Friday, August 19, 2011

Tricked by Alex Robinson - Discussion Questions

Alex Robinson is quickly becoming one of my favorite new graphic novel authors. In this and his previous effort Box Office Poison, he manages to uniquely portray a huge cast of characters using everything from personality quirks to calligraphy. Tricked features a cast of six including a washed up rock star, a waitress, and a counterfeiter among a few others whose lives become temporarily intertwined in a dramatic event.

The book club for Tricked will meet on Thursday August 25th at Koelbel Library at 7:00 p.m. Below are spoiler-less discussion questions.

13. What is the importance of the chapters counting down from fifty to one?

12. Tricked balances a diverse cast of characters. Who was your favorite/least favorite character? Who had the best/worst storyline?

11. Why is the vandalized photograph of Ray Beam so upsetting to Steve?

10. Compare Steve and Nick's psyches. Are they really so different?

9. What are the strengths and weaknesses of Alex Robinson's drawing style?

8. Why did Ray start writing songs again? Is it as simple as Lily's presence? Do you think artists need muses?

7. Nick's likability and morality varies throughout Tricked and comes to a head at the end of the book. How did you end up feeling about his character? What do his actions say about the possibility of redemption in individuals?

6. Caprice was one of the more dynamic characters in Tricked. Explain her behavior throughout the book and the outcome of her situation.

5. Did you find Robinson's characters believable?

4. In his previous effort Box Office Poison, Robinson was praised for being able to portray the lives of many different characters in such a convincing way it seemed voyeuristic.

3. Was Steve aware of his actions at the end of Tricked? Would he have a legitimate "crazy defense" in court?

2. What is Ray's epiphany at the end of the book?

1. Why is the cassette tape cover important? What is the significance of the title?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Future graphic novel selections January - April

That's right, graphic novel book clubbers, it's time again for a vote on new graphic novels. Comment below with your thoughts and suggestions and we'll hold a vote at our next meeting which is for Alex Robinson's Tricked on August 25th.

Level Up by Gene Luen Yang: "Dennis Ouyang lives in the shadow of his parents’ high expectations. They want him to go to med school and become a doctor. Dennis just wants to play video games—and he might actually be good enough to do it professionally. But four adorable, bossy, and occasionally terrifying angels arrive just in time to lead Dennis back onto the straight and narrow: the path to gastroenterology. It’s all part of the plan, they tell him. But is it? This powerful piece of magical realism brings into sharp relief the conflict many teens face between pursuing their dreams and living their parents’."

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol: "Anya could really use a friend. But her new BFF isn’t kidding about the “Forever” part. Of all the things Anya expected to find at the bottom of an old well, a new friend was not one of them. Especially not a new friend who’s been dead for a century. Falling down a well is bad enough, but Anya’s normal life might actually be worse. She’s embarrassed by her family, self-conscious about her body, and she’s pretty much given up on fitting in at school. A new friend—even a ghost—is just what she needs. Or so she thinks."

Scott Pilgrim series by Brian O'Malley: Scott Pilgrim is a twenty something bass player who is dating a HIGH SCHOOLER! Ewww. Video game references, surprisingly deep characterization, and humor fill the pages of O'Malley's six volume work.

Essex County by Jeff Lemire: "Where does a young boy turn when his whole world suddenly disappears? What turns two brothers from an unstoppable team into a pair of bitterly estranged loners? How does the simple-hearted care of one middle-aged nurse reveal the scars of an entire community, and can anything heal the wounds caused by a century of deception? Award-winning cartoonist Jeff Lemire pays tribute to his roots with Essex County, an award-winning trilogy of graphic novels set in an imaginary version of his hometown, the eccentric farming community of Essex County, Ontario, Canada. In Essex County, Lemire crafts an intimate study of one community through the years, and a tender meditation on family, memory, grief, secrets, and reconciliation."

Daytripper by Gabriel Ba: A meditation on one man's life, brothers Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon explore all of the different possibilities of Bras de Olivia Domingos. Bras dies at the end of each issue in a different way only to wake up the next issue in a slightly different world. It is unclear whether or not Bras is learning from these past events or is unaware of them.

