One day David Small awoke from a supposedly harmless operation to discover that he had been transformed into a virtual mute. A vocal cord removed, his throat slashed and stitched together like a bloody boot, the fourteen-year-old boy had not been told that he had cancer and was expected to die.
In Stitches, Small, the award-winning children’s illustrator and author, re-creates this terrifying event in a life story that might have been imagined by Kafka. As the images painfully tumble out, one by one, we gain a ringside seat at a gothic family drama where David—a highly anxious yet supremely talented child—all too often became the unwitting object of his parents’ buried frustration and rage.
Believing that they were trying to do their best, David’s parents did just the reverse. Edward Small, a Detroit physician, who vented his own anger by hitting a punching bag, was convinced that he could cure his young son’s respiratory problems with heavy doses of radiation, possibly causing David’s cancer. Elizabeth, David’s mother, tyrannically stingy and excessively scolding, ran the Small household under a cone of silence where emotions, especially her own, were hidden.
Depicting this coming-of-age story with dazzling, kaleidoscopic images that turn nightmare into fairy tale, Small tells us of his journey from sickly child to cancer patient, to the troubled teen whose risky decision to run away from home at sixteen—with nothing more than the dream of becoming an artist—will resonate as the ultimate survival statemen.
5 out of 5 stars
Published September 8th 2009 by W. W. Norton & Company
Pennsylvania Young Readers’ Choice Award Nominee (2011),
ALA Alex Award (2010)
National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature (2009),
Goodreads Choice Award finalist
“The odd thing about recurring dreams is that, no matter how many times you dream the same thing, it always takes you by surprise.”
David Small, Stitches
“Graphic Novels. They Aren’t Books. They have no literary value.”
I have often heard this. Repeatedly. Books like Stitches are the reason that the argument against graphic novels not being literature heavyweights is so brainless. This story is poignant, as well as painful and oh so very real.
David Small is a famous children’s illustrator who took his childhood memories held them, squeezed them, and wrapped them up into a ball and served us this novel. His childhood was not a happy one; “Dad was never there except occasionally for one of mother’s dry, burned little meals; mother coiled tight inside her shell of angry, resentful silence; my brother in his, and I in mine.” This is a story full of angry moments. At the beginning usually from his mother, later into David’s adolescence, the anger belonged to him. It was full of lying and cruelty on the part of his parents. Often when reading this, I had to put the book down and take a moment to appreciate my own family, my own parents, and myself as a parent. I am doing better than I think I am.
Most of the story centers on a lie David’s parents told him regarding his health and the casualty cruelties accompanying it. What was supposed to be an easy cyst removal in his neck was actually cancer and left David disfigured and mostly mute. His parents never acknowledge what had happened to him until much later. This leaves him with both physical scars, “A crusted black track of stitches; my smooth young throat slashed and laced back up like a bloody boot,” and understandably the mental scars that would come with that.
I am sure at this point you are wondering why someone would read something like this. It sounds like a long story of pain, and it is. However, David’s story is also one of hope and overcoming your past. It is beautiful and tragic and heartbreaking. But this is a story that will dig into your mind and stay with you. There is a reason it is considered one of the best graphic memoirs ever written. Stitches is a collection of profound moments, and by the end of the story, we understand that even in the worst of circumstances one can find their own voice, and be who they want to be even if they are mute.
I checked this out from the library.
About the Author
David Small is the recipient of the Caldecott Medal, a Christopher Medal, and the E. B. White Award for his picture books, which include Imogene’s Antlers, The Gardener, and So, You Want to Be President? He lives in Mendon, Michigan.
Recently I posted an article on The Rise of Feminist Dystopic Novels and some examples to check out. I also received a bunch of wonderful suggestions on twitter, and have added them here. Thanks!
The Female Man
by Joanna Russ
It has influenced William Gibson and been listed as one of the ten essential works of science fiction. Most importantly, Joanna Russ’s THE FEMALE MAN is a suspenseful, surprising and darkly witty chronicle of what happens when Jeannine, Janet, Joanna, and Jael—four alternative selves from drastically different realities—meet.
Parable of the Sower
by Octavia E. Butler
In 2025, with the world descending into madness and anarchy, one woman begins a fateful journey toward a better future
Lauren Olamina and her family live in one of the only safe neighborhoods remaining on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Behind the walls of their defended enclave, Lauren’s father, a preacher, and a handful of other citizens try to salvage what remains of a culture that has been destroyed by drugs, disease, war, and chronic water shortages. While her father tries to lead people on the righteous path, Lauren struggles with hyperempathy, a condition that makes her extraordinarily sensitive to the pain of others.
