Posts Tagged ‘Graphic Novel’

Muppet Sherlock Holmes by Patrick Storck

May 22, 2012

Since today is the birthday of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I thought it would be a good time to review a comic book adaptation of his work with this graphic novel by The Muppets. Our Book-a-Day blog has reviewed some of Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books before and we have also reviewed some Muppets books before — so, much like Reese’s peanut butter cups, here are two great things that go great together. In true Muppet fashion, they have put their own humorous spin on one of Doyle’s most famous lines: “Once you eliminate the rational, whatever remains, no matter how absurd, must be the Muppets.”

This graphic novel collects four of Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories with Gonzo the Great as the world’s greatest detective and Fozzie Bear as his loyal companion, Dr. Watson, who narrates the stories. Inspector Lestrade is played by Kermit the Frog, and many of the large cast of Muppet characters also make appearances throughout the stories. The first story is The Speckled Band, a classic locked room mystery, which even contains a 19th century version of the Veterinarian’s Hospital sketch from The Muppet Show. The second story to be re-told by Gonzo and crew is A Scandal in Bohemia featuring Miss Piggy as the intriguing Irene Adler — who was always referred to as the woman by Holmes. And, just as he did in the first season of The Muppet Show, Gonzo (Holmes) falls madly for Miss Piggy (Adler). The third story is The Red-Headed League in which shady goings on lead Holmes, Watson and Lestrade to don red wigs and take up menial clerical jobs with the league to try and deduce why their client, Mr. Wilson, is paid so handsomely for work that keeps him away from his shop during the day. The final tale is The Musgrave Ritual about an old aristocratic family legend which just may turn out to be some sort of treasure map. This version, however, concludes the final story with an abbreviated version of the events which occurred at Reichenbach falls (in the original Doyle story The Final Problem) with Holmes/Gonzo facing down his arch-nemesis Professor Moriarty (played by Uncle Deadly).  The writers did an excellent job of re-telling these tales as faithfully as possible, while also putting the unique “Muppety” spin on them at the same time.

For you more serious Sherlock Holmes fans (who should still totally give this graphic novel a try), you can find many different collections of Doyle’s stories and novels in our catalog.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

P.S. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle shares his birthday with my wife, so Happy Birthday my love!

Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral

May 7, 2012

This book caught my eye immediately. The format is somewhere between a photographic coffee table book and a graphic novel; the story is told in words and pictures, but also through instant messages, you tube videos, and drawings. The result is a beautiful finished product to leaf through leisurely or to tackle as a quick read (I was able to plow through the entire book on my lunch break one day.)

The story starts with the main character, Glory, missing. She has escaped from a mental institution and hasn’t been heard from since. Rewind eighteen months, and the events leading up to her disappearance are revealed:

Glory is a teenaged piano prodigy about to embark on a worldwide tour. She’s known for her skill of mixing classical pieces with modern scores in a cohesive and innovative manner (think Bach alongside Madonna). Her father is demanding and her schedule grueling. Between lessons, practice, and keeping up with her schoolwork, Glory doesn’t have a lot of time to be a normal teenager. And then she meets Frank, and her whole world turns upside down.

Glory’s deteriorating mental state is shown through clipped articles, postcards to Frank from her tour, and other documents, placed together to form a sort of scrapbook. She becomes incapable of performing the pieces that she is known for (and expected to play) and instead only plays (you guessed it) Chopsticks.

For a peek at the type of imagery you’ll see throughout this book, check out the video preview of the book or take a peek inside the book online.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston

January 12, 2012

If you’re looking for a book to read on your new e-book reader, don’t start here.  Don’t look here for your next audio book either.  A quick search of online booksellers will confirm that this novel is not available in either of these formats, even if you wanted to ignore my advice.

That’s because The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt is meant to be leafed through the way you would leaf through, say, a scrapbook.  Viewing one page at a time, as on a typical e-reader, would not serve this book well.  The vintage pictures used to illustrate the story need the space of the two-page spread so the eye can easily move from text to picture and back to text.  This book is a feast for the eye and needs a format that can showcase the many changes in font, color, and background.  And for now, in my opinion, that optimal format is paper.

Caroline Preston has said it was her lifelong love of vintage materials that inspired her to create what some would call her first graphic novel.  (For more detail watch an interview with her and read an article on how she created this book at her website, carolinepreston.com.)

The story centers on Frankie Pratt, a young girl from a family of modest means.  The time period is the 1920s and Frankie may be from a small New Hampshire town but she has big ambitions.  She dreams of going to college at Vassar, and upon graduation, embarking on a career as a writer.  The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt chronicles what happens to Frankie as she tries to make her dreams come true.

Frankie is a sympathetic heroine and I loved the combination of text and vintage pictures.  This is a book I savored, looking at the images, reading the text, then looking back at the pictures and reconsidering them in light of what I had just read.  Something about the interplay between the written word and visual images lent a poignancy to the story that I found moving.

If you are a fan of either historical fiction or graphic novels, give this book a try.  I also think it would appeal to teen girls and is a good choice for book clubs, especially those looking for something a little different from what they usually read.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

The Rabbi’s Cat by Joann Sfar

January 11, 2012

Joann Sfar’s graphic novel is a story about… Well, who knows what it’s about. But there is a cat in the story, a cat who can talk after eating a rabbi’s parrot. The man is dismayed by the bloodshed, and he is further distraught when it turns out that the cat is using his speaking abilities to tell lies. “The word,” the rabbi says, “exists to speak the world, not to falsify it.” So, the rabbi decides to teach the cat the Torah – “the instruction manual of existence” – but the cat has no patience for that. He wants to start “at the end” – with the esoteric Kabbalah, a school of thought that (according to some traditions) should not be studied before the age of forty.

And from these initial events the tale develops. The book hasn’t much of a plot, unless life itself can be considered a plot – it’s as if the reader drops in on the life of the characters, as they go through their everyday lives in the Algeria and France of the 1930s. The rabbi and his cat explore life as it is, in its grandness and vainness – it sparkles and shines, but when it rains, it pours. Algeria is flooded in bright, poetic colors, while Paris, France can be dour and dark, yet filled with life and dreams.

Like so many other French books, authenticity is at the heart of The Rabbi’s Cat. “People like what’s authentic,” the rabbi says while walking the rainy streets of Paris. “If you introduce them to real Algerian music,” he says, “they can only love it.” Not quite. But the soundless staging of Algerian music in The Rabbi’s Cat is so lyrical that it may tempt the reader to go searching for the real thing, the music itself. That’s how true Joann Sfar’s book is.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

Daytripper by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá

January 5, 2012

The lyrics of The Wailers’ song “Get Up, Stand Up” goes something like this (depending on the version), “Most people think / Great God will come from the sky / Take away everything / Make everybody feel high / But if you know what life is worth / You will look for yours on earth / And now you see the light / You stand up for your right.”

The song claims that you should not wait for justice until the afterlife. Life is right here, right now, created by the Most High and thus holy, and therefore social injustice should be fought wherever it is encountered (as injustice is a violation of life and hence a violation of God). In short: this life is what you have – use it wisely.

Which is easier said than done. Contemporary postmodern life can be a mind-numbing whirlwind and life and its precious moments may pass us by if we are not living the present moment, if we are instead living in an imagined future, a place and time where everything will be just right, where everything will fall into place. A sense of fulfillment is hardly possible if we are constantly looking ahead, planning for the next stage of the journey – fulfillment can perhaps only be experienced when we realize that this, the here and now, is all we have, and that it is all we will every have as the past is gone, the future hasn’t even occurred yet.

Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá’s graphic novel Daytripper is a ingenious contemplation on life and the preciousness of every day that we receive. The art work may remind the audience of Jean-Pierre Autheman, it’s as vivid as his graphic novels but not as raw; instead the art of Daytripper is rather tender and gentle.

And the tale of Moon and Bá is compassionate. The duo basically asks, What is important? And they suggest that every moment, every encounter, every social initiative is significant; they claim that it is important to dream, to follow dreams and visions, and to love whatever the world offers – its magic and its profanities. As in many tales about life, death plays a major role in Daytripper. For death is the price we pay for being alive – without death there would be no life.

To face death can be hard, but it can also be liberating. In the words of Steven P. Jobs: “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”  This is what Daytripper is saying, too.

Find and reserve this graphic novel in our catalog.

Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2011: Emil S.’s Picks

December 14, 2011

Before I worked in a library, I was a book editor for nine years, and a master of library science and a master of arts in literature may suggest that I have a thing for books. So, slowly, I read a lot of books. My range is fairly wide (me thinks, any way), beginning in 1700 B.C.E. and lasting till present day. Here are some of my favorites which I discovered in 2011:

The Great Enigma by Tomas Tranströmer
It is not every year – or every decade, even – that a poet receives the Nobel Prize for literature, but in 2011 it happened. Since his debut in 1954, Tranströmer has published (roughly) 250 pages of poems, and The Great Enigma (2004) will probably be his last collection of verse, for he is old and has already had some close encounters with death. The poems appear to be about the wonder of existence, and they display gratefulness for what life has given and continues to offer. God has always been present in Tranströmer’s poetry, but in The Great Enigma the presence of God is more obvious than ever before. However, the poet is not preachy – all he is saying is that he, even as death is drawing near, is deeply thankful for being part of the copulative verb “to be.”

