790 – Week 11 – The Hero, Book One

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This post follows no pre-set review format.

The tale of Heracles, better known to the west as Hercules, has been interpreted in many forms over the years and now this time it is David Rubin’s turn. The first volume of this graphic novel follows the story of Heracles, the bastard son of Zeus, who was born to be a great hero of ancient Greece. However fate had other things in store as Hera, Zeus’ wife, sought to get rid of Heracles for what her husband did. To enact her revenge she recruits Eursystheus, Heracles’ tyrannical older brother who is obsessed with power, to do the job for her. Forced to do whatever his brother says, Heracles embarks on incredible adventures using strength, charm, and willpower to overcome the Twelve Labors.

David Rubin’s unique retelling of Heracles’ Twelve Labors places the hero in a modern setting not seen in previous versions. While it does include popular technology like cellphones and references to popular superheroes like Superman and Wonder Woman, it doesn’t detract from the story. Rubin’s unique and clean art style brings life to the many creatures Heracles has to face thanks to his use of bold lines and solid colors. The first volume ends with Heracles only completing 8 labors leaving the reader with something to look forward to in the next one. The Hero, Book One is suitable for both teens and adults who want to enjoy a story of action and adventure with a character they are familiar with.

e) What would be the most appropriate way of introducing this book to the reader I have in mind?

The way I would introduce this book to a potential reader is if they are interested in reading more about Greek mythology. All of the labors that Heracles is tasked to do in the graphic novel is based on the original story from slaying the Hydra to cleaning the stables in one day, all of which are drawn in exciting and creative ways. The reader would enjoy seeing this in action rather than reading about it with no pictures. Because the book uses modern references I feel that the reader would enjoy it because they are things that appeal to their generation. Given the graphic nature of the book I want to make sure that the reader is comfortable with some of the things they will have to see before I give them the book.

 

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790 – Week 10 – Comic Book Publisher Profile

BOOM! Studios

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BOOM! Studios was founded in 2005 by Ross Richie and Andrew Cosby after failing as producers in Hollywood to develop comic book projects into movies. To ease their frustrations they founded BOOM! Studios with the focus of “creating world-class comic book and graphic novel storytelling for all audiences.” Starting with their first publication of Zombie Tales #1, Richie and Cosby created comics in the horror and sci-fi genres before eventually branching out to superheroes and established licenses. Four distinct imprints were developed to produce all of these titles which includes BOOM! Studios, BOOM! Box, KaBOOM!, and Archaia—BOOM!

In June of 2017 20th Century Fox bought a stake in Boom! Studios acquiring some ownership. When Disney bought out 20th Century Fox in Decemeber of the same year the stake moved into Disney’s ownership. It is rumored that a number of the comic series held by Boom Studios may make the jump to television.

A recognizable work out of their catalog is Lumberjanes by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Brooklyn A. Allen and Noelle Stevenson. The story centers around a group of five girls who spend the Summer at a camp where they encounter strange animals and other paranormal activity. In order to solve the mysteries surrounding the camp the girls have to rely on their friendship and individual skills. Reviews for the first volume can be found at Booklist and School Library Journal.

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A second recognizable work is their comic, Adventure Time, based on the popular cartoon network television show. The series follows Finn (the human) and Jake (the dog) in their adventures through the fantastical Land of Ooo. Along the way they encounter they encounter evil kings, sweet princesses, rock n’ roll vampires, and a large cast of even stranger characters. The series is popular for its off-the-wall humor and has charmed children and adults alike. Reviews for the first portion of the series can be found on School Library Journal and Multiversity Comics.

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790 – Week 10 – Bakuman

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Bakuman was a shonen manga published in Weekly Shonen Jump from 2008-2012 where it was written by Tsugumi Ohba and drawn by Takeshi Obata, the creators of Death Note. It is a slice-of-life series that follows the shonen style of hard work and determination to overcome the challenges the main characters face. However unlike other shonen manga that focuses on high paced action and fighting, Bakuman focuses on kids who have dreams of being manga artists. The first two volumes does an excellent job in establishing this premise through Mashiro and Takagi, the talented artist and the creative writer. The driving force of this series is the relationship between them, their love interests, and their endless struggle in the manga business. We get a small taste of this in the beginning as we learn more of Mashiro’s Uncle, a former manga artist who died doing what he loved. As the story continues to unfold we learn the ups and downs of what it means to create manga and following your dreams.

e) Why is this book worth my own and the reader’s attention?