When fire destroys their compound, Lauren’s family is killed and she is forced out into a world that is fraught with danger. With a handful of other refugees, Lauren must make her way north to safety, along the way conceiving a revolutionary idea that may mean salvation for all mankind.
Gather the Daughters
by Jennie Melamed
Never Let Me Go meets The Giver in this haunting debut about a cult on an isolated island, where nothing is as it seems.
Years ago, just before the country was incinerated to wasteland, ten men and their families colonized an island off the coast. They built a radical society of ancestor worship, controlled breeding, and the strict rationing of knowledge and history. Only the Wanderers–chosen male descendants of the original ten–are allowed to cross to the wastelands, where they scavenge for detritus among the still-smoldering fires.
The daughters of these men are wives-in-training. At the first sign of puberty, they face their Summer of Fruition, a ritualistic season that drags them from adolescence to matrimony. They have children, who have children, and when they are no longer useful, they take their final draught and die. But in the summer, the younger children reign supreme. With the adults indoors and the pubescent in Fruition, the children live wildly–they fight over food and shelter, free of their fathers’ hands and their mothers’ despair. And it is at the end of one summer that little Caitlin Jacob sees something so horrifying, so contradictory to the laws of the island, that she must share it with the others.
Born leader Janey Solomon steps up to seek the truth. At seventeen years old, Janey is so unwilling to become a woman, she is slowly starving herself to death. Trying urgently now to unravel the mysteries of the island and what lies beyond, before her own demise, she attempts to lead an uprising of the girls that may be their undoing.
Gather The Daughters is a smoldering debut; dark and energetic, compulsively readable, Melamed’s novel announces her as an unforgettable new voice in fiction.
The Gate to Women’s Country
by Sheri S. Tepper
Tepper’s finest novel to date is set in a post-holocaust feminist dystopia that offers only two political alternatives: a repressive polygamist sect that is slowly self-destructing through inbreeding and the matriarchal dictatorship called Women’s Country. Here, in a desperate effort to prevent another world war, the women have segregated most men into closed military garrisons and have taken on themselves every other function of government, industry, agriculture, science and learning.
The resulting manifold responsibilities are seen through the life of Stavia, from a dreaming 10-year-old to maturity as doctor, mother and member of the Marthatown Women’s Council. As in Tepper’s Awakeners series books, the rigid social systems are tempered by the voices of individual experience and, here, by an imaginative reworking of The Trojan Woman that runs through the text. A rewarding and challenging novel that is to be valued for its provocative ideas.
Woman on the Edge of Time
by Marge Piercy
Connie Ramos, a woman in her mid-thirties, has been declared insane. But Connie is overwhelmingly sane, merely tuned to the future, and able to communicate with the year 2137. As her doctors persuade her to agree to an operation, Connie struggles to force herself to listen to the future and its lessons for today….
by Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, Durga Bai
The female narrator of Sultana’s Dream wanders into a dream city that shuns war and violence. In this utopian world, women rule and men are content with their places in the kitchen. The queen of this kingdom explains how women won and kept their peace against men and their war-like ways.
This edition of a feminist utopian classic is a conversation across time; Durga Bai, a contemporary tribal woman artist from Central India, brings her own vision to bear on a Muslim gentlewoman’s radical tale.
He, She and It
by Marge Piercy
In the middle of the twenty-first century, life as we know it has changed for all time. Shira Shipman’s marriage has broken up, and her young son has been taken from her by the corporation that runs her zone, so she has returned to Tikva, the Jewish free town where she grew up. There, she is welcomed by Malkah, the brilliant grandmother who raised her, and meets an extraordinary man who is not a man at all, but a unique cyborg implanted with intelligence, emotions–and the ability to kill….
The Stepford Wives
by Ira Levin
For Joanna, her husband, Walter, and their children, the move to beautiful Stepford seems almost too good to be true. It is. For behind the town’s idyllic facade lies a terrible secret—a secret so shattering that no one who encounters it will ever be the same.
