You know you should really be preparing for the hurricane, but all you feel like doing is reading comics? Rejoice! Check out this kids’ comic from FEMA in which a family of cats and their pet bird (who might count as part of that three-day food supply) get their emergency kit together. (Hat tip: Torsten Adair, who has compiled quite a bit of other useful information at The Beat.)
Also, the Good Comics for Kids bloggers, myself included, have put together a quick list of graphic novels to tuck in with the duct tape and bottled water. Enjoy!
Welcome to a special Super Bowl Sunday edition of What Are You Reading? Not that it’s any different from a regular WAYR column, but you can enjoy it while eating hot wings while the TV is paused.
Today our special guest is biology professor Jay Hosler, creator of Clan Apis and Optical Allusions. His latest book, Evolution, with artists Kevin Cannon and Zandor Cannon, was recently released by Hill & Wang. Check out his blog for a story he’s working on about photosynthesis.
To see what Jay and the Robot 6 gang are reading, click below.
John Hogan has an interesting interview with Adam Johnson, who runs the Stanford Graphic Novel Publishing Program. Every year, the students choose a nonfiction story and divide up into teams to create a graphic novel about it, working in groups to draft, thumbnail, draw, and produce the comic.
This year, the students chose the story of Tsutomu Yamaguchi, who through either spectacularly bad or good luck, depending on how you look at it, survived both the atomic bomb blasts at Hiroshma and Nagasaki. Yamaguchi, who worked for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, was in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, when the first bomb was dropped; the next day, he returned to his home in Nagasaki, which was bombed two days later. He was literally describing the Hiroshima bombing to a colleague when the same thing happened again. Ironically, Yamaguchi had been despondent over the war and was contemplating killing himself and his family if Japan were to lose, but after the bombings, he never looked back.
Johnson said that working with a true story forced the students to resolve problems with the narrative in creative ways:
I loved how, after the second bomb, Mr. Yamaguchi said he was unconscious for a week. Since our story was in the first person, present tense, a move the writer’s chose to help the reader sympathize with Yamaguchi’s story, we were in a narrative trap. But the students decided to switch to the perspective of his wife, Hisako, and the result was one of the more moving, poignant chapters of the graphic novel.
The finished product, titled Pika Don (Flash-Boom), was self-published, but Johnson would like to see it picked up by a publisher to reach a larger audience.
For the past 30 or so years, Larry Gonick has been engaged in what has to easily be one of the most ambitious comics projects ever: The Cartoon History of the Universe. In four volumes (including Vol. 1 of The Cartoon History of the Modern World), Gonick has relentlessly relayed the history of planet Earth as we know it, from the big bang up to the the 1700s. That he’s done so in such a consistently entertaining and downright funny fashion, is nothing short of remarkable, especially considering the plethora of dull, insipid nonfiction comics that have come out in the past few years.
Now, with the publication of the second volume of Cartoon History of the Modern World he’s finally finished his magmum opus. I used the occasion as an opportunity to talk with Gonick over email about his new book — which runs from the French Revolution to 9/11 — and how it feels to finally be finished something that took up such a large chunk of his working life. Here’s what he had to say:
Stitches: A Memoir
by David Small
WW Norton, 336 pages, $24.95.
I sometimes suspect that part of the reason some critics (if I can use that term) are hostile towards the recent spate of comic book (sorry, graphic novel) memoirs is due to a mistrust of the genre itself. There’s a tendency when someone is chronicling a dramatic, personal event, to exult praise merely for inherent drama of the story, particularly if it’s a traumatic one, than the skill in the telling. Some folks, in other words, get swept up in the idea of the story itself and the bravery of the person in coming forward to tell it, and ignore whether or not the work succeeds as art.
Certainly the success of books like Fun Home and Persepolis has resulted in publishers unleashing a number of bad or mediocre memoirs on the public. So perhaps it’s not surprising some folks are wary when a buzz-heavy memoir gets released.
Two such books hit the stands recently, David Small’s National Book Award-nominated (but kids only!) Stitches and the Ken Dahl’s Monsters. The good news is that both books deserve at least some, if not all, of the positive attention they’ve been getting.
I went to Alcatraz this weekend with some out-of-town visitors (and before anyone asks, no, they didn’t try to keep me there), and one of the items available in the gift shop was an Escape from Alcatraz comic. It’s about the 1962 escape of Frank Morris and brothers Clarence and John Anglin, which was dubbed “The Dummy Head Breakout.” The trio designed fake heads out of things like soap and toilet paper, to trick the guards into thinking they were asleep all night, then snuck out through the vents they’d been widening for about seven months.
They were never seen again. The story has been recounted in other books and in the 1979 movie starring Clint Eastwood.
The comic was created by writer Sara Ryan, artist Steve Lieber and colorist Jeff Parker. You can buy the book either on Alcatraz or via the online store.
One of the joys of doing this semi-regular feature, scouring through catalogs, is every so often you come across a real jewel, or at least something that makes you sit up and take notice. For example, looking through HarperCollins’s fall/winter line-up I discovered some rather interesting titles and one real notable graphic novel amidst the plethora of manga spin-offs. To wit:
“Has anyone supposed it lucky to be born? I hasten to inform him it is just as lucky to die, and I know it.”
As with Most Outrageous, it’s not too hard to figure out why I Live Here, actress Mia Kirshner’s anthology of tales concerning with refugees across the globe, didn’t win more acclaim. It’s a hell of a depressing book. It’s a constant, ugly reminder of just how lucky we fat, beknighted North Americans are; how well-off and satisfying our lives are and how we may complain or think we’re suffering, but really, we don’t even have the slightest fucking clue what real suffering is like or what it entails.
Today at TWFB, we’ll take a look at two prose publishers who have recently been dipping their toes into graphic novel waters: Hill and Wang and HarperCollins Children’s Books.
Hill and Wang, a subdivision of Farrar Straus Giroux, has been doggedly publishing its series of nonfiction and biographical comics for awhile now, the most notable title being Ernie Colon and Sid Jacobson’s adaptation of the 9/11 Report.
I covered Hill and Wang’s plans for the first half of the year here. For the summer, they have two books coming out: