Comic Report: Suspended in Language

Last night I had dinner with a few co-workers and conversation of course turned to what Albert Einstein would do if we extended his lifespan 1000 years. Would he ever get used to quantum physics? Fortunately, I was pretty well prepped for this conversation. I'm not a nuclear physicist (unlike one of the other folks in on that conversation), but I'd just read Suspended in Language.

It's another Physics biography from G.T. Labs comics, this one about... no, not about Albert Einstein. It's about Niels Bohr, a totally different physicist. This got into plenty of Phsyics which I didn't understand, some models of the atom that turned out to be wrong. (Not that I'm one to throw stones at Physics theories proven wrong, but...) I can barely follow the model of the atom that we've settled on, with its electron orbits and all. Trying to keep track of the also-rans... I kinda gave up. Fortunately, there's plenty of history, too.

There are also some short Bohr comics by some good artists, including Linda Medley and Roger Langridge. Langridge's comic includes a multi-eyed alien wearing some cool-looking sunglasses. That drawing made up for all of the hypothetical-but-wrong Physics theories I didn't understand.

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Comic Report: Girl Genius Collection #8 (Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones) | Act-i-Vate Primer

It seems kind of silly to post an online review a comic book when folks can go read the comic online and decide for themselves. And yet, here we are: Girl Genius. Girl Genius is a darned fun story of adventure, clockwork, romance, and mad science. It's been going strong for a few years now. If you haven't already, you should check it out.

I was prompted to mention this because the 8th printed collection came out. But mostly, I read this comic as it comes out online.

As long as I'm talking about online comics, another comic book that came out recently whose roots are online: The Act-I-Vate Primer. This is a bunch of comics from Act-I-Vate, which, if I'm understanding the intro correctly, is a cabal of comix artists who hang out on Livejournal. Anyhow, I got this comic book because it has a piece by Roger Langridge, but there was some other good stuff in there, too. It was quite a variety of stuff, so I didn't like everything... On the other hand, there was something in there for everyone.

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Comic Report: The Question: The Five Books of Blood

I picked up this comic book collection "The Five Books of Blood" because it was written by Greg Rucka, who has written some good stuff. So, he's written some good stuff. But he also wrote "The Five Books of Blood". So now I know that not everything he writes is worth picking up.

Maybe if I liked the world of Batman more, this might have appealed. This book is set in the world of Batman. It's pulp-y. Do you like the idea of a group of thugs who worship the idea of crime, who perform crimes because they think they'll gain mysterious powers by doing so? And maybe they do gain mysterious powers by doing so? If so, this comic book is for you. This comic book wasn't for me, though. The idea of crime as a nigh-tangible force is very Batman-ish. But I haven't steeped myself in that tradition, and this book didn't really encourage me to do so.

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Book Report: Sleeper (Season One)

Happy comic-con season! I guess I'll post a comic book report about Sleeper.

This comic book is a combination of an undercover cop story with superheroes. Our hero has gone undercover in a superpowered criminal organization. Oh, and the only good guy who knows that our hero is undercover--is in a coma. And the good guy organization has disbanded. So our hero gets more and more entangled, paranoid, and... This is a good story, though plenty dark and violent.


Book Report: Incognegro

My domain,, was out of commission for a few days. Sorry about the missing emails. Anyhow, the domain is back now. That calls for a celebration. Or a comic book report about Incognegro. One of those. A report, you say? OK.

It's a comic book set during lynching times down south. I guess you could read this to show how politically correct you are. Oh man, listen to this review from the back cover: "A valiant and successful effort to redeem the past without rewriting it." Uhm, yeah.

In spite of this, it's a pretty good comic book. You might want to read it but then not tell your public-radio listening friends that you did, lest you find yourself in earnest dialog. It's, you know, a comic book. It's a mystery and a tense one--it seems like half the minor characters are pretty disappointed on days when they don't get to string somebody up. Small towns are bad enough when everybody knows what everybody else is doing; but it gets worse when everybody uses what everybody else is doing as an excuse to kill everybody else.

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Comic Report: Ex Machina (the first several collections)

When I first heard about the comic book "Ex Machina", I stopped paying attention too soon. I heard that the protagonist is a superhero who can talk to machines. And those do what he says instead of beeping and complaining about syntax errors and/or blowing their stack or.. Yeah, they just do what he says, like they understand. I rolled my eyes. Yeah, I understand that the very fact that I read superhero comic books... I understand that I'm not allowed to roll my eyes at one more goofy premise... But I couldn't help it. And I stopped paying attention. So I never caught on to the fact that the protagonist is also the elected mayor of New York City.

But then I did. (Amazon recommendations recommended the series to me, so I took another look.) And then I bought every old collection I could get my hands on. This is a fun comic book!

