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1. Thoughts on Books: Please Disturb

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“The writer whose words are going to be read by children 

has a heavy responsibility. And yet, despite the undeniable fact

that the children’s minds are tender, they are also far more tough 

than many people realize, and they have an openness

and an ability to grapple with difficult concepts

which many adults have lost.”

– Madeleine L’Engle

 

Over the past couple of years, I’ve come to appreciate the importance of disturbing readers.

Shaking them up.

In fact, I believe that many readers, consciously or unconsciously, crave the experience.

When I think about personal growth — perhaps in viewing my own three children — I imagine that it can be characterized by periods of equilibrium, followed by passages of disequilibrium, followed (hopefully) by a new, higher level of equilibrium.

Comfort, discomfort, growth.

 

disturb-the-universe

 

I came to understand some of this through my experience writing my first “horror” series, Scary Tales, for young readers. I placed horror in quotes because, well, it’s not that scary; nobody gets hurt, everything turns out okay in the end. Every time. But, sure, there are some clammy palpitations along the way.

I often visit schools and the response to “scary” in grades 3-5, particularly, is wildly enthusiastic. Kids love this creepy stuff with its twisting plots, and they have long before I ever entered the scene. But I’ve also learned that there is a lot of fear out there — from adults. The redoubtable gatekeepers. A question I’ll hear at Book Festivals: “Will this book give my child nightmares?”

Of course, I don’t know the answer to that. How should I respond?

SWAMP_MONSTER_Esec02_ES_loresOkay, I’m a parent. I get it, mostly. We don’t want our kids to wake up screaming, scared out of their minds. And to that end, we don’t want to irresponsibly expose them to content that might be developmentally inappropriate. Well, a caveat there: Most people have no problem, bizarrely, with “inappropriate” content if it’s on TV or a movie. Even something as cherished as the Harry Potter books and movies — where characters are murdered, and the stories get continually darker as agents of pure evil plot death and destruction. Everybody is fine with that! But a story about a kid trapped in a cave with bats? Or unfriendly snowmen guarding a castle? Or a swamp monster?

Those things might prove . . . upsetting.

And here’s the thing: Maybe we like scary stories exactly because of that disturbance. On some deep level, maybe even unconsciously, we want to be disturbed. Because we know that it is necessary to our growth.

What does the reader learn, after losing her balance, when she discovers, Whew, I’m actually okay. I survived this.

Might there be value in that discovery?

I recently got a letter from an 8th-grade reader who was disturbed by a scene in my middle-grade novel, Bystander, where a boy, Eric, gets beaten up. It upset his sense of fairness. In the letter-writer’s mind, “Eric was being very friendly,” and he “didn’t deserve to get beat up.”

The scene bothered this reader. It shook him up a little. A part of him preferred that it didn’t exist at all.

And I think, well, good. It was supposed to do that. It was designed to make you feel something. These are the troubling scenes we remember our entire lives.

Speaking of scary, how about the Teletubbies in black and white?

Speaking of scary, how about the Teletubbies in black and white?

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Now I’m not talking about pure shock, artlessly rendered. The head lopped off and bouncing, boing-boing-boing, down the carpeted staircase. Though, I guess, that might have value too. I’m talking about the fiendish clown in Stephen King’s It. Or the heartbreaking moment of when Travis is forced to shoot his rabid dog in Old Yeller. The moments that give us dis-ease.

I think that’s one of the things that good books can do for us. They disturb our tranquility a little bit. Which is also why, an aside, this entire notion of eliminating “trigger books” in the college curriculum is so misguided. The notion is that some people might be upset if they encounter certain kinds of things, or triggers, in assigned books: a mother with cancer, a rape, social prejudice, world hunger, whatever their personal trigger might be. Some believe that students should be warned about these triggers, in the hope of avoiding them.

We wouldn’t want anyone to be upset.

And I think: Good luck with that.

And also: Isn’t that kind of the point?

Illustration by Iacopo Bruno, from Scary Tales: One-eyed Doll.

Illustration by Iacopo Bruno, from Scary Tales: One-eyed Doll.

When I’m not writing Scary Tales, which is most of the time, I tend to write realistic fiction. My books have included childhood cancer, fistfights, bullying, suicide, lost pets, and car accidents. Scary stuff, life.

A book, of course, is a safe way for a child or adult to address different fears. A book can be mastered. A book can be closed. It can, simply, not be read at all. Or put aside to be read another day when the reader feels prepared. And then, on that day, guess what? The reader miraculously survives. Calm is restored.

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“Fear is a wonderful thing, in small doses. You ride the ghost train into the darkness, knowing that eventually the doors will open and you will step out into the daylight once again. It’s always reassuring to know that you’re still here, still safe. That nothing strange has happened, not really. It’s good to be a child again, for a little while, and to fear — not governments, not regulations, not infidelities or accountants or distant wars, but ghosts and such things that don’t exist, and even if they do, can do nothing to hurt us.”

