Category Archives: Comics

HiLo The Boy Who Crashed to Earth by Judd Winick

I have had a copy of Hilo written and drawn by Judd Winick since December – it is a comic book that I loved and have been meaning to write a review of since I read it. However I have been dragging my feet with this and I have no idea why.

Last night I had a dream, and in that dream I wrote a Hilo review and compared it to The Iron Man by Ted Hughes – this is better known internationally as The Iron Giant thanks to the fantastic Warner Bros. animated movie. When I woke up I was confused as on the surface they two beings appeared to be completely different; on deeper reflection I realised that the stories had a number of similarities, my brain also threw about Osamu Tezuka’s Astroboy and Frank Miller and Geof Darrow’s The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot into the mix as well as the parallels to Judd’s early work The Adventures of Barry Ween Boy Genius (the book that made me a Winick fan-boy)

Judd – if you do read this can you *please* let me know if Barry Ween will ever come back – thank you!

ANYWAY! Hilo The Boy Who Crashed to Earth is funny, sweet and contains some surprisingly hidden depths to the surface story of a mysterious boy who falls to Earth and the children that become his best friends.

There is a lot of screaming and running away from alien monsters and pathos in the form of familial relationships and the feeling of not fitting in with both Hilo and D.J. filling the role of outsider Hilo on earth and D.J. within his family.

JW has always been championed diversity in his works and HiLo is no exception, a Caucasian from another dimension with a Hispanic and African American as best friends who get equal development within the story.

HiLo is a fast-paced, enjoyable romp for all ages and there are two other books in the series that are also available so there will be no long waiting for more once you have finished it!
If I could sum up HiLo The boy Who Crashed to Earth in one word then it is:
OUTSTANDING!

HiLo The Boy Who Crashed to Earth is published in the UK by Puffin

Study Hall of Justice

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My name is Bruce Wayne, and I’m the new kid (UGH) at Ducard Academy.

I can’t say for certain, but I think something fishy’s going on. There’s a gang of clowns roaming the halls, a kid named Bane wants to beat me up, and the guidance counselor, Hugo Strange, seems really, well, strange.
 
At least I have two new friends – Clark and Diana are kinda cool, I guess. We’re going to solve this case no matter what, even if I have to convince Alfred to let me stay up past eleven.

 

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There has been a lot of talk recently about the Justice league of late, mostly due to the forthcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice a grim and gritty movie about the formation of the Justice League.

If your desire for super-hero team-ups is getting too much for you then I highly recommend Study Hall of Justice, the first book of the Secret Hero Society by DC Comics and Scholastic.

This book is awesome! Derek Fridolfs & Dustin Nguyen take the core concepts and mythologies of Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman and render them down into middle school students, losing none of what makes the three characters so brilliant and adding new elements that make them even more enjoyable!

Study hall of Justice is a children’s book but one that will be enjoyed by all ages, the kids for the sense of mystery, menace and ninja that permeate the pages and for older readers who will also enjoy the story as well as spotting their favourite villains amongst the student body and faculty staff..

This book is perfect for fans of JL8 and Gotham Academy

Pablo & Jane and the Hot Air Contraption by José Domingo

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Pablo & Jane and the Hot Air Contraption is one of my favourite books, published by Flying Eye Books (the people that brought you the Kate Greenaway Medal winning Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill).

It is a brightly-coloured insane romp that appeals to the cartoon, adventure and monster loving young reader inside of me! The artwork sears itself onto the back of my eyelids so that each time I blink I catch flashes of the story, It is a bit like after-images of the sun when you walk inside on a really bright day.

But – for all the brightness, Pablo & Jane and the Hot Air Contraption is a dark, twisty adventure story filled with insane cat scientists, monsters, a heroic mouse and two children on an urgent journey through the monster dimension. The artwork is beautiful and incredibly intricate, it is what you get if you mash up Where’s Wally, Billy & Mandy and fever dreams that Roman Dirge & Jhonen Vasquez would shelve as being too far out there!

It is not just the story and art that is fantastic! Flying Eye has gone all out to make sure that Pablo & Jane feels as wonderful as it looks, from the gleaming soft-to-touch cover to sumptuous end-papers and high quality paper the book is a work of book-making art as well as being a bright and beautiful book to read!

