Bildungsromans – A Mouthful of a Genre

One of my favorite aspects of being a cataloger is looking at the Library of Congress’ LCSH, LCGFT, and Personal Name Headings approval lists. New comic book genres are being added to the LCGFT on a regular basis mostly to make genres which are comparable to other literature genres. The coming-of-age comic genre was added in September 2017; however, I like the term for the coming of age novel, Bildungsromans, mostly because it’s fun to say. And, while you may have heard the term Buildungsromans since your high school English class, but it derived from the German words for education and novel. As an adult reading these stories, I love them as a reflective tool to look back at my youth but also to analyze what teenagers are experiencing now and have empathy for their formative years. 

So, let’s take a look at some of my favorite buildngsromans… or maybe buildngsgraphischerroman.

I Kill Giants

Written by: Joe Kelly
Illustrated by: J.M. Ken Niimura
Published by: Image Comics

I kill giantsSoon to be a major motion picture, I Kill Giants is my favorite coming of age comic. Barbara Thorson is obsessed with Norse mythology, RPGs, and fantasy worlds, so obsessed that sometimes, she loses sight of the real world. When we discover why Barbara is retreating into the fantasy world, we realize why Barbara would rather fight the giants attacking her town than go home and deal with the issue at hand. There are some trials no child should have to face, but there are something children cannot be insulated from. Joe Kelley, author of Four Eyes and co-creator of the animated show Ben 10, shows his understanding of the motivations and wonder of youthfulness. Illustrations by J.M. Ken Niimura have an anime quality to them and the lack of color help drive home Barbara’s worldview, earning I Kill Giants the International Manga Award.

Spinning

Written and Illustrated by: Tillie Walden
Published by: First Second

spinning coverIt is easy to see most biographical or semi-biographical comics as bildungsromans. Many artists use their medium to express emotions from their personal and formative experiences. Tillie Walden’s Spinning follows the young ice skater of the same name, as she navigates a new school, family issues, and first love. A fairly independent girl, Tillie’s life focused on her ice skating goals, but as she experienced new things, her perspective on the importance of skating changed and she began to reevaluate other aspects of her life. A big part about growing up, that we don’t actively think about, is quitting something. I remember when I told my dad, who had invested time coaching my softball team, sent me to catcher’s camp, and bought me new catchers equipment with every growth spurt, that I wasn’t having fun anymore and wanted to quit. I thought he’ be disappointed or angry with me, that I’d giving up, but I hadn’t given up, I’d simply grown up, and that is the main lesson of this beautiful read. It is ok to grow up and try new things, continual self discovery is what keeps life interesting and engaging.

Joe the Barbarian

Written by: Grant Morrison
Illustrated by: Sean Murphy
Published by: Vertigo Comics

joeBarb_02

It can be difficult for a coming of age story to seamlessly add fantastical elements while maintaining its core theme of self-discovery. Eleven year old Joe has Type 1 Diabetes and one day, while home alone, he slips into a hypoglycemic state and hallucinates a fantasy world inhabited by characters familiar to him. In the fantasy world, much like Barb in I Kill Giants, Joe uses the fantastical to explore the trama he’s experienced in his life so far. The loss of his father, growing up with a working, widowed mother, and managing a life long and life threatening medical condition, all before puberty, is explored by Joe the Barbarian. Joe’s pet rat play a pivotal role in the story and Sean Murphy’s rendering of him is reminiscent of Splinter from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle franchise with slight manga styling. This limited series is a great quick read.

Ms. Marvel Series

Written by: G. Willow Wilson
Illustrated by: Various
Published by: Marvel Comics

Ms MarvelDo I need to tell you that I love Ms. Marvel….again? This book deftly handles on of the fundamental aspects of the bildungsroman, the journey of maturity, having experiences which transition you from child to adult. We see Kamala Kahn explore what it means to be family, have friends, explore your religion, all while saving Jersey City one baddie at a time. Teenagers often feel invincible, but how does a teenager with superpowers handle the “little thing” like an internet bully? They aren’t “little things,” not even for Kamala because the experiences we go through as teenagers lay the foundations for the rest of our life. While this makes Ms. Marvel seem like a serious study in puberty, it balances the levity and hopefulness of youth very, very well.

