Classic Comic Review – Brinkley Girls by Nell Brinkley (Graphic Novels Through the Ages – Book 1)

The influence of Nell Brinkley on comic history and American culture cannot be understated. She was a prolific artist and cartoonist in the early twentieth century in a time when women didn’t work, let alone hold a position in such a prominent newspaper. Nell Brinkley drew women as strong, independent and beautiful creatures that at the time was so different than the Gibson Girls, which had gained popularity in the years before Brinkley started working, a perfect feminine ideal. Brinkley used her platform to spread messages about feminism and suffrage. A message that was very important in the burgeoning suffrage movement. The beautiful women she drew, worked, had opinions, and were more than just the beautiful ideal. Instead, they had a realness to them that actual women could get behind. Her artwork permeated newspapers, but it spread to collecting cards, advertising, and eventually to culture itself with the popularity of short curly hair.

Not only was she a terrific artist and illustrator, but she was a writer and news reporter. By the end of her career, she had written multiple articles for the New York Times, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, and Good Housekeeping. Again, not a mean feat considering the time in which she lived. Her work was, and is exceptional and should be lauded and remembered by comic and graphic novel lovers. She has a very deserved place in comic history and a deserved title as “The Queen of Comics.”

Novel Review – “Tales from Outer Suburbia” by Shaun Tan

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“Tales from Outer Suburbia” by Shaun Tan

Hardcover
96 pages
Published October 28th, 2008 by McClelland & Stewart (first published 2008)
Original Title: Tales from Outer Suburbia
ISBN:0771084021 (ISBN13: 9780771084027)
Awards
  • 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)

About

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‘water buffaloes are like that; they hate talking.’

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.”

My Thoughts

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‘He was saying the same sentence over and over, ending with “tasoo-ke-te, tasoo ke-te.”‘

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.

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‘It opened into another room altogether… an impossible room somewhere between the others.’

“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.

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‘How great it must have been long ago, when the world was still unknown.’

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.

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‘The fire burned with astonishing intensity.’

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.

The Glittering and the Tatterdemalion in “In an Absent dream” by Seanan Mcguire

“Their offers should not charm us, 
Their evil gifts would harm us.” 

In An Absent dream – Seanan McGuire

Stats

  • 5 out of 5 Stars
  • 187 pages
  • Published January 8th, 2019 by Tor.com
  • Original Title In an Absent Dream
  • Edition Language English
  • Series Wayward Children #4

About

From the publisher, “This is the story of a very serious young girl who would rather study and dream than become a respectable housewife and live up to the expectations of the world around her. As well she should.

When she finds a doorway to a world founded on logic and reason, riddles and lies, she thinks she’s found her paradise. Alas, everything costs at the goblin market, and when her time there is drawing to a close, she makes the kind of bargain that never plays out well.”

My Thoughts

“In the way of bookish children, she carried her books into trees and along the banks of chuckling creeks, weaving her way along their slippery shores with the sort of grace that belongs only to bibliophiles protecting their treasures. Through the words on the page, she followed Alice down rabbit holes and Dorothy into tornadoes, solved mysteries alongside Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew, flew with Peter to Neverland, and made a wonderful journey to a Mushroom Planet.”

In An Absent dream – Seanan Mcguire

In an ordinary town, on a very normal garden path, Katherine Victoria Lundy came to an incredible tree with an impossibly carved door. Through it, she strolled down a hallway whose walls are carved from a single piece of wood that seemed to have no beginning nor end, and came upon signs in neatly done cross stitch declaring rules for this realm, this place that could not be:

  • Rule One – Ask for nothing.
  • Rule Two – Names have power.
  • Rule Three – Always give fair value.
  • Rule Four – Obey the curfew.

Katherine Victoria Lundy was six years old. This is her story and how she came to the Goblin Market.

In 1964 six-year-old Katherine, never Kat, Kitty, or Kathy, always Katherine, realized that her life was going to eventually end someday. Before that fateful day, her life would be full of planned moments all taking part in a sequence she could already see: School, husband, work as a librarian, eventually children, then death. She neither dreaded nor welcomed the impending onslaught of events, it just was. Even her family was remarkable in its lack of remarkability. Her father is a plain and ordinary school principal. Her mother was round with the impending birth of her younger sister, and her brother was not interested in his much younger sibling. Everything just…was.