This is an adventure comic book to read again and again, to revel in the art, and work your way over the pages marvelling at all the little things that you missed the first 50 times you paged through the book. If it was purely a written work it may be as long as War and Peace as so much is going on in the pages!

Seriously take a look at the image below:
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and that is just a part of one page.

If there was ever a book to buy to keep your kids quiet or partner out of the way or even just to full hours of time with looking in amazement at and enjoying the story; then Pablo & Jane and the Hot Air Contraption is it!

I don’t often say this, but, buy this book! Support Flying Eye Books and Nobrow Press as they challenge the boundaries of what picture books are and can be!

Find out more about the book and where to get it here:

Pablo & Jane and the Hot Air Contraption

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Pablo & Jane and the Hot Air Contraption written & illustrated by José Domingo and published by Flying Eye Books is available now!

Creating a Thirst for Knowledge: The Dawn of the Unread

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Nottingham Trent University won the Teaching Excellence Award for The Dawn of the Unread online, interactive comic.

Incensed by the closures of libraries and low literacy in 21st-century Britain, the famous historical literary figures of Nottingham rise from the grave to wreak revenge.

Find out more about the project here:
http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2015/mar/19/teaching-excellence-category-awards-winner-and-runners-up

Visit the Dawn of the Unread website here and be inspired: http://www.dawnoftheunread.com/

The remit of Dawn of the Unread is not to thrust ‘complex’ books on people to read. It’s to create a thirst for knowledge. To tease, tantalise and inspire. To use digital technology to enable numerous routes into literature knowing that our reading paths are ultimately solitary and taken at different speeds. And if kids go on to the library to get out books it will be because they want to learn more.

Read the full manifesto for Dawn of the Unread here

Inside the Box: a Selection of Comics and Graphic Novels for All Ages


The Federation of Children’s Book Groups is a national voluntary organisation, whose aim is to promote enjoyment and interest in children’s books and reading.

They also produce a range of brilliant book lists, their latest is called Inside the Box. Compiled by Mélanie McGilloway and Zoë Toft (with support from Neil Cameron) it is a comprehensive list ranging from picture books and comics for all ages to comics for teenagers and young adults. The list also suggests several books about comics and comic creation as well as weekly comic magazines.

This list is essential for those that feel that they do not have the breadth of knowledge needed to make informed decisions on selecting graphic novels for a school or public library and even for librarians that know their comics there are introductions to new titles.

Find out more about the FCBG here and see what book-lists they have available

You can order copies of Inside the Box and other book-lists by e-mailing the Federation at: info@fcbg.org.uk

Lenore: Pink Bellies a review

I am going to be totally honest here and say that I am not unbiased when it comes to Roman Dirge’s comics, I have been a fan since 2004 when I purchased Noogies the first Lenore collection at Gosh Comics and have been hooked ever since.

Lenore is a cute little dead girl who lives in the town of Nevermore with Pooty Applewater a bucket-headed demon and Ragamuffin a vampire doll waiting in a huge house for her parents to return.

So far so weird right? The comic comes with lashings of the blackest humour that will make you feel guilty for enjoying it so much.

The latest volume, Pink Bellies gives the back story of Taxidermy, Lenore’s neighbour who turns out to have a connection with Lenore going back to her very beginnings. You do not need to read previous volumes to pick up this one as although there is a sort of continuity, each collection can be read independently.

While more structured and serious than previous collections, Pink Bellies pokes fun at reality TV, religion and in one memorable scene brings back all Lenore’s dead pets. All in all it is a good wicked read to enjoy if you have slightly twisted tastes* and a fondness for weird stories – hell it will make you care for a pickle hat that gets brought to life – remember I did say weird!

I will say that it is probably not suitable for younger readers – they will probably find it hilarious but if you loan it to them you may get some upset parents coming at you, the hilarious scenes of Ragamuffin getting stuck in a bear come to mind!

Titan Books very kindly sent me a copy after a went a bit excitable after finding out that there was a new Lenore volume out.

*including (but not limited to) the music of Aurelio Voltaire, Invader Zim and Johnny the Homicidal Maniac

Comic Book & Graphic Novel Collection free from Taylor & Francis Online

Taylor & Francis Online is making the Routledge comic book and graphic novel collection articles freely available until the end of August.

