful revivals of a vintage costumed crime fighter.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan

Tales from Outer Suburbia defies labels like graphic novel and even young adult, where its often categorized.  Its a series of illustrated vignettes that revel in the absurd and magical. 

1.  Would you consider Tales from Outer Suburbia to be a graphic novel?

2.  Who is Shaun Tan’s audience?  The stories have the whimsy of children’s books but have themes too complex for younger minds. 

3.  What is the meaning of “It’s a cultural thing” in “Eric?”

4.  What were your favorite and least favorite stories?

5.  As an artist/writer, do you think Tan’s drawings inspire his stories or the other way around?

6.  What is the point of “Distant Rain?”  Is Tan telling us that our poetry/art should not be hidden from the world?

7.  Are there any overarching themes you sensed throughout the collection?  What is “outer suburbia?”

8.  Tan has said “I don’t think I’ve ever painted an image as a reproduction of what I’m seeing, even when I’m working in front of it. I’m always trying to create some kind of parallel equivalent.”  How does this information inform your opinion of his work?  Does this ring true with The Arrival as well?

9.  Tan’s Outer Suburbia seems to be unfamiliar but safe.  Conflict and harm are generally solved quickly and easily.  Why?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Batgirl vol. 1 by Gail Simone

Part of DC's rebooted New 52 series, Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl deals with physical and emotional baggage as she slowly but surely gets back into the cape and cowl.  Gail Simone was famously fired then rehired on the title due to fan outcry.

1.  In the bat-family books, (Batwoman, Batgirl, Nightwing, etc) Batman tends to show up quite a lot but these characters never show up in Batman books.  Why is that?  Are these characters ultimately unnecessary to the bat-universe?

2.  In the last Batgirl arc before it was rebooted with this volume, our titular heroine was shot in the spine and as a result became wheelchair bound.  How did you feel about that being reversed in this book?  Could it have gone any other way?

3.  The Catwoman reboot was panned for its blatant tendency to draw the heroine half naked and in sexual poses.  Does Batgirl suffer the same fate?  How does this title measure up to other female superhero comics?

4.    Some of the bat-family titles are criticized because these heroes don’t have any established villains like say, the Joker.  Do you think Batgirl suffers from this problem? 

5.  Simone was fired from writing Batgirl then quickly rehired after fan reaction in December.  There is not much information as to why.  Why do you think the decision was made?

6.  You hear Batgirl’s voice throughout the book as she is narrating.  How do you feel about this storytelling style?  How did it characterize her?

7.  When Barbara Gordon was wheelchair bound before, she was an information broker known as Oracle.  Why does Simone acknowledge the injury but not the past identity?

8.  Do you think the best way for a female superhero to be decently written is for her to be written by a female author?

9.  When Simone was fired from DC, she was looking into creator-owned material instead.  Do you think it was a curse instead of a blessing that she was put back on Batgirl?  Do you think her creativity is best spent on other comics?

RASL series by Jeff Smith

RASL was Jeff Smith's first comic series after the hugely successful Bone.  This series takes a darker turn with time traveling, science fiction, and noir elements. 
1.  Jeff Smith is best known for his kid friendly cartoon epic Bone.  How does RASL differ from that series? 
2.  Judging from his career arc from Bone to RASL, what's next for Jeff Smith?
3.  The sexy premise of the series: a noirish time travelling art thief, does not hold even far past the first volume.  Why is this premise so quickly abandoned?
4.  What is Jeff Smith's deal with Nikola Tesla?  Some chapters were entirely devoted to the man.
5.  What is the importance of the super large pages of RASL?  So many graphic novels adhere to a standard size.  Is the size an advantage of self-publishing?
6.  Jeff Smith took a lot of time off after Bone and spent time in a remote desert drawing sketches and pages for RASL.  Did this extreme way of finding a muse pay off, did it hinder the series?  Smith also spent time in a forested U.S. national park for Bone inspiration.
7.  Smith took a year studying string theory and the latest science in parallel dimensions before he started RASL.  Did he convey that understanding to his readers in later volumes?
8.  None of the characters are terribly likeable.  Is this just an unavoidable flaw in noir stories?
9.  Most of the female characters in RASL are of little consequence or are strippers or both.  I seem to recall Grandma Ben and Thorn were well written female characters in Bone.  What happened?  Is it an effort to be “edgy?”

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Ignition City by Warren Ellis

Ignition City is another entry in Warren Ellis' collection of space-themed graphic novels.  This one in particular follows Mary Raven on a trip to Ignition City to investigate her father's death. 

1. What do you think Warren Ellis’ inspiration for Ignition City was?

2. Ellis has a rather odd relationship with space travel as evidenced by another book club selection, Orbiter. What if any of his space madness did you feel came through in this graphic novel?

3. A few criticized Ignition City for its slow pace considering that it’s a limited five issue run. Your thoughts?

4. Female characters in comics: not often well portrayed. How did Mary Raven fare?

5. Everyone in Ignition City is bummed out all the time because its where “space heroes go to die.” What’s so great about space? Is post-space depression anything like PTSD or readjusting to civilian life in general?

6. Some say steampunk makes for such a compelling setting that its difficult for the story to thrive and ultimately be more compelling than its own world. Is this the case for Ignition City?

7. So many people in Ignition City want to abandon Earth and its Kharg-destroyed remnants to get back to space. Isn’t that just giving up? Why aren’t these people trying to better their own surroundings?

8. Was it ethical for the Marshal to keep Kharg alive in a compound “up North?” Did they really just keep him around to study tech they didn’t understand?

9. Ignition City is not going to be continued at least for the time being. Do you think the story is ripe for expansion? Would Mary have continued to kick vigilante ass as a marshal?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

September to December 2013 graphic novel selections

Here are our potential selections for upcoming graphic novel book clubs!  Feel free to recommend any additional selections. 

Hawkeye vol. 1 by Matt Fraction
The breakout star of this summer's blockbuster Avengers film, Clint Barton - aka the self-made hero Hawkeye - fights for justice! With ex-Young Avenger Kate Bishop by his side, he's out to prove himself as one of Earth's Mightiest Heroes! SHIELD recruits Clint to intercept a packet of incriminating evidence - before he becomes the most wanted man in the world. You won't believe what is on The Tape! What is the Vagabond Code? Matt Fraction pens a Hawkeye thriller that spans the globe...and the darkest parts of Hawkeye's mind. Barton and Bishop mean double the Hawkeye and double the trouble...and stealing from the rich never looked so good.
Sweet Tooth series by Jeff Lemire
A cross between Bambi and Cormac McCarthy's The Road, SWEET TOOTH tells the story of Gus, a rare new breed of human/animal hybrid children, has been raised in isolation following an inexplicable pandemic that struck a decade earlier. Now, with the death of his father he's left to fend for himself . . . until he meets a hulking drifter named Jepperd who promises to help him. Jepperd and Gus set out on a post-apocalyptic journey into the devastated American landscape to find 'The Preserve' a refuge for hybrids.

New School by Dash Shaw
In this brand new graphic novel from the acclaimed author of Bottomless Belly Button and BodyWorld, Dash Shaw dramatizes the story of a boy moving to an exotic country and his infatuation with an unfamiliar culture that quickly shifts to disillusionment. A sense of “being different” grows to alienation, until he angrily blames this once-enchanting land for his feelings of isolation. All of this is told through the fantastical eyes of young Danny, a boy growing up in the ’90s fed on dramatic adventure stories like Jurassic Park and X-Men. Danny’s older brother, Luke, travels to a remote island to teach English to the employees of ClockWorld, an ambitious new amusement park that recreates historical events. When Luke doesn’t return after two years, Danny travels to ClockWorld to convince Luke to return to America. But Luke has made a new life, new family, and even a new personality for himself on ClockWorld, rendering him almost unrecognizable to his own brother. Danny comes of age as he explores the island, ClockWorld, and fights to bring his brother home. New School is unlike anything in the history of the comics medium: at once funny and deadly serious, easily readable while wildly artistic, personal and political, familiar and completely new.

The Unwritten series by Mike Carey
Tom Taylor's life was screwed from go. His father created the Tommy Taylor fantasy series, boy-wizard novels with popularity on par with Harry Potter. The problem is Dad modeled the fictional epic so closely to Tom's real life that fans are constantly comparing him to his counterpart, turning him into the lamest variety of Z-level celebrity. In the final novel, it's even implied that the fictional Tommy will crossover into the real world, giving delusional fans more excuses to harass Tom.