– Neil Gaiman

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2. Neil Gaiman Praised Terry Pratchett for Going Public

Author Neil Gaiman had a huge amount of respect for how his friend, the late  Terry Pratchett responded to a diagnosis with early onset rear brain alzheimer’s in 2007.

In a recent discussion about Pratchett with author Michael Chabon, Gaiman said: “He did something huge and noble, which was after his diagnosis, he went public and he went loud. He risked being trivialized.”

Here is an excerpt from the discussion:

Terry was someone who fought for years to get people to understand that funny and serious are not opposites. The opposite of funny is not funny. You can absolutely be funny and serious at the same time and Terry was.

So here is somebody who has fought to be taken seriously and to make people realize that you can write a serious novel set in a fantasy context on the back of elephants on the back a giant turtle floating through space and it can still be a real novel and he’s got there. He’s won the Carnegie Medal. He’s got serious critical attention and now he risks losing it, but he did. He announced it to the world and he used it to an opportunity to start the dialog.

(Via Electric Literature).

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3. Neil Gaiman Reminisces About Sir Terry Pratchett

Neil Gaiman and Michael Chabon recently sat for a conversation at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. The two writers talked about their craft, stories, and beloved author Sir Terry Pratchett.

The video embedded above features the portion of their discussion where they talked about Pratchett and his influence on the literary community. Click here to watch a recording of the entire event. On the same day that Gaiman learned of Pratchett’s passing, he wrote a short blog post to express his feelings about his dear friend.

Here’s an excerpt: “Thirty years and a month ago, a beginning author met a young journalist in a Chinese Restaurant, and the two men became friends, and they wrote a book, and they managed to stay friends despite everything. Last night, the author died. There was nobody like him. I was fortunate to have written a book with him, when we were younger, which taught me so much.” (via The Huffington Post)

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4. Amanda Palmer & Neil Gaiman Are Having a Baby

Authors Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman are expecting a baby.

Gaiman tweeted the news earlier today along with a link to an Instagram photo of the pregnant Palmer.

I just took a photograph of beautiful, three months pregnant @amandapalmer: https://t.co/zqHgiIeS6g

— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) March 18, 2015

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5. The Literary Community Remembers Sir Terry Pratchett

Terry took Death’s arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.

— Terry Pratchett (@terryandrob) March 12, 2015

The literary community is mourning the loss of famed science-fiction writer, Sir Terry Pratchett.

The beloved fantasy author had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for nearly a decade. The news was announced yesterday on Pratchett’s Twitter (embedded above) and Facebook pages.

A number of people have expressed their sadness on social media including Good Omens co-author Neil Gaiman, Stone Mattress author Margaret Atwood, and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron. Below, we’ve collected several messages from Twitter in a Storify post.

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6. Toni Morrison On Failure

morrison, toniAward-winning novelist Toni Morrison has contributed a piece to NEA Arts Magazine. For this issue, every article focuses on the topic of “failure.”

Morrison (pictured, via) feels that “as a writer, a failure is just information. It’s something that I’ve done wrong in writing, or is inaccurate or unclear. I recognize failure—which is important; some people don’t—and fix it, because it is data, it is information, knowledge of what does not work. That’s rewriting and editing.”

Morrison also shares her thoughts on “recognizing when something isn’t working,” “learning not to overdo it,” and “stumbles along the way.” Many writers have publicly expressed similar opinions on failure including Harry Potter series author J.K. Rowling, Fight Club novelist Chuck Palahniuk,  and Trigger Warning writer Neil Gaiman. How do you deal with failure?

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7. Neil Gaiman Honors Douglas Adams

Author Neil Gaiman honored the late Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, in a talk at the Royal Geographical Society in London last night.

In the presentation, Gaiman told stories about his friend pointing out that Adams had predicted eBooks decades ago, and yet, still felt strongly about print’s future. The Guardian has more:

Adams told Gaiman: \"Look at a book. A book is the right size to be a book. They’re solar-powered. If you drop them, they keep on being a book. You can find your place in microseconds. Books are really good at being books and no matter what happens books will survive.’ And he was right,\" said Gaiman.

You can watch a video of the lecture here.

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8. Trigger Warning

A delicious cornucopia of Gaiman's short fiction. Dip in and enjoy. There's a bit of everything here, from Doctor Who to an unpublished American Gods story. Once again, Gaiman waves his magician's wand and we are swept away to slightly disturbing and eerie lands. Books mentioned in this post Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and... Neil [...]

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9. The Galiano Literary Festival & Neil Gaiman Get Booked

Neil GaimanHere are some literary events to pencil in your calendar this week.

To get your event posted on our calendar, visit our Facebook Your Literary Event page. Please post your event at least one week prior to its date.