Take a look here:

Comic & Graphic Novel Collection

Northern Lights: Les Royaumes du Nord


For several months I have been hearing whispers about a graphic novel adaptation of Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights trilogy. However owing to more pressing concerns I let them float by with a mental note to check it out when I had some time.

Well that time is now. The first book has been broken up into three volumes and is called Les Royaumes du Nord.

It is being published in French with an English translation to follow and has been adapted by Stéphane Melchior-Durand and drawn by Clément Oubrerie.

Clément Oubrerie is best-known for his work as artist on the Aya of Yop City series.


Les Royaumes du Nord has already been recognized at Angoulême International Comics Festival, winning Le Prix Jeunesse d’Angoulême 2015 (the Youth Award)

The artwork looks amazing, but not speaking French I will have to wait for the translation, but am looking forward to experiencing this wonderful story in a new format.

Tygerdale has a brilliant Q&A with Philip Pullman about the adaptation.

Graphic Novels about the Holocaust (updated)

The term Holocaust, originally from the Greek word “holokauston” which means “sacrifice by fire,” refers to the Nazi’s persecution and planned slaughter of the Jewish people. The Hebrew word HaShoah, which means “calamity” or “devastation” is also used for this genocide.

The thought of what was wrought between 1933 & 1945, not just to the Jews but also to Gypsies, homosexuals, people with disabilities and many others is almost impossible to comprehend. It was inhumanity of a scale that dwarfs the imagination. I have known about what happened for years, it is taught in schools, many volumes have been written about what happened but until I visited the Holocaust exhibit at the Imperial War Museum several years ago, my knowledge was academic. Seeing the pile of shoes in the exhibit and the clothes worn by the inmates of the camps and everything else displayed there affected me so much that I am actually frightened by the thought of going back in to the exhibit.

In 2010 I was working for Brent Libraries and for Holocaust Memorial Day we were fortunate to have artist Maurice Blik a survivor of Belsen come in to Willesden Green Library to give a talk to a combined group from local secondary schools. I wept as I listened to him speak of his experiences as a child and the loss of his younger sister. He is a phenomenal artist and also a fantastic speaker.

That brings me on to graphic novels, it has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words and that is true of comic books. The belief that comics could be more than disposable entertainment had already begun to change when Art Spiegelman’s Maus: a Survivor’s Tale was published, but it was this book more than many of the other graphic novels published in the late 1980’s that helped change that supposition.


Maus is the tale of Art Spiegelman’s troubled relationship with his father Vladek, a Holocaust survivor, and, through his conversations with his father the story of his family’s experiences of Hitler’s Final Solution. In Maus the Jews were represented as mice, the Germans as cats (Katzies), the French as Frogs and so on. Maus has been described as ‘the most affective and successful narrative ever done about the Holocaust’ by the Wall Street Journal and after over 20 years of publication it is still a powerful and moving narrative of the Holocaust and the effect it had on the survivors. Art Spiegelman won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992 after the second volume had been published. A companion volume entitled MetaMaus was published in 2011.
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In the pages of METAMAUS, Art Spiegelman re-enters the Pulitzer prize-winning MAUS, the modern classic that has altered how we see literature, comics, and the Holocaust ever since it was first published twenty-five years ago.
He probes the questions that MAUS most often evokes – Why the Holocaust? Why mice? Why comics? – and gives us a new and essential work about the creative process.
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Auschwitz by Pascal Croci begins and ends in a squalid room in former Yugoslavia in 1993, another graphic novel rendered beautifully in black & white, Auschwitz is a fictionalized story of an elderly couple trapped in the midst of the civil war that presaged the breakup of Yugoslavia. They relive their memories of being trapped in Auschwitz and what they had to endure to survive. Pascal Croci interviewed a number of survivors to make sure that his story was accurate, and based a number of incidences within the book on events that happened to his interviewees during the war. Auschwitz is relatively short – only 70 pages of story but it is no less harrowing for its brevity, it also contains background information to the creation of the book, including extracts from transcripts of the interviews and a glossary of terms used.

