Monday, March 28, 2011

Oh YA! Comics Tumblr Auxiliary

Blogs are hard to keep up with. Tumblr is a little easier to do quick posts on the fly, which is mostly what I have time for these days. So allow me to introduce the Oh YA! Comics Tumblr Auxiliary!
Go follow me over there to get your fill of YA comics!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Pull up a chair...

This week's Book Blogger Hop brings up something I've thought about a lot.


As much as I'd like to say something quintessentially bookish, like "on the sofa with a pot of tea" or "in front of a roaring fire" or even "in my neighborhood cafe" but really, I read best on the subway.  Especially comics, because I have a decent subway ride to and from my comic shop, so it's a bit of a habit.  Granted, I also like reading in one of my neighborhood cafes, as you may have noticed if you follow my Twitter feed, but that's partly because that's where I can get my fancy coffee drinks with various forms of alcohol in them ^_^

FRENCH MILK by Lucy Knisley

As she stands on the brink of college graduation, cartoonist Lucy Knisley and her mother decide to rent an apartment in Paris for six weeks.  There, she indulges her inner foodie, immerses herself in the arts and history of Paris, and forms a deep addiction to creamy French milk.

A true account, written and drawn during her time in Paris, Lucy's travel journal draws you into her world.  Her cute drawing style invites the reader to indulge in the escape and repose of a Parisian vacation through her dreamlike eyes.  She eschews traditional comics panel layouts, instead letting her words and art float around on each page, showing that the story she's telling is not a sequence of events, but a collection of impressions.

Instead of trying to forge a sweeping narrative of personal growth, she gives an honest view of her experiences from glimpses of both memorable and quotidian moments.  And inevitably, many of these turn out to be one in the same.  I was struck, when she dropped a reference to the execution of Saddam Hussein, how much the real world was thrown into sharp relief, even in her cartoony style, by intruding on her otherwise pleasant repose abroad-- an intrusion she resents, wanting to hide as much from the news of the outside world as she does from thoughts of her future. Though she starts and ends her trip unsure about her future, she emerges from her refuge on the Left Bank with a renewed serenity, prepared to face it, no matter what it is.  And of course, a life-long love of French milk.

Browse an excerpt of French Milk here.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

HOPELESS SAVAGES: Greatest Hits, by Jen Van Meter and various artists

When Zero Hopeless-Savage wakes up one morning to find her punk rocker parents, Dirk Hopeless and Nikki Savage, kidnapped by fascist music execs, it's up to her and her siblings, martial artist Arsenal, mod theater designer Twitch, and the long-lost Rat--who rebelled and became a respectable businessman--to team up and rescue them.  But it is only the first of many quagmires that the family find themselves in.  In this bind-up volume collecting three previously published stories, this punk-rock family takes on enemies ranging from the paparazzi to international smuggling rings to high school administrators--and none of them escape the Hopeless-Savages unscathed!

I want to join this family so badly.  Forget the Cullens or the Weasleys, if I could join one fictional family, it would be the Hopeless-Savages.  Who wouldn't?  Famous parents, a badass older sister, a burgeoning rocker younger sister, a cool gay brother, and yes, even a corporate coffee shill eldest brother-- all of them forging their own paths in life, with the full love and support of their wholly unconventional family (though Zero did take it pretty personally when Rat "defected").  Nothing that comes their way in their awesome adventures can beat them as long as they're together, at least in spirit.  Supporting the main storylines are some "bonus tracks" and "B-sides" with some fun vignettes revealing, among other tidbits of Hopeless-Savage lore, the origins of Zero's band, the Dusted Bunnies, and how Twitch and Arsenal met their boyfriends.

Van Meter's writing is wonderfully scored by a range of fantastic artists, including the frenetic Chynna Clugston, the soulful Ross Campbell, and this blog's perennial favorite Bryan Lee O'Malley.  But don't take my word for it-- check them out, and then get the whole book:

Previews: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3


Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Return of Book Blogger Hop!