This is a fun premise for a comic book, as long as you don't take it too seriously, and this book doesn't. There's more crime-fighting than budget-balancing going on here. The book skims over urban issues without getting bogged down in details. Society changes, the city changes with it--and in this comic book, most folks are inclined to be reasonable. Yes, I said reasonable... in politics... hey, quit laughing at me! Yes, I guess I'm reading escapist literature for people who follow politics. Cut me some slack. It's just a comic book.

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Book Report: The Complete Annotated Oz Squad, Volume One

There's this comic book called Oz Squad. It's old. I read it long ago. At one point in the comic, one of the characters, Scarecrow, writes some graffiti:


That phrase stuck with me for years. It had to be a quote. Didn't it? It sounded so artsy, not so comic book-y. Every so often I'd try a web search, hoping to track it down. Nothing. But more recently, I tried a Google book search... and found out that Oz Squad's writer had released an annotated version of the comic book. And there in the book search window was the annotation for that phrase, which was indeed a quote:

52-5 All Art Must Perish: I saw this as graffiti on the remains of a demolished theater in Providence RI.

Well, that explained why I hadn't found the quote elsewhere. The rambling of some past theater major, perhaps. Anyhow, I was so happy to found out that there was an annotated version of the comic that I sent off for a copy. Here's another annotation:

I wrap up the story but can't resist talking about the existential futility of fighting for transient gains in the end. Why can't I write a simple action comic?

In hindsight, maybe I shouldn't have been so sure that "All art must perish" was a quote.

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Book Report: Casanova book one: Luxuria

This comic book made no sense. It feels kinda plot-holish. You find out that the main character can make guns fall apart through mysteeeeerious powers, but earlier he didn't seem to use this power and seemed pretty worried about guns. And if this secret organization he works with--if this organization has invisibility cloak technology, why didn't they use it when... I guess I was supposed to just relax and go with the flow and be happy that there were so many pictures of scantily-clad chicks, but I mean c'mon, really, he can just make guns fall apart by invoking some spiders in his brain but he only does it sometimes? Why doesn't he use this power on hostile robots? Wh-- Oh, forget it.

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Book Report: Super Spy

It is a comic book, a collection of little spy stories. I bought it because it was an Amazon recommendation (albeit a tepid Amazon recommendation) and it had Morse Code on the cover. I didn't like it much, though, not the parts I made it through. I read some brief stories of love and loss amongst spies and informants. Nothing gripped me. Maybe the stories were too quick? I couldn't sympathize with a character so quickly sketched? If I'd kept going, apparently the stories intertwine. But I didn't stick with it.

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Book Report: Station

This comic book is a murder mystery set on the International Space Station. It was OK. Maybe if I were more of a space-nerd, I would have liked how the story brought in well-researched bits of ISS lore. As it is, I just treated most of that stuff like technobabble and concentrated on the mystery--which was workable, I guess. As it was... this comic was OK.

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Link: Free Andi Watson Comic

You don't have to blog about the things you're thinking about. Sometimes the things you're thinking about... don't bear blogging. Sometimes you can use blogging as an excuse to think about something more pleasant for a couple of minutes. E.g.: Great Uncle George's Will is a free comic, online. It's by Andi Watson, who did Skeleton Key, Samurai Jam, Slow News Day, etc etc. It mixes up themes from old folktales with modern manners. It's cute, check it out.

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Book Report: Too Cool To Be Forgotten

In this comic book, our hero goes under hypnosis and dreams he's back in high school. He gets a chance to get things right. It's nice enough.

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Book Report: Nothing Nice to Say

Work is busy. BANG 19 is less busy, but fills up the waking hours that are not devoted to work. Lately, most of my reading has taken place only because bus breakdowns have prevented me from working. This, in turn, causes me to have unusually nuanced feelings about bus breakdowns. Anyhow, here is a book review I wrote in less-busy times. It's about Nothing Nice to Say.

I hadn't heard of the webcomic Nothing Nice to Say. But then I saw the comic book in the comic book store, with the cover that looked like that famous Friedman photo of Minor Threat sitting on that porch... except different, because one of the people is a giant critter. So I had to pick it up. It's a funny comic. It makes fun of punk rock. I only get about half of the references. But you don't always need to get the references to find something amusing.

It's a webcomic. So you can go read Nothing Nice to Say without hunting down a physical comic book. But paper can be fun, too.

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Book Report: The Lindbergh Child

It's rough being famous. You just want to go about your life, but there are jerks out there watching you. It's creepy. And some of those jerks do worse than just watch.

The comic book The Lindbergh Child is by Rick Geary. It's about the Lindbergh baby kidnapping. Just in case you don't remember how that story went, this book is another in Geary's books about historical murders. So, yeah, it ends sadly. But it's an interesting story and Geary, as usual, tells it well with his not-exactly-stipple-I-don't-know-what-you-call-it style. Check it out.