For any artist and storyteller, Bakuman is a series that makes the manga making process appealing and engaging in an honest and realistic fashion. As an artist myself it certainly appealed to me when I first read it all the way back in high school and it still does today. For that matter I think readers who enjoy manga would be attracted to this kind of story. Not only does it include passing references to famous titles (like One Piece and Dragon Ball) but as the series goes on we are introduced to a great number of original manga that could honestly be made into a real life series.

f) What do I know of the background of this book that might interest the reader and stimulate their desire to read?

I remember reading an interview in Shonen Jump Alpha conducted with Tsugumi Ohba in 2012 where he talked about Bakuman which ended around that time. According to Ohba, the reason why he created the series was because he thought about how many people want to become manga creators and how he could create this story since he’s in the industry. I feel like readers who want to create their own manga would enjoy this series knowing that the author had their ambitions in mind.


References

Ōhba, T., & Obata, T. (August 2010). Bakuman (Vol. 1). San Francisco, CA: Viz Media.

Ōhba, T., & Obata, T. (November 2010). Bakuman (Vol. 2). San Francisco, CA: Viz Media.

VIZ Blog / INTERVIEW: Tsugumi Ohba. (n.d.). Retrieved April 05, 2018, from https://www.viz.com/blog/posts/interview-tsugumi-ohba-691

790 – Week 9 – Pro-Comics Statement

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In order to be in compliance with the Library Bill of Rights under the American Library Association a library must provide materials for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all within the library’s community. Comics, as a medium, have the ability to entertain, inform, and enlighten depending on the subject featured within the work. If a library were to exclude comics based solely on form, the library in question would be in direct violation of the first article of the Bill. Comics’ diversity in subject matter speaks directly to their worth in libraries. In censoring all comic materials a library would be eliminating select biographies, scientific materials, memoirs, myths, cultural foreign materials, as well as a number of worthwhile and important stories that appeal to a number of the reader base in the community. To ignore comics as library materials is to do an unnecessary disservice to the served community.

When children first begin to read books on their own comics can be useful in their literacy development. Around the age six children begin to read Early Reader books where the sentences are a little longer, there is a wider variety of punctuation and words can appear anywhere on the page but the books still contain pictures. Compared to Early Reader books comics also have illustrations with a reduced text which makes it manageable for new readers. In comics words and lines of dialogue are contained in word balloons that can appear anywhere on a page like books at their level. By reading comics at this point in development new readers can become familiar with story elements like plot structure. Comics have a beginning, middle and end with main characters that develop through conflicts. If simplified for children at this age then comics can be suitable material for literacy development.

790 – Week 9 – X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga

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One of the most well known stories in comic book history, The Dark Phoenix Saga tells the story of Jean Grey’s link to the Phoenix Force and how the immense power she wielded was corrupted. After nearly 40 years it still remains popular and has been the subject of various media adaptations. The version I was most found of was the four-part episode of the same name in X-Men: The Animated Series from the 90s. However a re-watch of those episodes after reading this comic shows how superior the original is.

In the comic there is a better sense of emotional turmoil as the dialogue and inner monologues reveal how much the X-Men (Cyclops, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Storm, Beast, Angel, and Colossus) care about Jean and how they don’t want to hurt her. Jean herself has to deal with the trauma her Phoenix powers has on herself and her relationships with the people she cares about. The dialogue makes it clear that she doesn’t want to hurt anyone leading to the most emotional part of the story where at the end Jean gives up her life to stop herself as the Dark Phoenix from doing anymore harm.

The animated series doesn’t do a good job of expressing this same turmoil because they either skipped over these parts or changed it due to the constraints of a Saturday morning cartoon show for kids. We have no conversations with Jean or her family, no inner monologues or conversations with the characters about how much they care for Jean except for Cyclops, and the absolute that is death. For example, Jean expresses guilt at the end of the comic for destroying a whole star system thus killing 5 billion lives. In the animated series it was made abundantly clear that the star system she destroyed was uninhabited. When she expresses her guilt about this in the show it doesn’t carry the same weight that it did in the comic. The same applies to the ending as well because in the animated show Jean’s ultimate sacrifice was rendered null when the Phoenix force revives her and subsequently leaves her body.