Do you have a favorite coming of age comic book story? And don’t forget to add that 655 #7 |a Coming-of-age comics. |2 lcgft to your favorite Buildngsgraphischerroman.

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Top 5 of 2017

I am one of those comic book readers who likes to break down my favorites lists into the major publishers; Marvel, DC, Image and other, smaller presses. While I know that that promotes the two publisher dominated field of comics, I might have to change my way as I read more independently published OGNs and floppy’s published by the smaller presses like AfterShock and smaller imprints like IDW’s Black Crown. So below are my top five, single issue comics I read in 2017.

Marvel

So right off the bat, I’m listing two favorite comics from Marvel this year. I couldn’t help myself because there were two complete standouts, both great in story and one with an exceptional link between text and art.

Ms. Marvel #25Ms. Marvel
Written by G. Willow Wilson
Illustrated by Various throughout 2017
Published by Marvel Comics

During the Vice debacle stating that there were no notable comics of 2017, I reflected that Ms. Marvel is consistently on my top of my best of list year after year. G. Willow Wilson has created a compelling character in Kamala Khan who tackles modern issues with thoughtfulness and class. While handling internet trolls and discrimination, Kamala is also a teenager dealing with romance, jealousy, and learning to appreciate her bizarre family. Even if this book doesn’t seem like your thing, I urge you to try it for yourself, you won’t be disappointed.

Black Bolt
Black Bolt #2Written by Saladin Ahmed
Illustrated by Christian Ward
Published by Marvel Comics

Black Bolt came completely out of left field for me. I figured Marvel would put something out because of the Inhumans show, but this story of Blackagar Boltagon and his daring prison escape was not what I expected. Hugo and Nebula nominated author Saladin Ahmed bring the intergalactic world of Black Bolt to a small prison setting where we meet Blinky, a telepathic teen, and the Absorbing Man. What really pushes this book over the edge for me is the story plus Christian Ward’s outstanding art. The prison is akin to an Escher painting, noting the theme of the modern prison complex and the colors and layers of the art convey a huge depth of emotion.

DC

Mister MiracleMister Miracle
Written by Tom King
Illustrated by Mitch Gerads
Published by DC Comics

I knew absolutely nothing about Mister Miracle or Big Barda when I started reading this book. Being a Wisconsinite, I am fascinated by escape artists because of one of Wisconsin’s golden son’s Harry Houdini (if you ever find yourself in Appleton, WI, check out the Harry Houdini Museum!). After reading this book for a while, I would say that I still don’t know that much about Mister Miracle and Big Barda, but I care deeply about what happens to them. Mister Miracle, a master escape artist the son of the Highfather, the ruler of New Genesis. He meets his wife, Big Barda, during a hostage exchange in Granny Goodness’ Terror Orphanage. With all that emotional baggage and dealing with Gods, it’s been difficult to fully understand Mister Miracle, but I’m still playing along, and that’s a great sign.

Image

Curse WordsCurse Words
Written by Charles Soule
Illustrated by Ryan Browne
Published by Image Comics

Charles Soule quickly became a must read author for me after his run on She-Hulk. He single handedly resurrected one of my favorite characters of all time. And, if you’ve been following Librarian with Issues for any length of time, you’ll know that I have a commissioned Ryan Browne piece up in my home. What I have loved about their work combining in Curse Words is the narrative driven storytelling and Ryan Brown’s comedic art style, makes for a fantastical story. Wizord finds himself on a mission to destroy Earth, but as he gets to know the locals, he becomes fond of them and decides to become their wizard for hire. What could go wrong other than the preternatural evil who sent him to destroy Earth still wants to destroy Earth. Panel layouts by Browne are are phenomenal and really pay on the elemental aspects of the magic system within Curse Words.

Other Publishers

Eleanor and the EgretEleanor and the Egret
Written by John Layman
Illustrated by Sam Kieth
Published by AfterShock Comics

If there was an intersection of things Tracy likes, Eleanor and the Egret would be in the center of the Venn diagram of Art Deco French aesthetic, Seussian illustrations, and a mysterious animals. Eleanor is an art thief in a dystopian, nouveau art inspired Paris, but why is she stealing the artwork of famed artist Anastasia Rue? The artistic talents of Sam Kieth, known for his work with Neil Gaiman’s Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes, brings this rich world to life without feeling referencial. I think what really draws me to Eleanor and Egret is how similar it feels to one of my all time favorite comic series Bandette, plucky thief, band of sidekicks, a hint of the supernatural and amazing artwork.