At once a masterpiece of psychological suspense and a savage commentary on a media-driven society that values the pursuit of youth and beauty at all costs, The Stepford Wives is a novel so frightening in its final implications that the title itself has earned a place in the American lexicon.
by Katharine Burdekin, Daphne Patai
Published in 1937, twelve years before Orwell’s 1984, Swastika Night projects a totally male-controlled fascist world that has eliminated women as we know them. Women are breeders, kept as cattle, while men in this post-Hitlerian world are embittered automatons, fearful of all feelings, having abolished all history, education, creativity, books, and art. The plot centers on a “misfit” who asks, “How could this have happened?”
Bitch Planet #1
by Kelly Sue DeConnick (Goodreads Author), Valentine De Landro
Are you non-compliant? Do you fit into your box? Are you too fat, too thin, too loud, too shy, too religious, too secular, too prudish, too sexual, too queer, too black, too brown, too whatever-it-is-they’ll-judge-you-for-today? You may just belong on… Bitch Planet
“A comic book love letter to non-compliant women.” -VOX
Former child queen Elida was driven from her throne at age ten and forced to wander the galaxy, evading the revolutionary forces that wanted her dead. When an old frenemy claims to know the whereabouts of Elida’s long-lost mother, she is forced to return to her former kingdom and stage a rescue.
4 out of 5 stars
Published February 26th 2019 by Vault Comics
ISBN1939424410 (ISBN13: 9781939424419)
Edition Language English
Series Vagrant Queen #1-6
This story isn’t Firefly, and it isn’t trying to be. But it has bits and pieces of what made Firefly so beloved. This story is a straight-up space opera complete with quipping protagonist and smart and scheming “second in command”(he isn’t second yet – but you get the vibe). I love stories like this. Space opera is the guilty pleasure of the sci/fi loving crowd. Action, sex, humor, and excitement all rolled into a little sci/fi package. If Space Opera were a food, it would be a glazed donut.
Who the hell doesn’t like a glazed donut?
At least that is how I think about it. It doesn’t mean that space opera doesn’t have literary value or merit, quite the opposite. Star Wars is a space opera and where would we be without that. It just a genre type like anything else.
There are a few things (according to wikipedia) that define what a space opera is. I am going to relate a few of them back to Vagrant Queen.
“Colorful” – This story is colorful, both in dialog and commentary as well as the cast of characters. Multi-humanoid races are represented as well a smattering of alien races. It all makes for a rich stew of characters.
“Dramatic” – “Former child queen Elida was driven from her throne at age ten and forced to wander the galaxy, evading the revolutionary forces that wanted her dead.” Does this not sound like high drama to you?
“Large-scale science fiction adventure” – Again, multi-planet conquests spanning an entire generation searching for child queen Elida.
“Competently and sometimes beautifully written” – This is excellently written. I enjoyed Elida quite a bit. She had a definite Han Solo/Malcolm Reynolds vibe to her. Being that I am a ride or die Firefly fan this appealed to me.
“Usually focused on a sympathetic heroic central character and plot action” – Elida is a sympathetic character without appearing weak. She can’t be weak; everyone is coming to get her. She needs to be wily, strong and intelligent – and she is. It is such a refreshing thing to see in graphic novels. Elida needs no one to save her; she can save her damn self.
“Characteristically optimistic in tone” – This isn’t a dystopia. The narrative of the story is not about the overarching problems of society and how they relate to Elida. It is about how Elida is going to escape past gunships that are blocking her way.
“Large stakes” – Elida is a former child queen being chased across the galaxy. The stakes are high.
See you should read this! Action, adventure, power struggles, history, it is all here. Is it perfect? Not yet. The story just started and the writing and art are getting their proverbial feet under them. But it has a ton of promise.
I received a digital edition of this from the publisher as well as a copy from Netgalley. Thank you to both of them for giving me the opportunity to review this in exchange for my open and honest review.
About the Author – Magdalene Visaggio
Magdalene Visaggio is a comics writer and essayist. She’s the writer and creator of the GLAAD and Eisner-nominated series Kim & Kim, as well as Eternity Girl at DC Comics. She currently resides in Manhattan.
After years of self-imposed exile from a civilization rife with degradation and indecency, cynical journalist Spider Jerusalem is forced to return to a job that he hates and a city that he loathes. Working as an investigative reporter for the newspaper The Word, Spider attacks the injustices of his surreal 23rd Century surroundings. Combining black humor, life-threatening situations, and moral ambiguity, this book is the first look into the mind of an outlaw journalist and the world he seeks to destroy.
5 out of 5. I mean c’mon this is a classic.