I've kind of given the Book Blogger Hop a by since I got back to school and haven't been reviewing too much, but since I'm starting to get back into it, I'm hopping back in!  This week's question: 


Inevitably, I convince myself I'm going to finish it, but then never pick it up again.  I usually have a few books going at a time anyway, so it doesn't seem like I'm skipping it or moving on or anything-- I'm just reading the other books more, that's all, honest.  Though this happens more with prose than comics, since comics are faster reads anyway-- I'll usually finish them before I realize I think they suck!  The only graphic novel I couldn't finish was Jeff Smith's Bone, which I know is utter blasphemy.  I didn't think it was bad--in fact I did find it charming--but it just didn't grab my attention.  Plus it was a library book and I was sick of renewing it.

In My Pull #2

Yesterday, I wandered over to New England Comic Con, which didn't really make up for me missing New York Comic Con last week, but I did get a lot of $5 trades!  (Several of which I plan to review here-- when I finally get through the backlog of other comics I want to review /o\)  So I figure it's time for my second In My Pull, featuring many of my NECC scores, and a few I've obtained since the last one.  Amazon links and descriptions under the cut.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

THE P.L.A.I.N. JANES written by Cecil Castellucci, art by Jim Rugg

After surviving a terrorist bombing, Jane is left with questions about her identity and the sketchbook of a comatose John Doe from the attack.  She resolves to find her true self through art and abandons her carefree-blond-popular girl persona.  When her family moves out to the suburbs, she soon enlists her new 'tribe' of misfits -- dramatic "Theater" Jane, studious "Brain" Jayne, and "Sporty" Polly Jane -- to spread cheer and beauty through the terrified community by forming a guerrilla art gang known as P.L.A.I.N. (People Loving Art In Neighborhoods).  Soon they're building pyramids in empty lots and knitting hats for fire hydrants.  But it's not long before the town grows paranoid about persons unknown sneaking around at night and calling P.L.A.I.N.'s "art attacks" vandalism.  How can the Janes convince them that "Art Saves"?

I've love Cecil Castellucci's quirky plots and creative heroines since her debut novel Boy Proof, and the Janes did not disappoint.  There is something infinitely appealing about the idea of taking art to the streets, and the sheer variety of PLAIN's art attacks make the book worth reading.  But of course, it's the characters that really grab you.  In a relatively short book, Main Jane goes from a girl who takes refuge in the idea of cliques in her own group of outcasts, to the girl who unites the school--from the one-man Queer Club, James, to the queen bee, Cindy--under one banner.  Her one-sided relationship with the comatose John Doe is touching and sweet, and the mysterious Damon is an excellent romantic foil.  Castellucci also avoids the pitfall of many prose authors writing comics and keeps a smooth balance between words and pictures.

Jim Rugg's art is clean, cute, and fun-- perfect for the story!  Even the bombing scene, which one would think would be far too incongruous with such a sweet art style, works fantastically, underlining Main Jane's loss of innocence.  And Damon is wonderfully swoony, even though he's just simple pen and ink.

Verdict: The PLAIN Janes is an upbeat story for anyone who considers themselves a dreamer, but it probably won't convert many cynics.  You can read a 17-page PDF preview here.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

SANDMAN: PRELUDES AND NOCTURNES (Vol. 1) written by Neil Gaiman, art by Sam Kieth and Mike Dringenberg

The more I work on this blog, discuss it with friends, and field questions from new readers, the more I start thinking about where I was when I first started reading comics and how I got to this point from there.  So it occurred to me that I should start at the beginning and talk about the first comic book I ever read, and how it snagged me into the comics form for life.

I had heard of Neil Gaiman here and there, and one day after reading a short story he had written online, I ran to my friends and asked if any of them had any of his books that I could borrow.  One of my friends piped up that he had written a series of comic books that she could lend me if I wanted them, though it was clear she understood there was a chance I would reject them outright just for being comics and not prose.  But I was in an adventurous mood, and I wanted to read more of Neil Gaiman's work so I accepted her offer.  The next day, she brought three volumes of Sandman, and I spent the weekend buried in their glory.

It's hard to describe what Sandman is about-- it's one of those books where what happens is secondary to the ideas it explores.  But it starts with a group of dark magicians attempting to imprison Death, only to instead imprison Death's brother-- Dream, the titular Sandman.   The first volume follows Dream (also known as Morpheus, Lord Shaper, Oneiros, and about 20 other titles) as he makes his escape, gets his revenge, and reclaims his kingdom.  And it is creepy-- beautifully creepy.  A lot of that is the artwork; Sam Kieth and Mike Dringenberg's drawings are the stuff of nightmares, hallucinations, and surreal dreams.  But Gaiman's storytelling is the tree the art grows from.