“She was ordinary.

She was remarkable.

Of such commonplace

contradictions are weapons made.” 

In an absent dream – seanan mcguire

Katherine is in many ways a typical 8-year old, but her personality shines in many unique ways.  Like many kids, she does not understand the vagaries and behavior in her peers – yet she surpasses other children (and probably adults) in her ability to understand the broader picture. It is as if Katherine has a gaping hole in her sense of self and how it is to be a socialized person. Katherine is calm, collected and assured of herself, but she knows that the social aspect of being a kid is something she lacks. So she yearns for that connection. Time passes in the story as it does in life, both very slowly in the minute to minute and all at once like a gale force wind.

Katherine is now 8 years old.

The story progresses, and Katherine becomes more of herself if that is even possible. She is more secure in the knowledge of who she is and what she likes. This is mostly books, something I can identify with. What I enjoy about Seanan Macguires ability to write can be summed up in this chapter, “When is a Door Not a Door.” Children have personality and souls. They are people in all respects except for age, and authors tend to write about children as if they are not people, but characterizations of what we, as a reader think a child should be. Seanan does not. Katherine is a fully developed, albeit young character.

Katherine is presented a door in a twisted Oak tree with the words, “Be Sure” carved across it. And for reasons that even Katherine does not fully understand, she passes through it into the Goblin Market. Here she is assailed with exotic sounds, adventures, and creatures out of imagination and myth rather than reality. As a reader, I can almost picture this scene like when we meet the worm from Labyrinth, “don’t go that way…” We also meet a character that becomes a friend, her first therefore best friend, Moon. Katherine, who is now Lundy because true names have power, learns from Moon and The Archivist, another important character, the ins, and outs of the Goblin Market.

The Goblin market is both a setting for the story and even in its own way, a character. The Market is entirely based on perceived fairness. If any deal is struck, words spoke, or actions are taken within the confines of the Market, the Market weighs it against its own standard of fairness. If one fails to make a fair deal, or what is called “fair value,” the market takes action against the perpetrator in the form of debt. Debt, rather than being its typical elusive and abstract concept, actually makes a physical change on the wearer. If the wearer of the debt continues to act against fair value, they will eventually physically transmogrify into a bird. This is the crux of the story. What is fair value?


“She was Katherine,

she was the teacher’s pet,

and when she grew up,

she was going to be a librarian,

because she couldn’t imagine

knowing there was a job

that was all about books

and not wanting to do it.”

In an absent dream – seanan mcguire

Does Lundy want to come back? Does she want to stay? How does she give fair value to her family both blood (the human world), and adopted (the Goblin Market.) How does she live in two worlds, and give fair value to herself? Because the Goblin Market is always watching and taking account? I am not going to give it away, and even with the ending of the story and what will be a beginning for Lundy, it is oddly unsatisfying. This isn’t a book that wraps morals in a tight and tiny little package to be opened at a later date. Even if I wanted a sweet and happy ending for Lundy, that isn’t in the character of the Market and in the bigger picture, The Wayward series. Fairy tales and fairylands are unique and magical and very seldom kind or gentle.

Each of the Wayward Books touches on essential lessons. Seanan creates a character and place around a crucial social concept. This is no different. The resounding lessons I took from reading this book were two-fold. Firstly, a chosen family is as strong and vital as a blood family. Secondly, Fair value is up to the user and is becoming increasingly scarce in our world of apathy. What is fair for one, is not fair for another. Context and experience flavor the users perspective. This story is a small allegory for that concept.

In an Absent Dream can function just as easily as a standalone novel as it does as the fourth in the Wayward series and it is a masterpiece folks. An utterly magical story and I highly recommend reading it.

Acquisition

Thank you to the publisher, Tor.com for providing me with an ARC of this in exchange for my honest review.

About the Author

From Goodreads, “Hi! I’m Seanan McGuire, author of the Toby Daye series (Rosemary and Rue, A Local Habitation, An Artificial Night, Late Eclipses), as well as a lot of other things. I’m also Mira Grant (www.miragrant.com), author of Feed and Deadline.

