Benjamin Frisch's "Fun Family": good old American narcissism

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We're happy to offer this excerpt from cartoonist Benjamin Frisch's graphic novel debut, The Fun Family, "a subversive look at the underbelly of the All-American family through the prism of Family Circus-esque Sunday morning comic strips -- a surreal deconstruction of modern parenting, childhood nostalgia, and good old American narcissism."

Saga Volume 6: Proof that awesome, weird, sexy space-opera can be produced to a schedule

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Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples' comic Saga blew the lid off comics when they started publishing it with the creator-friendly folks at Image, producing two graphic novels' worth of material in as many years; but then there was the long drought while we waited for book three (spoiler: worth the wait), and since then, they've hit a driving, relentless annual schedule, culminating in the publication, last week, of Volume 6, which is all that we've come to love from the series and then some.

A luscious tome of family stories and previously unseen photos to celebrate Frank Sinatra's 100th birthday

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Sinatra 100 by Charles Pignone Thames & Hudson 2015, 288 pages, 11.2 x 13.9 x 1.3 inches $32 Buy a copy on Amazon

Sinatra 100 encapsulates the legendary performer’s life through text and previously unseen photographs from the family archives as well as classic images from various photo shoots. After forewords by two friends who knew him best, Tony Bennet and Steve Wyn, as well as an introduction by book author Charles Pignone, the book is broken into three long sections: The Voice 1915-1952, Chairman Of The Board 1953-1972, and Ol’ Blue Eyes 1973-1998. That leads readers into afterward sections by various family members and other items of interest.

Frank Sinatra, the man who would be known as “The Voice,” was born in Hoboken, New Jersey on December 12, 1915. Singing in his Dad’s bar led to a lifetime in music. The pages of that first section detail in photographs and text how difficult his early career was as well as his personal circumstances. After having some very early success, by the early 1950s Sinatra could have easily been relegated to a brief footnote in history. It was those early days that taught him what loyalty meant to both himself and others.

While the early fifties were ugly, things changed fairly rapidly. Winning the Oscar on March 25, 1954 was a pivotal point in that turnaround and a small taste of what was to come. In Chairman Of The Board 1953-1972, that turnaround is thoroughly detailed. Read the rest

Kickstarting a collection of "Decrypting Rita," a graphic novel about a lesbian robot with reality problems

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Egypt Urnash (AKA Margaret Trauth) is kickstarting a third print collection of her webcomic Decrypting Rita (previously), "about a robot lady who's dragged outside of reality by her ex-boyfriend; she's got to pull herself together across four parallel worlds before a hive-mind can take over the entire planet. It's a slickly-drawn story that plays around with narrative in ways only comics can do; those four parallel worlds run beside each other on the page, twining around each other in various ways." Read the rest

Jughead: Zdarsky's reboot is funny, fannish, and freaky

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For the past couple years, the "new, hipster" Archie has been pushing the envelope on what can be done within the confines of an old, beloved (and outdated) media brand: there was Kevin Keller, a gay character; Jughead coming out as asexual; a seriously scary zombie story; Sharknado spinoffs; a breast cancer storyline; even a guest appearance by Jaime "Love and Rockets" Hernandez: but Chip "Sex Criminals" Zdarsky's run on Jughead, illustrated by Erica Henderson and just collected in a trade paperback shows just how much fun the new normal of Archie can be!

Teri S. Wood's Wandering Star Gets New Omnibus Graphic Novel

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Stop what you’re doing and buy the new omnibus graphic novel of Teri S. Wood's 1990s comic series Wandering Star. It's amazing. Splendtacular, even.

Set in the future, it is the tale of Cassandra Andrews, daughter of the President of Earth, and how she became embroiled in a galaxy-spanning war for freedom from tyranny. Wood takes what could be a generic science fiction trope and creates something new and different by weaving in hard, realistic racism, xenophobia, religion and philosophy (which are shockingly and sadly relevant to current world events) paired with well-defined and incredibly likeable—and hateable—characters. In fact, the characters and story are so strong and relatable the scifi setting becomes a simple backdrop, the room in which the tale unfolds. The plot is tight, marching forward chapter by chapter, without excess or unnecessary tangents. It is humorous, horrific, endearing, and heart-crushing all in equal measure.

