Graphic Novels Reading Rainbow
weird, these are the exact three book I last read.. minus The Complete Wendel. 
ijkay:

oh my godddd ❤❤

weird, these are the exact three book I last read.. minus The Complete Wendel. 

ijkay:

oh my godddd ❤❤

Tale of Sand by Ramón K. Pérez (after a screenplay by Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl). Color by Ian Herring.

Tale of Sand by Ramón K. Pérez (after a screenplay by Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl). Color by Ian Herring.

1. review by Ben.  Sorry .. this ended up being super long!!  I hope someone actually reads it. 

2. Synopsis.  MAJOR SPOILERS:  Tale of Sand tells the story of average guy Mac’s nightmarish run from various kinds of danger in a desert as he tries to find a light for his cigarette.   The graphic novel is based on a never quite completed screenplay and unrealized film project begun by Jim Henson (yes, the Sesame Street / Fraggle Rock guy) in the mid-to-late-1960s along with fellow puppeteer and writer Jerry Juhl.  The foreword to the book describes how at this time Henson was experimenting, creating films with stream-of-consciousness-like narratives — quick cuts between scenes and odd juxtapositions creating a dreamlike flow.  These film projects (including the short film Time Piece, 1965 and hour-long surreal drama The Cube, 1969) explored themes of alienation, with characters out of place or stuck within the modern world, alone in crowds, threatened by industrialization, etc. They are intended to be humorous and absurdist, and Tale of Sand is very much along that line as well.  But Tale of Sand was never completed as a film. Drafts of the screenplay were completed and revised (even into the mid-1970s), but it seems Henson and Juhl left it behind as they became increasingly immersed in other projects like The Muppet Show (by 1976).  Now,  Ramón Pérez has taken up the challenge of making from the screenplay a graphic novel.

It is set in the desert and I liked to think of it sometimes as though we have zoomed in on a Salvadore Dalí painting, able now to see the characters up close.  And it is a story which, as Juhl put it, is about a person who is trapped in a situation and thinks he got out, but he discovers that he didn’t.  Mac finds himself amidst a riotous jazzy party in the streets of a small Western town, where he is inexplicably paraded through the streets on the shoulders of local partygoers.  A first uneasy moment comes when Mac catches a glimpse of the local barber, face in the shadows and wearing an eye-patch, as he realigns his straight razor on a strop. Mac is brought before an Andy Griffith-like (aged to Matlock years) sheriff Tate who gives him a cigarette —- failing to light it —- and a map, with some perhaps-untrustworthy advice on how to follow it and ‘be safe.’  Mac is informed he’ll have a head start and the town cheers him on, drapes his neck with a lei, gives him a giant key and backpack with some useful items presumedly… and screams at him to Run!  (At this point reading it I was thinking it was like the Hunger Games some 40 years earlier, but it ends up being not at all similar thankfully).

Mac starts a frenzied run but soon needs a rest.  A man follows in the distance as Mac tries to light his cigarette and explores the contents of his backpack. Just as Mac lights a match it gets shot from his fingers and he must flee again.  Interestingly, Pérez breaks momentarily from the narrative sequence with some self-referentiality at this point.  He shows Mac scratching his head as he walks by a cup of coffee next to an open manuscript sitting on an outcropping of rock.  A single panel follows, depicting an area of Henson’s script that was crossed out by hand with a giant X mark.  There are a few such moments in the book, which pull the viewer out of the narrative and remind him/her that we are reading an adaptation of a screenplay with some perhaps unresolved areas And these moments of distancing were personally some of my favorites as I read through the book, must because I like to think about Bertolt Brecht’s estrangement-effect and Laura Mulvey’s idea of suture (or ‘de-suture’ if I can call it that). I just really like when a story pulls you back and reminds you it is dealing with multiple levels of media and reality.  

From here the story continues to present you with a sampling of mad scenarios: a landscape of bear traps, cartoon bombs, a near fatal car crash from traffic coming out of thin air, a frightening encounter with a lion before it gets shot by an apparently British colonist/safari-hunter in a Pith helmet, an outhouse that descends elevator-like to a 1940s nightclub and so on.  Mac is continually pursued throughout and he tries to light up his cigarette whenever possible.  At one point he finds an abandoned campfire and leans into it, but his hopes sizzle as Smokey the Bear suddenly douses the flame with a bucket of water. Eventually he finds a blonde in a pink bikini, sunbathing next to a pool. On her lap he sees a full pack of smokes and he asks her for a light, but she reaches into her bag and throws a pie in his face, giggling, before pushing him into the pool where a shark promptly attacks.  A lot of the story proceeds in this nonsensical kind of way — and it doesn’t come across as terribly symbolic or profound unfortunately.  Un Chien Andalou it ain’t.  At least with that (the 1929 short film by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí) you can make the whole thing out to be all code for a guy wanting to be a ‘man’ but really never getting past having to jerk off because women detest him for various reasons, probably because he’s merely a sex-crazed busy-handed wannabe rapist.  This, I’m not too sure…. it’s kind of goofy.   In Un Chien Andalou, moments are a bit more memorable.  The male lead attempts to molest the woman while her breasts and buttocks morph into one-another and his blue-balls-masturbatory-impulses are hinted at by his hand stuck in the door with ants crawling all over his palms and by his having to haul around dead donkeys on a piano (that’s some aching frustration at not getting laid!).  Later his mouth skins over and grows armpit hair and ‘his girl’ mocks him by smearing lipstick generously over her own lips and sticking out her tongue to emphasize his inability to do any such thing (and hinting generally at his impotency in various arenas), before she walks out on him to another studlier man.  Of course they’re (their love) also dead by spring so we can all feel some satisfaction in that.  ….definitely more grotesque, unsettling, and uniquely compelling…an artwork filled with images that are seemingly meaningful and which urge you to interpret them. I realize Tale of Sand is trying to be funny, but a pie in the face and a shark attack in a pool after being mocked by a pretty blonde?  There’s also a moment when his nasty eye-patched pursuer pours a martini out of a cement-mixer, but guess what comes out of the cement mixer when Mac tries to get a drink for himself?  Yep, cement.  Hardly going to shake up middle-class values through shock tactics.

Later in the story Mac is nearly killed by a fat Arab shiekh (who also stole his cigarette), but he is saved at the last minute by the US mounted cavalry — who also return his somewhat bent-up cigarette. The Arabs start to chase Mac but they accidentally bump into a team of American football players, which starts a fight but then they too start chasing Mac.  He ends up in an old saloon, confronted by a chatterbox drunkard named Sven who repeatedly tries to betray Mac to his pursuers.  Eventually Mac escapes upstairs to a prostitute (presumedly the same blonde as before but with a subtly varied appearance).  He has no money, she screams, and he gets captured and is nearly hung before a sheriff has Mac untied. He must face a duel with the eye-patched pursuer.  Mac manages to escape the situation and a dramatic car chase ensues, all ending with the explosion of a nitroglycerine tanker. Will it be enough to stop the pursuit of the eye-patched stalker who wishes to brutally kill Mac? Will Mac ever get to have that delicious smoke he so craves?  How will Mac ever escape this crazy situation, or is there any possibility for escape at all?  You’ll have to read the ending for yourself. But I can tell you it seems to do a little Groundhog Day thing at the end.

3. description.  Pérez has really done an amazingly beautiful job drawing this book.  Though it is set against a desert landscape, the text is far from minimalistic.   You can tell from the description that there is just a ton of stuff going on.  I found myself thinking quite a lot about all the various things Pérez had to draw.  It’s a constantly-changing set of characters and objects with most scenes heavily populated and full of energy, conflict, tons of diagonals and geared-up facial expressions.  Everything about the story is ‘fast.’  It’s a story about running and about the brutal need to get away from something and get TO something.  Pérez has done a great job servicing that story.  Even his drawn, montage-like text for the sound effects adds to the energy.. Pok, Kapow, Snap, BOOM, VROOOM, SPLOOSH, tamp tamp tamp, Mrooar, Chunga Chunga, and so on.  Beyond that there are a number of other sophisticated devices in play including some bleed panels that push you, the viewer, close into Mac’s space and him into yours making it feel all the more immediate. Pérez uses a lot of forced one-point perspective throughout too, which often made me think it would  be well-suited to having been drawn for reading while wearing 3D glasses — a lot of the book projects and penetrates outward toward you and things fly perpendicular to the page at your eye-level.  One of the more obvious examples of this is the military tank splash page with extreme foreshortening everywhere.. it’s fabulous and I spent a long time looking at it.   …If all that weren’t enough, the book has also been exquisitely colored by Ian Herring along with Pérez.   I found myself thinking that if I was teaching an advanced graphic storytelling course I would require students to read this book with their color wheels in hand and figure out just what is going on color-wise.  It’s got a series of fabulous limited palette color schemes set against a lot of white background, meaning usually it’ll be white along with one or two colors…. often compliments or near compliments or maybe analogous or split-compliment, etc. ..he likes pairing cool and warm colors and most every color ends up being muted ever so slightly so yellows become mustards and purples become lavender and so on.  Like I said, it’s complicated and changes from page to page but if you’re thinking about how to do color use this book as a model.   It’s a lush, impressive work of art visually and Pérez is quite a powerhouse.   He also does a beautiful job manipulating text, from the Henson typed script, into backgrounds and negative spaces.  It creates a delightful texture.  A couple pages in particular are to die for (like the scene with Sven in the bar where we see a red silhouette behind Mac with screenplay text all over the page… gorgeous. It is reminiscent of both David Carson (the postmodern graphic designer) and Dave McKean (in Cages)

4. intention. What is the intention of this book (which was supposed to be a movie)?  That’s a very good question.  We know Henson had an interest in the theme of alienation.  But he’s pursuing that theme some 10 to 30 years later than other artists, such as the American Social Realists like Edward Hopper especially.  A number of various other artists were dealing with it since well prior to WWII and it persisted up to someone like George Segal in the 1960s for sure.  Even Pop Art can be seen as discussing alienation in a realist tradition.   Certainly Hopper resonates with Surrealism and certainly Henson is attempting a kind of surrealism here.  But it’s a ‘late’ kind of Surrealism and one that seems somewhat redundant… especially given that Salvadore Dalí was himself still alive in the 1960s doing some Nuclear Mysticism and work anticipating Pop Art and, in any case, you can’t beat Dalí at being a Surrealist, can you?  Or maybe it’s not youthful, derivative work at all simply dismissed at ‘pre-mature Henson before the Fraggle Rock thing’ … no, maybe it *anticipates* something like Terry Gilliam doing The Crimson Permanent Assurance or Brazil  in the 1980s or certainly, far later, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.  That’s a freaky desert story too.   I don’t know… I don’t think I can give it that much credit.

But… this still doesn’t answer the question of intention.  That’s more about style and relevance. Is it a statement about smoking?  The desire for a cigarette seems to be a big part of it, or at least Mac not being able to light it is just a running gag.  …  The desire for cigarettes sets you down a dangerous path fraught with the repetition of that desire and forever deferred fulfillment.  Seems too easy.     What about time and incongruity?  We start out in the ‘old west’ (sorta, it’s a kind of mash-up of the 1930s or 40s and the old west or south west).  All technological or industrial parts of the story are potentially dangerous to Mac… cars, weapons…  but so are animals (the shark, a lion) and so are people (the man following him, the blonde, the Arabs, Sven, the footballers)….and in the end it’s machinery that ends up saving Mac.  He gets away because of the use of a car and nitroglycerine seems to seriously hurt his pursuer.  Other times in the story too people save him rather than hurt him.   Mixed messages… seemingly not very at-odds with the industrialized world.  In the end we find out that Mac’s pursuer actually IS Mac and this revelation causes the pursuer to blow away like sand and a stopwatch to fall to the ground and crack.  Turn the page and we see that the blonde woman was actually Mac as well.  She unzips her body down the middle to reveal a shirtless Mac, ‘causing the ‘real’ Mac to run away in terror —- before it all starts over again with the party in the street, the cigarette (lit this time), and the chase about to begin again.  Why, when he comes face to face with himself in a raw, unmasked form (twice) does he run away?  Is his inability to directly confront his own haunting problems the cause of the nightmarish repetition?     ….

