Saturday, May 7, 2011

Free Comic Book Day

#FreeComicBookDay #FCBD - You probably aren't seeing this if you don't already pay attention to comics at least a little, but on the off chance you got here via a search, or you don't know the significance of today, here is the deal:

Free Comic Book Day is an extremely cool comics industry wide event where comic creators and publishers and shops work to get a variety of free comic book offerings out in front of the public to promote the industry and to welcome new readers, collectors, enthusiasts to the joys of comics.

Many stores participate, and some have specific rules as to how many free comics you can get, but many are happy to have you stop by and pick up what you'd like from the specific selection of free comic book day comics they have.

There are a great number cof comics in various genres, but comics for kids, and all ages are plentiful, and comics featuring characters they may recognize from movies and tv and games are also readily available, so it is a great time to introduce a young person you know to comics.

It is also a perfect opportunity as an adult to get an introduction to comics and comic shops, and to see the great variety of people who enjoy comics as well. Some stores have special sales or contests, etc., but not all.

On a local note (southern MD, Charles county-ish) I went to two stores, as I am here to visit my Mom for Mother's day tomorrow. House of Pop Culture had a great sale in addition to a take what you'd like to read FCBD policy, and a large selection of comics that are a buck apiece or 10 for $15. Comics MD had a slightly smaller selection with the same policy, a big pile of $1 trades and at least 20% off most things in the store.

If you see this, and it is still a reasonable hour on 5/7/2011, you owe it to yourself to get out and take advantage of this celebration of comics.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Robot Dreams by Sara Varon

This book is making it hard for me to review it. I will start with the easy part and finish with the stuff that is giving me trouble from a review standpoint. Robot Dreams by Sara Varon is a dialog free comic. I love how this book looks and feels. It is a First Second book, so I am not surprised at the quality.

I was not really familiar with Sara Varon before I brought this home from the Library. As it stands, I now have a strong desire to read everything she has done. I think I like every single panel in the book. She certainly conveys a great deal in the nearly wordless pages. She also has created a book that doesn't rely on anything overtly negative or malicious. The inhabitants of the world this takes place in are all animals, and they are all depicted without cruelty or hostility in them. The story is a simple one, and it doesn't preach or moralize. It also makes very clear that reading and libraries are two extremely important things. When the dog needs to find a beach to go to, they hit the Library first. When they need to figure out how to repair a robot, they look in the Library first. It also shows us the benefits of various transit methods like the bus or Taxis. I really like that we get panel space for those things.

Check out Sara Varon's WebPage for more about her and her works.

Ok, here's the thing. Sara Varon is a heck of a story teller, and I genuinely do like every panel of her work, I really think the art is darling and the storytelling masterful, and the feelings of her characters convey right through the illustration and are touching and charming. All that being said, I hate the story and think it's an awful story. I yelled at the book when I was done. As if it was it's fault the story was awful. Here is my take on the story:

A dog orders a build it yourself Robot, makes a friend out of it. Does really nice things for it and with it, including going to the beach. The Robot swims and ends up rusted and immobile. The dog completely abandons the robot on the beach. The dog returns maybe a day, maybe a month later and the beach is closed, so despite seeing the robot right over there.. he leaves and starts on a quest to find new friends, leaving robot to lay there alone with his fantasies, etc. with no hope for rescue. At one point while robot is scavenged from in a way grossly disproportionate to the needs of the person who scavenged off of him. Jump to the end of the book, and dog just buys and builds a new robot. Old Robot has been found by a cool guy who makes him into a walking and dancing radio of a robot. He sees his old best pal walk by with his new robot, and plays music for them to hear, but they straight up ignore him and walk by. THE END

Please also note that the dog who abandoned the robot because of rust, easily carried him when he first arrived in box before assembly, and later carried the second robot the same way. Somebody doesn't value friendship or the feeling of others over the need to never be even mildly inconvenienced I guess.