When an enormous scandal reveals that Tom might really be a boy-wizard made flesh, Tom comes into contact with a very mysterious, very deadly group that's secretly kept tabs on him all his life. Now, to protect his own life and discover the truth behind his origins, Tom will travel the world, eventually finding himself at locations all featured on a very special map -- one kept by the deadly group that charts places throughout world history where fictions have impacted and tangibly shaped reality, those stories ranging from famous literary works to folktales to pop culture. And in the process of figuring out what it all means, Tom will find himself having to figure out a huge conspiracy mystery that spans the entirety of the history of fiction

Ed the Happy Clown by Chester Brown
In the late 1980s, the idiosyncratic Chester Brown (author of the muchlauded Paying for It and Louis Riel) began writing the cult classic comic book series Yummy Fur. Within its pages, he serialized the groundbreaking Ed the Happy Clown, revealing a macabre universe of parallel dimensions. Thanks to its wholly original yet disturbing story lines, Ed set the stage for Brown to become a world-renowned cartoonist.

Ed the Happy Clown is a hallucinatory tale that functions simultaneously as a dark roller-coaster ride of criminal activity and a scathing condemnation of religious and political charlatanism. As the world around him devolves into madness, the eponymous Ed escapes variously from a jealous boyfriend, sewer monsters, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and a janitor with a Jesus complex. Brown leaves us wondering, with every twist of the plot, just how Ed will get out of this scrape.

The intimate, tangled world of Ed the Happy Clown is definitively presented here, repackaged with a new foreword by the author and an extensive notes section, and is, like every Brown book, astonishingly perceptive about the zeitgeist of its time.

Punk Rock Jesus by Sean Murphy

A reality TV show starring a clone of Jesus Christ causes chaos across the U.S. of the near future in PUNK ROCK JESUS, a new graphic novel written and drawn by Sean Murphy, the acclaimed illustrator of JOE THE BARBARIAN and AMERICAN VAMPIRE.

J2 causes both outrage and adulation. Religious zealots either love or hate the show, angry politicians worry about its influence on the nation, and members of the scientific community fear the implications of cloning a human being at all, let alone the Son of God.

Thomas McKael is the clones's bodyguard and former IRA operative, who despite his turbulent past is hired to protect the new Jesus—a baby who captivates the world, but grows up to become an angry teenager.

When falling ratings force the network to cut Jesus's mother from the series the young star runs away, renounces his religious heritage and forms a punk rock band. And what starts off as babysitting for Thomas becomes an epic battle, as Jesus goes to war against the corporate media complex that created him.

John Constantine, Hellblazer vol. 1: Original Sins by Jamie Delano

The very first Hellblazer collection ORIGINAL SINS is available in a new edition that includes John
Constantine’s appearances in SWAMP THING. This is the first of a series of new HELLBLAZER editions starring Vertigo’s longest running antihero, John Constantine, England’s chain-smoking, low-rent magus.

This first collection is a loosely connected series of tales of John’s early years where Constantine was at his best and at his worst, all at the same time.

The Manhattan Projects vol. 1 by Jonathan Hickman

What if the research and development department created to produce the first atomic bomb was a front for a series of other, more unusual, programs?

Collecting the coolest new series of the year into one super science package.

Heads or Tails by Lilli Carre
The creator of 2008’s acclaimed graphic novel The Lagoon — named to many annual critics’ lists including Publishers Weekly and USA Today’s Pop Candy — is back with a stunningly designed and packaged collection of some of the most poetic and confident short fiction being produced in comics today. CarrĂ©’s elegant short stories read like the gothic, family narratives of Flannery O’Connor or Carson McCullers, but told visually. Poetic rhythms — a coin flip, a circling ferris wheel — are punctuated by elements of melancholy fantasy pushed forward by character-driven, naturalistic dialogue. The stories in Heads Or Tails display a virtuosic breadth of visual styles and color palettes, each in perfect service of the story, and range from experimental one-pagers to short masterpieces like “The Thing About Madeline” (featured in The Best American Comics 2008), to graphic novellas like “The Carnival” (featured in David Sedaris’ and Dave Eggers’ 2010 Best American Nonrequired Reading, originally published in MOME). Yes

The Private Eye by Brian K Vaughan (digital only)

Our first new storyline is THE PRIVATE EYE, a forward-looking mystery we created with colorist Muntsa Vicente. Set in a future where privacy is considered a sacred right and everyone has a secret identity, The Private Eye is a serialized sci-fi detective story for mature readers.