Published February 1st 1998 by Vertigo (first published January 1998)
Original Title Transmetropolitan, Vol. 1: Back on the Street
Series Transmetropolitan (Collected Editions) #1, Transmetropolitan (BR) #1
CharactersSpider Jerusalem, Channon Yarrow, Mitchell Royce, Fred Christ
Setting United States of America
A side note. This is a reread for me that I had the utmost fun doing it with Paul at Paul’s Picks. It was terrific to see Spider through the eyes of someone else, and I want to thank Paul for taking a chance on one of my favorite books.
“TRUTH comes easier when you’re nine years old, too. Everything’s a lot less complicated. This or that. Us or them. Truth or lie.”
Warren Ellis, Transmetropolitan, Vol. 1: Back on the Street
Spider is the hero you did not know that you needed. Brash and deranged, Spider yells at the top of his lungs things that make you uncomfortable. And, if you are nervous? Good. Scared to examine painful truths? Good. Because the truth is coming for you, and Spider is going to bringing it with the fervor and intensity of a bulldog on crystal meth.
Transmetropolitan was written twenty-one years ago, published by DC Comics between 1997 – 2002, but it might as well been written yesterday for how current and prescient it is. The story is built around the antics of our protagonist and antihero, an investigative journalist named Spider Jerusalem. He is tattooed, brash, brilliant, sarcastic, caustic, drug addicted, and a wild man of journalists fervor. Often drawn wearing a pair of stereoscopic sunglasses, one red lens, and the other green while streams of smoke curl out of his nostrils and usually sporting a scowl of discontent while gesticulating wildly at the idiocy of passers-by. Describing him, he sounds like a lunatic when in actuality he is the reincarnation of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson dropped into the 23rd century.
The first six issues of the 60 issue story make up Vol. 1 Back in The Streets. It is written as Spider is getting his feet under him after a five-year voluntary sabbatical. Called back to finish his book deal with his editor, lovingly known as Whorehopper, he unwillingly reenters The City and society and is equal parts horrified and fascinated by it. The City, as it is referred to, is Id and hedonism run amok puked out in a cyberpunk Technicolor fever dream. If you can dream it, and have the money, you can do it. All of which sounds impressive when tempered with wisdom and ethics. However, The City is neither of those things. Spider is constantly reminded of why he hid in the wilderness and eschewed all human contact.
Issue three of Volume 1 talks about Spider’s first story back into the throes of journalism. He is covering a pseudo-alien messiah named Fred Christ, as he represents the Transcience movement. The Transience movement being a subculture of body modification fetishists who use technology to change themselves to something resembling a new species. In this case, adapting aspects of an alien species. Fred Christ’s base is located in the Angel 8 district of The City. After Spider burns a transient guard in the eye with a cigarette, Spider notices how tense the Transient population is. It is a powder keg ready to blow. Spider finds Fred Christ and has a brief interview with him where Spider basically eludes that Fred is puffed up with fake power and that the government is going to come down and stomp out this little movement of Freds.
Here is where the writing shines. Eventually, the government does get with the stomping, and Spider gets right in the middle of it and live blogs. He brings the gritty moment to moment of the brutal beating of the Transient population by an uncaring police authority to the people. Eventually, this sways the audience gawking at this display via Spider’s writing and causes a public outcry shutting down the beating. Spider helped. I don’t think he intended to help but to speak the truth as he saw it; however, his truth saved some transient people.
God, I love Spider Jerusalem. He is everything I wish Journalists still were. Raw, uncut assholes who search for the truth as they see it no matter what they have to go through. In the politically charged climate of now, it seems that those who speak truth to power are not the journalists as we used to know them, but bloggers and users of Twitter.
“- You know what this is? – Nope – It’s a bowel disruptor.
And you are just full of shit.”
WARREN ELLIS, TRANSMETROPOLITAN, VOL. 1: BACK ON THE STREET
The question is “Should you read this?” Should you delve into the gritty world of Spider and meet with the truth on his terms. I am of a resounding yes, there is a reason why he is a classic graphic novel series. I think the world needs Spider Jerusalem’s even if he is just ink and ideas. All Hail Spider Jerusalem!