True Grit by Charles Portis
Charles Portis’ True Grit (1968) is a simple and straightforward tale of an attempt to achieve justice or deliver vengeance, powerfully told and enriched by outstanding monologues and dialogues. The storyteller is a Mattie Ross, and the tale is told from the perspective of Ms. Ross as an older woman, in 1928. Many years earlier, at the age of fourteen, she undertook the quest of tracking down Tom Chaney, the man who killed her father. The country she portraits is a land filled with Americans in different stages of desperation, trying to survive in an age where the line between law and crime, law enforcer and criminal, is vague. Tragedy and comedy sometimes share room in a single sentence, and the young country that is in the process of growing older is developing a particular identity. Read my colleague Amy W.’s full review.

Top Ten: The Forty-Niners by Alan Moore (writer) and Gene Ha (artist)
In Top Ten: The Forty-Niners (2005), Briton Alan Moore tells the tale of Neopolis, a city that in 1949 is brand new, and populated by humans (and other creatures) with super powers. The city is magnificent and its dark underbelly serves as an appropriate offset: Nazi scientists are trying to change events of the past so that the Third Reich will triumph, and vampires are preying on the citizens of the city – whereof some are all too eager to become victims of the bloodsuckers. In the midst of this mess, a police department is trying to keep the situation from spinning out of control, and the officers of this force are the main characters of the tale. Some law enforcers believe in the persuasive power of brute force, others are still trying to figure out who they are and what their role is in this new city, and then there is the divine Joanna Dark – or The Maid. She feels no ambivalence at all – she is just in the world to crush evil.

War by Sebastian Junger
The American military endeavor in Afghanistan has entered its eleventh year of combat, and it is the longest war in U.S. history. Journalist Sebastian Junger spent 14 months embedded with a platoon – that’s about 30 men – of the 173rd Airborne brigade in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. It is a tiny outpost of U.S.A.’s mighty military machine, and out here the U.S. soldiers know that they may get overrun by the Taliban, who – heavily armed – engage in battle “as calmly as if they [are] organizing a game of cricket.” War (2010) is a book that is well researched, engaging, and deeply moving. A large number of U.S. soldiers engaged in the war in Afghanistan come and go and only a few are portrayed in a multi-layered way, but overall Junger paints an image of the warrior that is complex and honest, and War offers anthropological, biological, historical, psychological, and sociological insights as it shows the warrior in fear, killing, and love. Read my full review.

The Book of Five Rings by Musashi Miyamoto
Miyamoto’s The Book of Five Rings (1645) is a masterpiece that may have the ability to help anyone who has ever encountered difficulties in life (that would be everyone). The text focuses on the way of war and the way of the sword, but it can easily be adapted to all kinds of situations. The author speaks of many possible paths in life, about the importance of studying, knowing, and understanding the path chosen, and, Miyamoto says, those who have a deep understanding of the path they are walking have nothing to fear. It is hard to do such a rich book justice, and Miyamoto would perhaps say: return to it frequently, study the text thoroughly, and embrace its wisdom.

Each title is linked to the library catalog. Have you read any of these books? If so, please share your thoughts in the comments.

Summer of the Super-heroes: 2011

July 5, 2011

It’s seems that several summers over the past decade or so have earned the nickname “summer of the super-heroes” and 2011 can hold it’s own claim on that title, too.  So far, we’ve had Thor and X-Men First Class from Marvel, Green Lantern from DC, and soon we’ll have Captain America: The First Avenger, again, from Marvel as part of their multi-movie lead up to the mega-team up movie Avengers, due out next year. Anyway, I thought I’d take today’s blog to write about these popular summer movies, and some of the books they were based on.