I’m tempted to give it a kind of pyscho-sexual reading as well.  The landscape of the desert being a metaphor for Mac’s own journey toward sexual fulfillment. At the beginning the Andy Griffith sheriff, a fatherly figure, gives Mac tools and knowledge, though admittedly it isn’t perfect as he’s just a father, to enter into his adulthood.  He gives Mac a cigarette but Mac is unable to light it.  The failure to ignite the cigarette represents his immature sexuality and impotency.  Meanwhile, the fatherly sheriff has no trouble lighting his own pipe, which he holds smokily in his mouth as Mac watches ineptly.  But Mac is ready, or he is forced to be ready, and he must venture forth.  All cheer him on as he runs away toward his future.  Mac falters when he sits to try to light the cigarette again by himself (clearly readable as masturbation — smoking itself can be thought of as auto-fellatio if a cigarette can be read as a penis).  His unconscious stalks him in the guise of the eye-patched man and threatens him, forcing Mac to search elsewhere for the ‘light.’ The giant key to the city he is carrying is broken soon afterward by a bear trap, representing the dashing of false hopes or the idea that his journey will be easy and that the world will await him with open arms.   As Mac sleeps he dreams of his eye-patched stalker sharing a romantic evening and champagne with a beautiful blonde woman.  He must find this woman as she can answer his longings, so he would believe.  Upon awakening Mac rushes forward.  But he is thrown into the air by a passing car.  He tries to hitchhike, but cannot get a lift.  Meanwhile, a turtle crosses the busy street unscathed.  Clearly, being over-eager can lead to shooting your wad too soon, take it easy like the turtle.    Mac uses a resource, a stop-sign gifted to him by his father.   This is his advantage in life — his privilege — and a limo does in fact stop for him.  But rather than being greeted with open arms and riches, a devouring lion springs forth and attacks Mac.  Soon the lion destroys the stop-sign, before it is killed by a Britisher in a Pith Helmet, clearly representing a taming down of societal privilege and the exclusion of Mac — he is to take the hard road not easy street.    Just then Mac finds an outhouse — that’s about in his league it would seem: shitty and low.   But even that’s beyond him.  When he opens the door he finds a maître d’ and is forced to peep through a knot-hole onto a scene of glamor with a beautiful female lounge singer.  Of course Mac’s alter-ego, his unconscious, the eye-patched man gets into the club with no problem — but when Mac tries it disappears into the landscape leaving him to walk on.

Mac tries to light his cigarette again (masturbate), but Smokey the Bear comes and literally throws cold water over him. While gripping onto a phallic telescope Mac sees a man in the distance running at top speed, carrying with a pick a large block of ice as it rapidly melts.  He brings it to the blonde by the pool and drops it into her glass (of wine).  Mac has chased along too, arriving at the bikini-clad blonde. … The block of ice is interesting.   It could be seen as a substitute for the cold bucket of water that doused Mac’s sexual urges —- those now being taken up and rushed to the blonde. She immediately brings the compacted block of id to her lips and consumes it, making her the carrier of sexual power.  Mac sees a pack of cigarettes lying on her upper thigh, approximately upon her genitals.  The back is torn open and two cigarettes emerge slightly, suggesting the arousal of her clitoris.  Mac pulls out his own cigarette, holds it erect and boldly asks the beautiful woman for a light.  She instead pelts him in the face with a pie, substituting for the much hoped-for ‘cum shot’ on her face Mac would love to see.  His cigarette gets bent and she laughs at him mockingly, rejecting him outrightly by pushing him into the pool where a shark comes and attacks him — the shark being Mac’s own self-loathing at his profound inadequacy.  Mac loses part of his shoe in the battle with the shark, suggesting the road forward will become even more difficult to walk for Mac.

Meanwhile, the pretty blonde phones Mac’s eye-patched stalker, as he stands in overly large pants that suggest an extremely superior erection ability over Mac himself.  The eye-patched man walks away, supporting himself on an umbrella or third leg, obviously another reference to a gigantic dragging penis.  He celebrates himself, as does all of the modern world at its most advanced, by allowing a cement mixer to pour him a martini complete with green olive.  But when Mac tries to get his own drink from the well of good fortune, it poops out a huge glob of cement leaving Mac wading in it.  He has to clean his feet as a party of wealthy golfers come by to play through.  It’s an elderly bunch of ladies sporting Victorian-style dresses.  They say, “that young man has found your golf ball” … “…that was very sweet of you. We’ve been looking for Clara’s ball for ever so long” and the woman, Margery, leaves Mac with an emergency whistle.   This is the gift of matriarchy, of his mother.  She too, like the fatherly figure of the sheriff has given him some tools to move forward in life if would seem.  And the fact that he has ‘found her ball’ suggests this: that Mac feels rewarded by his mother after the prospect of her sexual gratification, caused by himself.  Mac moves forward into strange territory populated by odd animals (all of them are phallic: turtle with a huge vertical jutting shell, wolf howling with face pointing upward, various column-like rock formations, a snake, birds with wings upward, and a couple prairie dogs — one of them distinctly shaped like a cock and balls which sits on a triangular or vaginal formation of rock) and an hourglass and hands of the clock with a bulbous spade as a hand. 

Mac finds an old record player which materializes physically objects referred to by its sounds — so a stampede record brings forth a bunch of bleating oxen and the ‘explosions’ record conjures the eye-patched stalker as he drives a WWII tank.  It don’t get much more phallic than a tank… it’s the ultimate penis extension, and that dramatic splash page juts the phallus forward right into the space of the viewer, meanwhile knocking Mac down and causing him to raise him arm up in a terrorized desperate attempt to ward off the threat.  Then, it explodes, throwing Mac violently through the air.  If we needed anything to reinforce the idea that Mac is relatively inadequate but that he has a lot of pent up urges, then there you go.  Wet dreams ‘r’ us.

Following on, Mac is captured by the Arabs, the fat shiekh sitting on a bed of pillows in his harem while two beauties fan him with large feathers, the kind you might tickle someone with during a sex game in bed.  He grins and steals Mac’s cigarette, and after a panel of him sensually bringing the tip to his lips, he starts to smoke it.  Mac looks at first very surprised (this would be his penis afterall) and then he punches the shiekh in the gut in a very macho way, causing the cigarette to burst from his mouth —- Mac catches it in midair, regaining possession of his manhood.  But the shiekh, it seems, will not take no for an answer.  Mac is tied with ropes all over his body and hung upsidedown on one side of an enormous ‘scale’ contraption, balanced on the other side by the fat shiekh, sat spread-eagle on a comfy chair as he smokes at Mac’s cigarette (masturbates excitedly or performs fellatio on Mac) before a large crowd.  He forces Mac to watch him as he sucks greedily on Mac’s cigarette and lights it a few times.  Above Mac is a bucket, into which the crowd can throw in rocks.  Mac’s side will become heavier, causing him to gradually lower into the deadline machine that has been placed under him.  It has a series of knives and blades and will turn Mac into hamburger. This is all, presumedly, unless Mac submits willingly to the shiekh, which is to enter into homosexuality.  Mac uses the tool given to him by his mother, the emergency whistle and escapes (thus reaffirming his own robust heterosexuality).  In comes the cavalry, a bunch of John Wayne-type horse-riders with guns and swords who stand very erect and clearly don’t swing both ways.   They attempt to massacre the decadent and perverted Arabs.  Their general gives Mac back his cigarette, and Mac smiles goonishly, stands up, tucks the cigarette back into his shift pocket to conceal it, and begins to run again.     After Mac leaves the scene, we hear a director calling “CUT” and find out this has all been a movie set.  The phallic set pieces start getting hauled away and packed up into a truck.  The cavalry and Arabs relax, one lights a cigar, and what we at-first assumed to be a beautiful harem girl turns out to be a man in drag.  He, still wearing the belly-dance costume, smiling coquettishly, puts her arm around the ‘director’ (who strongly resembles Henson).  The in drag character pulls out a wad of hundred-dollar bills from between his ‘breasts’ and hands it to the director.  It’s a puzzling moment… suggesting prostitution.  But when you notice that the gender-bending character is the eye-patched stalker, it would seem to indicate perhaps a lingering bisexuality or homosexuality, that Mac’s id was fundamentally grateful for an overtly homosexual experience and willing to have paid for it.

Some of the Arabs apparently don’t realize this was all a movie set, and they continue to chase Mac. But they tumble into an American football team. Homosexuality versus Heterosexuality. It becomes an all-out battle.  Mac watches, aghast at the chaos, and finally gives them all pause by finding a light-switch on the landscape and flicking it on and off a few times — causing everything to go dark and allowing Mac to escape.  The ‘teams’ search for him angrily.  Which one will take him as captive?   He flees to a ghost town and enters into a decrepit saloon.  This is where he meets the talkative and untrustworthy Mernly, who calls himself Sven.  Our first glimpse of sven is him chugging a bottle of alcohol with pinkie extended upward in the air, clearly a ‘gay’ way to drink in a very manly bar.  He also wears a kerchief and tasseled vest — which I suppose could be read either way in a Western. The text-heavy montage follows and the bold, enlarged words on it read somewhat suggestively: “I tried to get him .. men are drifters .. throat like a greased snake .. the back is stocked” etc. as Sven apparently recalls a salesman from Vancouver he knew and a Winnebago trip with him.  Mac looks uneasy.  On the front of things the footballers and Arabs are chasing him and Mac needs Sven to be quiet.   Sven offers to hide Mac and he leads him into a hiding area he describes as a place he has used many times himself — clearly a kind of closet. …obviously an important space in Queer Theory.  Sven tells Mac to go ahead and get in the closet.  …And as Mac starts to go in he says, “Don’t tell them about this!” Sven reassures him he won’t blab, but of course immediately upon seeing the two teams burst into the saloon Sven says ‘He’s in there.” 


Turns out it wasn’t a closet at all, but a hopping Western bar with a dancing girl and various prostitutes milling about.  Mac tries to blend into the crowd, but soon leaves, going back out to Sven.  Sven starts talking about what ‘smart guys’ he thinks Arabs are, and how he never liked football players much — expect for one football player who he describes as an Arab, called “Abut Ben Tittle” with the word “Bent” right in the name.  The teams pursue Mac again as he once again goes into the closet/bar. Soon a huge bar fight breaks out after Mac tackles an Arab, causing sufficient distraction for him to slink away.  Sven greets him again, discussing Bernie O’Brien, who was imprisoned over obscenity charges related to postcards, the question being whether they were ‘pornography’ or ‘art.’ Sven, of course, agreed with Bernie that they were ‘art.‘  …and the Mapplethorpe case hadn’t even happened yet when Henson was writing this!  Oh boy.

Mac finds his way into a prostitutes (the blonde woman again) boudoir upstairs.  She says from behind a screen, “I wasn’t expecting you.”  Mac has his knife out, apparently ready to use it on her.  She strokes the tip of it before taking it away from him.  Then, no sex, but instead she threatens to betray his whereabouts to the ‘teams’ unless he pays her off.  But since Mac only has six dollars, she screams.  In burst the two teams, onto a spalsh page with Mac struggling with the blonde on the ground on a hairy rug, he between her spread legs as though he is raping her.  This guy just can’t get it right.. He can’t seem to get himself off, he’s straight but impotent, he’s gay but not so sure, he’s just trying to get away and figure it all out and maybe go into the closet but he gets mistaken for a rapist.  So, turn the page, he’s on a horse with a rope around his neck about to be hung for his crimes.  I don’t think it’s auto-erotic asphyxiation related.  Society has condemned Mac.  Everyone on all teams wants to see this guy hang.. he just can’t fit in anywhere.  He’s a complete sexual deviant.    But, along comes another sheriff who announces, “…you can’t lynch a man just because he’s a low, yellow-bellied cheatin’, thievin’ rapist!”  Oddly accepting attitude for the psychoanalytical and legal institutions in an old-western setting.  But this character of the sheriff is Mac himself… at his most primitively sexual (the guy looks like a hog on the rut).  This is suggested subtly in the drawings on the page.  The sheriff’s face strongly resemble’s Mac’s own.  His eyebrows are near identical, his mustache his echoed in a shadow on Mac’s face, Mac’s hair and cowlick flip upward at the same angle as the Sheriff’s cowboy hat, his stubble reappears identically on Mac, etc.  So it’s Mac granting himself another chance.  He’s got to face his unconscious.  In comes the eye-patched stalker for a duel. 

The stalker holds his gun very erect and polishes it to a gleam as Mac hesitantly fumbles his gun as it limply droops down.  The duelists face one-another.  Unbeknownst to Mac a squadron of snipers and machine-gunners lie on a rooftop with him in their sights.  Mac draws and fires, but his gun is merely a cap gun, ‘pop pop pop.’ Completely ineffectual, the eye-patched stalker giggles. He shoots, so do the snipers, and Mac somehow manages to jump away from the barrage of bullets. He runs back into the saloon for another encounter with Sven…. who tells him of a bicycle that might aid his escape… and off he goes.  Mac soon comes across a car dealership where he manages to buy a pathetically rusted car for six dollars.   He’s back to how he started this journey: poor, unprivileged, degraded.  Up comes his pursuers — both teams along with the blonde and eye-patched stalker.  They’re all rich apparently, easily able to buy luxury cars which they use to chase after Mac.  The blonde and the eye-patched stalker cuddle up gleefully in their Rolls Royce.    Mac drives over a snake just before his engine bangs with an explosion and catches on fire.  Mac leans out of the car to try to light his cigarette on the flaming hood of the car.  But it seems to not light and disappears back into this shirt presumedly.  Soon, he drives over a cliff leaving his car a rubble heap.

Meanwhile, the eye-patched stalker has cut off all other pursuers and has dropped off the blonde as well.  He goes on alone, driving over the cliff as well.  Like a dandy Mary Poppins he glides through the air to safety using his umbrella as a parachute. Mac steals a nitroglycerine truck, the eye-patched stalker steals a firetruck.  All the other pursuers are back now as well.  Mac crashes his truck into a pond where a hippopotamus is bathing.  Somehow or another Mac is going to get his massive, long overdue explosion and when it happens the eye-patched stalker will be there with his firetruck to help cool things down.  Mac’s primal urges are on overdrive and now it’s up to the eye-patched stalker to regulate matters. BOOM!  The only survivor to emerge from the explosion is old one-eye.  He stumbles, he’s barely made it. Mac looks calm now. He’s shot his wad. He’s not in need any longer of a sublimating force, so the one-eyed man blows away in the wind (back down into Mac’s subconscious).  Next time Mac needs to get his rocks off he’ll come back up.  He’s a balancing force for Mac’s sexuality, regulating his tastes and keeping him somewhat in line so he doesn’t do anything too crazy.

But we’re left wondering… how exactly did Mac achieve his orgasm?   Up walks the blonde, through the blaze.  Was she real afterall, did he actually have sex?  As she unzips her skin and reveals she was Mac along we have our answer.  Mac’s beauty was all a fantasy, himself all along — so it was masturbation that did it.  The second panel of this page also suggests so, her arm and hand are inexplicably drenched and dripping liquid.   Mac finds it difficult to confront himself and prefers to cling to the fantasy, so he runs away from the reality of it.  His shoes miraculously heal up.  He’s ready to take the journey again.  We turn the page and the party starts over once again. Mac pulls out the cigarette from his pocket and easily manages to find a light this time.  He’s an old hand, no pun intended, at this game now and easily able to smoke his own cigarette this time around.    …. 

5 & 6. strengths & weaknesses.  I have written way too much already.

7. recommendation.  I’d recommend this book to students interested in color.  I’d recommend it to anyone who likes Surrealism and who wants to play around with figuring out what a story might mean.  It ended up being a surprisingly satisfying and weirdly meaningful book for me.  Initially I had no idea what it might be about.. now I think it’s about jerking off. That’s a great topic, especially from Jim Henson. 

8. other books.  Ramón Pérez’s biography at the end of this book reveals that he has worked for Archaia, Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Owl Kids, Scholastic Canada, McClelland & Stewart, Lucasarts, Epitome Pictures, Hasbro, Wizards of the Coast, Clorox, Palladium, etc. … doing covers for various comics and work on RPG games as well as children’s books and ad work, etc.  Check out his independent work Butternutsquash and Kukuburi.  He’s a talented guy and I’d love to see more graphic novels from him. 

9. rating.  4/5 stars.  It’s very good but not terribly enjoyable to read and at first glance it seems pretty goofy and silly.  Even thinking about it more deeply didn’t make the story altogether more excellent for me.  Pérez’s artwork is the definite highlight of this book. 

akshullycomix:

Deadly Nightshade
-Probably going to give this some color but for now here is the black and white version which I think is also nice. 

akshullycomix:

Deadly Nightshade

-Probably going to give this some color but for now here is the black and white version which I think is also nice. 

…..with a little throwback to Comic Book Holocaust in there (panel 8), gotta love that.  
rootfish:

Johnny Ryan’s take on the Jersey Shore.

…..with a little throwback to Comic Book Holocaust in there (panel 8), gotta love that.  

rootfish:

Johnny Ryan’s take on the Jersey Shore.

akshullycomix:

The poison master has a difficult time getting place to place, with a steed who must sniff the butts of wandering animals.

akshullycomix:

The poison master has a difficult time getting place to place, with a steed who must sniff the butts of wandering animals.

Goliath by Tom Gauld

1. Ben

2. synopsis.  This graphic novel gives readers a new perspective on the Biblical story of David and Goliath.  First, here’s the traditional story in a nutshell as best I can make it out, and then I’ll explain how the Tom Gauld story departs from it: 

Here’s the traditional story in a nutshell: The story (from 1 Samuel, chapter 17) recounts the battle Saul / the Israelites versus the Philistines at the Valley of Elah. The Philistines were a people who ruled the five city states of Gaza, Askelon, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gath (that’s where Goliath was from) and are portrayed in the bible as Israel’s worst enemy.  The Israelites and the Philistines had been in almost perpetual war for some time.  In order to bring an end to the dragging conflict the Philistines came up with the idea of deciding a victor by single combat.  They send, to defeat the Israelites once and for all, their large champion Goliath.  He challenges the Israelites, calling to them from between the lines twice a day for forty days.  King Saul of the Israelites is too afraid to go fight by himself, as are all the other Israelites.  Finally, David, a youthful warrior and armor-bearer to King Saul, volunteers for the task of taking on Goliath. (Saul had previously been dissed by God and is suffering the torment of an evil spirit sent by God. It’s understood that as of now God has ‘chosen’ David to be a great man, at the expense of Saul).  Saul offers David his armor but David goes into battle with only his sling and five stones.  Goliath is fully armored and gigantic, but David approaches him confidently, speaking to Goliath about how he will strike him down with God’s help (and also threatens to feed dead Philistines to the birds and wild animals).  David’s first flung stone smacks Goliath, improbably, in the forehead, knocking Goliath out.  David takes his enemy’s sword and cuts off the head of Goliath with it, taking its dripping contents with him to prove he killed the Giant. The Philistines have lost and they promptly begin to flee in terror from the Israelites.  

And, fyi, since you hardly hear anything about the rest of David’s life at least in art history classes where it seems to be confined to sculptures of David in the ‘Goliath years’ —— after the ‘fight’ David goes on to command Saul’s armies.  David marries Saul’s daughter Michal as a reward for bringing Saul over 200 foreskins from Philistine men.  There is a great book by Christopher Reed called “Art and Homosexuality: A History of Ideas” where he interprets Donatello’s David bronze sculpture as reflective of the erotic subtext of the David and Goliath story.  Reed discusses the Greek idea, which had rematerialized in the Renaissance, related to older-male mentoring programs of male youths, that somehow a man could become vulnerable and overpowered by their youth’s beauty, causing them to give into their baser desires.  David’s unexpected power over his older, larger, manlier opponent can be seen as a kind of seduction.  Reed interestingly too makes a note of the biblical emphasis on David’s youthful beauty and uses the gift of a plentitude of foreskins to buttress his sexualized reading of the story.  Speculating on Donatello’s (homo)sexuality, Reed points out the pubescent beauty of Donatello’s David and the long feather from Goliath’s helmet (at his feet on the decapitated head) creeping up his inner thigh.   In any case, back to David’s life: eventually Saul feels threatened by David’s power so David goes into hiding… eventually Saul and his heir are killed and David becomes King of Israel and the Jews.  Eventually David commits adultery with Bathsheba and tries to cover it up by bringing her husband (Uriah) back to town, though he’s in the midst of battle.  Uriah refuses to leave his men, so David conspires to have him killed on the battlefield.  David marries Bathsheba.  For all this God is not happy and he ends up punishing David by promising that someone else will sleep with his wife and that his child son will die (and later another son is killed as well).  By the end of his life David snubs his son for the throne in favor of Bathsheba’s son Solomon.  Solomon proceeds to kill off David’s enemies upon his ascendancy to the throne.  In the Jewish tradition it is written that a direct human descendant of David will emerge and be the Messiah.

Gauld’s interpretation of the story: ****** MAJOR SPOILERS ***** The Gauld ‘take’ on the David and Goliath story is an interesting one.  It tells the story by focusing on Goliath rather than David.   That’s a significant departure from any artworks dealing with this story of which I am aware, making it noteworthy just for that.  But that would not be enough to make it necessarily interesting or much worthwhile, so it is a good thing that Gauld manages to not only shift the POV to Goliath but also give us an interesting and thought-provoking result.  The best part of it probably is how much we are able to get to know Goliath.  He seems so faceless in the biblical account — just a big bad threatening killing machine as one-dimensional as something you’d get from a Frank Miller story.  Gauld fleshes him out.. casts him as a scribe or administrator happy to be doing his paperwork at his desk, and turns him into a sympathetic character — a pawn of the Philistine king and a clever captain.  Gauld’s Goliath is being used by the Philistine army, and when he first sees the message he is to read to the Israelites (“I am Goliath of Gath, Champion of the Philistines. I challenge you: Choose a man, let him come to me that we may fight….”) Goliath passes out.  His armor is only ceremonial and he has no experience in battle whatsoever.   It does make you wonder why the Philistine’s wouldn’t rather send a real warrior instead, just in case… but Gauld writes it as though it’s Goliath’s job to be a big scary presence, which will be enough to send the Israelites running.  For a while it seems to work… Goliath goes out repeatedly in the story, morning and night over many days, and says his lines across the lines of battle.  No one comes.  We never see the Israelite camp whatsoever, but we assume they are scratching their heads or pissing themselves. Gauld also gives Goliath a spear-bearer /shield-bearer, armor-bearer (assistant to Goliath) of his own — so that rather than having Goliath alone all the time he has someone to talk with.  It allows us to get to know Goliath that much more, and we find out he’s simple, quiet, and amazed at the stories people have been telling about him and his scary badass self, when in fact he’s just a regular guy.  After a while Goliath gets pretty disillusioned with his duties, believes nothing is going to happen, and contemplates running away.. it’s boring work. But soon enough David shows up, a small silhouette on the horizon with sling hanging down.  It’s a misty day and at first he thinks the figure is his shield-bearer and he gives him a friendly wave.  Soon he realizes it is someone else.  It is a great moment in the story, because we’re shown fragments of David’s threatening speech to Goliath, but it’s clear that Goliath can’t really hear him.  He’s trying to listen, and his shield bearer is talking to him too.. it’s chaotic for a second.  Just when Goliath realizes what David must be talking about (coming to kill him) he says “Oh.” and there is a long horizontal panel with Goliath standing clearly not in any way engaged in battle, with David on the far right of the panel, shown small and already having launched his stone.  The stone is flying through the air, approximately halfway between them.  The next page is a ‘splash page’ with just a simple drawing of the stone.  You turn the page and next panel is “thunk,” Goliath smacked in the forehead.  He falls.  David takes the sword of Goliath and cuts off his head.  Goliath’s shield-bearer flees as David hauls back Goliath’s head in a sack.