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Eric Heuvel is the author and illustrator of A Family Secret, using the ligne claire style of drawing pioneered by Herge the creator of Tintin to illustrate the book, he tells the story of Jeroen, who, while searching in his grandmother’s attic for items to sell at a flea market finds a scrapbook created by his grandmother in 1936. On enquiring about what it was about, Helena starts telling her grandson about her youth in Amsterdam in the 1930’s and the arrival of Esther, a young Jewish girl, and her family.
A Family Secret is a wonderful example of a family split apart by politics and duty, viewed from the perspective of Helena who is telling the story. Using a child’s view for the narration gives the tale of the invasion of Holland and the indignities heaped on the citizens of Amsterdam and the Jews in particular. Helena’s father was a police officer and after the German occupation he had to become involved in clearing the Jews from Amsterdam and one evening he has to round up Esther’s family.

 

The Search, also by Eric Heuvel is a companion volume to A Family Secret and tells the story of Esther, and what happened to her before and during the war. Both volumes are told via flashbacks from contemporary Holland and America and focus more on what happened to Jewish families during and after the war and how some survived.
Out of all the graphic novels I read it was A family Secret and the Search that affected me the most, I found myself welling up whilst reading, this was in part due to my being a massive Tintin fan and seeing similar much-loved artwork being used to illustrate a heartbreaking story, these books are also the most positive, sad as they are.

A Family Secret and The Search are published by MacMillan, Teaching guides for both books are available from the US site.

 
 
Not all the graphic novels are black & white, Marvel Comics published a five issue mini series called Magneto: Testament, this is the backstory of Magneto, the greatest foe the X Men have ever faced. At first I questioned the idea of wedging a comic book villain into the story of Auschwitz and the events leading up to the final solution. It is not a super hero story, it is a story of the Holocaust and a boy who has to grow up quickly in the midst of the most inhumane conditions to not only survive but save the woman he loves and himself.
Writer Greg Pak and artist carmine Di Giandomenico bring you this heartbreaking and historically accurate look at one of the most popular characters in the X-Men canon.
Magneto: testament also contains extensive notes at the back of the book about the creation of the book and historical facts about Auschwitz as well as topics for group discussion.

 
 

Marvel Comics is not alone in publishing a Holocaust comic book, DC Comics published the amazing what if… story by Joe Kubert, titled Yossel April 19, 1943.

In 1926 Joe Kubert’s family tried to emigrate to America, but owing to the fact that his mother was pregnant with him at the time, their request was denied. Fortunately not willing to give up his family tried again shortly after his birth and they were successful with their second attempt.
With Yossel, Joe Kubert imagined what his life would have been like if his family had not made their second attempt.
As he wrote in his introduction:

If my parents had not come to America, we would have been caught in that maelstrom, sucked in and pulled down with the millions of others who were lost…
The usual procedure in cartooning is to do the initial drawings with pencil, then to apply ink over the pencils with brush and pen. The pencil drawings are then erased, leaving only the ink rendering.
The drawings in this book are pencil drawings…

As a concept the idea of a comic book composed of rough sketches does not sound too appealing, but when you open the book that does not matter anymore! You forget that these are only rough sketches; the sense of movement in them is amazing. I think that so much vitality would have been lost if they had been inked and coloured.
Again this is a fictionalised account of what might have happened to Joe (Yossel) and his family had they not left Poland. The date in the title is significant; the 19th April 1943 is the date of the beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The Germans thought that they would be able to put down the revolt by the by then starving Jews in the ghetto in three days, but they were in for a shock, although poorly armed and hemmed in the Jews resisted until the 16th of May making the Nazi forces pay in blood for each foot of ground they took.

I have recently come across two biographies involving the Holocaust, the first the story of Lily Renée who was fortunate enough to be evacuated to England but her story is no less interesting – her ordeal as a refugee in England was one shared by many who escaped. The second is the official graphic biography of Anne Frank, adapted from her diaries and other works documenting her families life in Germany and Holland.

lily-reneeIn 1938, Lily Renée Wilhelm is a 14-year-old Jewish girl living in Vienna.

Her days are filled with art and ballet. Then the Nazis march into Austria, and Lily’s life is shattered overnight. Suddenly, her own country is no longer safe for her or her family. To survive, Lily leaves her parents behind and travels to England.

Escaping the Nazis is only the start of Lily’s journey. She must escape many more times – from servitude, hardship, and danger. Will she find a way to have her own sort of revenge on the Nazis? Follow the story of a brave girl who becomes an artist of heroes, and a true pioneer in comic books.
 