The art is just as good as the story. Wood is a master cartoonist who has a command of human anatomy and understands how to bend, squash and exaggerate it to create visually charming characters, both human and alien alike. Her lines are fluid and alive and playful. I marvel at the stippled, hand-drawn pen and ink effects she puts into every page that make the art in Wandering Star so unique. What’s more, Wood knows how to use sequential art and camera angle to deliver both side-splitting comedy and emotional gut-punches. (And I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention the rad 90’s pop culture and indie comics references hidden in the background details of the art.)

While the series has been collected into graphic novels in the past, those editions are long out of print and nowhere near the quality of this new omnibus. Read the rest

William Gibson's Archangel: intricate military sf, mercilessly optimized for comics

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Archangel is a five-part science fiction comic written by William Gibson and Michael St. John Smith and illustrated by Butch Guice; Issue #1 came out last month and sold out immediately, and IDW has only just got its second printing into stores this week, just ahead of the ship-date for #2, which is due next Wednesday. Read the rest

How tragedies of the Great Depression influenced singer Woody Guthrie

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Woody Guthrie and the Dust Bowl Ballads by Nick Hayes Harry N. Abrams 16, 272 pages, 8.6 x 8.6 x 1.2 inches $19 Buy a copy on Amazon

A graphic novel of the life and early career of singer Woody Guthrie, Woody Guthrie and the Dust Bowl Ballads is a sepia and dusty brown, linocut illustrated graphic novel. It begins with harrowing tales of his youth – his mother burning his father with coal oil, resulting in her being shipped off to the Hospital For The Insane, the collapse of his Pampa hometown as the plummeting price of wheat ruined the local and national economy, and Guthrie traveling roads and hopping trains during the Great Depression. His encounters with snake oil salesmen and carnival acts, hobos, and migrant workers, as well as his exposure to the music of Cajuns, Native Americans, Xit cowboys, and Appalachian folksong performances at barn dances ultimately inspire him to take up the fiddle and write original tunes.

Along with Woody's story, the book provides a powerful backstory on the environmental conditions of the Dust Bowl region, including the displacement of Native Americans through the push of white settlers on native lands, agriculture techniques that resulted in the tearing up of the bluestem grasses to plant wheat, an unprecedented drought, and the glut of wheat causing the exodus of settlers to California. This all brings to life the tragic unraveling of the fragile Dust Bowl ecosystem and brings about the hardscrabble lives and dust-blown landscape that Guthrie integrates into his music. Read the rest

Decorating a wall with a perfect, floor-to-ceiling replica of the opening of Harry Potter

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Author Meredith McCardle used a projector to project a scan of the first page of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone on her wall, then painstakingly painted it in, leaving behind a perfect replica of the page from floor to ceiling. Read the rest

Fight Club 2 – a punch to the cerebral cortex

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Fight Club 2 by Chuck Palahniuk (author), Cameron Stewart (illustrator) and David Mack (illustrator) Dark Horse Comics 2016, 256 pages, 6.9 x 10.5 x 0.9 inches $20 Buy a copy on Amazon

Let’s talk about Fight Club. This movie rocked me, and introduced me to the incredible and controversial work of Chuck Palahniuk. Now the concept of a sequel does seem a little out of sorts to the counter culture message of the original, but honestly, who hasn’t been wondering how things turned out for Marla and the Narrator after he stuck a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger? Did they find their happily ever after? No, of course they didn’t, thus the sequel.

The Narrator finally gets a name, Sebastian...it’s not a great name, but it fits given the current state of his life. Marla’s bored, Sebastian is in a drug-induced fog, Tyler Durden is raging behind the scenes trying to get back in control, and project mayhem is causing more chaos than ever. Then things get weird.

If you’ve only seen the movie you probably won’t dig this. Actually Palahniuk’s anticipation of the fanbase’s dislike for the comic becomes an actual plot point. Things get meta to say the least. The comic builds off of not just the novel, but Palahniuk’s work and reputation since the film came out. It’s very fitting of Palahniuk, and I think fans of his will really enjoy it, but be clear this is not a blockbuster directed by David Fincher and starring Brad Pitt or Ed Norton. Read the rest

Tesla: The Life and Times of an Electric Messiah

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Tesla: The Life and Times of an Electric Messiah

Tesla: The Life and Times of an Electric Messiah by Nigel Cawthorne Chartwell Books 2014, 192 pages, 7.2 x 10.5 x 0.8 inches $9 Buy a copy on Amazon

Mad scientist. Inventor. Philosopher. Visionary. Eccentric. A man who was terrible at business, but great with pigeons. A mythic figure, Nicola Tesla was all these things and more. Examining his life and career, Tesla: The Life And Times Of An Electric Messiah is a lengthy, oversized book filled with illustrations, photos, diagrams of his many inventions, and brief, informative vignettes about his friends, colleagues, business associates, and rivals.