These were my favorite comics of 2017. It’s always difficult to pick your favorites, but these are some choices I’d recommend to anyone who wants to read something new and different.

Comic Catz

It has been a really rough year for me and my family. We had several things happen to us which put me in a bad state of mind and not up to the task of writing consistently. But it is a fresh year and I’m rededicating myself to sharing my love of comics and libraries with all of you. Thank you for your patience as I find my footing again.

Jonesy
Jonesy “reading” Patsy Walker aka HellCat with me!

To get back into the swing of things, I wanted to write about something I am really passionate about: pets, particularly my wonderful cat Jonesy. I have said for a while that I’m not particularly a cat person, but I am 100% a Jonesy person. We adopted him from our local animal shelter over two years ago and he’s been an integral part of our family ever since. He has some health issues, a bald spot from an infection and a crinkly ear, but he is the most loving, affectionate cat I’ve ever met. Due to his conditions, when we first met him at the shelter, he was being kept in the bathroom, secluded from the other cats. But when he jumped into my lap and started to purr, I knew instantly he was the cat for us. He’s in good health now and enjoying the high life…and inspiring me to read many cat comics! Here’s a few of my favorites from 2017.

Chi’s Sweet Home Series
Written by Kanatan Konami
Published by Kodansha

Chi's Sweet HOmeIn Chi’s Sweet Home, a young street kitten wanders away from her mother and siblings and is found by the Yamada family. They take a quick liking to the new kitty, naming her Chi, sounding like the Japanese word for urine. But it isn’t easing going for the Yamada’s because cats are not allowed in their apartment complex, so they must keep Chi secret from their landlords and neighbors. Read along as Chi discovers boxes, the weird food the Yamada’s try feeding her, and explores the indoor world of being a house cat. This is a sweet, all ages, long running manga series and is for someone searching for a book that will put a smile on their face.

Catboy
By Benji Nate
Published by Silver Sprocket

Catboy coverI talk to my cat all the time. When my cat makes a noise and my husband talks back, I talk as Jonesy. I know, it’s weird, but I may love my cat way too much. I think all pet owners anthropomorphize their pets to some extent. Some put them in cute clothes, some take them everywhere like they are their child, and others talk nonsense to them. Well, what if your cat could be a person? This is the premise of Benji Nate’s Catboy. Olive is a broke barista with an art degree who lives with her cat, and best friend, Henry. One night she wishes on a star and Henry becomes a human sized, upright walking cat. While he may stand like a human, he sure doesn’t know how to act like one. From not bathing in public to getting a job, Henry sure does have a lot to learn about being a cat in the human world. As Henry learns what it means to be a human, Olive also learns how to be more social herself and ventures outside her comfortable existence with the help of Henry.

She and Her Cat
Story by Tsubasa Yamaguchi
Art by Makoto Shinkai
Published by Vertical Comics

She and her catBecoming and adult is tough. I always thought that at the end of high school or college, there should be a class about being an adult, finding friends, and how to function on your own. She and Her Cat follow Miyu’s, a young accountant, transition into adulthood and living alone with her cat Chobi. Originally a short animated film by Makoto Shinkai, this is a poignant story about being lonely and independent without being a critique of any particular aspect of society. The internet, introverted personalities, and social isolation are not themes in the forefront of this story. One of my favorite parts of this story is Miyu’s interactions with her mother and learning to navigate adulthood while interacting with adults at various life stages, because there are many stages to adulthood that Miyu has yet to explore and understand. Being an adult demands constant changes in mindset and priorities, which She and Her Cat explores as a quiet, reflective exercise on the reality of everyday life.

Cat Getting Out of a Bag and Other Observations
Story and Art by Jeffrey Brown
Published by Chronicle Books

Cat Getting out of a bagYou might recognize Jeffrey Brown’s name from the Darth Vader series of kids books; however, you probably don’t know that Brown also loves his cats. In Cat Getting Out of a Bag and Other Observations and Cats Are Weird: And More Observations Brown distills the essence of words used to describe cats; sleepy, curious, soft, inquisitive, lazy, indecisive, into wonderful short comics.. While the art isn’t particularly complex and mostly in black and why, the expression in the kitties eyes and body language show his deep understanding of cat psyche. This is what I like to call a side table book; not large format like a coffee table book, but still a nice book to have around for quick looksee’s.

