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Picture These Stories! in our Graphic Novels Discussion October 10, 2012

Posted by stacey in Genre Book Discussion, Graphic Novel.
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The pictures in these books told us lots of stories -without using many words at all! So doesn’t it seem obvious that I wouldn’t use many words to introduce this discussion?

Maureen: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: a graphic novel by Nunzio DeFilippis is an adaptation of the short story of the same name by F. Scott Fitzgerald, published in 1922. Benjamin Button is born in 1860 to Mr. and Mrs. Roger Button in Baltimore, a well-to-do couple with many societal connections. When first-time father Roger Button goes to visit his newborn son in the hospital nursery ward, he is shocked to discover the entire staff in quite an uproar as his son actually looks like an old man complete with long white hair, beard and mustache. The story follows Benjamin as he leaves the hospital and he and his father develop their unique relationship through the years as Benjamin miraculously ages backward, from old man to infant. A very curious story, indeed!

Megan: Locke & Key is the latest project by bestselling author Joe Hill and illustrator Gabriel Rodriguez. The series follows the Locke children, teens Tyler and Kinsey and their younger brother Bode, as they return to the childhood home of their father, a mansion called Lovecraft House. They quickly discover that their new home is more than just a dusty old house. They uncover hidden keys that open doors that have the power to transform anyone who dares to pass through. As they explore the magic and mystery of Lovecraft House they are unaware that there is a demon in their midst. This demon will stop at nothing to gain control of the most powerful key in the house. Hill, son of Stephen King, has made a name for himself among horror fans and his latest project, is a welcome addition to his bibliography. The story is fascinating, sinister, and at times frightening. The gorgeous color illustrations perfectly capture the tone and serve as more than just a background. The artwork enhances and complements the story and is full of delightful surprises.

Carol: Matthea Harvey’s Of Lamb is a graphic novel/book of free verse poems, filled with lovely paintings by Amy Jean Porter. This retelling of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” is gorgeous to look at and magical to read and becomes even more extraordinary when you read about its evolution in the author’s notes at the end of the book. Begun as an experiment in erasure poetry, poems created by omitting words or phrases from an established piece of text, Harvey’s inspiration was a randomly selected biography of 18th century British essayist Charles Lamb. In Harvey’s adult version of this oh-so-familiar nursery rhyme, Mary and Lamb are in love–but can these two kids figure out a way to make it work? Read this delightful book to find out.

Emma: The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam written by great-granddaughter Ann Marie Fleming is the life story of Long Tack Sam, a popular Chinese vaudeville performer. Sam was an amazing man who worked with Jack Benny, George Burns, Laurel & Hardy, and many others. He was an acrobat, magician, comic, producer, restaurant owner, theater owner, and world traveler. Unfortunately when vaudeville ended, the interest in Sam ended. He was forgotten. Long Tack Sam refused to participate in or allow his daughters to participate in movies that belittled Chinese. I look forward to watching the documentary on Sam’s successful but somewhat sad life also produced by his great-granddaughter.

Ann: Cat vs. Human by Yasmine Surovec is a charming collection of comics about being owned by a feline. “If Humans acted like cats” and “Hungry kitten” are especially amusing. Ms. Surovec started the comics as doodles she posted on Facebook. When they became extremely popular, the author started her own blog, which then resulted in this book. Witty and funny, you’ll laugh out loud at these vignettes about our furry friends.

Rosemary: Pedro and Me by Judd Winick was written to honor Pedro Zamora, the author’s dear friend, who died of AIDS in 1994. Winick and Zamora probably would have never met, except that they were chosen to be on MTV’s The Real World 3, San Francisco. The author wasn’t sure how to react when he was told that his roommate on the show had AIDS. Once Winick got to know Zamora and understand the facts about AIDS, he became one of Zamora’s greatest supporters. Zamora gave informative lectures about AIDS whenever he had the opportunity. After his death, Winick carried on with the lectures for a year and a half, until he realized he hadn’t properly mourned his friend’s death. He then used his artistic talents to create this graphic novel about their friendship and Zamora’s courage.

Steve: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: the Black Dossier, by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill, is about Mina Harker and Allan Quatermain and their adventures in 1958 Europe while recovering the Black Dossier, which holds the history of the defunct League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The problem with this graphic novel is that most of it is not in the graphic or pictorial format. The dossier is included in the volume as a story with-in the story, and is pages of reading. The end is quite bizarre, and the included 3-D glasses add to the strangeness. I have enjoyed Alan Moore’s other works, but this one falls into the too gimmicky category. (And be warned, there are some adult scenes throughout.)

Julie: Jeremy Love’s graphic novel, Bayou, is set in a town populated by monstrous creatures, both human and otherworldly. It’s 1933 in Charon, Mississippi and sharecroppers Lee and her father are struggling to get by and build a better life. When Lee’s father is arrested for the disappearance of a white girl, she sets out to track the girl down and save her father. As the reviewer from Wired said, “As hypnotic as it is unsettling.”

Dori: Alison Bechdel made a splash with her first graphic novel Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic about her childhood, her father’s death and the impact of his closeted sexuality on herself and her family. Now she opens up about her other parent in Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama. In this volume, Bechdel reexamines her relationship with her mother, an artistic woman who was emotionally distant. Delving into her own relationships, dreams and therapy sessions, the author references Virginia Wolf and uses psychologist Donald Winnicott’s theories of mothering as a structure for the book. As much a trip through Bechdel’s psyche as a family memoir, Are You My Mother? is a fascinating journey.

Stacey: He Done Her Wrong: the Great American Novel (with no words) by Milt Gross is truly a wordless novel. In the 300 pages of this book, Mr. Gross never uses one word to directly tell the story. Compared to silent movies of the same era, such as The Perils of Pauline, readers will follow the adventures of Hero, Heroine and Villain to a satisfying conclusion. A little bit of a history lesson, great visual humor, and the inspiring true life story of the author, make this book worth a closer look.

Next time? We’re going off-world! We’ll be headed into the future and/or into space to explore Science Fiction stories! If you want to read-along, you can start searching for a book that utilizes some element of our current understanding of science and world around us but in new, exciting ways. From stories that that focus on technology to books that investigate the inner worlds of the mind or society, you’ll always find a wide variety of settings, characters, and topics. Well, I guess we’ll see you -in the future!

— Stacey

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