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Book Report: Myth Adventures

Myth Adventures is a comic book based on the swords-and-sorcery comedy Another Fine Myth. It's a few years old, but got reprinted recently. I picked up a copy a few weeks ago at Comic Relief. You know, the comic book store whose owner died recently. Another Fine Myth is by Robert Lynn Asprin, who died yesterday. The comic book art is by Phil Foglio who, barring disaster, is still alive.

It is a very funny comic book. A worthwhile legacy, you might say.


Book Report: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier

According to one election quiz, I should vote for John Edwards or Ron Paul. According to two election quizzes, I should vote for Bill Richardson. According to yet another, I should vote for Kucinich. How do I know which election quiz I should listen to? Maybe I should set up a poll. That sounds hard. Instead, how about I present a book report for "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier"?

This latest graphic novel in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series is a framing story and then a bunch of little bits--ephemera of the League and its past incarnations. The framing story is fun. The ephemera are less so, or maybe that's my fault. I don't like the right stories; I don't know all of these stories. (Yes, I know about the excellent online annotations, and I am grateful for them. It's all very well to learn that something is a reference to Mighty Moth; if I don't care about Mighty Moth, that reference doesn't make me like the work any more.)

I'm not a fan of the H.P. Lovecraft mythos, so I didn't appreciate the Chthulhiana--not even the short Cthulhish story in the style of Wodehouse, not even the other Cthulhish short story, this one in the style of a sort of deranged Kerouac. I'm not a fan of Shakespearean comedy (probably for the same reason that future scholars will say "Thanks to years of study, I think I see why 'I can has var?' was supposed to be funny, but it doesn't really make me laugh.") So the fake Shakespearean comedy which also [I'll leave out what else happens in this bit, lest I spoil the ending] left me cold.

The further adventures of Fanny Hill as she wanders across mystical lands in other fiction of the time which I haven't heard of and which I'm not sure why I'm supposed to care about and... And is this the most self-indulgent thing that Alan Moore has ever done? Gah.


But the framing story is still pretty good. Wandering around in England after the fall of Big Brother, exploring a school for spies, explaining a naming scheme for rocket ships. The story of the immortal Orlando told in the form of a sort of boy's adventure comic serial, that was pretty good. Maybe... maybe this is one of those books that you want to pick up, but be ready to skim. When you start reading the, say, the fake Shakespearean comedy, if you don't like the first couple of paragraphs, skip the rest of that part. It's fine, you'll still be able to follow the story. And the story, overall, is pretty good.

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Book Report: Chiaroscuro: Patchwork Book #1

It's a graphic novel about a whiny artist who hangs out in cafes and goes to parties. Occasionally, something strange happens. It's pretty; some of the banter is witty; I'm glad I read it. The plot advances slowly, but it's a fun ride.

There's more than one comic book out there called "Chiaroscuro"--no doubt this is a hazard in the comic book industry, populated as it is by artists. "Hey, let's name the book after a term of art of art." How many romance comics are titled "Two-Point Perspective"? Uhm, hmm. Now that I look, I don't find any. So much for that theory.

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Book Report: Giant Robot #50

The 50th issue of Giant Robot magazine is pretty wonderful. I especially liked the journalistic integrity of this interview with Jason Shiga about his comic book Bookhunter, which you may recall is awesome.

GR: Is there such a thing as a library detective like the character who appeared in Bookhunter?

JS: While the plot is based on an actual case, the story of Bookhunter is highly fictionalized. There are a lot of boring moments when working at the library, and I often daydream about more exciting library positions while shelving. I decided to structure my daydreams into a book, and ended up having to ask some of my older coworkers about the circulation process in the '70s. It was so much fun doing research, I almost didn't start the book.

GR: So is there really such a thing as a library book detective? I suppose it wouldn't be that much different than a video store detective.

JS: Usually when there's a serious crime, the library will contact local police. What is a video store detective?

GR: Sorry, I made that up.

As for myself, I wonder if the library book detectives had a TV show, would their theme music play during the library's hours of operation? Or would they try to keep quiet? But that's an impossible question to answer.

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Book Report: Goodnight, Irene

My internet service provider sent me an interesting email--in a few weeks, they will stop offering dialup service. Yes, my main computer is still on dialup. Stop laughing. It has an ethernet port, but its ethernet controller is some nonstandard thingy built into the motherboard, and I never found a Linux driver for it. A while back, I bought an ethernet card--which didn't fit in this ancient computer's ancient slots. I guess I could have looked around for an ancient ethernet card, but that was starting to sound like effort. But now, now, I am being spurred towards effort. And thinking about dialup. And thinking about the past. Oh, right, I'm supposed to be talking about the past, about "Goodnight Irene", a collection of Carol Lay's old comics.

This comic book is a romance (keep reading!) story about Irene. Irene was raised by a tribe in Africa into body modification, specifically into facial changes, such as lip disks. She comes to America and then the wacky hijinx ensue. Her friends include a bearded woman, Irma from Burma (who's very tall and has neck rings), a Fat Lady, and other, uhm, people of unusual appearance. There is love and betrayal, but it's pretty silly. Just when things have settled down a bit, a facsimile of Strong Bad's head appears. It doesn't make too much sense, but it makes enough. Check it out.