Life with Mr. Dangerous by Paul Hornschemeier: Amy is unhappy and single. She works at a department store and has self-image issues. The only joy she seems to get out of life is from watching reruns of Mr. Dangerous, a television show. Will she be able to find happiness in the real world or will her penchant for equating life and television keep her from ever escaping her dreary existence?

All quoted descriptions courtesy of

Retread possibilities: We've already done these titles in past book clubs, but I'm open to rereading them if anyone's interested! Let me know or select any other past selections.

Y the Last Man series by Brian K. Vaughan: One of my favorite graphic novel series, it follows Yorick and his pet monkey Ampersand. The two are seemingly the only two males left on Earth after a mysterious occurrence causes all other men to die. Yorick must discover the truth and get to Australia to find his girlfriend Beth.

Berlin by Jason Lutes: A historical account of the tumultuous inter-war years in Berlin through the eyes of various young people including art students and musicians. An unfinished two volume series.

Locke and Key by Joe Hill: A horror comic to end all horror comics. Each volume adds more depth and mystery to the series, so revisiting this one now that four volumes are out could be a treat. Though the first starts out as a King-esque horror comic, the ensuing trades delve deeper into the key mythology and almost comes off as more Neil Gaiman-y.

Planetary series by Warren Ellis

My apologies, my life has been hectic lately and I hadn't gotten the chance to post Planetary discussion questions. Planetary is almost as difficult to figure out as some of the worldwide conspiracies that Elijah Snow, The Drummer, and Jakita Wagner try to unravel, but is entertaining nonetheless. Unlike The X-Files conspiracies are teased AND answered. Thanks to our resident Planetary expert Jason for about half of these awesome questions.

1. Much of the Planetary series seems to focus on Elijah Snow. Why is he important as the protagonist? What are the roles of Jakita and The Drummer?

2. Planetary very oddly incorporates the DC Universe into its storylines. Did you enjoy its incorporation? Would Planetary have been affected adversely had it been a completely separate universe?

3. Do you feel Planetary is more original than derivative or more derivative than original?

4. Were there any major fictional genres or superhero tropes that you wished the series would have explored in more depth?

5. What is the significance of Century Babies in the series?

6. How do the three (or four) members of Planetary differ from say, The Fantastic Four? Why is this comparison significant?

7. Planetary consists of 27 issues over the course of ten years. How did this affect its fan base? Is this time span apparent when reading them in trade format?

8. What questions does Planetary reveal about the world's "secret history?" Does the government feed us a combination of truth and misinformation?

9. Elijah Snow doesn't follow the typical "superhero code of conduct." (For example, he doesn't flinch to kick people in the "unmentionables" or kill/torture/maroon his enemies.) Is Elijah Snow a superhero in the traditional sense? Does this "morally questionable" behavior make him a stronger/weaker character? Do you wish more traditional superheroes behaved in the same way?

10. Warren Ellis claimed that Planetary was a book about the evolution of the superhero genre rather than a book about superheroes, yet ultimately the final issues focused more on the plot of the characters rather than exploring genre. Did this hurt the story in any way, or did this focus on the book's main characters make the series stronger?

11. Some issues (particularly the later ones) deal with extraordinarily complex and esoteric concepts such as the structural nature of the universe, principles of time travel, the afterlife, theoretical physics, the purpose of the "century babies," etc. Did Ellis lose you as a reader in these moments, or were they adequately explained to keep you entertained and able to follow the story?

12. What are your thoughts on Jakita Wagner as a comic book female protagonist? Does she exemplify what women in comic books could and should be, or do you feel that she is yet another example of a poorly written female character in the superhero world?

13. Warren Ellis tends to write superheroes with very "human" emotions and reactions, filled with characters who tease each other and often struggle with emotional/sexual/anger issues. Do you wish more superhero books were like this, or do you prefer the "do no wrong" stoic style of superhero?