Thor” was the first big superhero movie of this summer (have you noticed that for Hollywood “Summer” starts in the beginning of May?) and the movie was well received by critics and movie audiences alike.  Unlike in the movie, when Thor of the comic books was first sent to Earth to learn humility by Odin, his spirit was placed into partially disabled human, Donald Blake.  Thor had no memories of his godhood and Blake’s personality was dominant until he came across Thor’s magic hammer and his body went from skinny runt to Norweigian god in order to punish evil-doers.  Thor and Blake shared their body and became much like other superheroes hiding amongst humanity with an alter-ego. While our libraries don’t own many graphic novels solely devoted to Thor (we have a few in our Kids Graphic Novel area, for the elementary school set), but you’ll also find him included in books starring The Avengers.

X-Men: First Class” is a prequel to the other X-Men movies that came out in the early 2000’s and takes a look at young Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr, the man who becomes Magneto.  It’s mostly set in 1962 (one year before the X-Men comic debuted in real life) around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and has been critically acclaimed as well as grossing over $300 million.  X-Men has been one of Marvel’s most popular comic titles for many years, and it’s no surprise why with themes of good vs. evil, and humankind’s natural fear of the “other” – even when the others are also human.  Notable graphic novels to check out include: The X-Men First Class series, starting with Volume 1, any of The Essential X-Men series, and X-Men the Dark Phoenix Saga.

Green Lantern” has certainly not impressed any of the critics, which probably in part led to it’s disappointing performance at the box office, although in my humble opinion the movie was not nearly as bad a critics are saying.  The movie did get Hal Jordan’s “origin story” pretty close to the comics, and the villain Parallax is not too far off the mark, either. The one part that may be tricky for some is learning that even though Hal Jordan was the first ever human to become a Green Lantern, there have been three other earth men (American, of course) to wield the emerald ring, too (John Stewart, Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner). Not to mention Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern, whose ring works differently than Hal’s and is not part of the Green Lantern Corps.  A few key titles to get you up to speed: The Green Lantern chronicles. Vol. 1, Green Lantern: Secret Origin, Green Lantern: Rebirth, and Green Lantern: The Greatest Stories Ever Told.

Captain America” is certainly getting lots of buzz and hype (so did Green Lantern) and 97% of users on Rotten Tomatoes have said that they want to see it, but we’ll have to wait until July 22 to see how it fares with critics and audiences.  From the trailers and plot summaries online it seems that the movie is sticking with the origin story from the comics of the early 1940’s.  Scrawny Steve Rogers is denied entry into the Army and volunteers for a secret military project to create a super soldier to combat Hitler and the Nazis.  A few key stories include: Marvel Masterworks Captain America 1, The Essential Captain America series, starting with Volume 1, and be sure to see the Marvel Civil War series, which led up to the historic Death of Captain America in 2008.

So, what do you think?  Have you seen (and did you like) any of these movies? Are you a graphic novel reader? If so, which books are your favorites?  If not, would you consider reading one if you liked the movie on which it was based?

Promethea, vol. 1-5 by Alan Moore

May 19, 2011

Is Alan Moore, from Northampton, England, the most influential writer alive? Perhaps not, but for more than two decades, Moore has been a dominating force in his field – comics, or graphic novels – reaching millions of young, and not so young, minds.

In 1986, DC Comics began publishing Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen. When the story reached its conclusion in 1987, the landscape of comics was forever changed. Traditionally, the world of comics had been dominated by straightforward, linear stories. A flashback here and there might disturb the steady flow of time, but not in any significant way, and therefore the chaos and multi-perspective of Watchmen was quite sensational.

Fundamentally, Watchmen is a story about the end of the world, a fear that may be as old as life itself, but it is also a hope that possibly has been around as long as reflective thinking. Again and again in his career, Alan Moore has returned to the end of days, and the theme is the centerpiece of another story by Moore: Promethea (vol. 1-5).

The apocalypse of Watchmen is, however, different from the end of the world scenario of Promethea. Where Watchmen takes place in a dystopia, Promethea is a search for utopia. In Watchmen, it’s a matter of mass destruction caused by the belief in the supremacy of one rigid idea or another. The apocalypse of Promethea is an issue of hope. And while Watchmen is dominated by fanatics and the bloody consequences of their convictions, Promethea is a story where different faiths and belief systems are merged into one tolerant and multifaceted way. Moore tries to share a simple idea: everything that is, is part of the same body – in the old Hindu saying, everything is everything. The name of the body may vary – the world, the universe, God, the Tree of Life, the Brahma, the Buddha, the Christ, the Way – but it’s still a matter of one body, albeit a body with “a thousand faces” (to paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi).

Although the message is simple, Alan Moore presents it in a complicated manner. At times, Moore is an example of imagination running wild. Sometimes his creations contain too many events and too little substance, and while Watchmen was a tight piece of art, Promethea might be considered obese at times. It has been accused of being too talkative, and perhaps the story would have turned into a tell-not-show nightmare if it hadn’t been for the mind-bending artwork of if J.H. Williams, et al.