Even though I was not a cat person before we adopted Jonesy, I’m truly a cat lady now. Some would say that I love my cat too much and have gone off the deep end of cat lady-dom (but I’m glad I’m not alone, check out these amazing cat centric knitting patterns from KnitPicks.com!). This past year was rough, and when the going gets rough, we tend to gravitate towards things that make us really, really happy. For 2017, it was the love for my cat, but I wonder what reading patterns 2018 will bring?

Comfort Comics for When Life is Rough

Unfortunately, I was emotionally unable to write the past two weeks due to personal issues which left me quite shaken. Someone broke into our apartment, grabbed a lot of stuff, and left the back door wide open. Everyone is alright, but I just needed some time to get personal and emotional affairs in order before I could focus on writing again.

It was a bit bizarre, right before this incident, I picked up The Book of Hygge: the Danish Art of Contentment, Comfort and Connection by Louisa Thomsen Brits. Hygge has been making the rounds lately and is essentially a philosophy of presentness and contentment in the moment, taking joy in small things that create a sense of coziness and security for ourselves and the people around us. Well, I was feeling awfully insecure and uncozy after the burglary and I sought out my comfort comics. So today, I’m going to share with you some of my favorite comfort comics, the comics that when I’m feeling sad or lonely or vulnerable, I pick up and feel better. Thank you to the creators and publisher for creating stories to soothe the soul.

Cat Getting Out of A Bag and Other Observations
By Jeffrey Brown
Published by Chronicle Books

2017.22 cat getting out of a bag
http://jeffreybrowncomics.blogspot.com/

You may recognize Jeffrey Brown from his widely popular series Darth Vader and Kids and Jedi Academy Star Wars comics. Brown’s simple and charming style is accessible and comforting in times which call for a short break, a cup of something warm, and a big grin. Most pages are simple 3×3 grid vignettes about quintessentially cat things; begging for attention only to eat a plant, sitting in boxes and getting stuck, and refusal to be seen by the vet. What I love about Cat Getting Out of a Bag is how much it reminds me of my relationship with my cat, Jonesy, and I’m sure the relationship most people have with their pets. I talk to him, about him, wonder what he’s up to while I’m at work, he truly is like a child to me. And there’s something magical about cats which lend themselves so well to comics. They are mischievous and coy, self-centered yet crave attention, a whole gambit of emotions difficult to capture on the page, all which Brown captures with delight.

Love is Love
By Various Authors and Artists
Published by IDW and DC Comics

2017.22 love is love
http://www.idwpublishing.com/product/love-is-love/

This book is a collaboration of IDW and DC Comics, and also features characters from Archie, many Image titles, and original works. Love is Love is a feat of collaboration spurred from creative reactions to the Orlando Night Club shooting on June 12, 2016. It’s difficult to believe that it’s been almost a year since so many innocent people lost their lives and this book stands as a testament to their memory. Each page is filled with love and understanding, teaching us to be brave and to not accept hate. Some pages are single art pieces while others are two page stories reminding us that that the smallest gesture of kindness can make a big difference. I think this is especially important after falling victim to the harmful act of a fellow human to understand who you react to a situation speaks to your character.

 
Wonder Woman: the True Amazon
Written and Illustrated by Jill Thompson
Lettered by Jason Arthur

2017.22 wonder woman
http://www.dccomics.com/graphic-novels/wonder-woman-the-true-amazon

Wonder Woman just hit the big screen this past weekend and has been a box office success. If you enjoyed the film, I highly recommend Jill Thompson’s Wonder Woman: the True Amazon. This standalone story looks at Diana’s formative years as a child and young woman on Themyscira, beloved and spoiled by all the Amazons. But when Alethea, a stable worker, does not show Diana the undying affection she’s come to expect, she challenged Diana to be selfless and genuine, a challenge she has difficulty meeting. We all go through bouts of life where we put ourselves before all others, but this book teaches us the importance of seeing yourself as part of a greater society and understanding the sacrifices you, and others, must make for the goodness of others.

