Archive for the 'comic books' Category

Four Graphic Novels

Friday, August 31st, 2012

My pile of graphic novels got higher over the past months as I did the Summer of Shelf Discovery Readalong and kept up with my book groups. I’ve finally been able to catch up, and it’s been a good batch of varied stuff.

Cinderella: Fables are Forever by Chris Roberson ill. by Shawn McManus. The second miniseries devoted to Cinderella (I enjoyed the first, From Fabletown with Love), set in the Fables comic-series universe, this is a standalone miniseries that yet fits into the bigger mythology. I was a little disappointed when I finished it, but it’s grown on me since. What I didn’t like were the many flashbacks, and I sometimes was disoriented in time. What worked was introducing a nemesis for Cinderella, an interesting one, and seeing their interactions past and present. There was one twist at the end involving identity that I didn’t quite buy. The book introduced another world and minor characters that also play roles in the larger Fables series, so this is one that works on its own and enhances the larger works. There are also tantalizing hints about Frau Totenkinder, who has always been one of my favorite characters.

Caveats: the Cinderella stories are riffs on James Bond, so they have sex and violence. On the surface Cindy is a strong, liberated woman exercising choice and power. But this is a story by men, and to me the sexism comes through louder than the strong-female aspect.

Fables v. 17 Inherit the Wind. Wahoo! A return to the series strong points, its main characters and the overarching stories. Finally we are back to the aftermath of the fables’ war with Mr. Dark and the rebuilding that happens both by the heroes and villains. I loved the main story about which of Snow White and Bigby Wolf’s cubs/kids would be the heir to the North Wind. I was very disappointed in the last Fables collection, Super Team, which felt thin and not as funny as it was trying to be. This collection was a great example of the things I love about the series, though Snow White as whiny mother is a drag; she was way more kick-ass at the beginning of the series.

Richard Stark’s Parker: The Score by Darwyn Cooke. I have no idea why I like noir, with its sexist tropes and poisonous portrayals of women, though I do think sometimes misANTHROPY is mistaken for misogyny. But for all its troublesome aspects, I like the genre when it’s done well in book, film and comics, and I think Cooke’s new Parker graphic novel is excellent. Parker is the career criminal who’s getting a gang together for a sure-thing heist. He smells a rat but can’t suss it out till everything is well under way. This is a complicated story with ten men involved in the heist, yet Cook does a great job of telling the story visually and keeping to the terse, minimalist style of the source material. There were several pages and spreads that I lingered over, appreciating how they did what they did. In addition to being a great story, this is a lovely book. Heavy covers, quality pages and nicely retro end pages. Highly recommended if you can stomach noir.

The Underwater Welder by Jeff Lemire, the author/illustrator of another of my favorite ongoing comic series, Sweet Tooth. Here, Lemire is telling a story set in present reality. Jack is a young husband and about to be father. He works as a welder for a nearby oil rig off the shore of a tiny town in Nova Scotia. When he dives, he has visions. Are they his imagination, or something more mystic than that, and what are they trying to tell him. A good mystery, sympathetic characters, and nicely told in wash-y black and white.

One thing: I am DONE with descriptions of something as the best episode of the Twilight Zone you’ve never seen. It’s cheap shorthand for a blurbist or introduction author (here, Damon Lindelof, the Lost guy). The Underwater Welder was far more nuanced in story and execution than such a comparison implies.

“The Best American Comics 2011″ ed. Bechdel

Friday, March 9th, 2012

Generally, I am not a fan of the Best American Series. While I did enjoy the 2002 Non Required Reading, the 1995 Best American Short Stories collection lives on in my memory like a bad smell. When I worked at a used book store, I can’t remember how many times that particular volume came in and then sat on the shelves till it was clearanced. NOT a keeper.

So I had some trepidation when one of by book group colleagues picked The Best American Comics 2011. Because while I love the medium of comics, I often don’t care for the type of comics I see as often gathered in these anthologies, which I think of–derogatorily, reductively, and unfairly I’ll admit–as the weird ones.

So I prepared myself for some weird stuff. And it was in there–one entry truly repulsed me with its art, a couple others with their subject matter. But I noticed that even in some stories I disliked, there was some element of visual storytelling that impressed me or made me think, as in Kevin Mutch’s “Blue Note”, Gabby Schulz’s “New Year’s Eve 2004″, and Chris Ware’s “Jordan W. Lint to the Age of 65.”

The majority left me cold. Some of the selections were excerpts of larger works, and hard to process because of this. Unlike a short story, they were not meant to stand alone.

More positively, in one case, a comic that I’d previously not loved–Ganges–utterly charmed me. A handful made me interested enough to look into their artists’ other works, like Gabrielle Bell’s “Manifestation”, Peter and Maria Hoey’s “Anatomy of a Pratfall”, Jillian Tamaki’s “Domestic Men of Mystery” (and her lovely wraparound cover), Kate Beaton’s “Great Gatsby”, and Joey Allison Sayers’ “Pet Cat”. Paul Pope and Joe Sacco’s work I’ve admired before, even if I’m not a regular reader.

There was a long list in the back of other notable books that the editor urged readers to seek out, as the book selections were her admittedly subjective choices. One thing my book group noticed was that 9 of 27 included sex of some sort. For what it’s worth, 7 of those were on my dislike list.

In the end:

Liked: 8
Didn’t move me:11
Disliked: 8

So, on balance it was only OK. Borrow this one, don’t buy it.

From the list at the back, some recommendations I echo: The Unwritten, Criminal, Mercury by Hope Larson, Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley, any of the multiple permutations of Gaiman’s The Dream Hunters, and David Small’s Stitches.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

Monday, February 13th, 2012

My husband went DVD shopping a few weeks ago, and brought Scott Pilgrim vs. the World home for me. I had started to watch the Lonesome Dove miniseries, which many of y’all had recommended, but it wasn’t working for me. The overwrought music and the hammer-heavy foreshadowing, and then that closeup of Sean in the river that freezes at the end of Part 1 combined to make me less than eager to finish.

So instead we watched Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. I loved it, again. That may be because I’m a comic book geek and loved the series of graphic novels. Help me test this theory. Did you like the movie without having read the books? But anyway, read the books. So much geeky goodness to be had in them!

The Unwritten v5: On To Genesis

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

In addition to Sweet Tooth, one of my favorite comic book series in The Unwritten, a twisty take on literature and pop culture that has gone from meta to hyper meta in the latest volume 5, The Unwritten: On To Genesis.

Tom Taylor is the real human (or is he?) who inspired his father to pen a Harry Potter-esque series of novels about Tommy Taylor. Along with sidekicks Lizzie Hexam and Richie Savoy, they try to dodge the bad guys (a meta-literary cabal, enforced by a guy named Pullman, who can turn things into fiction with his touch) while attempting to figure out who the bad guys are, why they’re after them, and well, quite a lot of things. This volume takes a detour into comics history (pleasantly reminding me of Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay) and noir.

It’s engaging, thought-provoking, and I really hope the author, Mike Carey is going to be able to pull these many fascinating strings together, but even if not, it’s a grand ride.

“Sweet Tooth v4: Endangered Species” by Jeff Lemire

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

I’ve told you before: you should be reading the comic book series Sweet Tooth. I just tore through volume 4, Sweet Tooth: Endangered Species. It’s about a boy named Gus. He’s a human/animal hybrid in a world that was largely wiped out by a plague, after which all children were born as hybrids. Where did the plague come from? Does it matter? In this fourth collection of the series, there’s a lot of questioning and blurriness about who is good and who isn’t. Another devourable installment in this ripping, post-apocalyptic yarn with an utterly endearing narrator. Reminds me of Y the Last Man and Riddley Walker.