By anthropomorphizing Dream in the way humans long have done with Death, Gaiman is able to explore the deepest recesses of the human psyche, telling stories that really revolve more around a common theme rather than a character or plot.  Ultimately, Sandman is about the power of dreams and imagination, for good or ill.  I shuddered in one scene, where Dream is facing a hoard of demons, and he is taunted by the Lords of Hell who ask why they should let him leave.  Dream responds calmly, Ask yourselves, all of you, what power would Hell have if those imprisoned here could not dream of Heaven?  And the final chapter of the first volume, "The Sound of Her Wings," where we meet his sister Death, is a quiet and beautiful meditation on death and life.

Neil Gaiman has become far more successful and famous in 15 years since Sandman ended than possibly any other comics creator before him, and Sandman is barely even in the top ten of his most well-known works anymore, but if any of his works deserve to be read, it's this one.  This series grabbed me in a way only few works have before or since, and it showed me what I was missing by not reading comics.  That an epic work of such imagination was outside my ken before I stumbled into it was to me a massive oversight that had to be corrected.  And since I have immersed myself in the comics medium, I have only found more and more of such works, works that could not and would not have been done in any other medium.  It is what addicted me and why I am such an evangelist of the form.  If you read no other comics in your life, give Sandman a chance.

You can download a PDF of the first issue from the DC/Vertigo website.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Teen Girls to Get Comics Magazine-- Based on Stereotypes.

I emerge from under a pile of textbooks, not to post a review alas, but to vent some spleen.

You may or may not have heard of Mark Millar.  He's a comic book writer whose works Wanted and Kick-Ass were the basis of the films of the same name.  He also recently launched a comics magazine--with both comics and general pop-culture articles--called CLiNT, aimed at the 16-30 male demographic.  Now he's talking about starting a similar magazine for teenage girls, featuring mostly female talent, and edited by a woman magazine editor friend of his.  So far, so good.  What sort of material will this magazine contain?
It will have a definite Twilight-style supernatural theme.
Okay, cool-- I love the supernatural trend in YA lit.  While I hope for a little more variety than just the Twilight sort of supernatural stories, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt that he's using "Twilight" as a buzzword.  Though, I'm a little concerned that he doesn't seem to have done quite enough research into the field-- a lot of YA pundits are foretelling the decline of supernatural YA (and even I'm getting a little fatigued every time I go to Borders), and there has been a rise in other genres (hello, The Hunger Games!)  Still, nothing would prevent them from shifting genres once it gets going.  What else does he have to say about that?
That’s the difference between male and female tastes: men are interested in superheroes while women look to the supernatural.


Women don't like superheroes?   Forget how nearly every superhero movie audience is half women or how much of a sex-symbol Robert Downey Jr. has become since donning the Iron Man armor.  Never mind the outspoken female comics blogosphere, or that one of DC's top writers is Gail Simone.  Millar wants to build this magazine off of Twilight's success, but is completely oblivious to the fact that Stephenie Meyer herself is a huge comic book fan who gave all of her vampires a unique power like the X-Men have, and has never hesitated to drop a reference to Batman or Iron Man in any of her interviews.

And men don't like the supernatural?  Ironically, one of CLiNT's main features is a comic called Turf about a female reporter in 1920s New York investigating mysterious and bloody deaths that seem to follow in the wake of a strange and pale Hungarian family (spoiler: They're vampires!)  And it is written and drawn by two men!  Not to mention, one of comics' biggest success stories of the past 20 years is Neil Gaiman, who launched to superstardom writing the supernatural comic series Sandman, before going on to become a New York Times best-selling and award-winning author.

Mr. Millar, what do you have to say to that?
“– though, obviously, that’s a sweeping generalisation.”
Oh, I guess that's all right then!  Yes, sweeping generalizations are a-okay if you simply point them out afterwards.  It's much easier, I suppose, than just not making them in the first place.   I suppose that there's no better way to explain why he was going for the supernatural angle than "girls don't like superheroes."  It's not like citing one of the decade's biggest-selling series would have been enough to convince us.  And you couldn't just say "It will have a supernatural theme because that's what girls are reading today," because then everyone would wonder, "But what about the boys?"