Despite those issues it’s still not a bad adaptation as it includes almost everything from the original The Dark Phoenix Saga. If you don’t mind the lack of emotional depth I would say to give it a watch.


References

Claremont, C., & Byrne, J. (2012). The uncanny X-Men: The Dark Phoenix saga. New York: Marvel.

 

790 – Week 8 – Stuck in the Middle vs. Censorship

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Stuck in the Middle: Seventeen Comics From An Unpleasant Age edited by Ariel Schrag is a collection of illustrated stories by talented artists depicting their own experiences from their middle school years. From crudely drawn to highly detailed artwork, seventeen stories are presented showcasing the joy, misery, and drama this time period can bring. Every reader should have a situation to identify with whether it is with Daniel Clowes’ story about spending the Summer with his grandparents as an awkward pre-teen, Gabrielle Bell’s story about being bullied, or Dash Shaw’s story about having zits. The situations are filled with dark humor but never shy away from the truth leaving an emotional impact for both old and young readers.

Stuck in the Middle: Seventeen Comics From An Unpleasant Age was the subject of censorship cases in middle schools from 2009 to 2014 in South Dakota, Maine, Texas, and most recently in 2017 in Oklahoma. It was challenged on the basis from one parent that it was “trash” and that some stories contained vulgarities, sexual references, and drug use. According to the CBLDF, bias and misinformation were against this book because the local news reported such things like the comic being permanently banned and all graphic novels being pulled at the school despite evidence to the contrary. They even pulled negative reviews from Amazon to make their case stronger. Ultimately the comic was pulled by the school’s reviewing committee.

Despite what critics say I feel that Stuck in the Middle: Seventeen Comics From An Unpleasant Age is a suitable read for pre-teens. It helps the reader understand that others have been though a similar situation and gives them solace in the fact that they are not alone. The comic also opens up a dialogue between the parent and child allowing the former to share their own experiences. I wouldn’t call this comic trash by any stretch of the imagination as the instances of vulgarity and other issues seen in the book are very few and far between. Unless the person reading this comic was below the age of the intended audience I can’t imagine there being many issues. The authors strove to portray their stories as realistic as possible and trying to censor it would be a disservice to the writing.


References

Schrag, A. (2007). Stuck in the middle seventeen comics from an unpleasant age. New York: Viking.

Williams, M. (2017, February 27). Stuck in the Middle Challenged in Oklahoma School. Retrieved March 22, 2018, from http://cbldf.org/2017/02/stuck-in-the-middle-challenged-in-oklahoma-school

790 – Week 7 – One Hundred Demons

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This post follows no pre-set review format.

Lynda Barry’s One Hundred Demons exceptionally portrays the joyous, painful, and important moments that one’s life has to offer. These moments represent the demons everyone has and Barry is no different.  Her demons appear through an Asian painting exercise called “One Hundred Demons” inspiring Barry to recollect a variety of past experiences that affected her. There are 17 autobiographical short stories in total covering a different aspect of her life like her relationships with her family and friends, life at school, and her fascination with hippies. Panels are very text heavy where expounding text boxes take up most of the space and word balloons being nothing more than supplemental material. The artwork is very stylized appearing childlike and awkward which may represent Barry’s emotional state at these times. At the end of the book Barry even encourages the readers to take up this painting exercise so they can paint their own demons. “One Hundred Demons” is suitable for both teens and adults who can identify with fortunate and unfortunate past experiences.

G) Are there other books by the same author, or by other authors, which relate to this one?

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An autobiographical book that relates to facing your demons is Dark Night: A True Batman Story by Paul Dini. Paul Dini is a television, cartoon, and comic book writer credited for his work on Tiny Toon Adventures and Batman: The Animation Series. This book tells the story of one evening in the 1990s where Paul Dini is walking home and gets brutally beaten, almost near death. Dini survived but had to deal with the physical and emotional trauma the incident left behind resulting in him facing his inner demons in the form of Batman villains. Poison Ivy representing the toxic relationship Dini had with his “girlfriend,” Scarecrow representing his fear, and the Joker representing his inability to recover. Despite these dark moments Batman himself appears throughout to help Dini cope and move on with his life.


References

Barry, L. (2002). One hundred demons. Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly.

Dini, P. (2017). Dark night: a true batman story. Burbank, CA: DC Comics.