Tesla's own words are pulled from writings and correspondence, and help flesh out a turn-of-the-century futurist, although they can be somewhat dry and academic. His eccentricities liven things up considerably. For instance, did you know he once fell into a vat of boiling milk, and lived on a diet of bread, warm milk, and something mysteriously known as 'Factor Actus'? Did you know he had a strange aversion to women's earrings, and would become feverish at the sight of a peach? Tidbits like these keep the book moving at a nice pace, as the man became more reclusive and odd toward the end of his life.

His War Of The Currents with Thomas Edison is detailed, as well as his battle of radio with Guglielmo Marconi. His experiments with wireless transmission of energy, X-Rays, flying machines, remote control, and artificial intelligence are also described, as well as the mystery surrounding the disappearance of his papers concerning his invention of a death ray by the US government. Read the rest

Interactive map of Game of Thrones

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Quartermaester is a "speculative" but extremely complete interactive map of Westeros and Essos, the two continents across which Game of Thrones' action sprawls. Character paths and noble constituencies are among the available overlays—surprisingly useful for anyone trying to get the complex series in mental order. Note: it follows the books, not the show.

Update: I just bought this collection of poster-sized maps (HD scans are here) for $25. Far more delicious detail of the Thrones world, if not of the characters themselves. Read the rest

What is a Witch – A poetic and visual conjuring of the witch archetype

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

What is a Witch by Pamela Grossman (author) and Tin Can Forest (artists) Tin Can Forest 2016, 36 pages, 9.0 x 11.75 x 0.25 inches From $20 Buy a copy here

There are few ideas and words in the popular zeitgeist more mercurial than “witch.” Whether coming from the world’s mythologies, religions, folk tales, the realms of fiction, or from those who embrace it as a real-world religious identity, witch can mean myriad things. There are probably few archetypes more simultaneously romanticized and demonized.

This dizzying dream of character and identity is uniquely and creatively expressed in What is a Witch, a sort of comic book grimoire on the subject by witch and author Pamela Grossman and Canadian’s comic-art occultists, Tin Can Forest.

 In just under 40 pages of lush, saturated black art and text, What is a Witch serves as something of a witch’s manifesto. The dreamy, free-form text, interwoven amongst equally dreamy art, attempts to cast a spell over the reader, to bring this complex character more vividly to life. In doing so, it doesn’t really answer the question (note that it’s not posed as one) of what a witch is, but instead, plays with her mercurial identity, dipping in and out of fictional and real-world conceptions and how witches are experienced and self-identified.

 The art and production are really lovely and work to deepen the spell that the book is attempting to cast. The effect of Grossman’s free, often trance-like prose reminded me somewhat of Jack Parson’s famous “We are the Witchcraft” manifesto, another attempt at a poetic conjuring on the identity of the witch. Read the rest

Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, Nobel prize laureate and author, dead at 87

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Elie Wiesel was a Holocaust survivor, Nobel Peace Prize winner, a prolific author, and an outspoken activist for peace and human rights. He died Saturday, at 87 years old.

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China's "ultra-unreal" literary movement takes inspiration from breathtaking corruption

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How can Chinese novelists convey the sense of unreality of living in a country where raids on the homes of civic officials uncover so much cash that it burns out four bill-counting machines when the police try to tot it up, or when it needs to be weighed by the ton to approximate its value? Read the rest

Gay Talese learns the subject of his new book is a liar, disavows the book UPDATED

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Gay Talese's forthcoming book The Voyeur's Motel tells the allegedly true story of Gerald Foos, a Colorado motel owner and voyeur who claimed to have conducted "research" on human sexuality by spying on the sex lives of his guests through strategically placed ceiling gratings that let him covertly watch them from the motel's attics. Read the rest

George RR Martin's "Fevre Dream": the Lannisters as vampires

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I first read George RR Martin's 1982 vampire novel Fevre Dream as a young teenager, around the time I was also discovering Anne Rice and a host of other "contemporary" vampire novels who were reinventing the genre; now, decades later, I've been transported anew to the slavery-haunted riverboat where Joshua York and Abner Marsh tried to tame the ancient vampire before it was too late.

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