Look, I have every hope that such a magazine will get off the ground, and that it being run by a woman will smooth out all of these stereotypes and assumptions that Millar thoughtlessly spouted.  I hope it will become a showcase for all the great female talent out there.  I also hope there will be room for all genres--including superheroes.  Because if the rise of YA lit has shown us anything, it's that teenage girls love stories, and any magazine that forgets that or tries to pigeonhole them does so at its own peril.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I'm Not Dead Yet!

In case anyone was wondering where I've been, never fear!  I have not died nor even give up on this blog.  Actually, I've just been very busy, what with starting the school year and getting a new job.  Thankfully, one of the virtues of comics is the relatively short time-span it takes to read them fits really well into a busy schedule, so I've got plenty of books lined up to review, and I intend to take the weekend to write and schedule their posting.  I hope to get at least one a week up and keep up with the news too.  And there's also my Twitter feed, which gets (slightly) more attention.

See you all around, same bat place, different bat time!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday Stuff!

Book Blogger Hop

It's been a crazy week for me personally, and it's only going to get crazier from here, so I'm afraid that the Scott Pilgrim movie review is all that's happening around here (though I have plenty in the works!)  Part of the craziness involved going to a pretty great flea market, which means cheap back issues!!  Even though I make it a point not to review single issues or anything not available as a trade paperback, I still think any bibliophile can get behind the joy of tracking down a book you've been looking for or making a new discovery-- both of which I did!

Anyway, this week's Hop question is:


Alas, not really, no.  I tend to prefer ambient noise to actual structured music in the background when I read.  I'm not sure if it's a concentration thing-- it doesn't really seem to matter how loud the "background" noise is, I can still pay more attention when I read with jackhammers going next to my window.  That said, I can't read in total silence either-- it's just too oppressive-- so that's usually when I turn to music.  I try to match the genre of the music to the genre of the story, but I try not to play songs with too many vocals.  For sci-fi and/or action stories, I will put on my "Pierre Henry" station on Pandora, which gets me a sort of early-techno, somewhat jazzy selection;  my "Love Is Blue" station is good for romance.  But if nothing else fits, the Beatles are the perfect standby (though I may have to be picky about the era-- not all books that fit a "Please Please Me" song fit an "Abbey Road song), even though they're just full of vocals!

Sunday, August 1, 2010


At the risk of turning this place into a Scott Pilgrim blog, I feel like I owe the world my review of the movie Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which I was lucky enough to catch an advanced screening of last Wednesday!

My gut reaction right after I saw the movie was memorialized with the tweet: "...WOW.  My brain asplode," as well as the next day's, "My eyes are still jangling from last night..."  And that holds, because the Director of Photography is Bill Pope, and he did The Matrix and the live-action Speed Racer, which should tell you a thing or two about the visuals (especially if you saw Speed Racer).  Namely, that they were perfect for the material.  Scott Pilgrim is a romantic comedy video game, which means that skimping on the visuals would spell disaster, but the film delivered.  If you've ever played an old-school NES game, you will have a nerdgasm when Scott "gets a life" and when Gideon, Ramona's 7th evil ex, pulls a pixelated sword out of thin air.  And I believe this is the first movie in history where when a bad guy is defeated, they explode into a pile of coins (even if it's not always enough to even pay for the bus).

Combining all six volumes of the comic into one movie meant that there was never a dull moment, whether Scott is practicing with his band or fighting Ramona's evil exes or ordering coffee from his barista sister (the marvelous Anna Kendrick who didn't get enough screentime but had some of the best lines).  I loved that they preserved the comics' intro captions whenever a new character is introduced-- it was not only a nice nod to the comics, but it also helped to keep track of the many characters.  Obviously some changes were made to the plot to keep it under 5 hours, but the bulk of the story was kept and it was a perfectly coherent story in its own right.