“Bake Sale” by Sarah Varon

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Ostensibly, I bought Sarah Varon’s graphic novel Bake Sale for my kids, who enjoyed her Robot Dreams and Chicken and Cat books. Really, though, it was at least as much for me. Sarah Varon art and story with recipes? I’m in.

Cupcake runs a bakery, is in a band, but dreams of going abroad and meeting his culinary heroine, Turkish Delight. In his quest to meet his idol, his priorities get a bit mixed up (no pun intended, sorry) but his friend Eggplant helps set things straight. Like all of Varon’s work, it’s charming without being twee and emphasizes friendship and loyalty in ways that speak to this adult as well as my kids.

(I’m beginning to suspect the English are going to try and take the US back. Spell check insists on English spellings lately, not American ones. It wanted me to correct to “emphasises” in the above paragraph. What’s next? Aluminium instead of aluminum? GUESS WHICH ONE WAS UNDERLINED? You heard it here, first. The British are coming…)

Fables v. 16: Super Team

Friday, December 16th, 2011

The sixteenth graphic novel in the Fables series, Fables: Super Team didn’t move me much. While it was a more light-hearted counter to the last, very dark, book (to which it was a coda), it still felt…thin. Rather like they hadn’t been able to contain the story in the last collection, it spilled over a little, then they stretched it to its own collection. Not a good one to start with. Go back to the first graphic novel for that.

Also, a plug to visit your local comic store, which you can find at the Comic Shop Locator, where it was available a week before it is at bookshops and amazon.

Sweet Tooth: In Captivity and Animal Armies by Jeff Lemire

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

After one of my comic book guys recommend the series Sweet Tooth to me, I read and enjoyed volume one. It was hard for me to put down volume 2 In Captivity in the middle, then wait to buy volume 3 Animal Armies, and again begrudge anything that took me away from tearing through volume 3 to find out what happened to young Gus, a deer-antlered little boy in a post-apocalyptic world where all the children are now human/animal hybrids. It shares some themes with Y the Last Man, but the art is more distinctive and evocative, and I find Gus a much more charming main character. I’m eager for volume 4 to be collected.

“The Finder Library volume 1″ by Carla Speed McNeil

Monday, November 14th, 2011

I recently read Voice, the latest collection of Carla Speed McNeil’s long-running comic book series Finder. It reminded me how I loved the series. Even though I own all the single issues cected in it, I picked up the recently published Finder Library volume 1, put out by Dark Horse, a comic book publisher known for respecting artists’ rights. The first four story lines, all 22 issues, are included in this volume, as well as covers of individual issues and previous collections, plus pages and pages of notes. Kudos to Dark Horse for recognizing a quality series, and for packaging it in a smart, attractive edition.

At $24.99, this is a bargain for what it includes (coming out to slightly more than $1 per issue) yet a steep ticket to entry to those who don’t know the series. Here’s what I recommend. Check out McNeil’s website, on which she has art samples and a webcomic of the ongoing series. Or buy or borrow the Talisman graphic novel. It’s a great example of the kind of art, humor, complex fantasy world, and characters that populate Finder. I’m trying to think of something to compare it to, as in “if you like x, you’ll like this” but I’m drawing a blank. I can’t even come up with “it’s x crossed with y.” McNeil calls it aboriginal science fiction. I call it a solidly plotted, well-drawn fantasy comic book series with characters I love.

Brief Comics Commentary

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

For the most part, I buy comic books when they’re collected into graphic novels–this makes it easier for me to remember what’s going on, is often cheaper than buying individual issues, and means I don’t have to suffer through the eye-searing ads of most monthly books. DC Comics has restarted all its titles (again) so I thought it might be a good time to dip my toe back into superhero books to see if I might want to dive back in.