 
 
 

Anne-Frank-graphic-biographyDrawing on the unique historical sites, archives, expertise and unquestioned authority of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, the New York Times bestselling authors Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon have created teh first authorised graphic biography of Anne Frank. Their account is complete, covering the lives of Anne’s parents, Edith and Otto, Anne’s first years in Frankfurt; the rise of Nazism; the Frank’s immigration to Amsterdam; war and occupation; Anne’s years in the Secret Annex; betrayal and arrest; her deportation and tragic death in Bergen-Belsen; the survival of Anne’s father; and his recovery and publication of her astounding diary.

 
 
 
 

 
 
twilight-zone-deaths-head-jLocation: Dachau concentration camp years after World War II. A retired German SS captain returns to reminisce about his days in power. Until he finds himself at the mercy of those he tortured, and on trial by those who died at his hands. Justice will finally be served . . . in the Twilight Zone.

Death’s Head Revisited is a graphic reimagining of the classic Twilight Zone episode of the same name. It details the story of former SS captain Gunther Lutze who returns to Dachau from South America to relive his old glory days only to be confronted by the ghosts of those he had murdered decades before.

I had never seen the original episode so the graphic novel was my introduction to this classic story, I have since watched it (video below) and an mot sure which version of the story I find more chilling. It is a brilliantly told and illustrated story of vengeance from beyond the grave.

The horror of the concentration camp is shown in full colour and the charges laid against the captain are chilling to read. Lutze is unrepentant and at first unbelieving of what is happening to him and needless to say gets what he deserves.

An endnote to the story features similarities of the story with that of real-life Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, who was tried for his crimes around the time the original story was written.

You can watch the original episode here:

Death’s-Head Revisited (Dir. Don Medford, 1961) from CAJ on Vimeo.

 

Not all graphic novels focus on the Holocaust through the eyes of the people that suffred through it, I have recently discovered two brilliant books set in the here and now but still affected by the what has gone before.

We Won’t See Auschwitz is a graphic memoir by Jérémie Dres about two brothers who visit Poland to see where their grandmother came from, their express mission is to not to visit Auschwitz.

Auschwitz: five years of annihilation for more than a thousand years of life and history of the Jewish people of Poland. A trauma still so real it threatens to make us forget everything else. It’s the everything else that I went looking for. – from the preface by Jean-Yves Potel.

The Property by Rutu Modan is another story about a woman and her grand-daughter’s return to Warsaw to reclaim family property lost during the war.

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A journey through Poland to discover what it means to be Jewish

When his grandmother dies, Jérémie and his elder brother wanted to learn more about their family’s Polish roots. But Jérémie is less interested in finding out about how the Holocaust affected his family, and more interested in understanding what it means to be Jewish and Polish today. They decide not to do the Holocaust trail… they won’t see Auschwitz. Through their journey, they discover a country that is still affected by its past. The brothers talk to lots of people, including progressive rabbis and young Jewish Orthodox artists. Using their grandmother’s stories, they piece together the threads of their family history.
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After the death of her son, Regina Segal takes her granddaughter Mica to Warsaw, hoping to reclaim a family property lost during World War II. As they get to know modern Warsaw, Regina is forced to recall difficult things about her past, and Mica begins to wonder if maybe their reasons for coming aren’t a little different than her grandmother led her to believe.

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The Holocaust was not the only attempt at genocide in the 20th century, but it is the most well-known and reviled. To learn more about this and the Armenian Genocide, Rwanda, Darfur, Cambodia and others visit http://www.hmd.org.uk/

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Moose Kid All Ages Free Comic Launched Today!

Moose Kid Comics is a glorious 36-page, free to read, digital children’s comic. It features over 40 of the best comic artists working today, from well-established heroes to newer talents from the indie and web scenes. Each contributing their own entirely original characters, exclusively for the comic.

No-one involved makes any profit, all artists have given their time for free!

For three main reasons:

To entertain comic readers and win new audiences.
To show how fantastic a children’s comic can e when artists create it themselves.
To open up discussion about how we can make children’s comics great again.

from: http://www.moosekidcomics.com/about/

To read the comic (and find out more), click on the image below!

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