Born and raised in Northern California, I fear weather and am remarkably laid-back about rattlesnakes. I watch too many horror movies, read too many comic books, and share my house with two monsters in feline form, Lilly and Alice (Siamese and Maine Coon).”


#bookcook Fry Bread from Scalped by Jason Aaron

About

“Introducing SCALPED, an all-new monthly series by up-and-coming writer Jason Aaron (THE OTHER SIDE) featuring the gritty art of R.M. Guéra (Heavy Metal).Fifteen years ago, Dashiell “Dash” Bad Horse ran away from a life of abject poverty and utter hopelessness on the Prairie Rose Indian Reservation in hopes of finding something better. Now, he’s come back home to find nothing much has changed on “The Rez” — short of a glimmering new casino, and a once-proud people overcome by drugs and organized crime. So is he back to set things right or just get a piece of the action? Also at the center of the storm is Tribal Leader Lincoln Red Crow, a former “Red Power” activist turned burgeoning crime boss who figures that after 100 years of the Lakota being robbed and murdered by the white man, it’s now time to return the favor. Now Dash — armed with nothing but a set of nunchucks, a hellbent-for-leather attitude and (at least) one dark secret — must survive a world of gambling, gunfights, G-men, Dawg Soldierz, massacres, meth labs, trashy sex, fry bread, Indian pride, Thunder Beings, the rugged beauty of the Badlands…and even a brutal scalping or two. For a dose of Sopranos-style organized crime drama mixed with current Native American culture, look no further than SCALPED!”


This series is a world of gambling, sex, violence, family dynamics, and native culture.

It is basically Sopranos in South Dakota.

It is also fantastic dark, gritty and positively beautiful to read. So, this weeks #bookcook is in honor of this series! Fry bread is a native staple to many different cultures, and the Oglala Lakota inhabitants of the Prairie Rose Indian Reservation in modern-day South Dakota are a fictional tribe. The below recipe is for a Navajo version. No disrespect meant to any Native Americans reading. If you have a better recipe, please let me know!


The below recipe is from the website The Stay At Home Chef

Navajo Indian Fry Bread

Authentic Indian Fry Bread is a beloved tradition in the Western United States. Serve it up savory as Navajo Tacos or go the sweet side and serve it up with a little honey butter and powdered sugar.  Servings: 12 Fry pieces of bread

Ingredients

  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1 ½ tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 ½ or more cups hot water
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 quart vegetable oil for frying

US Customary – Metric

Instructions

  • In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Gradually add in the water, mixing with a spoon or your hands until combined. It will be sticky.
  • Cover and let rest 2 hours. This is not a risen dough so the dough will not rise, but it does need to rest.
  • Drizzle olive oil over the dough. Pull off golf ball sized pieces of dough and stretch or roll out until very thin, without ripping it. The thinner the better.
  • Pour enough vegetable oil into a pot to cover it with 2 inches of oil. Heat to 350 degrees F.
  • Working one at a time, fry the dough in the hot oil until golden brown, flipping halfway through. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain.

Notes

Fried bread can be kept warm in the oven until there is enough to serve.

The Tittering, The Bitting, and The Skittering in “The Hatching” by Ezekiel Boone

Stats

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Hardcover 
  • 334 pages
  • Published July 5th, 2016 by Atria/Emily Bestler Books
  • ISBN1501125044 (ISBN13: 9781501125041)
  • Edition Language English
  • Series The Hatching #1

About

From the publisher, “Deep in the jungle of Peru, where so much remains unknown, a black, skittering mass devours an American tourist whole. Thousands of miles away, an FBI agent investigates a fatal plane crash in Minneapolis and makes a gruesome discovery. Unusual seismic patterns register in a Kanpur, India earthquake lab, confounding the scientists there. During the same week, the Chinese government “accidentally” drops a nuclear bomb in an isolated region of its own country. As these incidents begin to sweep the globe, a mysterious package from South America arrives at a Washington, D.C. laboratory. Something wants out.