3. description.  Gauld’s artwork is minimalistic, characters in highly simplified shapes resembling John Porcellino’s drawings from King-Kat Classix. Goliath himself vaguely resembles the shaggy self-portraiture of Jeffrey Brown — balding, awkward, hairs sticking out in a bad beard, etc. Backgrounds and other details are nearly non-existent.  We are given bare-bones environments and landscapes and stripped-down depictions of our cast of characters.  It makes the book very much like watching a stage play, one with just a few actors and very little in the way of props.  Gauld uses a white, brown, and black palette with regularized linework (contours and some hatching and cross-hatching in more or less the same weight throughout).  Most of the time backgrounds are pure white, characters brown shapes with linework on top.  When it is ‘night’ or ‘foggy’ in the story, backgrounds change to brown or black and immerse the brown/black characters.  It’s a great ‘look’ and extremely beautiful.  I like that it doesn’t look like what you’d typically expect to see in a contemporary illustrated bible story —- overblown fantastic imagery usually or something clearly aimed at getting kids excited, something you’d see in your church and feel a bit of a tummy-ache after leafing through it… bad bad bad.  It’s good that Crumb (with Book of Genesis) opened the door for graphic novels to ‘deal with’ religious stories in smart ways, and to use them to make statements that have relevance today.  Gauld finds a good style to voice his ideas.

4. intention.  You have to start wondering about what Gauld is up to here, showing the story from Goliath’s point of view and making Goliath a victim of the not-very-heroic-looking David.  Goliath is just a regular guy who is used by his people and who gets senselessly killed in this story, and David comes across as ‘business as usual’ I guess.  He gets the job done and heads home, expressionless throughout.  It’s like he’s dragging a bag of laundry and not a head, or like he’s run an errand to the supermarket and now he’s heading back home after a boring day.  Is it relevant that Tom Gauld is Scottish and lives in London and that he has since 2005, as it says at the end of the book, created a weekly cartoon for the Guardian newspaper?  I’m not entirely sure…   but it’s a story that makes me think about our current Iran and Israel conflict.  We have the disconcerting situation of Iran’s nuclear program that many fear is an attempt for them to establish themselves with nuclear weapons.  On the other side, Israel is debating options for a first-strike.  Some are talking about how diplomacy isn’t working, saying it’s Iran’s last chance and so on.  It’s a mess, a ‘crisis,’ and like the Philistine and Israelite conflict, seemingly ever-ongoing, leading to a never-ending back and forth of argument and military exchanges at an ever-escalating pace.  Most people are sympathetic to Israel for sure today, and find Iran’s behavior appalling and terrifying.  Yet, it’s equally terrifying and problematic for Israel to be talking about a pre-emptive strike on Iran.  This could further destabilize the area, it could radicalize the Iranians further, and it could suck America into yet another conflict that may have been resolved through diplomacy or other means.  So what does it mean to come out with a story like Goliath in this climate?  To portray Goliath as the sympathetic victim at the hands of Israel.  Surely Gauld isn’t trying to say the Iranian’s are blameless?   That seems like inviting mass condemnation on himself and a career-ending move.  Or is it about the Iranian government and its comparably (to the Philistine King and his captain) nasty tactics that use and take hostage its own people.  We in the west probably do too often view too much of Iran and its people as a stereotype for ‘bad’ and ‘backward’ and whatever else.  Gauld could be saying that Goliath transformed from a regular person into a faceless ‘enemy’ all to easily.  He cautions us to be careful about generalizing everyone in Iran, most of whom are of course innocent and good people and who would love to be doing anything other than having to be threatened by various countries constantly because of the actions of their terrible government.   So it’s a war story where you come to know the face of the enemy as the same as your own.   Or, Gauld can have it both ways:  he can write this story and NOT be sympathetic to Iran, while at the same time he CAN BE critical of Israel.  He can remind Israel that it is abstracting reality dangerously in order to justify military strikes on a faceless enemy.   Yet, anyone who goes to the point of criticizing Israel faces danger.  Look at Günter Grass.   He, like most Germans, views Israel currently as ‘aggressive’ and as creating problems for peace talks.  Grass published a poem (“What Must Be Said”) saying he feared Israel and their talks of first strike and sees them as a threat to peace.  For this, which to me seems like a highly sensible opinion of ‘let’s not be too hasty here…,’ ..for that he received widespread acerbic condemnation and the Israeli government even declared him (and remember he is a Nobel prize-winning author) a persona non grata.  Of course Israel can easily accuse and too easily dismiss any German who criticizes them by playing an anti-semitism card too (which they did), but Grass simply had the balls to speak out against the highly problematic actions of Israel of late.   Good for him.  I would encourage others to do so as well… people should always speak out against taking the militarized route.  …and I think that Tom Gauld may be up to something similar with Goliath.  It can be read as a commentary on Israel, and a caution on the dangers of dehumanizing people you disagree with (even if those same people are being a problem).  Of course Iran loved Grass’s poem… but I think it’s safe to say Grass wasn’t promoting Iran.  He is like Gauld, having it *both* ways.  He can not support Iran while at the same time criticize Israel.  It’s nice that the world isn’t so black and white and cut and dry that you’re either with someone or against them.  Grass is able to question *any* threat to peace wherever it may arise.

5. strengths.  I found the book surprisingly thought-provoking.  Weirdly, I hadn’t ever really thought much about the “Goliath side of things” in this David and Goliath story.  It made me go read up a lot more on the story… who is Goliath, who is David, what/where/when was Philistine, who is Saul, etc etc.   That was enriching.   In the history of art where there are so many David artworks, it’s really interesting to see one about Goliath.  It seems as though it couldn’t be more timely either if my take on Gauld’s intentions is correct.  I left the read of Goliath feeling a lot more knowledgable on this narrative and with a satisfying round of interpretations of its significance in my head.

6. weaknesses.  I don’t know if there are really any weaknesses in the book.  There are simply parts that I don’t understand fully…. Goliath picks up a pebble very early on from the nearby brooke, presumedly the same pebble or one very similar to the one that will before long fell him.  I wonder if that happens in the biblical narrative or if it’s just Gauld creating a nice circular story.   Later there is a scene with a bear that gets away from the Philistine king’s debauched birthday celebrations… I believe that does have some significance in the bible.  I guess my only real wish for the book is that it had some kind of foreword or afterword or some end notes or a commentary of some kind.  I’d like some scholarly biblical explanations and interpretations as part of the book.  That would just make it more meaningful to me is all.  It’s a very fine story without any further commentary though… I just wish I was more of an expert on this topic. 

7. recommendation.  I would recommend this book to a lot of people.  If I had students in an art history course on the Renaissance this would be a great compliment to that experience where you’re encountering so many David works (again especially if the book provided more actual scholarly explanations in addition to the narrative itself).  I would recommend it to friends.  I would recommend it to anyone interested in current events and politics.  Religious people of various faiths would certainly enjoy it on various levels I am sure.  I’m not sure if kids would get much out of it or not, unless they were leaning toward being religious and had some prior knowledge of the David and Goliath story.   It would be quite a meaningless story to anyone who had never heard the biblical story… aside from that I think most would really like it. 

8. other books.  Tom Gauld has also written Guardians of the Kingdom, 3 Very Small Comics, Hunter and Painter, The Gigantic Robot. He also works collaboratively on comics with Simone Lia, publishing their volumes of First and Second in a collection called Both.  Gauld regularly contributes to The Guardian Saturday Review.

9. rating. 4.5/5.  Excellent book. 

Dear Creature by Jonathan Case

1. Ben

2. synopsis.  Grue is a mutant humanoid sea creature.  He and the crabs that live on and around his body spend their time mostly in lonely isolation under sea.  But they must eat, and for food Grue goes to the surface to lure high schoolers who hang around the beach.  He appears to keep parts of their bodies in a treasure chest too, ‘curing’ and ‘aging’ them it would seem for better flavor.  Grue is also a creature who can speak.  He has found with some regularity corked Kiki Cola bottles floating on the water, each one containing pages from a Shakespearean play.  Somehow he was able to learn to read and speak English — and his manner of speaking throughout the book is rhythmic Iambic Pentameter. (At the end of the book the author provides, through the character of one of the crabs, a little How To guide for reading/speaking in this manner, what syllables to stress and how the grouping and rhythm works — I suppose that combined with the explanation of it on Wikipedia would get you going pretty well —- it’s not altogether too hard to get through Grue’s speech in the book.  It couldn’t been worse!)  This raises the question: Who is sending out these floating bottles containing pages from Shakespeare, and why?

Grue decides to search out the person, believing the messages are surely meant for him. He goes ashore to look for the person who must be his soul-mate.  At the same time, readers are introduced to some police offers who are on the hunt for whoever has been snatching up teenagers.  Grue soon spots a pudgy kid (Bobby) who sells Kiki Cola and starts to follow him, attracting a lot of attention as he does so (stealing a bike and later a policeman’s horse).  Grue follows Bobby to his ‘house,’ which is a relatively large sailing yacht sitting offshore.  Bobby lives there with Zola, his mother.  She is a very fat Latino-type woman who spends her time trying to maintain the boat, acting in the belief that her husband who abandoned her will soon be returning. Bobby’s brother also lives there as does his Aunt Giulietta. Giulietta is locked in a room on the boat, a chain holding the entry hatch closed.  Grue decides to watch her.  That night he sees her arm emerge from the hatch and she tosses a Kiki Cola bottle containing paper to the water. Surely she is the one.  (We also at this time learn that Zola is perhaps a prostitute? and that she is in some way attached to a macho policeman, who informs her that her son Joe has been arrested — the prime suspect in the various beach murders).

Grue finds Giulietta’s bottle and decides to set her free from her prison. Giulietta is a self-imposed shut-in it.  She looks like she is wearing a hospital gown, and she has a worn face and short-cropped hair.  She must be in pain and have some kind of mental issues. She is afraid of the outside world, we’re left for a short time wondering as to the source of her problems. In the meantime, Grue and Giulietta meet and instantly get along.  Grue wants to take her away and within a short while convinces her to go off with him. The ride off on the stolen police horse. Giulietta tells Grue the story of how she came to be a crazy, guilt-ridden recluse as they sit atop a hill watching a drive-in movie in the distance.  She is saddened by the tale so Grue tries to cheer her up by tickling her.  Just then the gruff police officer rides up and sees her screaming (but he doesn’t realize with laughter).  He shoots, Grue runs away.  From here much of the rest of the story is concerned with the policeman hunting Grue.  In the meantime, Grue sets about trying to clear Joe’s name (Zola’s son who is being held on murder charges) — as he also finds out Giulietta has been institutionalized and that the locals want to sink Zola’s ship.  He retrieves his treasure chest from the depths, as it will provide more than enough evidence that he is the killer and not Joe.  Grue gets captured and we find him under the observation of some shady and/or horny scientists, from whom he soon escapes —- to return to Giulietta. Will she forgive his murderous ways and go off with him or will Grue be left alone to die of heartbreak and face an inevitable doom?  