Nope. I read the first two issues of Action Comics, Animal Man, Batwoman, and Swamp Thing. They felt much like clumsy television pilots, trying to cram a lot of exposition into a small space. And telling with words isn’t what makes the comics medium fun for me. None of these comics made me interested to read further. Instead, I had the urge to go back and read the graphic novel collections of great past arcs of these titles: Animal Man and Swamp Thing by Alan Moore were two of my gateway comics, both Moore and Morrison have done great things with the Superman mythos, and the recent Batwoman collection, Elegy, really engaged me. It’s good I’m not the comic-reading majority, or monthly super books would die, but for now, I’m happy with my status quo, buying a few books in individual issues (iZombie and anything by Ed Brubaker), while getting others as they’re collected (Unwritten and now Sweet Tooth.)

Anyone else out there have any thoughts on DC’s new 52 titles, or individual issues vs. collections?

“The Unwritten v4: Leviathan” by Mike Carey

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

I was delighted to see the latest collection of the comic book series The Unwritten: Leviathan, on the shelf last week. Tom Taylor is the real-life son of a famous author who penned a Harry-Potter-esque series featuring a boy named Tommy Taylor. Good and evil are battling on the grounds of fiction and storytelling in this series that manages to be hyper-meta while still telling a good story. If you are a fan of the series Fables, or the novels of Jasper Fforde, this will likely be your cuppa.

“Sweet Tooth v1: Out of the Deep Woods” by Jeff Lemire

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

Sweet Tooth was the recommendation I got at the comic shop recently when I asked “what am I not reading that I should be?” I’d heard good things about this book for a while, so was open to give it a try.

In a post-apocalyptic world, a boy named Gus lives with his father in the deep woods. The twist is that he’s something called a hybrid–he’s got deer antlers which seem to be a result of whatever catastrophe caused the outside world to collapse. The father warns the boy never to leave the woods, but when he inevitably dies, the boy meets with a mystery man who promises to lead the boy to a haven.

Sweet Tooth is indeed worth reading. Gus is engaging, and I quickly cared about what happened to him. The book uses many, many elements of post-apocalyptic fiction. I was strongly reminded of The Road and Riddley Walker

I'll take a moment to vent a pet peeve that's been growing for a while and that disappointed me with this book. ENOUGH WITH PROSTITUTES. Especially enough with them as convenient plot devices to stand for people without power. Using them as stock characters is lazy and insulting storytelling. Cut it out. I mean it.

“Gingerbread Girl” GN by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

I picked up Gingerbread Girl by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover at my local comic shop on a recent Wednesday. I’d enjoyed Coover’s art on Banana Sunday, a book about magical monkeys that my elder, 7yo Drake, also enjoyed. This one is decidedly not for the kiddoes, though.

26yo Annah Billips is a comic-book Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She’s cute, bisexual (so there’s a brooding girl- AND boyfriend), and she thinks she has a lab-grown clone sister of herself named Ginger running around in the world, which may or may not be a psychological coping mechanism she developed as a girl during her parents divorce. The book is narrated by a stream of characters, including the boyfriend, girlfriend, a pigeon (looking awfully similar to Mo Willems’ famous creation) and a bulldog. The art is clever and charming, but the story felt a bit twee. I didn’t care enough about Annah to be invested in whether her missing sister might be real or not. I felt similarly uncharmed about the film 500 Days of Summer, which also has the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope, so perhaps that’s what I don’t engage with.

“Batwoman: Elegy” by Greg Rucka

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

After the dust settled in the Batman universe last year, I bade farewell to the last superhero titles I was reading. I mostly enjoyed Grant Morrison’s take on Batman et al, but once Batman Incorporated started I lost interest in the reboot.

Then I saw the Batwoman: Elegy graphic novel collection, by Greg Rucka and J. H. Williams III, with an introduction by Rachel Maddow, featuring an ass-kicking redhead. I knew that book was coming home with me. It did not disappoint.

Like her namesake, Batwoman is a vigilante in a mask with a secret identity: Kate Kane, a former West Point cadet. We are soon shown she’s a lesbian (the most prominent gay character in the DC universe), which matters in her personal life. Behind the mask, though, she seeks to confront a new villain coming to town who will be head of Gotham City’s many covens.