Two writers, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Melissa Petro, will appear at BookCourt for a reading. Hear them on Monday, February 16th starting 7 p.m. (Brooklyn, NY)

Two authors, Neil Gaiman and Daniel Handler, will sit down for a conversation at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. See them on Tuesday, February 17th starting 8 p.m. (Brooklyn, NY)

New York Times correspondent Sam Roberts will talk about his new book, A History of New York in 101 Objects, at the New York Public Library (Mid-Manhattan branch). Meet him on Wednesday, February 18th starting 6:30 p.m. (New York, NY)

Writer Ame Dyckman and artist Zacharia Ohora will headline a launch party for their new picture book, Wolfie The Bunny. Join in on Saturday, February 21st from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. (New York, NY)

The 6th annual Galiano Literary Festival will feature a variety of panels and workshops. Check it out from Friday, February 20th to Sunday, February 22nd (Galiano Island B.C.)

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10. Chu’s Day, by Neil Gaiman | Book Review

Chu’s Day follows the day in the life of Chu the panda who happens to have a giant sneeze. His sneeze is so powerful it makes bad things happen.

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11. Dan Santat & Neil Gaiman Debut on the Indie Bestseller List

Beekle CoverWe’ve collected the books debuting on Indiebound’s Indie Bestseller List for the week ending February 08, 2015–a sneak peek at the books everybody will be talking about next month.

(Debuted at #3 in Hardcover Fiction) Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman: “In this new anthology, Neil Gaiman pierces the veil of reality to reveal the enigmatic, shadowy world that lies beneath. Trigger Warning includes previously published pieces of short fiction—stories, verse, and a very special Doctor Who story that was written for the fiftieth anniversary of the beloved series in 2013—as well ‘Black Dog,’ a new tale that revisits the world of American Gods, exclusive to this collection.” (February 2015)

(Debuted at #6 in Children’s Illustrated) The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat: “This magical story begins on an island far away where an imaginary friend is born. He patiently waits his turn to be chosen by a real child, but when he is overlooked time and again, he sets off on an incredible journey to the bustling city, where he finally meets his perfect match and-at long last-is given his special name: Beekle.” (April 2014)

(Debuted at #7 in Children’s Interest) El Deafo by Cece Bell: “Going to school and making new friends can be tough. But going to school and making new friends while wearing a bulky hearing aid strapped to your chest? That requires superpowers!” (September 2014)

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12. Neil Gaiman Reacts to Fifty Shades of Grey Sales

Vlogger Hank Green recently shared that 50 Shades of Grey has already sold more copies than the number of books Ray Bradbury sold in his lifetime. This doesn’t worry author Neil Gaiman.

In a Tumblr post, he responded to this by pointing out that this isn’t new. “Nothing’s changed,” he wrote. “Some books are, often inexplicably, bestsellers. That’s been the way of it for a hundred and fifty years or more.”

He pointed out that if you look at the annual bestseller lists for previous years,  you’ll see how trendy books do really well around publication but tend to fade out over time. Here is an excerpt from his post:

You’ll find a lot of books that sold an unbelievable number of copies when they were fashionable. I’m sure The Revolt of Mamie Stover also sold more books than Ray Bradbury will ever have sold in his whole life in its year. Have you read it? Heard of it?  Off the top of my head, Peyton Place in its year, orThe Gospel According to Peanuts, or The Ginger Man, or Jonathan Livingstone Seagull in their years undoubtedly outsold all of Ray Bradbury.

Bradbury, on the other hand, has sold a ton of books ever since he started writing and he continues to sell books. “…he found his readers for his books and his stories in every year,” wrote Gaiman. ” And I’ll wager a hundred years from now he’ll still be read…”

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13. Neil Gaiman Live

It was exciting to see Neil Gaiman live at the City Recital Hall in Sydney on the weekend. It was a satellite event of the Sydney Writers’ Festival (surely one of the world’s best writers’ festivals). As Jemma Birrell, Artistic Director, mentioned in her introduction, Neil has over 2 million twitter followers so no wonder […]

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14. 10 New Writers Sign On to Write For Chipotle Cups And Bags

chipotlebagsChipotle Mexican Grill has recruited ten new writers to contribute pieces for its “Cultivating Thought” line.

Jonathan Safran Foer returns to serve as both curator and editor. The participants include Neil Gaiman, Aziz Ansari, Augusten Burroughs, Walter Isaacson, Amy Tan, Paulo Coelho, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Barbara Kingsolver, Julia Alverez and Jeffrey Eugenides. The company’s cups and bags will feature short stories and illustrations.