3. description.  Jonathan Case is a talented draftsman.  We are told in the intro to the book that this is his impressive comics debut.  I would agree it looks very good (while having a pretty proficient story and naturalistic/smart dialogue — this is what Steve Lieber talks up in his intro). You get a stark high contrast black and white style. At times it resembles Charles Burns.  At times it resembles Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service.  Perhaps on occasion it looks a bit like Jaime Hernandez, but it’s never sexy.    All the drawings are done in brush and ink, giving you mainly outlines to describe figures and dark shape-filled backgrounds with occasional flourishes of texture.  It is bold, and it brings to mind the looks of an old Black and White B movie from the 1950s or 60s.  That ‘look’ would be appropriate, as this is a sea monster / beach bunny story afterall.  Case often ‘borrows’ in other ways too: a dopey policeman is lifted straight from Barney Fife and a water pump repair man looks oddly like Robert Crumb, a cab driver later looks quite a bit like Fred Astaire. I’m certain he’s pulling from various other old B movies as well… and certainly characters may be echoes of persons from Shakespeare.  I am not getting every reference if that is the case.  I suspect the average reader wouldn’t either.. but the story works pretty well on its own even if you don’t get all the references (or maybe I’m imagining more than there really are).   The story itself is interspersed with humor throughout.  Grue and his crabs provide several jokes and Grue’s murder tactics and ineptitude with his victims and pursuit of Giulietta can be funny.  Grue himself is somewhat clown-like in appearance.  But it’s never *very* funny.  And it would appear that Case is attempting to do most of his humor through visual gags in the drawings, but I’m not convinced it always works.  Grue grinning goonishly is there a lot and so are his big gestures, and we get him dressed up in a fancy gown and lady’s hat at one point.  Later Grue tickles and octopus and gives it an orgasm.  I guess it’s sometimes on the verge of funny, but it’s not really a very funny book.  I guess he wanted to tell a strange Beauty and the Beast-type love story but since he decided to use a mutant sea creature, Case must’ve felt obliged to give it some goofiness so it didn’t take itself too seriously.  It exists somewhere between a good weird story and a limping comedy. I don’t think it’s a hybridity that necessarily serves it well in the end.

4. intention.  SOME SPOILERS.  It’s really hard to tell what Case intended with this book.  An updating of Beauty and the Beast?  Maybe he has a personal love for bad B-movies about sea monsters?  Maybe he is a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and wanted to do something along those lines?  Maybe it was the result of a brainstorm after realizing he had an interest in the message in a bottle theme — how to run with it?   What if a sea monster was intercepting the messages and somehow learned to speak English ..what would that creature do, how would it eat, what would it want and how would it achieve its goals, etc etc?  I feel like Case presented himself with that ‘problem’ to solve and worked out a story accordingly.  He also sets the story post-WWII, in presumedly the 1950s and maybe into the early 1960s. You get a mutant character — the result of nuclear waste or experimentation with radiation or genetic mutation.  It would play into the Cold War anxiety of the time.  It’s a way of updating the Frankenstein’s monster story.  Case gives us a character very much like the monster — sympathetic, with a sensitive kind of mind, ultimately pursued by people who wish to do him harm over his ‘nature’…  Yet in the end Case gives us a happy moment and not tragedy.  Its ‘happily ever after’ construction makes me wonder.  Why not kill the monster?  Why not leave Giulietta institutionalized?  He says you can send out a message in a vast sea..it will reach its recipient and that recipient can return to the sender.  Against all odds the couple will work out and all problems and baggage (conveniently out-run murder charges and an easily overcome agoraphobia) can be cast aside as they, the determined lovers, set off in the setting sun over the water.  It seems kind of naïve to me when I think about it.  Plus, you have two ‘freaks’ basically that come together, into the fringes to be together and escape the bad things in their lives.  Even the biggest freaks can find true love.  Why tell the true love story of Frankenstein’s monster? Bride of Frankenstein kills herself rather than be with the monster, right?  In that story the freaks belong dead.  Here they are able to live happily ever after.  … is it saying ‘for every Jack there is a Jill’?  Be true to thy freak self and it’ll all work out for the best.  I guess.  We’re all just freaks when you think about it.  ….. ?  Maybe it’s a cop out, wanting to leave it uplifting… but comics aren’t generally known for their goony optimism.  Nor is a Shakespeare play typically going to end happily ever after.  Why go that way with this book?  I can’t see any strength in the deviation.

5. strengths.  Case is very good at drawing, even though I’d say he falls just short of finding his own unique style at this point.  It seems derivative in some ways.  But he’s got a lot of potential. He’s good with bodies and body language and positions and facial expressions.  His pacing is solid and not distracting and he punches up the energy frequently with nice diagonals and other kinds of bursts.  It’s an ok story that ended up being more enjoyable to read than I first suspected.  I thought it was amusing often and certainly there is a solid balance between the pictures and the written text.  Both do a good job of pushing forward the story and it lacks a considerable amount of distractions and unresolved issues along the way.  It’s pretty solid formal comics storytelling… I just think the story itself has some problems in the end. He does bring this world to life well along the way and the characters are ones I found interesting, despite them being somewhat shallow ‘types’ consistently who in no way believably change as the story arcs to its completion.  It’s just fun and better to not think too deeply about it.

6. weaknesses.  I’d say aside from the story itself, the biggest weakness was Case’s character design.  Grue seems like he should’ve been thought out more… He’s kind of nondescript… nothing about his body seems to have a realistic functionality for a sea monster, and his coloring brings to mind drab gray, period.  He’s got a fish face and pointy bony appendages, and kind of a puffy exposed brain? His mouth is suckery and toothless. His hands and feet have webbed and clawed digits… and there slits or gills at various places on his arms and legs.  The crabs living on him are equally oversimplified and nondescript.  I wouldn’t want him to go so far as to give each one a Disney Under the Sea annoying quirky personality… but maybe a little differentiation and texture?  I guess the other various characters are unique enough to stand on their own within the context of the story itself (as is Grue), but outside of it they’re kind of same old same old.   Other components that weaken the story are the Barney Fife cop (seems like a rooky thing to do I guess and there’s that urge but probably should’ve edited it out by the time the book was finished), the appearance of Robert Crumb for no justifiable reason, and the Octopus that ends up getting hearts for pupils in its eyes after Grue gives it an orgasm.  I guess that was a good gag, but it didn’t seem like the rest of the story in any way.   Maybe it was from an earlier draft from before he settled on a ‘tone’ and it just got left in? Or maybe he thought goofy stylized comic relief would work in a story where there’s nothing else resembling that aside from some cartoony zip-lines earlier when Grue steals a bike?  It would’ve been better to be consistent about the B-movie looks and do it with a straight face the whole time. No need for a slide whistle.   Main complaint though, as I said, would be the ending.  I mean it was safe and satisfying and a relief that your characters got out of the ‘jam’ and found love, but I don’t know how compelling a story that makes… 

7. recommendation. I would recommend this book to anyone I guess… though it would be *way* down on my list of books to recommend, particularly to people who are new to graphic novels.  There are a ton out there that beat it.  If you’re already into graphic novels and want to read another one, and one that is pretty good and entertaining and well done… here it is.   It’s definitely an impressive debut from Jonathan Case and I look forward to seeing more from him. I just hope he gets less sappy.  We don’t need another Craig Thompson on our hands.  Jonathan Case has the capability of doing good references and working in a strange B-movie / Sci-Fi / Horror style and he should run with it and not be a wimp about it.  The ‘happily ever after’ ‘story ends when the couple decides to commit to one another forever’ thing is not really working any more for anybody…  it’s an easy device and I’m sure Case can find shake it up or find another model. 

8. other books. It looks like Case teamed up with Jeff Jensen recently to write/draw Green River Killer: A True Detective Story…. a true-crime story about a serial killer.  I’ll have to look into it.  

9. rating.  Dear Creature is a 3/5 or maybe 4/5 book. 

Hotwire Comix and Capers (Vol. 1) (anthology) editor Glenn Head

1. Ben

2. This is an anthology of several stories by various authors: Glenn Head, Max Andersson, Johnny Ryan, Tim Lane, Judith McNicol, Matt Madden, David Paleo, Mike Wartella, R. Sikoryak, Doug Allen, Lauren R. Weinstein, David Lasky, Tony Millionaire, Onsmith, J. Bradley Johnson, Mats!?, Carol Swain, Sam Henderson, Christian Northeast, Michael Kupperman, Craig Yoe, Ivan Brunetti, Danny Hellman, Mack White, and Rick Altergott.   The authors are doing various things — maybe providing a short story, maybe a page-long ‘gag’ strip, or maybe a full page drawing that you couldn’t really call comics at all (Paleo does ‘Inbreed Illustrated’ fake Swimsuit issue magazine covers).  You get a range of things in various styles… the intro to the book alludes to the diversity, calling comics a ‘big tent’ medium, one that allows for all manner of styles and subject-matter.  That’s pretty much what you get here, a seemingly random sampling of presumedly recent work by various people making comics-related imagery.    The intro also wants to let the reader know what to expect from the book, claiming that it will be filled with stories that are ahead of their time and full of attitude and comparing the experience of reading it to a car crash (hope you can survive it!).  It wants to come across as a dazzling, fresh, crazy, shocking, rock-your-socks-off book.   In reality, it was ‘ok’ and had some highlights but it was really more of the same and quite comparable to a lot of other books I have seen.  Nothing new here, but a few stories that stood out from the pile.

3. There are a wide variety of styles in the book, being an anthology that includes many different authors and artists. Cab Boy by Max Andersson almost looks like lithography.  Tim Lane’s Sanctuary has an approximately wood-cut look to it, even though it’s done in brush.  The Inbreed Illustrated pages are done in graphite.  Carol Swain’s Family Circus appears to be done in Prismacolor pencils.  Most every other story has the expected black and white pen & brush look to it with whatever line quality makes sense for its story.  There are some interesting pages done in color as well.  Standing out most is Mike Wartella’s The Visions of Rasputin.  He gives his story a fake discolored newsprint base and the look of an old newspaper strip complete with garish color halftone dots, etc. so it ends up looking like Tales of the Black Freighter from Watchmen or what you’d expect from old EC horror.  It’s nice … great close cool analogous colors with a hot split compliment usually.  He does a great drawing of Rasputin too.  I would like to see more of that story for sure… as it exists in the anthology it’s on the incomprehensible side.  The only other major formal highlight are the drawings in Tim Lane’s “The Drive Home.” Mainly I find his backgrounds/landscapes appealing with their obsessive surface contour lines of intricate short dashes or varied-line-weight marks covering much of his page with texture.  It looks like when Tezuka wants to do an impressive splash page of the environment, but with Lane it gets interspersed throughout the story.  It’s interesting that he took so much time with his environments considering the character himself is relatively ‘blah.’  Other than that… there are some people who are clearly good at working in the style of comic strips (Johnny Ryan, and R. Sikoryak does a great Garfield parody called Mephistofield) or in the style of 60s underground comix (Glenn Head especially, only he’s not very funny I guess).