 

Bandette
Written by Paul Tobin
Illustrated by Colleen Coover

2017.22 Bandette
http://www.colleencoover.net/?page_id=4131

Oh, the irony. The comic that makes me feel most comfy and cozy is about a petty art thief, but if anyone is going to make you happy, it’s the plucky sticky fingers, Bandette. Set in Paris, a place I found homey during my visits, Bandette is an art thief who has more in her hands than just candy. She embodies a Robin Hoodesque mantra of steal from the rich and give to… well Bandette, who tends to skim a little bit off the top. Along with her urchins, Parisian ballet students, food delivery drivers, and others from her arrondissement and Detective Inspector Belgique, Bandette accomplishes her heists, while enriching her community. This book is truly about seeking out a community you can rely on in your time of need and how friendships are the most priceless jewel in life.

What are your comfort comics? Do you have a title you find yourself going back to time and time again? Let me know On Twitter @librnwithissues

Comic Book Award Season for Collection Development

The Eisner Award nominations were released a few weeks ago and mark the industry’s largest and most prestigious awards. Award lists are a great collection development tool for librarians; they provide well vetted titles which would make great additions to any library collection. Some awards have been given out for decades and others are new; some are fraught with controversy and others allow creators to pat each other on the back. Here are some awards lists which provide diverse collection development opportunities.

Eisner AwardLet’s face it, the Eisner Awards are the Oscars of the comic book industry and awarded every year at International ComicCon in San Diego. The Eisner has been around since 1987, and was renamed from the short lived Kirby Award. What is great about the Eisners is the diversity of the award categories. From standard awards for creators and story type to honoring webcomics, educational/academic works, and comic book news outlets, the Eisner Nominees will inform your comic know how in many areas.

Along with the Eisners,  the Harvey Award is one of the largest American comic and graphic novel awards. The Harvey Awards differ from other awards because they are nominated by comic book professionals and the final votes are cast by unpaid volunteers  and the awards are financed by sponsorships. The are the honors that creators give to their peers which provides a different type of award list.

The Angouleme International Comics Festival in Angouleme, France is the third largest comic book festival in the world and hosts an international award ceremony for creators. Unlike other awards, the Angouleme awards  have broad categories and are chosen from a large pool of titles. The Grand Prix de la ville d’Angouleme is awarded to a living creator to honor their lifetime achievement and becomes the president of the jury for the next year. Noted recluse Bill Watterson of Calvin and Hobbes won the Grand Prix in 2014, becoming the fourth non-European to win the award in 41 years. While the Angouleme has been fraught controversy, including the lack of nominating any women for the Grand Prix, citing the unfounded notion that none possessed a lifetime of work worthy of professional greatness, it is still a good place to look for diverse, international titles worth collecting. Hopefully, in the years to come, they will be more cognizant of the continued diverse presence in the comics industry.

International Manga AwardOn another international note, there are numerous manga awards to help you develop a well rounded manga collection. The Shogakukan Manga Award, sponsored by Shogakukan Publishing, has been awarded since 1955. Currently there are four categories; general, shonen (books geared to boys), shojo (books geared to girls) and children. The Kodansha Manga Award is structured the same way with the same four categories and has been awarded since 1977. An interesting and relatively new manga award is the International Manga Award and was founded in 2007 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Manga has continued to grow in popularity worldwide and this award is given to a non-Japanese manga artist annually. The entry list can be rather long and the ministry awards gold, silver, and bronze award. Some of these titles can be difficult to find translations for, but the list illustrates the diversity in manga creation.

Two other international awards to keep an eye on are the Ledger Awards, which are Australian comic awards, and the British Comic Awards which has six categories; the Hall of Fame, Emerging Talent, Young People’s Comic Awards, Best Book, and Best Comic for British comic books.

The American Library Association’s (ALA) Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) has many book and media awards. During the annual ALA conference, the awards ceremonies are always a highly and are often live streamed for those who cannot attend. The Great Graphic Novels for Teens list compiles both fiction and non-fiction graphic novels appropriate for teens and young adults, but to be honest, are also highly enjoyable for adults as well.  Be sure to check out lists back to 2007 for older titles for a retrospective collection.

Inking is one of the more specialized aspects of comic book creations. While the artist or penciller draws the initial layout of a page, the inker defines the final shape, adds shadow and texture to drawings. The Inkwell Award has several categories for different types of inking and lifetime achievement awards.