Gaiman announced on his Facebook page that his piece focuses on “refugees and the fragility of the world.” Here’s an excerpt: “There are now fifty million refugees in the world today, more than at any time since the end of the Second World War. And at some point, for each one of those people, the world shifted. Their world, solid and predictable, erupted or dissolved into chaos or danger or pain. They realized that they had to run. You have two minutes to pack. You can only take what you can carry easily.” Follow this link to learn more. (via The Hollywood Reporter)

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15. Kibbles ‘n’ Bits 1/13/15: Secrets of the new Avengers trailer REVEALED!

§ After watching the new Avengers trailers several dozen times, going frame by frame, I think I can reveal a shocking twist: The Avengers will be fighting Ultron! Whoa! If you wat a more conventional breakdown, Russ Burlinghame has a breakdown of the dark brooding and forest shuffling.  Also, Hulkbuster.

§ If you have read this site for a month or two, you will already have figured out 4 Things Everyone Gets Wrong About Graphic Novels and the People Who Read Them. Did you know that comics aren’t just for kids? Eye opining, I know. But perhaps you can beat someone who is intractable over the head  with this if necessary.

 

Hip hop Vol3 cover Kibbles n Bits 1/13/15: Secrets of the new Avengers trailer REVEALED!

§ Fantagraphics has revealed the cover to Hip Hop Family Tree Volume 3 by Ed Piskor and it’s time for Run DMC. These books look so nice shelved next to one another.

§ ICv2 has the BookScan–Top 20 Graphic Novels list and now non fiction is added, making Ros Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More PLeasant? The #1 book for December, beating even The Walking Dead and Saga.  This also means that many people may have received this funny but bittersweet memoir about aging parents as a holiday gift. Think about that for a while.

§ I know you have all seen Neil Gaiman’s amazing advice on how to become a writer but for the five people who didn’t, it’s a classic.

bowery boys Kibbles n Bits 1/13/15: Secrets of the new Avengers trailer REVEALED!

§ Dark Horse is publishing a hardcover edition of Cory Levine’s Bowery Boys: Our Fathers! with art by Ian Bertram (Detective Comics, Batman Eternal) and Brent McKee (Outlaw Territory). It collects the web series about rapscallion adventure in rough and tumble 19th century New York City. The book is due in August.  The pr described Bertram as “up and coming” and he really is. 

 

0 Comments on Kibbles ‘n’ Bits 1/13/15: Secrets of the new Avengers trailer REVEALED! as of 1/13/2015 10:26:00 AM
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16. Neil Gaiman Shares His Thoughts On How to Become a Writer

Neil Gaiman TruthHow does one become a writer? American Gods novelist Neil Gaiman offered some practical advice to answer this question on his Tumblr. For Gaiman, it’s all about making sure to see a project through from start to finish.

Here’s more from Gaiman’s post: “Write the ideas down. If they are going to be stories, try and tell the stories you would like to read. Finish the things you start to write.”

Do you agree with Gaiman’s thoughts? If not, Gaiman describes an alternative process that involves scaling a mountain, catching a crow, collecting a golden berry, enduring a week of silence, and reciting Dr. Seuss’ Fox in Socks in its entirety with a golden berry under your tongue. Which method would you prefer?

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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17. Neil Gaiman Shares His Thoughts On How to Become a Writer

Neil Gaiman TruthHow does one become a writer? American Gods novelist Neil Gaiman offered some practical advice to answer this question on his Tumblr. For Gaiman, it’s all about making sure to see a project through from start to finish.

Here’s more from Gaiman’s post: “Write the ideas down. If they are going to be stories, try and tell the stories you would like to read. Finish the things you start to write.”

Do you agree with Gaiman’s thoughts? If not, Gaiman describes an alternative process that involves scaling a mountain, catching a crow, collecting a golden berry, enduring a week of silence, and reciting Dr. Seuss’ Fox in Socks in its entirety with a golden berry under your tongue. Which method would you prefer?

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18. Literary Community Speaks Out Against the Attacks on ‘Charlie Hebdo’

Je Suis CharlieThe Satanic Verses novelist Salman Rushdie has issued a statement about the attacks on the Paris-based offices of the Charlie Hebdo newspaper. It was originally publicized on the English PEN website, but it has since been taken down. The Wall Street Journal has re-posted it in its entirety; here’s an excerpt:

“I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity. ‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.”

Rushdie has not been the only member of the literary community to speak out on this issue. Last night, American Gods novelist Neil Gaiman revealed on Facebook that he agrees with the sentiments of Rushdie’s piece. On that same night, The Day The Crayons Quit illustrator Oliver Jeffers and Maus creator Art Spiegelman participated in a vigil in the Union Square area of New York City. (via The Huffington Post)

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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19. Reviews: A Murder of Cartoonists

While we were enjoying Comic Arts Brooklyn this year, my partner Marguerite Van Cook and I took a break from the excitement of promoting our new Fantagraphics Book The Late Child and Other Animals to go across the street to a little coffee bar and have a snack. The young counterperson noted the influx of odd personages hauling portfolios and piles of comics and asked, “is that a convention?”
I replied, “Well, a convention is more like one of those huge things with wrestlers, porn stars and superhero comics, all mixed together with a lot of cosplayers. This is more of a gathering of especially individualistic birds in the alt/lit comics scene. I guess you could call it a ‘murder’ of cartoonists.”
She laughed and asked about the origin of that phrase, which usually describes a flock of crows. But not to further elaborate that conversation, what follows is a review sampling of comics, many of them with poetical aspects, that I got at CAB and other recent releases. Note that I don’t actually try to kill my subjects, but rather to remark on their positive aspects, wherever possible.