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Book Report: Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser

Shinteki Decathlon 3 was awesome. Since then, I have had approximate 0.0 hours of unstructured awake time. Thus, not so much blogging.

But I will paraphrase a conversation I was in a while back:

She: I was reading your blog post about the ass gasket.

Me: Oh yeah?

She: And I was wondering about that Hoover Method, it sounds very uncomfortable...

He: "Hover Method"

Me: Yeah, I guess you have to have really strong legs, it seems like an awkward angle.

She: So are you supposed to somehow form some kind of vacuum seal? Because that seems like it would be, uhm, less--

He: Not "Hoover". "Hover".

He: Uh yeah. Not the vacuum. It's like-- you're hovering over the, uhm.

She: Oh. That makes more sense then.

In other news, I guess I could tell you about a comic book I read about a month ago: Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.

What would it take to convince me to read about Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser again? I read some of the stories back when I was in college, when swords and sorcery seemed fun and exciting. But I lost interest. Until recently, when I saw this collection of comics of the F+GM stories, illustrated by Mike Mignola. So I read them. They were fun nostalgia. They didn't suck.

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Book Report: The Boys

I'm not at Comic-con this weekend. I just read comics, but I don't especially want to meet their creators. I especially don't especially want to meet the creators of "The Boys." "The Boys" is perhaps the most cynical superhero comic book I've ever read. Maybe it's a little too cynical. It revels in brutality. It's just interesting enough to get me to keep reading. Which is more than you can say for most comics.

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Book Report: Phonogram

I canceled out of the stuff I'd planned to do today. Instead, I am sitting, napping, eating. I wore myself out last week. First, getting over a cold. Then, having just gotten over the cold, staying out late to go see Sonic Youth play in Berkeley. It was a fun time. Maybe not such a great idea, though. The day afterwards, I just kind of flopped around, wiped out. Now it's the day after the day after and I'm determined to recover.

After the concert, Dave and I and hundreds of aging hipsters stood waiting at the train station. Dave made a move somewhere among a squat, a jointed slither, and the Charleston: he crouched and swung his knees, as if he were getting ready to jump to the side. "For tennis," he explained. Dave plays tennis. I tried a similar maneuver which I'd seen in various martial arts movies, but I couldn't hold the position. But I had a realization.

I said, "That pose would also be good practice for The Hover Maneuver."

He said, "What's The Hover Maneuver?"

"You remember how I was talking about the guy who always used an 'ass gasket' in public restrooms and how he was proud to have handled a gasket-less restroom, like sat down and all that?"

"Erg, yeah."

"OK, so someone else said that ass gaskets are pretty rare in the Southeast USA. And then someone who was from that area said that she grew up in the area and that she learned The Hover Maneuver."

"So it's--"

"Yeah, in that context, I think you gotta figure out what it is from its name."

Dave was somewhat nonplussed: "Why don't these people just sit down on the seat?"

"I dunno. Maybe if you go into a public restroom and you see the ass gaskets there, you figure they're there for a reason. Huh."


I explained my sudden thought: "So maybe the Hover Method is good training for tennis. Are there any tennis schools in, in Florida?"

"Yeah, there's G__________. They're pretty big." (I forget the name of the place he said.)

"Dude, it's because of the Hover Method."

Sonic Youth. I didn't listen to much Sonic Youth back in the day. On Thursday night, I just tagged along to that concert so I could hang out with friends. But I had a good time. Tagging along in someone else's musical nostalgia can be fun. Oh, right, that must mean I'm segue-ing into talking about the recently-collected-into-one-volume comic book "Phonogram"

Phonogram doesn't seem like something that I would like, yet it is--maybe due to excellence of execution or something. It's a comic book set in a magical world. The sources of magic are pointed out, but the exact mechanisms are left mysterious. But it's not yet-another urban fantasy where we're supposed to be all impressed by the notion of a mystical amulet called Eye of Avacados or whatever. The main character in this world derives his powers from pop music. There are long discussions about the meanings of old Britpop songs. I don't even care about Britpop, but I still loved reading this comic, watching the B.S. of musical criticism intertwine with the B.S. of woo-woo fantasy... somehow, when you put these two awful things together, something wonderful can emerge.

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Book Report: India Authentic #1 (Ganesha)

This comic book tells Ganesh's origin story. Apparently India Authentic is going to be a series of comic books full of Indian myths. I don't know much about Ganesh, and I was sorry that the comic book authors picked one of the few stories that I already knew. I didn't get much out of this comic book.

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Book Report: First in Space

I am back from the No More Secrets Game, which was pretty excellent. I think it was excellent. My memories are pretty hazy. Since coming back, I've sent one piece of email and left one voice mail message with the contents "Sometime between Saturday and Monday I made a note that I should [email|call] you, but I can no longer remember why. Why am I contacting you? I bet it's pretty important." It turns out that being 29% of a 3.5-person team is pretty busy; it's not so conducive to note-taking and insightful reflection. I got pretty frazzled.

Speaking of doing fun things in spite of a lack of cleverness [cue segue], the graphic novel "First in Space" was fun.

Reading the Right Stuff, you see that airplane test pilots mocked early human astronauts "a monkey made the first flight." But this monkey was pretty impressive. Or, rather, Ham the Chimp was pretty impressive. This comic book, First in Space, is Ham's story. Hold your breath as Ham endures difficult tests! Wince when you find out that Ham's official name was "Chop Chop Chang"! Thrill to the glory of space flight! Wipe a tear from your eye as you contemplate the deeds of this brave ape.

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Book Report: Houdini the Handcuff King

I was going to start this off with a cute paragraph about how I'm "handcuffed" to Debian Sarge (an old version of the OS) on my main home computer because I only have dialup access, my dialup provider hangs up if I try to stay on for five hours, and it's going to take nine hours to download some Perl package... but that's not an interesting anecdote.

All right, so what is Houdini the Handcuff King? It is a nice little comic full of life lessons about public relations. And the importance of working with people you trust. I'd let a juvenile read it for the educational value. Imagine: before we had cable television, people would wait around for an hour to watch a guy in handcuffs jump into a river and swim back up to the surface.

Of course, since I only have dialup access, it would probably take me four hours to download a 30 second YouTube video of some handcuffed weirdo jumping into a river.

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Book Report: Malcolm X

Here I sit in a dark train somewhere in the vicinity of Menlo Park. The train is dark and stopped. An alarm bell rings constantly. We have stopped because we hit a car. At first, this was a sad scary thing to have done--until we heard that there wasn't anyone in the car. Now we sit and wait for a tow truck to tug away the car, wait for track inspectors to give us the all-clear to move forward again. I suppose I'll get home tonight, but not as early as I'd hoped. I'm learning to ignore the bell. I could try to convince you that this was a major ordeal, but I don't think you'd believe me, nor should you. I've had an easy life. Not like Malcolm X. I read a comic book about him.

It's a comic book biography by Andrew Helfer and Randy deBurke. It's pretty good. I'd read a couple of not-so-interesting short biographies of Malcolm X. So I decided that his life was not-so-interesting. I picked up this comic because it had pretty art. And I read it. And it was interesting. So maybe I should read a longer biography.

The short biographies I'd read glossed over X's criminal years. But even then, there were signs of charisma, of creativity. The comic book is a good way to show the people who appear only at scattered times across a life--though I might not remember the name, I remember the face.

[10:15pm update: the train is moving again, limping along towards civilization. I'll get home eventually. Maybe it's a good thing I won't get much sleep tonight. Tomorrow is BANG 17, and if my team were to win that, we'd have to host a BANG ourselves. Maybe I can arrange to doze off halfway through, forcing my team to drag me through the streets of Berkeley...]

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Link: We have Metonymy and They Are Ours

The Brain Fist webcomic is often funny.

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Book Report: Super Market

This comic book has fun art: cityscapes, curlicue clouds, silly signs. I bought this comic because its writer, Brian Wood, has written some good things. But in this comic, I didn't like the plot, the characters, ... I liked the ciy, though. Pretty art and a good city. Sometimes that's enough.

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Book Report: American-Born Chinese

[I'm testing out a new anti-spam tool. In theory, I haven't told it to actually discard any mail yet. So in theory you shouldn't see a difference. But mistakes can happen. So if you send me something and I don't respond for a few days, you might try contacting me by other means to ask if I received the email.]

Your culture is part of who you are. It's good to be comfortable with who you are. If you try to deny your culture to better fit in with the whitebread community you've moved into, you put yourself in...

Does the above sound familiar to you from the 20 bazillion books you've already read about about the Immigrant Experience? If not, you'll probably like the comic book American Born Chinese plenty. It's well-done, and it has a subplot involving the Monkey King. Comic books about the Monkey King are awesome.

Still, I've read a few too many stories about people coming to terms with their... What, sorry? My mind wandered there. I just have a hard time concentrating when the topic is yet another story about.... wh- what?

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Book Report: The Books of Magic

[I'm upgrading to a new Blogging service ( I wouldn't be surprised if that means that a bunch of my old articles show up as "new" in your feed reader. Or if it results in other little tweaks. Please do not be alarmed. Or don't be alarmed about this blog. Or, uhm, anyhow, on with the show...]