4. Author’s intention:  Basically the editorial introduction to the book states the intention.  It’s about finding a way to do an anthology that is an alternative to what you get in, though it doesn’t name these specifically, but: Best American Comics (filled with personal memoirs, break-up stories, artsy tales that are incomprehensible) and what you get in something like Kramer’s Ergot (dazzling art, visual pizazz, but not a lot of stories).  Hotwire wants to be raw, embarrassing to have in public, shocking, cutting-edge, groundbreaking, and full of low-brow humor, etc.  It effectively wants to be like punk zines and earlier underground comix, or it wants to be like Johnny Ryan or Peter Bagge maybe?   Instead, it offers you something in-between Best American Comics and Kramer’s Ergot, only with stuff that isn’t as interesting in terms of the average narrative and isn’t nearly as visually stimulating artistically.  It’s not shocking or cutting edge at all and many of the stories have very little narrative and are often incomprehensible and artsy.  So I’m not entirely sure if they quite accomplished what they set out to do with this one.   But, I should say… the overall goal was a great one and I would definitely love to have an anthology that was like that … it’s just not this anthology, sadly.   Keep trying I guess..

5. Biggest strengths.  There are a few standout stories or pages.  Johnny Ryan’s “My Mother the Idiot” was funny (that is, the first one in the book was funny, the rest weren’t really)… it was good because it was simply so ‘easy’ and stupid.  It didn’t even really ‘work’ and that was its best quality.  I’d like to say Matt Madden’s story was good, but it was like he was trying to be Jaime Hernandez and decided to throw in Mr. Belvedere selling (spiritual?) sex toys… so not sure what happened there.  Nice drawings though..   The Visions of Rasputin and Mephistofield works were *almost* really good but neither one really worked finally.  I could see them working with some more development.   “Metal Fabrication Dept./Okie-Jokies” by Onsmith:  that was a highlight.  He gives you the story of a guy working in a nightmarish factory job who wants to die most of the time. The biggest strength is how stuck in the rut he is… he fights with his wife but you can tell he wishes he weren’t doing it, but he can’t get out of the cycle.  He nows his job is a misery, and he cries about it, but he is ineffectual to actually change anything.  He sees the redneck people around him doing awful, stupid, frightening things, but this character is in the background — always involved and implicated but always at a distance and alienated.  The other big standout was Danny Hellman’s beautiful, direct, and exquisitely-colored “Joy is a Jewel.”  It is a simple 18-panel story telling about how impoverished hippy-type girl Joy wants a nice necklace.  She sells her body to a demon for money (gets impregnated in the process), and presumedly gives birth to an anti-Christ type boy.  We get to see him grow up and become increasingly evil and powerful, ultimately also being able to provide Joy with that necklace she so desired.  It does have an air of Chris Ware about it, sure, but it’s just funny and perfectly concise.  The ‘camera’ never leaves Joy and it’s a pleasure to see her evil son springing up around her, as we get hints about his corrupt power.  Finally it ends with nukes going off and Joy shedding a tear of joy over her pretty necklace.   Bravo Danny! Great job drawing that demon and the demon sex ritual too. I’d like to see more like this.  (I also liked certain things about Mack White’s “My Gun is Long” which is a great little play on how the Kennedy assassination went down where we find out Oswald was set up by a look-alike through some complicated circumstances.  It works pretty well, and I was surprised to find myself not hating that it had quite a lot of actual written words relative to the amount of drawings… meaning, reading through it wasn’t boring and painful like you might expect from looking at it)

6. Weaknesses: Some of the stories just seemed unresolved.  Perhaps if the anthology had more pages overall the authors could’ve fleshed out their ideas a touch more.  Some were just not funny or interesting.  Some made little to no sense.  Some didn’t look super good or lacked other appealing qualities that would grab you and hold your attention.  If the intention of the book was to shock and awe and push forward comics with new innovations, then it fell dreadfully short.  If the intention was to let some lesser-known people get some exposure then I guess it worked ok, though I don’t know how many people will ever see this book.  If the intention was to let some comics artists have a page or two or three to ‘play around’ and pump out a comic that doesn’t matter terribly much whether it works or not… then it did that.  I would point out one story though in particular that was just plain bad: The Scaredy Kids by Michael Kupperman.  And I hate to single anyone out like this, but I feel it is my duty to discourage this type of humor in comics early on before it gets out of hand as it has done already on American sitcoms and youtube, etc. Phrases from it: “..a bulletin about the Mannister (the man who can become a bannister..” “hey kids! Don’t you remember me? I used to be an ordinary cabdriver, but then I decided to fight crime, because I was fed up with crime! … Then I found this book (picture of a Bittern, a thickset heron with rounded wings, this secretive bird moves silently through the reeds looking for fish and salamanders). Mannister says: See? I mean, that’s perfect for me!” You get various women crashing through windows as a joke, and a woman fighting a Robot Ben Franklin, etc., etc.   Repeating the same words at the beginning and end of a sentence is not a joke.  Using short phrases in an excited tone of voice is not a joke.  Incongruous and nonsensical images, usually with whatever is most trendy (robots, zombies, mustaches, etc.) — not necessarily funny… there needs to be a ‘joke’ there probably.  This comic wants to be Chris Ware combined with Adult Swim.  It features various fake ads like you’d see in old comics trades and then has that wretched college-humor like you’d see on Always Sunny in Philadelphia, or choose whatever other show.  I can’t quite put my finger on just what it is about it that makes it so terrible … but I know it is destructive toward comedy and comics and it needs to stop.

Also, Ivan Brunetti needs to get back to his roots and start being crude and funny again already.  …before it’s too late!

7. I would recommend this book to people who already like comics and graphic novels and who are bored and need something to read.  I wouldn’t give it to anyone who is just starting on with reading this stuff, because I believe it would turn them away.   I wish it was more shocking and raw and punk and that it did what it said it would do in its intro.  I read the intro after reading the comic by the way, and was kind of surprised by its stated goals because it didn’t seem to come anywhere near that… I suspect Glenn Head has those goals personally for his own artwork and they don’t necessarily translate or relate to any of the other stories in the anthology.  It’s like he somehow got to edit this anthology and has a dream for comics.. but he didn’t pull together the right people or work to get there..     I find it useful just because there were some people in it who I hadn’t heard of before and I can look a bit more into their work. 

8. It looks like Glenn Head mainly gets his work out in various anthologies.  I see there is a Hotwire Comix Vol 2 and Vol 3 as well. 

9. 3.5/5.  Parts were ok, some parts were pretty enjoyable. 

The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells, adapted by Rick Geary

1. Brandon Horton

2. The book “The Invisible Man” is about a stranger who arrives in a tiny English village of Iping. He was wrapped from head to toe walking the streets alone. Then finally he came upon a place called Coach and Horses Inn. He knocked on the door and a woman named Mrs. Hall opened the door. She was surprised that she got business this late, but thought the extra business was a good thing. She took him to his room and he gave her money and told her he did not want to be disturbed. Mrs. Hall wondered why he was hiding his face ever since he entered the Inn. Mrs. Hall then returned because she forgot to ask him if he wanted her to take his hat and coat. The stranger replied NO! In a loud voice. She then noticed that his face was covered in bandages. The stranger then wandered the streets during the night time and stumbled across a local druggist named Albert Cuss. Albert said he would talk to him tomorrow. The next day Albert visited the stranger at the Inn, but when he entered the room he couldn’t help but notice that the stranger had no hands and he felt a finger and thumb grab his nose, but there was nothing there. As soon as this happened he rushed to tell the story to the towns Vicar. Late that night the Vicar’s wife heard some strange noises coming from down stairs from her bedroom. Vicar went to go check it out and he found that a candle was lit and his money box was gone. Everyone had heard about the robbery and the next day Mrs. Hall didn’t prepare the strangers meals because she didn’t receive any payment from him. Then out of no the stranger said he found some more money and Mrs. Hall began to get suspicious. The stranger then threw his nose at Mrs. Hall and she screamed. They found out the man was invisible and the town’s sheriff came to arrest him because of the havoc he was causing. Then the invisible man took off running and the sheriff grabbed him, then the invisible man choked him to death. He then went to meet with a man by the name of DR. Kemp which was his old professor. He told him the story of his discovery and is plans of revenge, but Dr. Kemp was against him. He took off and told the sheriff that he would be the first to die. A day past and the invisible man came back for the doctor, but the whole teamed up and caught him by hitting him in the head with a shovel. The invisible’s man reign of terror was over.

3. I really enjoyed the artwork that was created in this book. Since I read comic books a lot as a child this book was very similar to that, but not quite the same. The media used in this comic was basic paper and ink. I could tell that the style of art that was used was loose and sketchy. In this book a lot of shadows were used so I could tell it was a very gloomy village. The people that were portrayed in the comic were distorted in the way because many times the full features of their faces weren’t visible. Also i could tell the artist was very good with lines whether they were vertical, horizontal, diagonal, or curved. I can also that the artist rarely used any light in the illustrations. The pictures were often very shadowy. I really couldn’t tell how old the men where except by the color of their hair. If it wasn’t for the use of brown or black hair for interpret the younger characters and the use of grey hair to interpret old characters I wouldn’t be able to guess the age just by looking at the face. All of the faces seemed strong and very little lines were used on the face. The texture of illustrations in the comic was smooth and clean. The pattern that I noticed in this comic was the shades he used. He repeatedly used the shades black, grey and brown. Other colors were used liked blue, green, red, orange, and yellow, but they seemed to be very dull.

4. Its kind of hard to tell if the comic ” The Invisible Man” has a purpose behind it because its just a fictional story, so maybe the purpose of this comic was just to tell a story. On the other hand its many other things that go on throughout this book that can be interpreted in different ways. When H.G Wells wrote this story he could have disliked a teacher in high school or in college and he could have wished he could get revenge on this teacher. Overall in my opinion I feel as if the purpose of this comic was to tell a mysterious story. There were boundaries pushed in the book. The possibility of an invisible man coming to your city is 0 out of 1 million. Therefore this kind of this is not likely to happen and shock is my initial reaction to this comic because being invisible is impossible.

5. I feel like the strengths to this comic is the story line. This graphic novel had my eyes stuck to the pages until the very end. I was very intrigued and suspenseful. All that was going through my mind was “What’s going to happen next!” I like how every time the invisible man did something bad dark colors was used. It almost seemed like he used these colors to almost foreshadow when something was about to happen through art. Its actually quite amazing to me how a simple as brightness and darkness can effect art, even in a book. I also noticed that the layout of the comic strip was almost perfect. He spaced out everything so evenly. Space is very important in a comic because I hate when artist bunch the art up, which makes it hard to tell what to read next. This Graphic was very easy to read and I completed the book without any confusion. I also like when the artist used diagonal lines to lead the viewer’s eye to the most important part in the scene at that moment.

6. This graphic novel “The Invisible Man” was a very well put together book, but i did notice a weakness. The weakness that I noticed was that their was very little detail in his drawings. The solution would be to take more time to add more facial features to the characters and other people. It was very hard to the young from the old in the novel. I would suggest the artist to use more lines in the faces of the characters to illustrate age better and just to put a little more detail. Also I felt the novel could have been longer.

7. I would recommend this book to elementary, middle school, high school, and even  college students. The way this novel is written it is easy to understand by people of younger ages, but still somewhat appealing to people of older ages. This book would really appeal who is into fictional books that tell a weird and mysterious story. I would also pass this on to fellow college students because I feel they would get a kick out of this book. Its very interesting. The reason I would pass it on to kids in middle school and high school is because when I was that age many of my friends were into comics, so it seem like this type of book would be appealing to people in that age group. This book increased my interest in fictional books. Before I was into real life subjects when reading.