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Jungle Book by Harvey Kurtzman (Kitchen Sink/Dark Horse, $24.99)

Kurtzman 1000x863  Reviews: A Murder of Cartoonists

A rare solo effort by the auteuristic creator of E.C.’s two excellent war comics titles Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat, working in the satiric mode he initiated for Mad. Now, I do very much like Kurtzman’s solo work; see Fantagraphics’ recent collection of most of his solo E.C. stories, Corpse on the Imjin (which also contains a smattering of his odd, briefer collaborations, like those with Alex Toth and Joe Kubert). His own drawings have a powerful thrust and direct emotionality that can be lost or greatly altered when filtered through the sensibilities of the artists charged to re-illustrate his layouts. In Jungle Book, which was originally released by Ballantine Books in 1959 as a dingy, downscale paperback, Kurtzman’s targets include a jazz/noir mashup, a TV western and most impressively, in “The Organization Man in the Grey Flannel Executive Suite”, a cutting sendup of the fierce sexism that polluted the offices of his former employer, ex-Marvel Comics owner Martin Goodman. This brilliant strip is nonetheless disparaged as “weak” by famed misogynist and Kurtzman discovery R. Crumb, in the afterthought conversation between the underground artist and Peter Poplaski that cabooses this otherwise beautifully-produced hardcover reprint volume.

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Andre the Giant: Life and Legend by Box Brown (First Second, $7.99)

Box Andre 1000x745  Reviews: A Murder of Cartoonists

Brown’s biography of wrestling star Andre Roussimoff joins a small group of comics masterpieces that deal with this most theatrical of sports, from Jaime Hernandez’s Whoa Nellie from 2000 to a series of tongue-in-cheek horror collaborations by Mike Mignola and Richard Corben in more recent years, including their 2011 graphic novella House of the Living Dead. Brown’s is a remarkably consistent effort with effective graphic sequences such as the one pictured above and I also admire his restrained handling of the heavily staged fight scenes, as well as his unusual architectural establishing shots. Brown’s stark, spare and precise cartooning create a unique mood, as they contextualize Andre’s success with a tragic acknowledgement of the unrelenting sense of otherness and diminished opportunities for social interaction that he experiences due to his exceedingly unusual scale; as well as his size’s harsh repercussions on his health.

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Fear My Dear: A Billy Dogma Experience by Dean Haspiel (Z2 Comics, $19.95)

Dino 1000x495  Reviews: A Murder of Cartoonists

The pair of poetic graphic stories in Fear, My Dear reflect Dino’s unfettered physicality and passionate persona. Since winning an Emmy award for his TV collaboration with Jonathan Ames, Bored to Death and The Alcoholic, their graphic novel from Vertigo, Haspiel has if anything become bolder and more exuberant. For this nicely produced hardcover from Josh Frankel’s new Z squared imprint, the artist uses a four-panels-per-page grid format and a monochromatic color scheme (red in the first piece, yellow and orange in the second, both with an elegant use of white for emphasis) to further define the relationship between his creator-owned characters Billy Dogma and Jane Legit. Their romance haunts post-apocalyptic urban rubble and breaks through to a star-crossed dreamscape, only to end up where they knew they must: together.

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How to Pool and Other Comics by Andrea Tsurumi (self-published, not priced)

Andrea 1000x747  Reviews: A Murder of Cartoonists

Marguerite and I used to bask our way through the East Village dog days at the Pit Street Pool, and more recently as guests of the Miami Book Fair, we whiled away every spare moment by the steamy roof pool at our hotel. So, I can totally relate to the lead piece in Tsurumi’s new minicomic, wherein the artist collects a variety of witty graphic vignettes about group soakings in fluoridated waters, among other delicately drawn ironies and anthropomorphisms.

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Inkbrick #1 by Rothman, Sullivan, Kearney, Tunis, et al (Inkbrick, not priced)

Alexander 1000x794  Reviews: A Murder of Cartoonists

This pocket-sized anthology of comics that incorporate, or are adapted from, poetry is made up of remarkable short stories done in a variety of mediums that range from full color to black & white. Immediate standouts for me are Paul K. Tunis’s watery montages for “Avenge Me, Eavesdropper,” Gary Sullivan’s oblique ink rendering of horrific Asian mythologies, “Black Magic”; Simone Kearney’s whimsically etched “Mobilization”; and editor Alexander Rothman’s “Keeping Time” (pictured above), a piece apparently finished in colored pencils that inventively expresses non-visual sensory impressions such as sound, smell and touch.

