KC Appreciates Marvel’s Anniversary Celebration

Marvel 75th Anniversary Celebration cover

In his latest Westfield comics column, KC talks about why he liked the Marvel 75th Anniversary Celebration comic (which I also enjoyed). He also gives you an earworm you’ll spend all day shaking.

Mike Dawson Ponders Raising a Daughter

Mike Dawson (Freddie & Me, Troop 142, Angie Bongiolatti) has posted a thought-provoking comic about raising a daughter.

The strip takes off from this shirt about being a “feminist father”.

Mike Dawson comic panel

Dawson continues to ponder what it means to fill that role, given certain standard jokes and expectations. Much as I dislike the attitude that too many men have that equal rights don’t matter until you have a daughter (or that equal marriage rights don’t matter until your kid comes out, as we’ve seen in a number of Republican politicians), I don’t think that’s the case here. Sometimes it’s human nature not to get involved in a cause until you’re personally affected (which is why we may not see, for example, male comic fans caring about the lack of suitable superhero comics for kids until they have kids), but Dawson’s strip carries through with a strong air of honesty and serious thought that extends beyond his immediate situation. In other words, he’s not just thinking about himself, but the culture. Ultimately, he realizes that the final ramification of truly being feminist is that it’s not just about him.

Penguins of Madagascar Support Veterans

I know it’s just to promote their upcoming movie, due out November 26, but DreamWorks put together this video in which the Penguins of Madagascar learn about veterans with the aid of First Lady Michelle Obama. I found it good-hearted, and she does a surprisingly good job acting with a cartoon character.

It’s in support of Got Your 6, an organization that

“believes that veterans are leaders, team builders, and problem solvers who have the unique potential to strengthen communities across the country.

As a coalition, Got Your 6 works to integrate these perspectives into popular culture, engage veterans and civilians together to foster understanding, and empower veterans to lead in their communities.

Through entertainment industry partners, Got Your 6 works to normalize the depictions of veterans on film and television to dispel common myths about the veteran population. Through nonprofit and government partners, Got Your 6 ensures successful veteran reintegration and empowers veterans to lead here at home. Together, Got Your 6 and its partners are shifting public perceptions so that veterans’ leadership and skills are recognized and utilized at home to strengthen communities.”

So, basically, well-intentioned propaganda to counter the perspective of veterans as crazy, outsiders, or walking problems that movies have portrayed for so long. Given how few people actually know someone in the military, though (in contrast to previous eras where service was more widespread), it’s a good idea.

Best of the Year Lists Are Starting

In conjunction with the growing tendency to start pushing shopping for Christmas (decorations! gifts! peppermint-flavored anything!) as early as possible, early November is now when the “Best Books of 2014″ lists start appearing. What’s the connection? Selling more books, of course. It’s terribly unbalanced, of course, because a great read might come out in the one-sixth of the year left to go, but I suppose publishers know and work the system. The last two months of the year is now for large gift books, not high-quality tomes in competition for the critical push.

Anyway, Amazon picked 20 graphic novels, with Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? topping the list.

It’s a great book, it’s true, and one of the most horrifying I’ve read in a long time. (In the true sense, as “wow, I feel like this could happen to be and I’m deathly scared of it”.) As cartoonists, and their parents, age, and as daily life memoir becomes a more prominent comic genre, I expect to see more of these kinds of stories, having to struggle with helping aging relatives. See also Lucy Knisley’s Displacement, due out early next year.

Amazon’s list is notable for how diverse it is — they always include a good range of types of works, although I have trouble believing anything Deadpool is really one of the top 20 of the year. One might think that they were driven by marketing concerns as much as artistic quality, but slamming Amazon for being a business is already one of the top ten news stories of the year. If nothing else, their list is a good indicator of the range of titles and subjects and art styles out this year.

(Weirdly, although Batman: A Visual History [note: not a comic!] made their list, nothing from DC proper did. Hmm.)

Less obviously commercial is Publisher Weekly’s list, which consists of these five titles, all also included on the Amazon list:

Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
The Wrenchies by Farel Dalrymple
How to Be Happy by Eleanor Davis
The Love Bunglers by Jaime Hernandez
Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoët

Kawaii Manga: Adorable!

This colorful, heavy book contains a selection of walk-throughs, showing how 22 different images (from 16 artists) were built digitally. They’re all loosely “kawaii”, or super-cute, and manga- or anime-influenced. (Seriously, the thick paper over 350 pages makes for a hefty tome. This isn’t a “carry it around with you” book.)

The sections are “Cute Girls”, “Happy Time”, “Sweet Dessert”, “Super Adventure”, and “Magical World”. Each image begins with a short paragraph explaining the character. It reminded me of a pitch book for a licensing meeting, as though the artist was hoping they’d get picked up for a cartoon. The last section finally credits the artists and gives small bios and web links for each, along with additional finished images.