The other thing about the story that gets my attention is how the plot is summarized in different places. The creator has the best and most accurate blurb about it, and then the publisher has some misleading notions that it posts, and I saw others commenting on it referring to it in ways that make you wonder if the read it at all.

So, In closing, I certainly liked a whole lot of stuff about a book whose story is on my Nixon-Style enemies list. Also, if you close one eye and read it in a different frame of mind than perhaps I did, you could see it as a story with a number of triumphs in it, a sort of survivors story, are one of winning through patience and perseverance.Link

Small Press Expo 2011

Small Press Expo will take place on Saturday and Sunday, September 10 and 11 this year, once again at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Bethesda, Maryland. I hope you appreciate that I am posting about this early enough for you to start saving your money. This is a show that you can enjoy without spending much. but it presents an opportunity to sample a great deal of small press and independently produced comics. It has also had some pretty great programs in the past, Including features involving cartoonists such as Jaime Hernandez, Carol Tyler, and Bryan Lee O'Malley (To name a few sessions I personally attended and enjoyed).

This years lineup of special guests includes a pretty diverse group of creators as you can see from the Flyers I have attached here from the SPXPO site. (Craig Thomson and Dustin Harbin respectively). The artwork, flyers and posters that are made for SPX are always pretty awesome, and these are no different.

Write-ups for this year's guests can be found at the Exhibitors and Guests page on the SPX site. This year they were written by volunteers. I wrote the blurbs for Jim Rugg and for Johnny Ryan. I have been a big fan of Rugg's since I picked up Street Angel from him at a Pittsburgh Comicon a number of years ago, before it was in trade paperback form. Despite loving his work, or maybe because of my love for his work, my blurb is a bit drier than I had hoped it would be, as I didn't want to break down into blathering about just what a great guy he seemed like, and how interviews done with him are some of the better comic related discussions you could want to read. Not wanting to turn a little blurb into an editorial love-fest, I went with a cut and dried approach and it is boring but respectful.

I felt a bit more comfortable being a little looser with the Blurb for Johnny Ryan. Up to the point of asking to do his writeup, I had only read one issue of Angry Youth Comix. I had wanted to become more familiar with his work, so I asked to write it and then bought at least one trade volume of each of his collected works, etc. Given the nature of his work, it made it feel a bit easier to joke while still being respectful of a cartoonist that really knows what he is doing.

It was fun being a part of this build up to the main event in the fall. SPX is a fun event to volunteer at, in addition to being one of my favorite comics related events in general. There is a large selection of wildly varied material, and behind nearly every table is someone that is genuinely excited about being a creator and getting their work in front of people. If you haven't been to it, you really should give it a shot. If you are a fan of comics and comics creators, then this is something that can really rekindle enthusiasm for those things. For the past several years I have gone and I have volunteered, and each year I leave the event having met some really awesome people at all levels of the comics experience.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Copper by Kazu Kibuishi

I was not familiar with Kazu Kibuishi's web comic Copper before I saw this book in the library. I knew him from the Flight Anthologies, and am a huge fan of his Amulet series, so I recognized his style on the cover before I read his name there.

I like the strips that are in here. They are single page affairs, but sometimes are connected to other pages and sometimes not. The setup for the strip is basically Calvin and Hobbes, but that analogy only goes so far. There is a boy named Copper, and he has a dog named Fred. They have adventures and hang out and play games and set themselves adrift in the world. Sometimes there exploits seem to take place in the real world, sometimes in fantastic worlds, sometimes dystopian worlds, and sometimes in dream.

Kibuishi's art is beautiful. It is stunning and colorful and shows clearly the wonders and beauty that Copper is so taken by. He sees beauty and takes time to look at it. He is a master of creating lush but bleak landscapes. I am not sure how else to describe what he does in many of the pages. There is a bleakness in some of them, mixed with a sort of beauty and detail. The strips range from clever or funny to melancholy and somewat cynical.

I enjoyed reading the book. It made me chuckle and it made me sigh. Certainly worth looking at online to make your own decision. It is on Kibuishi's website.