The contrasts of personal and private life, painted and penciled art, plus easy-access introduction to a new, compelling character and villain made this a fast, enjoyable read, and a welcome return for me to the DC universe.

“Finder: Voice” GN by Carla Speed McNeil

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

I am very, very sorry. How is it, why is it, I’ve never written here about Carla Speed McNeil’s comic-book series Finder? There is no other series I’ve been reading as long as I’ve been reading Finder, which is since the beginning, about 15 years. But I’ve never yet written about it, probably because up until “Voice” I’ve purchased single issues and not read them in graphic-novel collections. But now they’re being collected by Dark Horse Press, and they’re in pretty shiny packages with tons of explanatory notes at the end. So I picked up Voice and am writing about Finder for the first time. And for that, I apologize. Because if you like comics, and you like speculative fiction, then perhaps you, like me, will LOVE Finder, which the author described as “aboriginal science fiction.”

Finder refers to Jaeger, a mystery man, who is introduced at the beginning of the series in the storyline “Sin Eater.” He’s living with Emma Grosvesnor and her three daughters. Subsequent stories follow Jaeger, the Grosvenors, or other characters in this rich, fantastic world. In “Voice,” we follow the eldest Grosvenor daughter, Rachel, as she goes through the “conformation competition” for her clan. This is a coming of age novel as we follow a character who starts off light and shallow. When she is mugged and a necessary heirloom is stolen, she had to delve deep, into her world, looking for Jaeger, and into herself, to figure out what to do next.

McNeil has distinct, accessible, manga-influenced art, and her characters are engaging. Rachel’s internal and external journeys had me enthralled. I devoured this book in fewer than 24 hours. Additionally, I plan to buy the stories in their new collected forms and re-read from the beginning. This fills me with a great deal of geek joy.

“Fables v. 15: Rose Red” by Bill Willingham

Friday, June 10th, 2011

With Rose Red, I’m on the fifteenth volume of Fables? I don’t know that I’ve ever read a comic series as long as I’ve been reading and enjoying this one. The comic book series posits a world in which storybook characters, like Snow White and Rose Red, are real and live secretly among us “mundies.” In this volume, the Fables continue to be pursued by the scary Dark Man as the witch Frau Totenkinder prepares to battle him. Additionally, Rose Red FINALLY gets over her depression about the departure of Little Boy Blue, and gets her butt out of bed to take back control of the Farm, where the non-human Fables, like Reynard the Fox and the Three Little Pigs, live. We get history of Rose Red and her sister Snow White, as well as a new mystery or two. There’s lots of extra material collected from the 100th issue. For fans of the series, this is another strong entry. For those who haven’t tried it, go to the library or comic shop and check out volume 1. There’s a lot here to like.

For others who have read this, though, I have a question: did we ever find out Totenkinder’s secret?

“Unwritten v. 3: Dead Man’s Knock” by Mike Carey

Friday, June 10th, 2011

The third graphic-novel collection of DC’s Vertigo series Unwritten v. 3: Dead Man’s Knock by written by Mike Carey and illustrated by Peter Gross, continues the adventures of Tom Taylor, whose father’s books about a Harry Potter-ish boy named “Tommy Taylor” have brought him more trouble than he’d imagined possible. Accused of murder, believed dead, and on the run from a mysterious, story-obsessed cabal, Tom is accompanied by a reporter and a woman named Lizzie Hexam. In this volume we learn more about the cabal, and Tom’s father and mother. One chapter was a (too?) self-consciously clever choose-your-own-adventure tale about Lizzie’s past. This is heady stuff on the magic of stories and their influence. If you’re a fan of stories about stories, like the comic-book series Fables and Sandman, or Jasper Fforde’s novels, I think you’ll like this series. My only complaint is that I have to wait another six months or so for the next collection. I’m hoping all this mystery will eventually pay off, but for now, I’m hooked.