All of the actors were perfectly cast for their characters-- even my initial doubts about Brandon Routh as the vegan-mystic Todd Ingram (Evil Ex #3) and Kieran Culkin as Scott's snarky gay roommate Wallace Wells were completely demolished.  Wallace, who is my favorite character in the comics, remained so for the movie-- nothing's funnier than watching him text gossip about Scott all around Toronto in his sleep.  And as an Arrested Development fan, there was a particular glee in watching Michael Cera and Mae Whitman (Evil Ex #4!) battle it out.

Do yourself a big favor and see this movie.  It's funny and quirky and possibly the first film really of our "Millennial" generation.  Scott Pilgrim vs. The World will be released in theaters in the US on August 13th.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Book Blogger Hop! Follow Friday!

Book Blogger Hop

Adding to last week's Book Blogger Hop, I thought I'd join in Parajunkee's Follow Friday-- hello and welcome to all new people!  Hope you poke around and see something you like (though I'm only a few weeks into this).  Suggestions of all sorts are truly welcome.  Anyway, onto the question Hop question!


Agh, so hard to say-- I've read so many new-to-me writers this year!  I guess I'd have to say Bryan Q. Miller, writer of the new Batgirl series (with the new Batgirl Stephanie Brown!)  He's done such a great job with the character, really developing her as a realistic college freshman who happens to be a superhero, and a Bat at that!  Steph's always been one of my favorite characters, so to have her in the hands of a capable writer who really grasps all of the things I love about her has been immensely satisfying to me.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

SCORPION: POISON TOMORROW, written by Fred Van Lente, art by Leonard Kirk

When she was 16, Carmilla Black's left arm flared up with deadly toxins, killing her prom date instantly.  Terrified, she fled, leaving behind her adoptive parents, the only family she ever knew.  She comes out of exile three years later when she learns they have been murdered.  Among their personal effects, she finds her real birth certificate-- including her birth mother's name.  She travels to the South Asian nation of Madripoor, where she was born, in hopes of finding some answers about her fatal sting and what her mother's been up to-- after being recruited by the multinational counterterrorism force SHIELD to do so.

A great espionage adventure with a splash of superpowers!  The spy thriller story deftly intertwines with Carmilla's own quest to make sense of her powers and her personal tragedies to build towards the big reveal of the reason for her existence.  Her hesitant romance with fellow tourist Troy is very cute, even though she has trouble trusting him-- due in no small part to her SHIELD handlers' paranoia over who he is and why he is interested in her (but that's not to say he's not hiding something...)  In fact, Van Lente handles all of her trust issues very believably, whether she's questioning Troy's intentions or even SHIELD's true purpose; it is very clear that Carmilla wants someone to trust, but she's been too hurt to do it easily. The art is crisp, clean and easy to follow.  Kirk is especially good at facial expressions-- even when Carmilla's face is half-covered by her mask, her emotions are clearly expressed in her eyes.

One pretty major complaint, though-- an over-arching question of the book is who killed her adoptive parents and why is never answered outright.  Plenty of theories are put  forward and fingers are pointed, but it's never definitively answered.  As far as I can tell, they planned on writing more and making it a series, but it got canceled for one reason or another.  It's frustrating, but it's not really a deal-breaker for an otherwise very enjoyable story.

You can read the first 11 pages here, and read what Van Lente had planned for future volumes!


Monday, July 26, 2010

A "Brief" History of Independent Comics

In my travels around the YA blogosphere, I came across a very admirable campaign, "I Support Indie Authors", promoting awareness of self-published prose authors.  And that got me thinking about the role of indie comics in the medium...and then it got out of hand.  Mea culpa.  If you're not interested in the history of indie comics, then you can stop reading at the cut.

Today, indie comics are a vital part of the comics field.  Conventions set aside "indie islands" for those creators.  Anyone who can run their work through a photocopier is considered published.  Creators come together in collectives to publish anthologies and support each other.  Comic book stores will happily sell self-published comics from local and not-so-local creators. The Internet has made it possible for any creator to instantly share their work with the world and sell books right off their website.  And indie comics have one major and important advantage over indie prose books-- their work is equally respected by the big corporate publishers.  In fact, it is a rare writer or artist today that starts out immediately with an established publisher.  But rather than looking down upon them disdainfully the way big book publishers look at self-published novels, the big comics publishers trawl the self-published comics looking for the next big talent!

Of course, it's been a long, strange trip to this point, but one thing is for sure-- they've earned our respect!

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