 

Many broader genre and entertainment awards also honor exceptional comics and graphic novels during their award ceremonies. Here are a few to keep in mind when doing graphic novel collection development:

GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) Media Awards nominated 10 books for their Outstanding Comic Book category.

The Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story honors  the “best science fiction of fantasy story Stoker Awardtold in graphic form and published in the prior calendar year” and has been awarded since 2009.

The Horror Writers Association awards Bram Stoker Awards annually and since 2011 have award graphic novels for superior achievement in horror writing.

Also, make sure to check out your state library association’s award list. As comic have become more ubiquitous, graphic novels have been appearing on general children and teens best book lists, unseparated into their own category. Many library associations accept submissions from all members, so even if you aren’t on the selection committee, you can suggest that comics and graphic novels be reviewed for awards.

 

 

Happy International Tabletop Day!

International Tabletop DayHappy 4th Annual International Tabletop Day! I like all types of board games from childhood classics like 13 Dead End Drive to Scythe and play almost every week with friends. Tabletop games are a great way to bring people together around a table and have competitive or cooperative fun. Over the last 20 years, there has been an incredible Renaissance in tabletop games starting with the popularity of Settlers of Catan in 1995. Since then, you can peruse Kickstarter anytime and find people who want to make amazing games. Many libraries now have board game collections and host board game nights for patrons to try new games. As someone with a proclivity for storytelling games, I often think of comic book characters and storylines while playing tabletop games (my first D&D character was a rogue who was essentially Bandette…without me realizing until level 4!).  To celebrate, here are some comics to check out if you like board games. Be sure to check out Twitter for more suggestions throughout the day. Game On!

2017.14 gloom final

Gloom by Atlas Game, is probably my favorite game ever. It’s a storytelling game in which each player has a gothicly horrific family they are trying to make as depressed as possible and kill, while making the other characters as happy as possible. Once a player kills off their last family member, the player with the ‘lowest’ score wins. Gloom is populated by Frankensteinian scientific families, traveling circuses, and the lords of the moors. If the alliterations in the actions cards don’t kill you, “terrified by topiary,” “distressed by ducks,” “driven to drink,” etc. then the death card “was eaten by bears” will. This is a fun game with a unique style that even the most hesitant of storytellers can get into.

The world of Gloom is a straight forward, if a bit darker, interpretation of the gothic era where as The Motherless Oven by English comic creator Rob Davis is a dystopian science fiction world that feels as foreboding as the looming death of Gloom. When the weather clock says it’s knife o’clock, you better lock dad up in the shed, tuck mother away in the cupboard under the stairs, and sit down to enjoy the Wednesday Wheel safe within your home. The Motherless Oven requires the reader to accept the fact that people have assigned death dates, parents look like 3rd grade art projects and are made by the children they care for, it periodically rains knives, and the police are geriatric officers in a slow moving jalopies. Scraper Lee, a teen slowly approaching his death day, befriends Vera Pike, a new and oddly independent student, and Castro Smith, a student with Interference Syndrome who talks with the ever present gods of egg timers, can openers, and light switches. They run away to find Scraper’s escaped father only to arrive at the end of the known world. The black and white watercolor inspired art is gorgeous and adds to the ominous nature of this book. Great for a rainy, dark night.

Hellboy Board Game Suggestions

There are some board games that require skill, concentration, and a whole lot of time. Many of these games have a Cthulhu theme like Eldritch and Arkham Horror, both Fantasy Flight games. These games require your character to maintain a balance of sanity, aggression, and strategy as you attempt to close portals and keep the old ones quiet in their slumber. You can be a magician, occultist, or driver, but if you get too close to the old ones, you’ll be out of the game. Can you and your teammates prevent the non Euclidean geometric figures from invading our reality, or will you have to convalesce in the Australian outback after seeing the great old one? These games are incredibly difficult, so don’t be discourage if it takes you several play throughs before figuring out a strategy to win.

One comic book character who is more close to the old gods than any other is Hellboy, the over 20 year old character from Mike Mignola. It is a historical fact that the Nazi regime was interested in occult and supernatural objects, which is the basis of Mignola’s story. A German operative, the Russian mystic Rasputin, is trying to summon an other worldly power at the height of World War II; however, a young demon appears and is taken in by an American occult team and taught to use his stone hand and incredible strength for good. While there will always be forces in the world trying to use Hellboy for evil and chaos, his light hearted nature, and love for pancakes, keeps him fighting for the good guys.