Paul and Myself’s Running Issue Commentary
Paul – #1. What the hell had Beth got me into?!?! Transma-What?!?! Ok. So there’s this guy who lives in a house on a mountain. Spider Jerusalem been there for 5 years, sorta paranoid, hermit style. He was an author/journalist, but still owes his publisher 2 more books on the contract. He needs money and inspiration.He gets in his car and drives back to the rat race in the big city, and yes, he has a rat as a passenger and bombs his local bar on the way… yet, as he crosses the city line, his journalistic blood starts pumping. Itching for a story. What a character! I’m not really sure what the story will bring, but I know I will like Spider’s vicious one-liners and outlandish ravings. I can already tell that Ellis and Robertson have created a crazy-clever future world of greed, vice, and dark speculation…
Beth – #1. It’s crazy! Spider is who I think most journalists want to be. He is living on all sorts of edges trying to get the truth, the real story. I think #1 and most of #2 are just giving you background on who he is and where he comes from. Hirsute crazy dude living on a mountain, no human contact because he hates people. Has to come back to “The City” two write two books, plus earn enough money to love. Earning money means finding stories. The one-liners are amazing.
‘you worthless scrap of frogshit with a pulse and a bit of authority.” I agree this world is greed, and vice run amok. It is if you took the Id of the general population and laid it out on the table for everyone to see. It reminds me a lot of this scene from Fear and Loathing
Paul – #2. Spider’s first story is an investigation into transcience… a body mod movement that has spliced alien genomes into people and created humanoids who are ‘between bodies.’ Not allowed jobs and forced to live in slums, the transcients are two steps away from government annihilation. An interview with their leader, Fred Christ, gives Spider the insight he needs. This is a story arc with mordern-day implications. An ‘other,’ a people who have chosen to have body modification and are deemed different and illegal. I’m wondering what role Spider will play in this as a journalist. And how he will help these people. Lots of thoughts going on. Can’t wait to get read another issue tomorrow night.
Beth – #2. It is current, right? The things spiders sees and the insight he has can be directly laid on top of our current political climate.
“I don’t have to put up with thus shabby crap! I’m a journalist!”
Having read this before, and with the reread I am catching so much more than I did the first go through. It is almost like I am reading a brand new story.
Paul – #3.
A transient riot has been manufactured and Spider speeds to the neighborhood to report the brutality handed down by the police. The power of Spider’s pen is about to be unleashed! This is a great issue that really helps the reader see past the image of the main character to what he is actually capable of. His ‘superpower’ of reportage. The ability to expose corruption, and we find that the plot will not be as simple as we maybe first thought.
Beth – #3. Yes, the power of the written word and of truth. For all of spider’s bluster and screwing up things and people, he has a real gift of getting t the heart of a matter and explaining it to the people. He isn’t all bluster and bravado. I think if he were his publisher would not give two shits about him. I am so glad this is connecting with you. Spider is one of my favorite characters.
This story is about fist clenching stomach churning anger. Anger at the system that we are all involved in, the mass media, commercialism – but mainly I think this story is outrage and a desire to not just lash out but to make things better. Spider at his venomous little heart wants to use the truth to set people free. Whether that truth is painful or not. It is still the truth, and because of his journalistic integrity and his give no fucks attitude he wants to rip the band-aid off peoples wounds and sally forth.
Paul – #4. A new assistant and a meeting with the president. Spider has a chance to mentor a young journalist in the art of The Truth. And then during an unexpected chance meeting with the president, he gets a couple shots in. The entrance of a tutee enables Ellis to open up Spider’s many thoughts on the role of the press… and yes, Beth is correct, even though published 20 years ago, Transmetropolitan is buzzing with current issues. Spider’s accusations of the presidents nefarious behavior is a front page story in many present-day newspapers. I’m wondering where this will go. What is Jerusalem’s endgame?
Beth – #4. I really like the young journalist. She makes a perfect counterpoint to Jerusalem’s antics. Where spider is spastic, Channing is more measured. Probably no less nuts, but at least she is more measured in her actions.
I am not sure at this point Spider has an endgame except to expose the truth from as any nefarious characters as possible. It doesn’t even phase Spider that the president might not be a person who he should screw with. Or the cops as we found out the last issue. Bring them all down!
Paul – #5. This issue doesn’t move the plot forward too much, but it certainly utilized Spider/Ellis’s fangs when it comes to popular culture and media. Jerusalem decides he needs to hunker down and really do some research into the culture of The City. So, he promptly turns on the TV and starts flipping through the channels. Reality TV shows like Cops and the sexualization of advertising are parodied and lampooned to the extreme. He also takes some shots at the talk show circuit. Funny stuff!!! And I definitely agree with Beth. Spider’s assistant is perfect. She gives it right back to him and then some. He was attacked by angry police a couple issues ago, and she seems to know that his antics will garner only more recourse from the authorities. What protections will he have and will his words be enough to combat the powers that be?