“Dream Country” by Neil Gaiman, et al

Friday, May 13th, 2011

I re-read Dream Country, collection of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series along with Glen and Linda at NPR’s Monkey See blog. I’d never thought that this volume, the series’ third, would be a good entry into Sandman for newbies, but many commenters say it is. And after this most recent re-reading, I can see why. This book contains four short stories: Calliope, A Dream of a Thousand Cats, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Facade, illustrated by three different artists. Each brings his/her different look to the quite different stories, which include an artist’s relationship to his muse, a cat seeking justice, a surreal pastiche of fiction and reality around a play performance, and an obscure character exhumed from DC Comics’ archives who briefly gets her own spotlight.

If you haven’t read Sandman, check out Glen’s primer, and try this volume out. This is especially true if you tried volume 1, Preludes and Nocturnes, and gave up. Gaiman and his crew readily admit the series got off to a wobbly start, and they didn’t find their stride till several issues in. Jumping in on Dream Country gives a good idea of the mix of literature, myth and horror that Gaiman and the artists brewed up. It’s heady stuff, and this is a good way to see if it might be for you.

My Neil Gaiman Story

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

or, How Neil Gaiman Depedestalized Himself. I find it hard believe I haven’t written this story before. If I have, I can’t find it, so here it is.

Neil Gaiman’s Sandman was one of my gateway comics, way back in 1990. A boyfriend urged it on me along with some of the usuals, like The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen. But Sandman–with its literary references, magic, horror and mystery–was really what hooked me. I started reading during the Season of Mists story line, which is still one of my favorites. I became a geek girl, devouring old series (Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing and V for Vendetta, Baron and Rude’s Nexus, Morrison’s Animal Man and Doom Patrol), showing up at my comic shop on Wednesdays for new comics, and appreciating the attention I received there as a not unattractive female of the species.

Sometime in the early 90’s, Gaiman scheduled a signing at my then comic shop, Fat Jack’s Comicrypt on 19th Street in Philadelphia. I planned carefully for the event. I picked out my favorite outfit, and selected my three items to have signed. I wanted to convey that I was better than the average fan, so I didn’t want to only take recent stuff. After nerdishly obsessing for far too long, I selected the first graphic novel collection of Sandman, Preludes and Nocturnes; issue 19, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream“, which I liked so much I’d bought the individual issue even though I had it collected in Dream Country; and Black Orchid, an obscure DC universe character he’d resurrected in a beautifully painted story by Dave McKean.

I pondered the questions I would ask him. They had to be things I was really curious about, plus that would display how cool I was. The fantasy scenario in my mind was pretty clear. My cuteness, smart questions and interesting signing picks would single me out of the crowd. Neil (of course I was thinking of him on a first-name basis) would ask me to join him and his team for dinner that night. And the obvious would happen: we would become friends. Interestingly, this was strictly a platonic fantasy. He seemed much too old for me, more like a young uncle than a potential love interest. Anyway, he was married and I had a boyfriend, and it just wasn’t on my mind.

The day arrived; I left work early. I found a parking spot on the street just a few blocks from the store. I loaded the meter with quarters, and prepared to meet my destiny. (Sandman pun not intended.) The line, when I arrived, was nearly out the door. I thought I was lucky to be inside, but soon realized the tradeoff. It was a warm summer day outside, and positively stifling inside. Many in line were not conscientious about personal hygiene. The line moved slowly. The grey cat atop the back issue boxes surveyed us all with disdain. Sweat trickled down my back and from under my arms. My hair expanded to a gigantic frizzy triangle. The books I clutched had damp handprints on them. Gaiman and his assistant took a break near the end of the hour I’d thought would be more than sufficient on my meter, and the time approached for the class I had that night. I was not near the front of the line. I asked the guys in front of and behind me in line if they’d save my space, overcoming a flash of grade-school embarrassment. The guy behind me looked annoyed and merely nodded. I had to wade through the crowd to the register to get more quarters. Once outside, I breathed in the relatively fresh air. If you’ve ever been on a street in summer in downtown Philly, you know the steaming, fug-spewing grates on most corners. Still, it compared favorably to the inside of the comic shop. I ran the blocks to my car, plugged the expired meter, and raced back. The line had barely moved. The guy who’d been behind me glared, and didn’t make room for me in line. I glared back, put my shoulder down, and wedged my way back in. Time passed. Gaiman chatted equably with those at the head of the line. The rest of us shuffled forward. The additional hour on my meter ticked down. My class was about to begin. Finally, oh, finally, I reached the head of the line.