8. H.G Wells is the author of two other interesting books “The Time Machine” and  ”The Wonderful Visit.”

9. I would Give H.G Wells “The Invisible Man” a 4 out of 5 stars.

I Killed Adolf Hitler by Jason

1. Eric Shultz

2. The story that I read for the Reading Rainbow Project was, I Killed Adolf Hitler by Jason. The story starts out in an apartment with an assassin stalking his next victim. The assassin then goes to another assassin so that he can take out his neighbor because he is getting way too annoyed with him. After the meeting with the other assassin he runs into one of his former clients that he did a job for about four years back. They both went to the bar and had a drink. Once he was done drinking with his former client he went home to do the same thing that he does every day, he goes and listens to what his future clients need him to do for them. There was one particular person that came in and had a strange task for him. He wanted him to travel back in time to kill Adolf Hitler. So, he attempted to complete that his client asked but he was unsuccessful. Adolf managed to get into the time machine and travel to the present time. When the assassin gets back to present time he runs into to his wife before he left, but she has no idea that they were ever married. Sometime after he goes to the bar because he is unable to find Adolf Hitler and there he was killed. So about five years later his wife before we went back in time saves him so that he can come back and complete what he was unable to do. To kill Adolf Hitler.

3. The artwork in the book is abstract. All of the characters have an animal look to them. They do walk and stand like humans, but they have this almost dog looking face in them. The textures of the pictures are pretty rough. There are hardly and curved lines in the story. It has lots of straight lines. The colors that were used in the story were very neutral. They never really caught my eye.

4. I wasn’t that sure what the author was aiming for in this story. I think that he is trying to say that changing the past can’t happen. If it could happen it could lead to bad thing in the future that we may not like. And that we may want to change again, which would lead to a circle. We would never be happy with what happened and always want to change it.

5. This was my first time reading a graphic novel. I thought that for the most part it was a good book. The timeline of the book was good in terms of how things happened. At first I was a little confused about what was going on in the story and where it was going. Then about like ten or so pages in the transitioned so that the comic as well as the text matched with each other.

6. At the beginning of the story he was doing a parallel between the text and the comic and the text, which confused me towards the beginning. Once, he did the transition it was a lot easier for me to follow what was going on in the story and where it was leading to.

7. I think that the readers that were intended for this book were college students. I believe that the book is too gory for high/middle school students. There is too much blood and violence in the book. Also, in the beginning I thought that the language was for a mature audience. The age group that I would recommend to read this book would be 18-22 year old. I think that males would like this book more than females would.

8. Some other books that Jason wrote are; “Left Bank Gang” and “Why Are You Doing This?” They are both graphic novels as well.

9. I would give Jason’s, “I Killed Adolf Hitler” a 3/5 stars.

Ultra-Gash Inferno by Suehiro Maruo

1. John Robinson

2. Synopsis.  In this graphic novel there are 9 short stories of differing tales and characters. The stories follow in this order “Putrid Night” “Sewer Boy” “A Season In Hell” “Shit Soup” “The Great Masturbator” “Putrid Night: Raven Of Oedipus” “Sewer Boy: Paradise” “Voyeur In The Attic” “Nonresistance City” ALL OF THEM HAVE VERY GRAPHIC CONTENT AND SHOULD BE VIEWED AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION. This is not a book for the faint of heart. Seeing as each story has its own characters it’s hard to write a synopsis of each story without spoiling all of them. But I will say that a lot of this novel is focused on sex. Putrid Night is about an oppressed housewife who plans to kill her husband with her lover. However this plan backfires and the husband sees through the plan and ends up leaving both for dead. In Sewer Boy I mother attempts to kill her son by drowning him in a sewer. However the infant survives and lives off of peoples defecation. In A Season in Hell there is a boy who while walking home from school sees a grouping of dead bodies but he sees a figure approaching and runs home. We later see into the mind of the boy and find he is taunted by night terrors. In these night terrors he is tormented by the laughter of his parents up to the point where he kills them in his dreams. In Shit Soup it is a small group of kids who are having sex with one another. After the group finishes there fun they go and defecate on plates and consume it. In Putrid Night: Raven Of Oedipus we see a woman who is caring for a gravely injured man who has lost all his limbs. However when she is not with him, her mind is filled with sexual fantasies involving him. In Sewer Boy: Paradise the same boy for the sewers in the previous story returns and lures a bunch of teenage girls to a brothel where they are violated. In Voyeur in the Attic we see through the eyes of a young man who witnesses a woman kill her newborn child. Nonresistance City is a story following the tale of a women and her child. The woman is continually accosted by a male “performer” who is shorter than even her son. As she continues to spur his advances he adamantly provides food for the woman and child. He finds that enough is enough and he takes mattes into his own hands.

3. Artwork styling’s - In Ultra Gash Inferno the art is done in black and white and entirely in ink. The cover appears as though it might have been painted but it also appears to have been done in color ink. In this novel there are realistic looking characters yet the things that happen to them are rather abstract and intense. Many of the panels in this manga have a very dark tone and are very focused on one thing at any point in time. Also many of the panels, if not all of them, correspond with exactly what is going on. I would also say a lot of this novel is rather abstract seeing as many of the things that happen are rather outlandish and crazy. I would also say that this novel has an excruciating amount of detail in many of the scenes, and much of it is focused around the sexual nature that is made prevalent in the novel even if it tries to obscure what it is that you see.

4. Why was this made - As far as I can tell this novel was made in order to try and make people uncomfortable. In fact if you are not made uncomfortable by this novel you have a stronger stomach than most. As I read through I was trying to comprehend what it was that I was reading. Considering each of the stories is independent from one another you have to search out what it is that the novel is doing. A lot of the novel involves sex and the sick twisted things people do during it. This point is evidenced in many of the stories. The most prominent story it is shown in is The Great Masturbator. In this story there is a boy who practiced incest with his aunt. However she soon passes and the boy longs to feel his aunts touch. So he goes to her grave and masturbates while smacking his head against her gravestone. Meanwhile his sister who was following him trying to figure out what he was planning on doing gets kidnapped and raped. This is one of the more tame stories which is a scary thought. So I would say that my assumption that this was made to make a person feel uncomfortable and desensitized to the odd is pretty spot on.

5. What are the strengths of this novel - Well I would say that this novel is very good at pushing the boundaries of what people are comfortable with. If you are a person who enjoys things that have shock value then this novel is one for you. I would also say that there art is fantastically done. All of the people look rather life like and it is done in painstaking detail. As I said before much of the detail is focused on the sexual orientation of the novel but the none.

6. What does this novel lack - I feel like this novel lacks a lot of substance. I say this because it is difficult to understand what is going on at any given point in time. As you flip through each story there is a lot coming at you such as a lot of text, large text bubbles and over emphasis on certain areas of a frame. Also there isn’t much too much to each story and as such it is hard to really get anything from it.  I would also say that this novel lacks continuity seeing as there are a lot of stories in there and almost none are interconnected.

7. Who would I recommend this novel to - I would probably recommend this book to people who enjoy odd stories seeing as this book is full of them. I would also recommend this novel to people who are not afraid to see things that are taboo and ill talked about such as sexual deviations, murder and rape as all of these things also appear in the novel. This is most defiantly not a novel for children due to all of the adult content so I would say18-30 would be the intended audience of this book.

8. Other Books by Author - Another of this authors more famous novels is Mr. Arashis Amazing Freak Show. In fact it was so popular in some groups it was adapted into a animated film know as Midori.

9. Personal Rating - I personally rate this book a 4/5. It was going to be a 3/5 but after giving the novel a second and 3rd flip through I decided it had a lot going on outside of the sexual content such as pseudo realistic art.

Dracula Madness (A Sam & Friends Mystery) by Mary Labatt and Jo Rioux

1. Tilah Parker

2. The book I read was quite interesting. It was mainly about a special dog named Samatha that moved with her human family to a new house. Samatha became very depressed under a new surrounding but got much comfort meeting her daily dog walker Jennie. They soon became great friends having a great bond. One day while taking Samatha for a walk Jennie discovered a mysterious house. Daily they investigated the weird man that lived in the house. Jennie was spying on him one day and saw the man with crazy hair and huge bug eyes. Come to find out the man really wasn’t weird he was just wearing a mask. He wasn’t mean at all either, he just couldn’t trust humans anymore wither old or young it really didn’t matter to him. He couldn’t trust them because he was an great inventor that got his invention stolen. Towards the end of the book Samatha and the dog turns into best buds.

3. The book has no color at all everything is done in black & white. The visual element of the book is in the format of an comic book. The author’s drawings of this book is in a abstract-characteristic format. I say this because the author drew the characters in this book as cartoon characters. They don’t seem to realistic to me. The author really focused well while sketching while the day changed throughout the whole book. While it was during the day the environment including trees, grass, sun, etc were drawn lightly  but when it was dark everything turned into a grey-like scale giving the ready more reason to what time of the day special events took place.

4. The author’s purpose of writing this book was to inform readers how simple designs can be fun to read. I think he wanted to expose a children’s book that people other than children could enjoy as well. The author really added great emphasis, texture and impression to the emotion of the dog Samatha. I really felt the dogs emotion like I was a human being. Anyone could give this book 20 minutes of their day to read because this book showed a great human vs dog bond, not necessarily just for dog lovers but for people who enjoy pets.

5. The biggest strength of this book was the texture and balance of emotion drawn upon the dog in the book. I never really read a comic book quite like A sam’s & friends mystery. The author made simple characters that weren’t really over doing the story effect. Another big strength that I noticed is the way everything was drawn. When something bad happened, you didn’t need to depend on the words coming out of the character’s mouths to realize it.

6. A major weakness I found in the book was the use of no color at all. Black and white drawings aren’t bad but they can become boring. Black and white drawings also are simple and elegant. If i was to create the book I’d totally use a variety of colors. Using color makes things come more to life. Reading this book made me change the way I view animals. Whenever I read I never really pay attention to the animals when their included in the story. While reading I felt a great sense of emotion between Samatha (the dog) and Jennie (the dog walker). They had a very special bond that was interesting. Jennie was the only person that could read Samatha’s mind no one else could. Jennie had a very special gift.

7. I would recommend this book to kids aged range 9-14. Middle schooled pre-teens would be perfect for this book. There is some scary parts throughout the book that I recommend kids under 9 don’t read. Older people from 15 and up could read this book but it’s made to excite and draw interest to pre-teens.Dog lovers would really love this book, because there is a great relationship between a dog and a human. People i could imagine objecting this book is people who don’t like dogs. I wouldn’t respond to bad about people who may object the book, because once again I did find this book in the chilldren’s section in the library. So therefore to me it makes me feel like this book was really ment to make kids or pre-teens interested. Nothing really shocked me while reading the book I felt comfortable reading every page. Reading this book did change my perspective on the way I not only have a feeling for dogs but in animals in general. I felt like animals wither a dog or not has special feelings that need to be recognized. 

8. Other books By: Mary Labatt -Aliens in Woodford, A friend for sam, The ghost of captain briggs, The mummy lives, One terrible halloween, A parade of sam, Pizza for sam, A puppy is for loving, Sam at the Seaside, Sam finds a monster, Sam gets lost, Sam goes next door, sam goes to school and many more.Other books By: Jo Rioux-A sam and friend’s mystery- Dracula Madness, Mummy Mayhem, Lake monster mix-up and those are the only ones I could find online.