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The Graveyard Book, Volumes 1 and 2 by Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russell et al (Harper Collins, $19.99 each)

Gaiman Nowlan 1000x740  Reviews: A Murder of Cartoonists

Although The Graveyard Book continues Neil Gaiman’s anti-collaborative self-hype at the expense of his artist partners, I do appreciate P. Craig Russell’s adaptations of Gaiman’s stories into comics form. Russell’s elegant cartooning and storytelling are paced far better than if Gaiman had scripted; it worked beautifully for Murder Mysteries, Coraline and The Dream Hunters. Now, for Gaiman’s morbidly charming tale of a live boy shielded from a cabal of serial killers by the shades of the deceased occupants of a cemetery and raised by them to young adulthood, Russell acts artistically in a way similar to Kurtzman’s E.C. methodology: he adapts the text and does layouts; the finishing artists serve as illustrators. This makes for a surprisingly smooth and consistent read. I particularly admire the polished renderings of Kevin Nowlan (seen above), Scott Hampton, Jill Thompson and the Russell-miming Galen Showman; and although a somewhat discordant note is sounded by the grotesqueries of Tony Harris, the whole is unified by colorist Lovern Kindzierski and illuminator Rick Parker, who hand-lettered the text, for me a visual treat in these days of page-deadening digital fonts.

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Lazarus #1-9 by Greg Rucka, Michael Lark and Santi Arcas (Image Comics, $2.99 each)

Rucka Lark 1000x769  Reviews: A Murder of Cartoonists

I drew one of Greg Rucka’s first comics stories (“Guts” in DC/Vertigo’s Flinch #8, 2000), but it seems to me that the writer doesn’t take as much advantage as he might of the properties that are unique to comics—almost everything he does might work just as well if not better as TV shows. In his 2012 collaboration with Matthew Southworth, Stumptown, it is Southworth’s expressive drawing that provides most of the interest and its most effective use of the medium is that the artist rendered Vol 2, #4 with a Toth-esque sideways, widescreen layout. For Lazarus, a story of a female assassin in a dystopian, nearly medieval America run by a select group of powerful families that is absorbing enough and has had some striking moments, but still often has a feeling of deja vu about it, a lot of the heavy lifting is provided by artist Michael Lark’s cinematic near-photorealism, accomplished in collaboration with Santi Arcas’ hi-tech color graphics.

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Thought Bubble #4 by Kot & Sampson, Lim & Rios, Starkings & Sale et al (Image Comics, $3.99)

Ales Alison 1 1000x753  Reviews: A Murder of Cartoonists

This color tabloid is a showcase for the participants in the UK’s Leeds Comic Art Festival. My favorite piece is a sort of gentle advisory poem that in its course expresses a goal that many sensitive artists hold dear: that of “making things that help other people feel less alone.” It is the work of the writer of Image’s fascinating rotating-artist series Zero, Ales Kot, expressively drawn with upended, widescreen and oblique imagery by Alison Sampson, who just won a British Comic Award for emerging talent; and nicely colored by Jason Wordie. Also notable: a beautiful page by Hwei Lin and Emma Rios; and an Elephantmen strip written by Richard Starkings and elegantly rendered in ink washes by Tim Sale.

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Nightworld #s 1-4 by Adam McGovern, Paolo Leandri & Dominic Regan (Image Comics $3.99 each)

Paulo Adam 1000x730  Reviews: A Murder of Cartoonists

A tale of questing, embattled superhero-ish spirits, Nightworld manages to not only convey an approximation of the look of a Jack Kirby comic book, but it also comes closer than anything else I have seen to capturing something of the spirit of that master’s fierce and restless creativity. Artist Leandri hits a spot somewhere between majoring in Kirby, minoring in Steranko and echoing the early work of Barry Smith, back in the day when he was emulating Jack. Leandri’s spreads can look remarkably as if they were actually drawn by Kirby and his character designs and action passages likewise (see example above), without ever feeling as appropriated, or as forced, as those by some other artists who attempt to adhere as closely to the same model. These comics are colored by Regan with an oddly chosen palette that, again, is reminiscent of Kirby’s psychedelic experiments with Dr. Martin’s dyes. Moreover and significantly, writer McGovern’s poetic voice uniquely grasps a sort of post-traumatized and humane melancholy of narrative, the most tragic scenes of which are appropriately followed and leavened in a Shakespearean mode by bursts of frenetic humor, that can be seen in Kirby’s best writing.