In the comic book The Books of Magic we find out that a young boy is prophecied to grow up into the most powerful wizard in the universZzzzzzz. Wh- what? Sorry, I dozed off there. Fanboy power fantasies do that to me. We get a tour of magical traditions of past cultures--a picture showing something Egyptian, something Greek, something Zzz. Sorry, I dozed off again. Maybe I'd want a high-level survey of different cultures' magic if I hadn't already read plenty of this crap years ago. There's a visit to Faerie. Remember, kids, there is a positive correlation between the number of elves in a book/movie/comic/whatever and its level of crappiness. This comic also features magicians from the DC universe. Here, maybe I could have learned something. I don't know much about the magicians of the DC universe. On the basis of this comic's depiction of them, I have decided: I wasn't missing much.

[2007 update: turned off commenting on this item; it's apparently a magnet for spammers]

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Book Report: Making Comics

To me, this was a fun but useless book.

This book is by Scott McCloud, the same guy who wrote Understanding Comics. I found UC useful even though I didn't find myself confused by comics--it talked about art and ways of directing the viewers' attention. I found it useful for guiding thoughts about diagrams and page layout--coming at the topic from a strange angle.

Making Comics doesn't talk so much about the layouts. It talks a lot about character--picking personalities for fictional characters, drawing them to illustrate personality. This is amusing reading as far as it goes, but doesn't help me with my life. I don't write fiction, so I'm not trying to make up interesting characters. The diagrams I draw don't feature humans--I don't think I'd gain anything by anthropomorphizing a computer revision control system--so the advice on life drawing does NOT help me.

Well, maybe I'm overstating the situation. I guess I did some character design on Saturday, when I went to a pumpkin-carving party.

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Book Report: Samurai Detective #1

Style versus substance, style versus substance. Last night, I didn't sleep well. Last night, I saw a vacation slide show. It was by Nat C., who had been in a shipwreck. She'd been helping to sail a sailboat from Hawai'i to San Francisco. A sperm whale rammed the sailboat. The crew had to flee the sailboat, pile into a little life raft. They were rescued, but it was a near thing. Nat didn't panic during the shipwreck and she didn't panic as she gave her slideshow. Her delivery was calm, even. She didn't point out the scary stuff. Look, here's a photo, taken from the liferaft, a photo of the sailboat mostly under water. She didn't point out: there's nothing else in the photo: no land in the background, no other ships, no planes, just water water water water out to the horizon. But you couldn't help but notice. That image affected me strongly. I didn't want to go to sleep--what if I saw that image in my dreams?

"Samurai Detective", on the other hand, is all about style. This comic book is a sort of samurai noir in which our hero walks mean streets and slices up bad guys with a katana and wakizashi. It looks like a black-and-white movie. In the comic store, I flipped through the first couple of pages, chuckling to see a samurai story narrated in hard-boiled style. Upon getting home, I noticed that the joke got old after three pages. A pretty comic... but I don't think I'll keep picking it up. The substance, it's not quite there. Then again, if I'd skipped last night's slide show and instead re-read "Samurai Detective", maybe I wouldn't have been such a sleepyhead today.

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Book Report: The Human Dilemma

Concrete is a superhero. He can withstand gunfire, climb mountains, lift cars. But what can he do against global overpopulation? Now he teams up with a pizza company executive in a campaign to convince America's youth to choose childlessness. If you're not familiar with Concrete comics, you might not want to start with "The Human Dilemma". You might want to start with the earlier collection "Depths" instead. But eventually, you'll want to pick up The Human Dilemma, because it is awesome.

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Book Report: The Squirrel Mother

Well, after those relatively content-free photo posts, I'm sure you're glad to see I'm returning to my mainstay: informative and insightful Book Reports. Here is my Book Report on The Squirrel Mother:

I didn't understand these Megan Kelso comics.

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Book Report: Girl Genius vol 4 (Agatha Heterodyne and the Circus of Dreams)

Tonight is Sleater-Kinney's last concert before they "go on indefinite hiatus." I tried to get tickets, didn't try hard enough. But you know, it's not the end of the world. Each of the Sleaterians may go on to do great things in other contexts. Pancakes still taste good. There are still great comic books coming out, comic books like Girl Genius.

You must buy this comic. Why? Because it contains the line of dialog, "None of that is working! I'm releasing my poisonous sky worms!" And that's one of the good guys. It's all mad science, all the time across an alternate history Europe in a post-war... Oh, why am I trying to explain this when they have a perfectly good Girl Genius website? This comic continues to be awesome.

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Book Report: Little Star

It's a family drama about new parents making tough choices between family life and career. Ah, it's OK. It has pretty Andi Watson art, which helps a lot.

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Book Report: Fun Home

If my earlier snarky, whiny post about folks organizing a multi-day puzzle hunt in New Zealand made you think, "Ordinarily, this is just the kind of thing that would interest me, but Larry has talked me out of it," go look again. I posted some recently-arrived-mail from the organizers in which they give some clarification (and gently point out that I am the only person who can't solve their application puzzle :-).