9. I would rate this book 3/5 stars. 

The Book of Grickle by Graham Annable

1. Lindsey Hallgren

2. “The Book of Grickle” is a short graphic novel of two-hundred pages. The book is comprised of mini comic strips. The characters switch throughout the book between many people. There is no main or specific character in the book, but more of the people in this place called Grickle. Graham Annable makes the comics funny but also relatable to real life instances. The first comic in the book is called “Commercial Success.” It compares different brand preferences between people in a humorous way.  “Walk-In” was one of my personal favorites. It’s about a man, Billy, who goes to a walk-in clinic when he has a terrible cough he cannot get rid of; most people are able to relate to his experience. “Articulate Conception” is about a man writing about a woman who he is in love with from afar. The next comic is called “Dead Weight.” Tom and his friend want to go to a party but do not have a ride. Instead of taking the bus, they decide to get a ride with Danny. Danny is more like the annoying friend that everyone has. He tends to embarrass them by the things he says. On the way to the party many mishaps happen, making you wonder if they will ever make it to the party anyways. “Misery and His Company” is about a grandpa who is going to die soon. His grandson Billy is there to keep him company, along with his friend Sam. The only problem is the children make the grandpa more miserable by being there until he tells Billy something to scare him off. In “Futile Space” Johnson, Smith, and Davis are astronauts on the moon. “Decency is about Bobby throwing rocks at a frog. His friend Tony would not do it, until Bobby justified that they had to put him out of his misery. When the frog finally dies Bobby was ready to leave and go to Jimmy’s. Tony has more of a sensitive side for the poor frog and instead buries the frog. “Old Man River” is about a town flooding. “Fishing Trip Johnny and Timmy are out ice fishing. When nothing is biting Johnny tells Timmy he is leaving to another dimension. The comic starts to get more geometric shapes in the dimensions, then it switches to abstract. At the end it gives definitions of things like knees, knowledge, people, etc. Meanwhile Timmy started catching a ton of fish. “The Bomb” is about Tom’s car breaking down and Bobby comes to find him. Then Bobby tells Tom some very big news he did not know. “Love Monster” was a funny comic about a man at a restaurant. The waitress is nice to the man, making him question maybe she likes him, or has been watching him. The he starts thinking about love and the right person, making him run out of the restaurant. The waitress comes back and says “That cheapie didn’t leave me a tip!” The end makes me laugh and think of people who miscommunicate feelings between friendliness, crushes, and love. “Photo Opportunity” is about a man at Bobby’s Burger Lodge taking tons of pictures of himself. He then notices another couple is extremely bothered by two other men smoking in the lodge. When nobody does anything about it the man decides to, which may or may not have been a good idea. “Sea Life” is about an average man who went fishing and felt miserable about it, so he decided to throw himself into the lake. Then a sea woman saves him and teacher him the sea life. “Slight Aberration” is about a man who does not realize he may have accidently committed a crime. “By necessity is the longest mini comic strip in the book. Todd is the main character who recently started living with his girlfriend, Sharon. She has a dog named Billy Joel, who is very hyperactive. Their neighbor Mrs. Anders is always worried that Billy Joel is going to eat her pet wombat, Cheeves. Every time Billy Joel gets let outside he tries to play with Cheeves. Mr. Anders says she will sue if Billy Joel hurts Cheeves. When Todd tells Sharon about this he is worried since Todd is between jobs. Sharon mentions him moving to Pillsberg with her. Instead he makes excuses about not finding a job there and how big of a change it would be. Then he realizes they left Billy Joel outside. When they open the door they find Cheeves dead in Billy Joel’s mouth. The question of the ending is will Mrs. Anders find out Billy Joel killed Cheeves and will Todd move to Pillsberg with Sharon? “The Sound of Paste” makes fun of how loud toothpaste is when you squeeze some out. The last mini comic in the graphic novel “The Book of Grickle” is “Wee Man.” This mini comic is about a man finding a wee man in his car one day. The wee man did not seem threatening so he took the wee man to his house. At the house all the wee man would do is draw, shower, and eat cupcakes. Then the wee man stopped drawing. One morning the wee man drew a picture of his home and showed it to the man, and the man knew he had to take the wee man back to his home.

3. The comic use a digital or computer tools with an ink medium and is two dimensional. Most of the comic is dark ink is used but they do not shad in everything in. Only some are shaded. Also dots are used to help form the picture. The cartoons look as if they are sketched and are not geometric. It is also dreamlike or surrealistic art opposed to naturalistic. The comic is a combination of word specific and picture specific. The author uses some forms of narcissism as well.

4. I think the author wrote the book to relate to real life experiences but try to add the comedy to it. Since not everyone has the same view the author may be causing the reader to think about something in a new way. He reveals and some people may say contradicts the truth through his comics. The artisit did this in “The Sound of Paste.” The author wants you to enjoy the books humor and reveal the truth about things.

5. “The Book of Grickle” is similar to other comics I have read. The humor in the truth of reality makes his book stand out. I finished the book easily because it was hard to put down. It was so easy to read and most of the time I found myself laughing or relating to the authors story. I really enjoyed how his pictures were sketched. The character’s eyeballs are drawn to a bigger scale and pop out to me, making it interesting to look at. When I signed up for this graphic novel I did not know what to expect it to be like. When I saw the cover of it with just the characters drawn on it was hard for me to predict what the book would be. I think the form and style synchronizes well with the content or meaning. The flow, transition, and layout of each mini comic were very smooth. Switching from comic to comic was not smooth because the characters and ideas change.

6. The author does not have a huge weakness. Some readers will not find a weakness. Although in my opinion a few of the mini comics were not as good as the other ones. Some were not relatable and not as funny. If I was the artist I would have picked possible a controversial topic to bring the truth to. I think more critics are on the story telling in only some of the mini comics more than the drawings in the book. It would be more on the plot. Also I feel the author could have made more creative name or gave names to all the characters in the book. On the front cover the author uses color of blue and white but inside the book no other color besides black, white, and gray. I think the author could have chosen to use colors, not so much on the characters but their clothing. I think the colors could had made certain characters less similar and more distinct. Annable does make each character look different but they also have many similarities.

7. I would recommend this book to anyone around the age of eleven and up. As long as you can read and comprehend a book then “The Book of Grickle” is for you. It has no specific gender because it has nothing extremely offensive towards gender. Since I bought the book, I would allow my brothers to borrow it to read. I think they would appreciate it since they have the same type of humor as the author of this book. I think my parents would enjoy the book as well. They enjoy reading the comics in the newspaper. Everyone will always have a different sense of humor so it is hard to say who may not enjoy the book. People with no sense of humor may not enjoy the book, as well as people whose humor is too extreme. Nothing in the book makes me feel uncomfortable, which is the main reason I feel I can have such a large range of people I would recommend the book to.

8. Another book you may enjoy by Graham Annable is “Grickle” or “Further Grickle.” “Grickle is an edgy and emotional comic book.“Further Grickle” relates to “Grickle.” It is hard to give a complete summary since it has mini comics, but the reviews seem to show they have the same style.

9. I would give “The Book  of Grickle” 5/5 stars. This was a very quick read and was hard to put down and easy to pick up. I enjoyed re-reading it for the project. The stories were very humorous and the pictures were interesting to look at.

10. Here is my extra credit picture I created based on the book. I used a special effect on my camera to create a cartoon version of myself.

What’re You Lookin’ AT?! by Johnny Ryan

1. Jonisha Brock- Bell

2. In this book there were a lot of stories going on with different main events. The first story was about a guy who got kicked out of his girlfriend’s house, and went to live with his friend for year. He didn’t pay rent or anything he was just a free loader. By the end of that comic he had completely ruined his friend’s house. Next big story was about the blind date, and how rude Loady was being to his date. There are a lot of good stories in this book about Loady and Sinus (his friend). Loady was a big bum, he was rude, and didn’t respect many people. Sinus O’gynus was Loady’s good friend but Loady treated him like crap!

3. The drawings in this book are very detailed, no color though all black and white. The type of media that I think was used was ink or any type of pen. The drawings are real realist, and somehow cartooned. He showed motion very well in his pictures by using different lines and detail. Most of all the drawings where very realist, and had a lot of grudge to them. He didn’t hold back by adding motion and blood and yucky things to the photos, they were very detailed! I don’t believe none of the pictures where distorted but maybe the characters in the book a little. To describe the formal elements and principles, there where all types of lines curved, straight, and zig- zag. For color, there was none used the whole book was white and black, also touching on the textures there was no texture difference on the page. He used space differently in all his images and drawing some had a lot of space and focused on one object, but most where full of quality drawing.  He added a lot of motion to his drawing by using line and making the character look like they’re walking or running. And furthermore there wasn’t much rhythm shown or proportion.

4. I think the author’s purpose of writing this book was to show how fun and humorous reading can me. Before reading this book, I would have never decided to pick up a science fiction book off the shelf! Johnny Ryan definitely made this book interesting and funny. He communicated many emotions with the bubbles of action words, and you can also tell the actions through the drawings. Example was when Loady and O’gynus got into when Loady threw the party in his house, making his animals into whores. Loady turned O’gynuses house all upside down! There was a lot of provoking issues all throughout this book with all the different characters. There weren’t really any responses to racist, but a lot towards sexual views! I felt like he told all these different types of stories just because the reader would find it very humorous, not for no serious reason because maybe Ryan wanted a good book out there for people my age and up to enjoy and laugh at. 

5. The biggest strengths of this book were the humor, I can say this is the funniest book I have ever read, and I truly liked it. I liked the different characters and what they did to the story. What drew me into picking this book was the title and the cover of the book, something about it made it look really interesting. Also I think some of these weird story are kind of realist in their own way, I think they really happen in real life! The biggest strength that stood out for me was that the book was so interesting, it made me want to read it and never put it down. I actually feel like I could read it again! It stands out because he makes you really visualize what is going on, when I read this book it felt like I was there in my mind watching the whole book replay while I was in the scenes, most books can’t do that for me as a reader. The form and style synchronize well, besides the fact that the book changes stories a couple times confused me a little, but that wasn’t a problem because I still wanted to continue to read it. My first reaction gut filling to this book was it doesn’t look that hard to read, just because the simple fact that the cover also draws you in, and let’s not forget about the title. The cover is very detailed and colorful, making you excited to read it! The artist also included a lot of facial expressions and body language throughout the book.

6. One weakness of this book I think was just the switching out of stories, and going to another one. When I got the book I thought it was all going to be on one story not numerous. It just kind of caught me off guard when I was reading the first story and it was getting so interesting and I wanted it to continue but instead it switched to another story.  Another problem I had with this book was the lack of color. Now without the color it still gave me a great visual stand point, but I am a person that loves color! I feel as though it would have made the book more exciting to read, more than it already was! Seeing that the cover of the book is so colorful, I thought the whole book would be like that. Having these two things could have improved the book in my perspective! How reading this book as changed my perspective on this topic is basically having bad friend, you can’t be too nice to them and let them ruin your life just because there’s is not going to well.

7. I would recommend this book to everyone that is around my age it’s a good book to keep you laughing and energized. I would recommend it to children to much cussing and profanity. But I have already been telling a lot of people about this book! People in the age range of 18-30 I think would love this book! I don’t think older people or people younger than the age of 18 should read this book just because of the profanity and all the sexual photos in the book! Maybe people who are just entering college like me and want something to read to boost there mood up, this would be a great book to read. I would pass it along personally to my cousin, best friend, friend, uncle, and even aquatinence. I would quickly respond to someone who wanted me to read this book, just because it looks interesting. None of the book makes me uncomfortable, but the sexual drawings did shock me! This book as increased my interest in this subject matter big time.

8. Other books by Johnny Ryan: Angry youth commix #7, Blecky Yuckerella, Shouldn’t you be working?, Portajohnny, Prison Pit, etc.

9. I would rate this book 5/5.