What has been neglected is the possibility that the talking heads often can be found in the most carefully illustrated parts of Promethea, and that there might be precise reasons for all the talk. The word-flooded pages slow the reader down; it is not possible to just glance at an image, burn through a few words, and then move on. The pace of the comic and the perception of time itself change – time is stretched out as words and images create a radiating union, and this is the body, spirit, and soul of comic book storytelling.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

Muppet Snow White by Jesse Blaze Snider, et. al.

April 5, 2011

“It’s time to start the music, it’s time to light the lights! It’s time to get things started on The Muppet Show tonight!”  If you remember that catchy little tune, then you’ll love this new comic book style re-telling of the classic story of Snow White by your favorite Muppets.  Just as they did with other classic tales (the movies A Christmas Carol, & Treasure Island) the Muppets have now put their own hilarious spin on this beloved fairy tale.

Jacob & Wilhem Grimm (Gonzo & Rizzo) narrate the story for us, in which The Queen (Miss Piggy) discovers from her magic mirror (Fozzie Bear) that she is not the fairest of them all.  The woodsman (Sweetums) must take young Snow White (Spamela Hamderson – who is accompanied by her agent, Pepe the King Prawn) into the woods to kill her, but he can’t do it, so she ends up finding a nice little cottage to live in.  That cottage is occupied by the seven dwarfs (not dwarves, as the Muppets are keeping with the original spelling from Brothers Grimm), portrayed by the band Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.  The band turns out to be one dwarf short, so they hold auditions.  Meanwhile, Prince Charming (Kermit) is about to meet Snow White when he’s captured by Queen Piggy who has somehow gotten ahold of the dragon from Sleeping Beauty.  Kermit is kept prisoner by the Queen – if Piggy can’t have her frog, then no one can – and Snow White eventually falls under the sleeping-in-a-death-like-trance spell, leading to a very long line of potential suitors who are each charged $1 for a kiss and the chance to be the one to break the spell.  Hilarity ensues throughout the story and just about all of your favorite Muppet characters make an appearance!

As with the best books, movies or TV shows for children, there’s plenty of humor for grown ups in here too.  In fact, there are several “in jokes” that only true Muppet fans would get and that will go right over the heads of kids (or almost anyone under 30).  I don’t want to spoil anything here, but suffice it to say that if you don’t know who the “Mahna Mahna” guy is, then you won’t get the joke he’s in. There are several other Muppet versions of classic “tales re-told” (Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood, & King Arthur) in comic books form, and I hope we’ll see them all in the library one day.  But, for now, after having read this, maybe I’ll watch some of the original Muppet Show via Netflix while I eagerly await the new movie “The Muppets”, written by and starring Jason Segel, coming out this Thanksgiving.

“Why don’t you get things started” by reserving your copy of Muppet Snow White!

The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

March 28, 2011

Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel (she actually prefers the phrase comic book) “The Complete Persepolis” chronicles her childhood in Iran, her early adulthood in Austria and her subsequent return to Iran as an adult.  She speaks frankly of how Iran’s cultural revolution impacted her life, the lives of family and friends and the general population of Iran.  Though quite frequently joyous, this book is not for the faint of heart, due to its inclusion of explicit details about the loss of some of her family members.   Ms. Satrapi is a straightforward storyteller- the entire book is black and white and her illustrations are best described as austere.   This book not only provided me an inside glimpse into how the political situation in Iran effected a young woman in a very serious manner, but how she and her family persevered through these times with love and humor (we see a young Marji rocking out with the Iron Maiden and Kim Wilde posters her parents smuggled into the country by sewing them into their coats).  Marjane Satrapi openly provides us with her bold voice and it feels like a real treat to be privy to her insights and adventures.

I was fortunate enough to randomly stumbled upon “The Complete Persepolis” (it was originally published as two separate books: Persepolis and Persepolis 2) back in 2005 at my local independent bookstore and a few years later, I had the amazing chance to hear Marjane Satrapi speak about her latest book, Chicken with Plums.  Ms. Satrapi is a warm-spirited, witty woman who expressed that no matter what you are handed in life, the best you can do for yourself is to live every moment to the fullest.  “The Complete Persepolis” was released as a film, starring Catherine Deneuve, entitled “Persepolis” in 2007.

Fins and reserve The Complete Perseoplis in our catalog.


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