The world is on the brink of an apocalyptic disaster. An ancient species, long dormant, is now very much awake.


My Thoughts

Uh. Jesus, god no. No seriously, think about taking humanities worst fears and shoving them into a post-apocalyptic skittering, jittering, tearing the kind-of book, and you have “The Hatching” by Ezekiel Boone. It makes my skin crawl just thinking about this story. Is that an itch? Or is a spider burrowing out of my skin?

The story revolves around a large cast of characters, all from different walks of life, professions, genders, age ranges, etc. Basically, a large selection of humanity that is varied, but as the story progresses increasingly interconnected. Each chapter is a small snapshot of these persons lives as the apocalyptic drama of the spiders rolls out. If you have read World War Z by Max Brooks and are familiar with the format, then you will understand the vignette style of “The Hatching.” This style of narrative excels at increasing the drama and the thrills. To me, it almost feels like you are running at full speed from moment to moment. In a book about spiders, this is very effective. It is so compelling that I had to put down the book a couple of times and take a breath. It is that tense. Plus, I am not a huge fan of creepy crawlies especially if they burrow into your skin.

The plot of the story starts out benign enough, and this book takes place of the course of 6 days. Spiders start out as scary, but generally, they are not “oh my god” humanity is about to implode scary. Boone slowly rolls out thrill and disgusting chill on these characters. First, we see eggs, then we see large-scale destruction from far away, then we see dead spiders in droves, then spiders crawl out of peoples faces… it is a slow rolling snowball of gross. I tip my proverbial hat to Boone for how he structured many of these vignettes. Sometimes we get to know a character over the course of a few pages, start to empathize with them, laugh at their jokes, and read that they are eaten by a swarm of voracious spiders. Wasn’t expecting that.

“She didn’t know how many of them there were, but they were frantic. Dozens of them at least. They’d been packed in the egg, and they came out in a swarm, their bodies unfolding, alien and beautiful. Big and fast, black apricots thundering against the glass. Skittering.

She put her palm against the glass of the insectarium, and the spiders flew to it.”

Excerpt from “The Hatching” by Ezekiel Boone

Character-wise, many of these people are not developed, and that is fine. With the frenetic pacing I do not really care about many of the characters idiosyncrasies. It just is not important this early in the series. I do expect, as the series progresses, that we will get to learn a bit more about the back story of the main protagonists.  You know, as the cast of characters is widdled, or should I say is eaten, away.

The ending of the story was spot on and a perfect segue-way into the next book. I seriously cannot wait to see what happens with the spiders next. They seem almost otherworldly at this point in their ability to reek carnage and disaster on us, weak humans. Maybe next book Boone will have them flying with tiny M16s. At this point, I put nothing past this author. Is this a perfect horror book? No. Is this a fantastic bit of fun to while away a few hours? Absolutely. Totally and completely worth the chills and thrills.


Procurement

I obtained a copy of this through scribd, the library and Amazon.


About the Author

From Goodreads, “I live in upstate New York with my wife and kids. Whenever I travel and say I’m from New York, people think I mean NYC, but we live about three hours north of New York City. Our house is five minutes outside of a university town. We’re far enough out of town that, at night, it’s dark. 
No. 
Darker than that. 
Dark enough that, if you’re not careful, you might fall off the small cliff at the edge of my property. If you’re lucky, the water will be up enough to break your fall. If you’re not lucky, please sign a waiver before you come to visit. 
I’ve got two unruly dogs who are mostly friendly. Well, that’s not true. The part about them being unruly is true, but one of them is the most friendly dog you’ve ever met, and the other dog … isn’t. They are good writing partners, though they spend a lot of their day curled up in front of the wood burning stove and ignoring me. Unless I’m making lunch. They pay attention to me then. 
The Ezekiel Boone website is 
www.ezekielboone.com, but I’ve also got a nifty website for THE HATCHING at www.TheHatchingBook.com. It has a cool map and some other bells and whistles. 
You can also 
follow me on Facebook or follow me on Instagram if you are so inclined and like the idea of occasionally seeing photos of my dogs. 
If you’ve read this far, I should mention that THE HATCHING is Ezekiel Boone’s first book, but it’s not actually *my* first book. I also write under the name Alexi Zentner. Alexi Zentner’s books are pretty different from Ezekiel Boone’s.”

Review of “I Killed Adolf Hitler” by Jason

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About 1

Jason. I Killed Adolph Hitler. Fantagraphics, 2007. Print.

Awards

2008: Eisner Award, Best U.S. Edition of International Material, for I Killed Adolf Hitler 

#62 on CBH Greatest Graphic Novels of all Time

Book Summary

From the publisher, “In this full-color graphic novel, Jason posits a strange, violent world in which contract killers can be hired to rub out pests, be they dysfunctional relatives, abusive co-workers, loud neighbors, or just annoyances in general — and as you might imagine, their services are in heavy demand. One such killer is given the unique job of traveling back in time to kill Adolf Hitler in 1939… but things go spectacularly wrong. Hitler overpowers the would-be assassin and sends himself to the present, leaving the killer stranded in the past. The killer eventually finds his way back to the present by simply waiting the decades out as he ages, and teams up with his now much-younger girlfriend to track down the missing fascist dictator… at which point the book veers further into Jason territory, as the cartoonist’s minimalist, wickedly dry sense of humor slows down the story to a crawl: for long patches absolutely nothing happens, but nobody can make nothing happening as riotously entertaining as Jason does… and finally, when the reader isn’t paying attention, he brings it together with a shocking, perfectly logical and yet completely unexpected climax which also solves a mystery from the very beginning of the book the reader had forgotten about. As always, I Killed Adolf Hitler is rendered in Jason’s crisp deadpan neo-clear-line style, once again augmented by lovely, understated coloring.”

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Courtesy of goodreads.com

My Thoughts

Spoiler alert, Adolph Hitler dies… Big shocker I know.  The title is very much in the writing style of the novel: minimalist, terse, and concise. No need for grand allusions or literary whatnot; Jason writes very well and does not need to be wordy. The writing could almost come off as cold, but it isn’t really. It is just succinct. Why write a paragraph, when one word will work. Using this terse writing style, he explores themes of love, loss, moving on, and assassination and morality in equal measures throughout the book.

You would think that with a plot like the assassination of Adolph Hitler through time travel via a for-hire assassin, it would be difficult to add in a romance element to it. But Jason makes it work rather well. Again the romance is bare bones, but the emotions are subtle, raw, and very thoughtful.

His protagonist is an interesting choice for the story. He set him as an assassin who kills without qualms on a daily basis without the worry of legal or moral ramifications. However, throughout the novel, he shows morality, and empathy and even longing in other areas of his life. The leads the reader to think of him as a walking, talking, killing contradiction. How can the reader have compassion for his plights and cheer him on in his quest to assassinate Adolph Hitler at the same time? It is a conundrum, but it happens very quickly. Although, calling him a likable character would do him a disservice. You do kinda like him. He has a very macabre sense of humor that we get little wisps of throughout the story. Even with his sparse lines, he says much in the “in-between” panels.

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Kill Hitler. http://www.goodreads.com

What humor there is very macabre and very dry, skimming the line of the ironic. In one scene the assassin is working in his office, that looks very much like a doctors office. He has a line of customers (patients) waiting patiently to see him. The whole scene is bathed in irony and macabre humor.

Graphically, again the panels are very spare. A limited color palette is used, as well as a very sparse, very flat linework. The main characters are humans, with cartoonish animal heads. You can tell that Jason was very much influenced by the Ligne Clair comic style, à la “Adventures of Tin Tin.” “(Ligne Claire) Uses clear, strong lines all of the same width and no hatching, while contrast is downplayed as well. Cast shadows are often illuminated. Additionally, the style often features strong colors and a combination of cartoonish characters against a realistic background. All these elements together can result in giving comics drawn this way a flat aspect. (wikipedia.com)” Jason nailed this style.

Conclusion

Read it, it will take you an hour at most. Jason comics are among the best graphic novels have to offer right now. They are profound without being egotistical and pompous. Jason gets you thinking about things without it clouding over your day. They are perfect.

“Ligne Claire.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 15 June 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ligne_claire.