Beth – #5. This issue is pure holding pattern, very funny but I think it is setting us up for the next issue. It doesn’t move the plot forward as it is for having Spider acclimate back into popular culture via TV. Which is pretty much the cesspool of popular culture. Spider responds in the typical Spider fashion by lashing out and attacking lies that he hears. This time via call-in radio/television shows. My favorite part of this issue is where an advertising bomb exploded in his head so he dreams advertisements. I know that I have gotten jingles stuck in my head for days at a time so I can relate.
Paul – #6. The New Religious Movement Convention! Oh boy. What’s Spider going to do here? ‘Fucking Vampires…’Many ‘truths’ out there and our man has decided to rough up the convention goers. Shake em up and crack some skulls while he’s at it. Whoa!Quick aside. I was very happy that Channon punched Spider in the nose in this issue. Ok, maybe not literally, but she got him to shut up for a minute and listen.
The first six issues have established Spider and Channon’s characters, and given them at goal/ mission. His character develops further while he flings his philosophy around the city, and we are exposed to the currents in society… media, religion, and alien infusion. A mindwarping title that I suspect is only going to get better. And I dare say that as Beth and I have discussed, this comic will hold up for a long, long time.
Beth – #6 This is Spider in his element. Ample opportunity to dissect the masses and fling his philosophy around like he is sprinkling the masses with holy water. It would be preachy if it weren’t so damn good. The writing is fantastic. Ever see that scene on Newsroom where the lead answers a question that generally would be verboten. “Why is American the greatest country in the world?” It would be preachy or awful as if the writers of the series going on a rant, but it isn’t. It is amazingly well written, so good that you are stunned into silence.
That has been this volume for me. It could have gone the preachy, ranty path but instead, we have a crazy character, great journalism, and writing.
Do you think there are any gonzo journalists left?
What would a city look like if it was all hedonism and money? How would someone speak truth to power?
I checked out a copy of this from the library as a buddy read with Paul.
About the Author
Warren Ellis is the award-winning writer of graphic novels like TRANSMETROPOLITAN, FELL, MINISTRY OF SPACE and PLANETARY, and the author of the NYT-bestselling GUN MACHINE and the “underground classic” novel CROOKED LITTLE VEIN. The movie RED is based on his graphic novel of the same name, its sequel having been released in summer 2013. His graphic novel GLOBAL FREQUENCY is in development at Jerry Bruckheimer TV for the Fox network, and his GRAVEL books are in development for film at Legendary Pictures, with Tim Miller attached to direct. IRON MAN 3 is based on his Marvel Comics graphic novel IRON MAN: EXTREMIS. He’s also written extensively for VICE, WIRED UK and Reuters on technological and cultural matters, and is co-writing a video project called WASTELANDERS with Joss Whedon that will appear some time before we both die.. He is serialising a new graphic novel, TREES, with artist Jason Howard, through Image Comics. Warren Ellis is currently working on a non-fiction book about the future of the city for Farrar Giroux Straus. His newest publication is the digital short-story single DEAD PIG COLLECTOR, from FSG Originals. His next book will be the novella NORMAL, also from FSG.
A documentary about his work, CAPTURED GHOSTS, was released in 2012.
Recognitions include the NUIG Literary and Debating Society’s President’s Medal for service to freedom of speech, the EAGLE AWARDS Roll Of Honour for lifetime achievement in the field of comics & graphic novels, the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire 2010, the Sidewise Award for Alternate History and the International Horror Guild Award for illustrated narrative. He is a Patron of the British Humanist Association, an Associate of the Institute of Atemporal Studies, and the literary editor of EDICT magazine.
Warren Ellis lives outside London, on the south-east coast of England, in case he needs to make a quick getaway.
Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards for Best New Series & Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team (for Cliff Chiang) (2016)
Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Graphic Novels & Comics (2016)
“I’m not going to stand here and be eaten by some bitch’s dinosaur. I am finally doing something with my life.”
― Brian K. Vaughan, Paper Girls, Vol. 1
From the publisher, “In the early hours after Halloween of 1988, four 12-year-old newspaper delivery girls uncover the most important story of all time. Suburban drama and otherworldly mysteries collide in this smash-hit series about nostalgia, first jobs, and the last days of childhood.”