NOTE: This graphic novel is digital only, if we select this, all book clubbers need consistent internet access, a tablet, or another form of computer to be able to read the comic. 

Girl Genius Omnibus vol. 1: Agatha Awakens by Phil and Kaja Foglio

The Industrial Revolution has become all-out war! Mad Scientists, gifted with the Spark of genius, unleash insane inventions on an unprepared Europe. For centuries, the Heterodyne family of inventors kept the peace, but the last Heterodyne disappeared twenty years ago, leaving their ally Baron Klaus Wulfenbach to maintain order with his fleet of airships and army of unstoppable, if not very bright, Jaeger Monsters.

At Transylvania Polygnostic University, Agatha Clay dreams of being a scientist herself, but her trouble concentrating dooms her to be a lowly minion at best. When her locket, a family heirloom, is stolen, Agatha shows signs of having the Spark in a spectacular, destructive fashion and captures the attention of the Baron—and the Baron’s handsome young son, Gilgamesh.

Swept up to the Baron's Airship City, Agatha finds herself in the midst of the greatest minds of her generation, as well as palace intrigue, dashing heroes, and an imperial cat. Agatha may be the most brilliant mind of her generation and the key to control of the continent, but first, she just has to survive.
One Soul by Ray Fawkes
Eighteen individuals throughout history whose entire lives unfold simultaneously. Comprised entirely of double page spreads split into eighteen panels with each panel featuring one character's life, cartoonist Ray Fawkes has artfully crafted eighteen linear stories into one non-linear masterpiece. Nominated for the 2012 Eisner Award in the "Graphic Album: New" category.
Stumptown vol. 1 by Greg Rucka
Dex is the proprietor of Stumptown Investigations, and a fairly talented P.I. Unfortunately, she's less adept at throwing dice than solving cases. Her recent streak has left her beyond broke - she's into the Confederated Tribes of the Wind Coast for 18 large. But maybe Dex's luck is about to change. Sue-Lynne, head of the Wind Coast's casino operation, will clear Dex' debt if she can locate Sue-Lynne's missing granddaughter. But is this job Dex's way out of the hole or a shove down one much much deeper?

Saga vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan

Described by critics as A Game of Thrones meets Star Wars meets Romeo and Juliet Brian K. Vaughan's new series Saga tells a story of two lovers from warring factions who have brought a child into the world.  They meet and overcome strangers and dangers in the unique fantasy/science fiction world in which they live.

1.  Saga’s world can seem like a mishmash of sci-fi and fantasy elements what with the Godzilla monsters and TV headed men and wooden spaceships.  Does it come together as a cohesive and thought out setting?

2.  What is with the TV headed folks?  Is there symbolism there or is it weird for the sake of weird?

3.  Saga is told from the perspective of Marko and Alana’s child who points out at the end of one chapter that she will be safe as long as she is with them.  Doesn’t this remove the suspense of the story since you know they’ll turn out okay?  Why?

4.  One of the central conflicts of Saga is between the “horns” and the “wings.”  Is Vaughan using this story as an anti-war and anti-racism mouthpiece or is there more to it?

5.  Does this story deliver on the Star Wars meets Romeo and Juliet meets A Game of Thrones feel as early reviewers deemed it?

6.  Narration has been considered an outdated storytelling technique in comics.  Thought bubbles and narration hearken back to the days of bad 90s X-Men comics.  How does Vaughan do with narration in Saga?

7.  What is the significance of the cursive written narration in their juxtaposition with pretty images?

8.  Vaughan chose to publish with Image because he can own the rights to Saga’s story and never have it turned into a film or TV show or anything.  Do you agree with his thoughts that this story should say within comics pages?  What does this communicate about Y the Last Man’s struggles with film?

9.  What do you predict The Will might do in future issues?  Team up with Marko and Alana?  Hunt them mercilessly in a game of (lying) cat and mouse?