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2 Comments on Reviews: A Murder of Cartoonists, last added: 12/13/2014
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20. Neil Gaiman Does Jabberwocky


0 Comments on Neil Gaiman Does Jabberwocky as of 12/14/2014 6:10:00 AM
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21. Review of the Day: Hansel and Gretel by Neil Gaiman

HanselGretel Review of the Day: Hansel and Gretel by Neil GaimanHansel and Gretel
By Neil Gaiman
Illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti
Candlewick
$16.95
ISBN: 978-1-935179-62-7
Ages 6 and up

When a successful writer of books for adults decides to traipse headlong into the world of children’s literature, the results are too often disastrous. From Donald Barthelme’s self-indulgent Slightly Irregular Fire Engine to the more recent, if disastrous in an entirely different way, Rush Revere series by Rush Limbaugh, adult authors have difficulty respecting the unique perspective of a child reader. Either they ignore the intended audience entirely and appeal to the parents with the pocket change or they dumb everything down and reduce the storytelling to insulting pabulum. This is not to say that all adult authors are unsuccessful. Sylvia Plath penned the remarkable The Bed Book while Ted Hughes brought us The Iron Giant. Louise Erdrich will forever have my gratitude for her Birchbark House series and while I wouldn’t call Michael Chabon’s Summerland a roaring success, it at least had some good ideas. Then we come to Neil Gaiman. Mr. Gaiman is one of those rare adult authors to not only find monetary success in the field of children’s books but literary success as well. His The Graveyard Book won the prestigious Newbery Award, given once a year to the most distinguished written book of children’s literature in America. Like Donald Hall with his Ox-Cart Man, Gaiman has successfully straddled two different literary forms. Unlike Hall, he’s done so repeatedly. His latest effort, Hansel and Gretel takes its inspiration from art celebrating an opera. It is, in an odd way, one of the purest retellings of the text I’ve had the pleasure to read. A story that begs to be spoken aloud, even as it sucks you into its unnerving darkness.

In the beginning there was a woodcarver and his pretty wife and their two children. Times were good and once in a while the family, though never rich, would get a bite of meat. Then the wars came and the famine. Food became so scarce that the wife persuaded her husband to abandon their children in the woods. The first time he tried to do so he failed. The second time he succeeded. And when Hansel and Gretel, the children in question, spotted that gingerbread cottage with its barley sugar windows and hard candy decorations the rest, as they say, was history.

Hansel2 300x97 Review of the Day: Hansel and Gretel by Neil GaimanIt’s a funny kind of children’s book. The bulk of it is text-based, with time taken for Mattotti’s black and white two-paged spreads between the action. For people expecting a standard picture book this can prove to be a bit unnerving. Yet the truth is that the book begs to be read aloud. I can see teachers reading it to their classes and parents reading it to their older children. The art is lovely but it’s practically superfluous in the face of Gaiman’s turn of phrase. Consider sentences like “They slept as deeply and as soundly as if their food had been drugged. And it had.” There’s something deeply satisfying about that “And it had”. It is far more chilling in its matter-of-factness than if Gaiman had ended cold with “It had”. The “And” gives it a falsely comforting lilt that chills precisely because it sounds misleadingly comforting. It pairs very well with the first sentence in the next section: “The old woman was stronger than she looked – a sinewy, gristly strength…” He then peppers the books with little tiny nightmares that might not mean much on a first reading but are imbued with their own small horrors if you pluck them out and look at them alone. The witch’s offers to Gretel to make her one of her own and teach her how to ensnare travelers. Hansel’s refusal to let go of the bone that saved his life, even after the witch has died. And the final sentence of the book has a truly terrible tone to it, though on the surface it appears to be nothing but sunshine and light:

“In the years that followed, Hansel and Gretel each married well, and the people who went to their weddings ate so much fine food that their belts burst and the fat from the meat ran down their chins, while the pale moon looked down kindly on them all.”

Some versions of the story turn the mother into a stepmother, for what kind of parent would sacrifice her own children for the sake of her own skin? Here Gaiman is upfront about the mother. She was pretty once but became bitter and sharp-tongued in time. It’s her plying words that convince the woodcutter to go along with the abandonment plan. As the book later explains, subsequent version of this tale turned her into a stepmother, but here we’ve the original parent with her original sin. Gaiman also solves some problems in the plot that had always bothered me about the story. For example, why does Hansel drop white stones that are easy to follow the first time he and Gretel are abandoned in the woods but breadcrumbs the second? The answer is in the planning. Hansel has foreknowledge of his mother’s wicked scheme the first time around and has time to find the stones. The second time the trip into the woods catches him unawares and so the only thing he has on hand to use for a path are the breadcrumbs of the food he’s given for lunch.