I am just starting this series, so my review is limited to the first volume. With that said, I can tell you volume 1 is an absolute rabbit hole. Half the time I had no idea what was going on. There are dinosaurs, and crazy disfigured teenagers from the future, and some old dude with an Apple logo on his shirt. I have no idea what the four girls names are that star in the story. All I know is one is a Vietnamese, one is adopted, one Jewish, and one is a spirited red-head on her way to being a criminal. I wish I had a bit more than cliches to tell you, but I honestly have no idea.
“…you girls… reminded us… of us…
…kids just trying… to make a living…
are always… the good guys…”
― Brian K. Vaughan, Paper Girls, Vol. 1
Here are the things I absolutely know for sure. First, this series is an absolute nod to the 80’s and pop culture. The book is full of Bon mot’s about 80’s fashion, movies, music, language, and general attitudes about the world. This speaks to me. I remember being one of these girls in the eighties. Secondly, this book is no Saga, but that is ok. It doesn’t have to be. It has badass girls, friendship, space, time travel, and dinosaurs. I mean cmon. It is pretty damn impressive. Thirdly, it has tons of room to grow and develop. The first book is apparently setting the stage for more awesome. I am not in love with it, but the characters are fresh and exciting, the story is rad if not slightly confusing and the graphics are clean. Lastly, don’t get too deep into why this series is called Paper Girls. It isn’t some clever allusion to young girls with paper thin identities or emotions. The girls run a paper route… I am on to volume 2. Looking forward to it. It can’t get any weirder or more confusing but it sure is fun.
Published October 17th, 2001 by Fantagraphics (first published January 1st, 2000)
Original Title Vent Litt… ISBN156097463X (ISBN13: 9781560974635)
Edition Language English
1995: Sproing Award, for Lomma full av regn
2000: Sproing Award, for Mjau Mjau 10: Si meg en ting
2000: Urhunden Prize for the best translated graphic novel, for Vänta lite…
2002: Inkpot Award
2002: Harvey Award, Best New Talent, for Hey, Wait…
2005: Brage Prize, Open Class for La meg vise deg noe…
2007: Eisner Award, Best U.S. Edition of International Material, for The Left Bank Gang
2008: Eisner Award, Best U.S. Edition of International Material, for I Killed Adolf Hitler
From the Publisher, “One of Europe’s most exciting young cartoonists makes his American debut. This superbly evocative graphic novella by the award-winning Norwegian cartoonist Jason (his first appearance in the English language) starts off as a melancholy childhood memoir and then, with a shocking twist midway through, becomes the summary of lives lived, wasted, and lost. Like Art Spiegelman did with Maus, Jason utilizes anthropomorphic stylizations to reach deeper, more general truths, and to create elegantly minimalist panels whose emotional depth-charge comes as an even greater shock. His sparse dialogue, dark wit, and supremely bold use of “jump-cuts” from one scene to the next (sometimes spanning a number of years) make Hey, Wait… one of the most surprising and engaging debuts of the year.”
This is a tale of childhood friendship, loss, guilt, and the affects of a single choice over the course of a lifetime. It will rip your heart out and leave you feeling melancholic and reminiscing about your personal actions long past.
Jason(single name only) is the nom de plume of one of Norway’s most famous comic authors. In a typical Scandinavian style, Jason’s work can be both morose and hopeful in the span of a single page. He pieces together complexity through simple forms which have become his most well-known style. Much of the time his simplicity is successful and can be read as poignant instead of contrived. This simplicity in drawing and layout is great for a few pages, but over the course of the novel, it can be confusing and dulling. As is the case for this story. Same goes for the anthropomorphic animals, another one of his archetypes. Over the course of the story, it makes it difficult to differentiate between the different characters.
“Hey wait…” Words that are so simple, but sometimes if they are not heeded, disaster can strike. “Hey wait…” don’t cross that street. “Hey wait…” watch out for those open wires. Stop and pause before making your next choice. The protagonist’s “Hey wait…” was not heeded, and his friend died. What came after is the rapid growth into a character that never really moved on afterwards. He is forty years old and in a holding pattern and in a lot of ways part of him died with his friend.
The question that is asked by many readers of Jason’s novels and specifically this one, is what happens at the end? It is not easily identifiable wrapped up ending. It is ambiguous and on multiple readings you may still not have the answer. Did the protagonist die? Did he destroy his adulthood and start over bringing his friend Bjorn back? You can sit and debate the nuances of each panel, line weight and intent of the author for hours. In the end, it doesn’t matter what the author’s intentions where, what matters is if this spoke to you. What do you think happened? I am not going to tell you my answer, I don’t want to influence outcomes. But, if you do end up reading this I would love to know yours.