Speaking of snarky, whiny posts:

There is a problem with autobiographical comics. I doubt that I am the first person to point out this problem. The problem is this: Given the list of possible topics for a comic book, the life story of a cartoonist is one of the less interesting. Alison Bechdel is good. Dykes to Watch Out For is a good comic. It is rollicking, packed to the rafters, an addictive soap... None of the characters in that comic is a cartoonist. Alison Bechdel's autobio comic Fun Home, on the other hand, drags. I dodged a lot of Alterative Comic Artist Autobiographies that were stinking up the place several years ago, so I guess I've been lucky overall.

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Link: Fire Sings

Beauty is where you find it... or make it.

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Book Report: Robotika #1

This comic book makes no sense, but it's so pretty that you don't mind. Huge swaths of black, good lines suggesting graceful motion. OK, it depicts a future world in which cyborgs fight by means of katana. And that's pretty silly. But the pictures are sooo pretty. I'll keep picking this comic up.

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Book Report: Cravan

In honor of Wondercon (which I'm not attending (yes, I am lame)), a comic book review:

How often do you finish reading a comic book and think, "I wish there was a bibliography."? Arthur Cravan was a dada artist (except, of course, that there was no art, there was only dada). He lived under a variety of assumed names. He boxed. He moved around. This comic book, out recently from Dark Horse, is a biography. According to this comic, Cravan was also an art thief, a smuggler, a brawler, and perhaps wrote the Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

How much of this should I believe? How can I learn more? I tried searching the UC Berkeley library catalog, and found one Cravan biography--in French. The only French I know is tourist stuff, so I won't be able to understand that biography except when it talks about train timetables. I read an interview between V. Vale and some zinester named Dean living in Prague who wrote about Cravan. That has fewer details, but has some reading recommendations:

It's hard to find information in English on Cravan, although he's described quite well in Robert Motherwell's The Dadaist Painters and Poets. The best description, by the art critic Roger Conover, is in Four Dada Suicides.

I guess I need to read more books.

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Book Report: Polly and the Pirates #1

In this comic by Ted Naifeh, a girl is kidnapped from a boarding school to become a pirate queen aboard the Titania. This comic shows promise: all it needs now are monkeys, ninjas, and robots.

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Book Report: The Super-Scary Monster Show Featuring Little Gloomy #2

Earlier, I complained about the way the black areas in this comic had been filled in. I rectract that complaint now. They're doing some interesting thing with textures and hatches, and it's growing on me. And I still like the writing. I just can't stay mad at Little Gloomy.

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Book Report: the Girl Who Talked

The other day I picked up a handful of mini-comics by Daniel Merlin Godfrey. "The Girl Who Talked" was my favorite, but they were all good. "The Girl Who Talked" is an interview with a girl who was raised by "lifestyle mimes"--people who refuse to use language. Yay, high concept stuff, black and white art with huge fields of black, what more could you want? "The Last Sane Cowboy" was pretty good, too. It's a surreal comic, a story in which anything can happen. And yet the story hangs together well, even if it's all about a town in which everyone is crazy and giant scorpions talk to you.

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Book Report: Sixgun Samurai #1

Once upon a time in old St Louis, a kid walks into a bar and starts waving around a katana. Just when you hope that this comic would descend into a blood-soaked massacre, a priest calms the kid down with some sensible talk. But I have high hopes for the future of this comic, high hopes indeed.

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Book Report: Rex Libris #1 "I, Librarian"

Oh, "Rex Libris" is a a comic book about a librarian, this sounds interesting. Oh, he's a time-traveling librarian. Oh dear. He's a time-traveling librarian who can withstand a vacuum and has superpowers and... yawn. Whatever.

I think I'll go re-read Jason Shiga's Bookhunter. Now there's a good comic about fanciful high-adventure library hijinx.

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Book Report: the Super-Scary Monster Show (featuring Little Gloomy) #1

Walker and Jones continue to explore the cute/horiffic world of Little Gloomy. I liked the stories in this issue. I liked some of the art. I think they need to find someone to fill in their blacks, though. A lot of the art in this issue was insufficiently gloomy for my taste.

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Book Report: Smoke and Guns

Women in short skirts fire guns at each other. But it works. When does the movie come out?

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Book Report: Me and What Army

This collection of short storylets by Michael Van Vleet was nice. Loosely-related stories about hypothetical armies. Zombie soldiers, shifting sands.

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Book Report: Y the Last Man / Ring of Truth

This collects comic books 24-31 of "Y the Last Man". The tail end of this story arc is in San Francisco. And it asks me to believe that our heroes successfully follow an evasive ninja through the Presidio. In the rain. The comic doesn't do this explicitly. In one scene, our heroes run through an urban neighborhood. In the next, they're on the Golden Gate Bridge. If you don't live in this town, you might not know that there's this big former army base full of trees around the bridge. Yeah, good luck tracking a ninja through all that. Even if she is carrying a noisy monkey.