Hansel3 300x208 Review of the Day: Hansel and Gretel by Neil GaimanOriginally the illustrations in this book were created by Lorenzo Mattotti for the Metropolitan Opera’s staging of the opera of the same name. These pieces of art (which the publication page says are in “a rich black ink, on a smooth woodfree paper from Japan”) proved to be the inspiration for Gaiman’s take. This is no surprise. Mattotti knows all too well how to conjure up the impression of light or night with the merest swoops of his paintbrush. His children are no better than silhouettes. Does it even matter if they have any features? Here the trees are the true works of art. There’s something hiding in the gloom here and from the vantage taken, the thing lurking in the woods, spying upon the kids, is ourselves. We are the eyes making these two children so very nervous. We espy their mother pacing in front of their home just before the famine starts. We peer through the trees at the kids crossing past a small gap in the trunks. On a first glance the shadows are universal but then you notice when Mattotti chooses to imbue a character with features. The children are left abandoned in the woods and all you can see of the woodcutter is an axe and an eye. I think it the only eyeball in the entire book. It’s grotesque.

Of course, for a children’s librarian the best part might well be the backmatter. Recently I read a version of “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” that suggested that the Grimm tale was a metaphor for a plague that had wiped out all of Hamelin’s children, save a few. A similar theory surrounds “Hansel and Gretel”, suggesting that the story’s origins lie in the Great Famine of 1315. Further information is given about the tale, ending at last with the current iteration and (oh joy!) a short Bibliography. You might not be as ready to nerd out over this classic fairy tale, but for those of you with a yen, boy are you in luck!

Hansel5 500x347 Review of the Day: Hansel and Gretel by Neil Gaiman

What is the role of a fairy tale these days? With our theaters and books filled to brimming with reimagined tellings, one wonders what fairy tales mean to most people. Are they cultural touchstones that allow us to speak a universal language? Do they still reflect our deepest set fears and worries? Or are they simply good yarns worth discovering? However you chose to view them, the story of “Hansel and Gretel” deserves to be plucked up, shaken out like an old coat, and presented for the 21st century young once in a while. Neil Gaiman’s a busy man. He has a lot to do. He could have phoned this one in. Instead, he took the time and energy to make give the story its due. It’s not about what we fear happening to us. It’s about what we fear doing to ourselves by doing terrible things to others. The fat from the meat is running down our chins. Best to be prepared when something comes along to wipe it up.

On shelves now.

Source: Publisher copy sent for review.

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22. Neil Gaiman Reads A Christmas Carol

35405593_gvv24v-3.inline verticalLast year, author Neil Gaiman celebrated the holiday season by reading A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens to an audience at The New York Public Library. Follow this link to listen to the reading. (via Open Culture)

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23. The World’s Greatest Storytellers: INFOGRAPHIC

World's Greatest Storytellers

Who would you name as the world’s greatest storyteller? The team at Raconteur.net interviewed 500 authors, journalists, editors, students, media experts, and marketing professionals to try to uncover the answer to this question; the data was collected into an infographic.

The ones that made it into the top six include five British writers and one American horror master: William Shakespeare, J.K. Rowling, Roald Dahl, Charles Dickens, Neil Gaiman, and Stephen King. Follow this link to view the full infographic.

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24. PEN American Center Posts Letter Advocating For Free Speech to Sony Pictures CEO

PENThe hackers behind The Interview incident have elicited both anger and fear throughout the country. The PEN American Center has sent a letter addressed to the CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, Michael Lynton, to protest against this act of censorship. The organization has posted the full piece on its website.

Besides various PEN executives and trustees, several high profile writers have also signed this note. Some of the participants include PEN president emeritus Salman Rushdie, novelist Neil Gaiman, children’s books illustrator Jules Feiffer, poet John Ashbery, and playwright Tony Kushner. Here’s an excerpt:

“PEN is appalled at the intrusive, criminal and profoundly menacing reprisals and threats that Sony Pictures has endured as a result of producing and planning to distribute The Interview. PEN has long stood with writers and creators who have suffered assaults aimed to suppress the dissemination of their ideas. We believe firmly that violence is never justified as a reaction to speech, no matter how offensive that speech may be to some.”

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25. Neil Gaiman Wants Terry Pratchett to Enjoy the Good Omens Dramatization

Neil GaimanWhat was the reason behind Neil Gaiman’s desire for a Good Omens adaptation?

Gaiman wanted the co-author behind this book, Terry Pratchett, to enjoy it before his dementia became more advanced. In the past, Gaiman has written about the anger he personally feels about Pratchett’s illness.

In an interview with RadioTimes, Gaiman explained: “I do feel that time’s running out. I want Terry to be able to enjoy this while he’s still able to enjoy it…Terry still has all of his faculties. He’s fighting Alzheimer’s, but he has a rare kind of Alzheimer’s which means physical objects no longer make sense to him, but he still has memory, and he still has a mind, and he’s still very much the sharpest knife in the drawer.”

(more…)

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