“Let’s take a break, get a sandwich, shall we?” said Gaiman’s assistant.

“No!” I cried, desperate and without shame.

Gaiman, his assistant, and the comic-shop guy looked at me as if I’d sprouted a head.

“Please,” I added in what I hoped was a more reasonable tone of voice. “My meter’s about to expire and I have a class I have to get to. Can you please sign these before your break?” In other words, I begged.

Gaiman shrugged and held out his hands for the books; the assistant rolled her eyes and asked him what he’d like to eat. He scribbled a signature in my book without looking to see what it was. I waited for him to answer her so I could ask my questions.

“Are we going to find out how Delight became Delirium?” I said.

He didn’t look up from the book he was signing. “Someone else is going to do that.”

Daunted but determined, I forged ahead, “Is the next issue of Miracleman coming soon?”

“Dunno,” he shrugged, sweeping his Sharpie across the inside of my last book. He pushed the books across the table without looking at me, then stood and walked away. Crushed and disappointed, I slunk out of the store.

My fangirl dreams died that day. Most likely a good thing. Neil Gaiman was a man, not a god like Dream, even though he _was_ English.

Later, when I gained a little perspective, I was able to muster some empathy for him. If the store was miserable for me, at least I could stand quietly in line; he had to be nice to everyone. And I heard he was there for hours after I left in that cramped, airless store. While he was distracted and dismissive at my questions, he was also in the midst of a legal battle over Miracleman, and was likely pretty peeved over the whole affair. It’s easy to imagine that the signing was at least as miserable for him as it was for me. From then on, I could be what I imagined a normal fan. I think of him by his last, not his first, name. I’m appreciative of what I like, disappointed in what I don’t, and interested to see what came next.

I think I’ve been to two readings he’s given since then. At neither did I bother with the line.

“Calliope” by Gaiman et al

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Over at NPR’s Monkey See blog, they’re doing an “I Will If You Will” book club, with a handy primer for skeptics. The most recent selection is Dream Country, a graphic novel collection of short stories in the series Sandman. The first story is “Calliope” written by Neil Gaiman, pencilled by Kelley Jones, inked by Malcolm Jones III, colored by Robbie Busch and lettered by Todd Klein.

I have been telling you people for years and years to go read Sandman. It was my gateway comic over twenty years ago, and I still make Wednesday pilgrimages most every week to my comic shop for new releases. It’s a horror comic, and it took a while to get its legs, so it’s not for everyone and easy to put down in the early issues. But those who persevere for all 75 issues plus this and that special will be rewarded. Richly.

I am not an uncritical slavering Gaiman-phile. (He crushed my fangirl worship early on, which I now think was really a blessing. I’ll tell that story sometime. In fact, I can’t believe I haven’t told it before.) He’s done some good stuff, some terrible stuff, some derivative stuff, and some really good stuff. Overall, I like his work and his storytelling. I enjoy how he combines a classical education with modern speculative fiction. And I think the whole of Sandman exemplifies that.

So, if you haven’t read Sandman yet, go get a copy of Dream Country. Read “Calliope”, then check out the long but well-worthwhile conversation in the comments (Neil even liked it). Then read the next story, “A Dream of a Thousand Cats” and wait with me for Linda and Glen post about it.

Then wiggle in geek-joy anticipation for the next story, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” one of my favorite comic issues, ever.

So, I won’t actually talk about “Calliope” in this entry, but will start off the comments with it so as not to spoil for those who haven’t (ahem, yet) read it. I did manage to squeak in one comment but didn’t get to follow up after I’d read the other 108.