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Book Report: Mr. T #1

This comic book shows us a Mr. T who stays concealed in the shadows. Why? If he emerges, then bad men will hurt good citizens so that they can frame Mr. T. But like King Arthur, we know that one day he will emerge from his place of concealment, and on that day will come a reckoning.

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Jason Shiga's site has erupted from inactivity to interactivity. He makes these wonderful interactive comic books, some of which he has translated to web-o-matic form.

Because this blog is more about books than about web stuff, I should point out the delightful not-interactive-but-nevertheless-fun comic Bookhunter. It was awesome!

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Book Report: the Murder of Abraham Lincoln

This is another comic in Rick Geary's series "A Treasury of Victorian Murder". There are probably other places you can learn about John Wilkes Booth's various attempts upon the life and liberty of Abraham Lincoln. But how many of those are wonderfully-drawn comic books in Rick Geary's stipplish style? None, I bet. Thus, if you are into that style, you must love this book.

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Comic Book Shop News

After spending all of yesterday tinkering with the New Zealand travelog, I needed to get out of my apartment today. So I walked to Isotope Comics' new location. I got my fortnightly fix and looked around. The new space has no air hockey table, and does have comfy benches for reading. I could imagine loitering there in comfort.

As I checked out, the ever-debonair proprietor, James Sime, apprised me of upcoming store events.

A band would soon play at the shop. No, really. A band from Japan. No, really. He said that the band, PINE*am, sounded like Kraftwerk as re-interpreted in Japan. On 8/31 they would play at the Rickshaw; on 9/1 they would play at Isotope. I was still re-drawing the boundaries between the pop-culture areas in my brain when he snapped back to comic books.

Isotope's own Kirsten Baldock wrote a comic book, a comic book that will soon hit the stands: Smoke & Guns, about warring gangs of cigarette girls. No, really. When the book is released, the party plan is to go to Jackson Arms and shoot guns. Exact date, when known, to be announced the store web site.

So I'm having one of those I-love-this-town moments, sort of like when I was walking on Haight and saw the sign announcing Banghra Espanol. But you have to watch yourself. I imagined myself smoking clove cigarettes and announcing to no one in particular: "I attend only two shows each year. One must be Sleater-Kinney. And the other must be from Japan." When you surf a wave of culture, you must make sure you don't wipe out and become trapped in a whirlpool of degeneracy. Or something like that.

Still, I made a note to listen to some PINE*am sound clips and maybe show up for the show. And I gratefully accepted a preview showing a few pages of Smoke & Guns. It looks pretty funny, in a violent kind of way. Something to look forward to.

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Book Report: Sacrifice (Age of Bronze collection vol 2)

It's another volume of Eric Shanower's great comic adaptation of the Iliad. Learn the strange story of Telephus. Feel even queasier about the fate of Iphigenia as you put a face to the name. See wonderfully-rendered drawings of people wearing historically accurate funny hats.

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Book Report: Diary of a Mosquito Abatement Man

This comic book by John Porcellino was informative and thought-provoking. The mosquito abatement men walk through nature, learning its beauty. And they slaughter millions of insects along the way. John met interesting people and insects.

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Book Report: The Legend of Grimjack, Volume One

I have been hearing about this comic book for years. It, along with "Sam & Max", were the great comics which I'd never be able to read because their rights were tangled up in legal limbo.

One volume in to the recently reprinted Grimjack, I am liking it fine. It is a good comic. It is not changing my life the way that "Sam & Max" did, but what could? Ostrander the writer says that he set out to write a hard-boiled barbarian book. He succeeded.

This book does not seem that great. I am not yet sure why people were still talking about it years later. Then again, this is just volume one of the collection. The first dozen issues of Cerebus were nothing special, and they were about a hard-bitten barbarian. But that grew into "High Society", so I guess there is hope for the future of this reprint of Grimjack.


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Book Report: Y the Last Man book 4 (Safeword)

It is another collection of "Y the Last Man" comics by Vaughn, Guerra et al.

There is a dumb story arc which uses a brainwashing attempt to give us a glimpse into the mind of the main character. Why do comic book writers think I am so eager to have a glimpse into the mind of the main character? I suspect that comic book writers are introspective and find the insides of their brains fascinating.

There is a good story arc that has a punk rock girl mechanic in it. It gives us glimpses into the minds of the main characters. I am grateful that it did so while those main characters were gallumphing around doing stuff.


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Book Report: Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures

I enjoyed the Bill & Ted movies back when they came out. When Rob Pfile refers to my apartment's cross-street as "Wyld Stanyn", it cracks me up. It cracks me up every time.

I enjoy Evan Dorkin's comics. But I didn't know about those back when the Bill & Ted movies came out.

So I was glad when Amaze Ink printed the "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures", collecting many comics which Dorkin scripted and pencilled. There is the adaptation of Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey. There are a few follow-on comics.

I did not enjoy these comics very much. I am glad that the original proceeds from these paid to put food on Mr Dorkin's table so that he could go on to make comics that I like better.

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