I’m not sure who the audience would be for Kawaii Manga: Adorable!. It’s not a how-to, since the image sequences require a certain amount of knowledge on the reader’s part already, particularly in terms of software tools. It’s far from step-by-step, with big jumps between various stages of the gallery. Yet artists who are familiar with the expert digital techniques required likely can find their own examples online. And although it’s promoted as being about manga art, there are no sequences, just single images.

I feel as though there’s some story behind the volume that I’m not getting. I would have liked more information on how this book was put together, or why the various artists were included. The cover credit says “selected by Eva Minguet”, but I don’t know who that is or on what basis she picked the contributions. Perhaps if I was more into this visual style, I’d recognize some of the names and better understand the thrust of the book. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

The Shadows of Salamanca

Regular blog readers know that I’m not a fan of horror. (I’m terribly squeamish and identify too sympathetically with victims.) However, thanks to the wonder of a review copy, I found myself appreciating The Shadows of Salamanca more than I expected.

It’s fun to see how Europeans incorporate American culture into their works, and here, it’s the creepy small town with a secret. Writer Christophe Bec and artist Stefano Raffaele present the story of Sarah and David. They’ve left the big city for a home in the woods, to help Sarah deal with her depression. They’re hoping for a fresh start, but since there are monsters in the various tunnels underneath the old mining town, that’s unlikely.

The art is lovely, detailed and complex in building a portrait of these characters and setting. The pages tend to have many more panels than is typical of American comics, with a dozen not unusual. These image slivers more effectively set the mood and build suspense, providing details that add up to a more creepy atmosphere.

That’s not just external, coming from the animals, but internal. Sarah and David no longer trust each other and are fragile, tip-toeing around their interactions. Sarah’s hearing voices, a split personality as a way of dealing with childhood trauma, and a place where she’s shunned as a newcomer doesn’t help her loneliness. Then she finds something in the basement…

The overall theme is what we do for, and to, children. It all spirals down from there, weaving together a number of horror conventions — something happening in one’s home, the creepy neighbors who decorate their cabin with animal skulls, a cursed ghost town, the monster in the woods, the child abuser and murderer, the town with a guilty secret, the evil monster child, country cannibalism — into a story I found effectively horrifying, all the more so because the art is so attractive. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)

Barbarella

Humanoids has brought the infamous sexy sci-fi French comic Barbarella back into print in two options: a high-priced print edition or a much more reasonable digital version. The print book is described as the Deluxe Coffee Table format, limited to 1,200 numbered copies, and priced at $80, while the same story digitally is $6.

In January, the publisher plans to release a combined volume with both book one and book two called The Wrath of the Minute-Eater. I suggest, if you’re curious about the erotic adventurer made famous on-screen by Jane Fonda, you wait for that one, although it will be black and white, while this edition is duotone, with a lovely slate blue picking out details. Book two in the combined volume will be in English in the first time.

So, enough about the package, what about the contents?

Barbarella originally began serialization in 1962, written and drawn by Jean-Claude Forrest. The title character was an early heroine of sexual liberation, since her adventures across the universe often involved her getting naked or making out with the people she meets or both. This edition is given a new adaptation by Kelly Sue DeConnick, which ensures it feels fresh and modern.

This volume, book one, is only 68 or so story pages, which is about right. Barbarella’s encounters are very episodic, and too many of them at once would be a drag, as well as overly repetitive. Surprisingly, it’s not as naughty as you might think, given its reputation.

Barbarella by Jean-Claude Forrest

The book opens with Barbarella crash-landing into a greenhouse with roses that attack her, tearing her spacesuit off. She’s rescued by a scientist who explains that they’re in the middle of a cultural civil war. She volunteers to serve as a messenger, but when she voyages out to meet the other tribe, they undress her before throwing rocks at her. She’s rescued, flying away telepathically under the control of a leader who calls her “a cauldron of fire and lust”. It’s that kind of book, but it’s hard to get mad at it, because it’s more playful than prurient.

The time lapse between its original publication and now helps as well, making it quaint instead of troublesome. For a similar reason, the storytelling is wordy, explaining everyone’s motivations and cultures. Barbarella narrates what’s happening to her, as do other characters. The panel flow can be jumpy, with events moving quickly from place to place so Forrest gets more chances to draw his heroine. Changes between chapters aren’t indicated; suddenly, there’s just another place and challenge, whether it’s a giant jellyfish with people living inside or killer dolls sent by evil twin princesses or a prison labyrinth with a blind angel inside.

I can’t say I loved the comic, but it was awfully neat to get to see such a time capsule piece for myself. To find out more about Barbarella, read Paul Gravett’s lengthy piece putting her into the cultural context of the times. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)

Upcoming DC Animated Movies Now Available for Pre-Order

As announced this summer, there are three original animated DCU movies planned for 2015. All can now be pre-ordered at Amazon.

Justice League: Throne of Atlantis cover
Justice League: Throne of Atlantis

Due out January 27, telling Aquaman’s origin

Batman vs. Robin cover
Batman vs. Robin

Involves the Court of Owls

Justice League: Gods & Monsters cover
Justice League: Gods & Monsters

Due later in the year




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