About the Author
John Arne Sæterøy (born 16 May 1965 in Molde), better known by the pen name Jason, is a Norwegian cartoonist, known for his sparse drawing style and silent, anthropomorphic animal characters.
He has been nominated for two Ignatz Awards (2000: Outstanding Story and Outstanding Series, 2001: Outstanding Story and Outstanding Series), has received praise in Time, and won the Harvey Award for best new talent in 2002, and several Eisner Awards.
Published October 28th, 2008 by McClelland & Stewart (first published 2008)
Original Title: Tales from Outer Suburbia
ISBN:0771084021 (ISBN13: 9780771084027)
World Fantasy Award Nominee for Best Collection (2009)
New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award Nominee for Patricia Wrightson Prize (2009)
Ditmar Award for Best Artwork (2009)
Western Australian Premier’s Book Award for Young Adult (2008)
Children’s Book Council of Australia Award for Older Readers Book of the Year (2009)
Aurealis Award for Illustrated Book / Graphic Novel (2008)
Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis for Bilderbuch (2009)
Tähtifantasia Award (2016)
Australian Independent Booksellers Indie Book Award for Children’s (2009)
The Inky Awards Nominee for Gold Inky (2008)
Adelaide Festival Award for Children’s Literature (2010)
Australian Book Industry Award (ABIA) for Illustrated Book (2009)
Literaturpreis der Jury der Jungen Leser for Sonderpreis (2009)
The Inky Awards Shortlist for Gold Inky (2008)
From the publisher, “Breathtakingly illustrated and hauntingly written, Tales from Outer Suburbia is by turns hilarious and poignant, perceptive and goofy. Through a series of captivating and sophisticated illustrated stories, Tan explores the precious strangeness of our existence. He gives us a portrait of modern suburban existence filtered through a wickedly Monty Pythonesque lens. Whether it’s discovering that the world really does stop at the end of the city’s map book, or a family’s lesson in tolerance through an alien cultural exchange student, Tan’s deft, sweet social satire brings us face-to-face with the humor and absurdity of modern life.”
This review may come off as a bit biased because I love “The Arrival.” Honestly, it isn’t so much as an “apple to oranges” kind of comparison between the two books, but maybe a comparison of two of the most glorious pieces of fruit one can eat. Each is wonderful in their own ways.
Both of these novels are excellent, but they are different in a slight, albeit essential way. There are words in “Tales From Outer Suburbia”… The experience of Shaun Tan’s illustrations is a bit more on the nose.
“Tales From Outer Suburbia” is a collection of fifteen nuanced short stories. All are threaded together with an exploration of the vapidness, bewilderment, joy, sorrow, and enlightenment of living in the suburbs; specifically the suburbs of eastern Australia. Each of the stories is captivating and a hell of a lot deeper than the two or three pages devoted to each. For example “Stick Figures,” is a story about wooden stick figures that are part of a suburban landscape. They move unimaginably slow, and their purpose is not precisely known. However, if you think about suburbia and the little bits of nature that come through the manicured lawns and the shopping malls, nature could very much seem like an unknowable creature that exists, but we have no idea the purpose of. As someone who has spent much of their life living in the suburbs and had to travel to visit nature, I get what he is trying to say. Nature can become the unknowable.
Another glorious story was “No Other Country.” This story explores what it means to be a person of two ideals. The unexplored model of what a place should be as one ideal and the current situation you live in as the other.
What if you could escape to the ideal place at your leisure? Would that change how you felt about your current living situation? Again this taps into a lot of what Shaun Tan writes about in “The Arrival.” The idealized world and the reality. Would you appreciate your reality if you could escape it once in a while? It is a powerful short story, and absolutely worth the read.
I feel like reading a Shaun Tan book is meditative. They are never boring, beautifully written and gorgeously illustrated. However, his work is saturated with a calmness and purposefulness. His words and images are impactful without being jarring. You don’t see that often in any type of literary work. It speaks to a mastery of craft that I as a reader feel privileged to partake in. As you can probably tell, I am a fan and recommend his work. However, it isn’t for everyone. It is fanciful and calm and deep. Sometimes, that is not what one needs in their books. So my suggestion is that if you are feeling self-reflective or full of ennui, give one of his novels a try. I doubt that you would regret the experience.