2017.14 fresh romance final

Not all games require apps, huge tables, and three hours. Some like Love Letter by AEG games, are the perfect game to throw in your backpack and play while waiting for food or having a casual drink with friends. As we’ve all learned from our high school English classes, it can be difficult for a young Romeo to get a letter to his fair Juliet to declare their love, and in this game, you are trying to get a love letter to the prince or princess and win a token of their affection. Each player has two cards of varying values and abilities. You play a card and resolve the ability in the hopes of knocking out the other players or ending the round with the card with the highest value. Many people will help you get your letter to royalty including the lowly Clown to the stately General. And for those comic fans, there is also a Batman version.

I like Love letter because it is has a simple and effective premise, love will conquer, which is also a central theme of the anthology Fresh Romance. With contributors like Kate Leth, Marguerite Bennett, and Sarah Winifred Searle, among others, Fresh Romance explores four drastically different love stories each unique and heartwarming with a fresh look at what love means. A retelling of Beauty and the Beast shows compassion and empathy, whereas Ruined is about a Georgian Era woman who is quickly married off to a stranger to save her, and her family’s, reputation. The distinct art styles for each story helps to transport the reader completely to the new story, making the anthology exciting yet cohesive. The book made me eager for more modern, romance comics featuring unique and diverse characters.

2017.14 manhattan project

One of the first modern, worker placement games I’ve played was Minion Game’s Manhattan Project. It’s the dawn of the nuclear age, and each player is attempting to make the ultimate bomb and earn the most victory points first. The board looks like an old factory cork board with all of the different moves your workers, scientist, and engineers can make during your turn. As you build factories, universities, and reactors, your workers can be deployed on your home board as well as the main board, but watch out! Other players can destroy your buildings with air strikes or send their workers to your land as spies and take up the limited spaces where you can place your workers. As you create plutonium and uranium, you can develop bombs, strap them to your bombers and earn victory points. This fun yet competitive game is well paced ensuring all players move at the same pace.

While it may seem a bit on the nose, the comic I’m recommending for the board game Manhattan Project is the Image comic Manhattan Projects by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra. In the game, you have to manage your money, workers, and yellow cake; but in the comic book, you have to manage a stoic Einstein staring at an obelisk, infinite Oppenheimers, President Harry S. Truman as an orgy loving Mason, and FDR is an AI stuck in a television screen. Throw in Richard Feynman and Laika the Russian K9 astronaut and you’ve got all it takes to unlock the mysteries of the universe…maybe. Hickman’s love for infographics and the stark use of colors add science fiction elements to these historically inspired characters. Warning, this book gets weird, but in the best way possible.

Board and card games are a great way to get to know new people and spend quality time with family and friends. What board games do you like to play?

Colossal Read Alikes

2017.12 Interview (1)While many people have been analyzing the new Thor: Ragnorok trailer frame by frame, I’ve been anticipating Nacho Vigalondo’s new film Colossal, starring Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis out in theaters next Friday. Luckily, I was able to attend an advanced screening followed by a Q&A with Vigalondo and hearing him talk about the film only made me love it more.

Colossal is about Gloria who has been kicked out of her boyfriend’s apartment because of her drinking, partying to the morning, and being unemployed. So, she moves back to her hometown where her elementary school friend Oscar has inherited his family’s bar, and offers her a part time job. After a night of heavy drinking, Gloria finds out a giant monster has attacked Seoul, and she soon discovers she might have something to do with it. Wrapped in an old style Kaiju film, Colossal deals with issues like gender politics, domestic violence, and self-agency in a way rarely seen in modern cinema. Funny, tragic, and entertaining, Colossal has it all.

In honor of Colossal, I’ve picked some of my favorite monster books for you to check out until you can see the film because, believe me, this is one you won’t want to miss.

2017.12 kaijumaxKaijumax
Written and drawn by Zander Cannon
Published by Oni Press

In a world where giant monsters are part of the norm, what do you do when you apprehend a kaiju that has destroyed a city? You send them to Kaijumax, a prison for giant monsters run by Power Ranger-esque guards who can transform into ginormous mechs. Electrogorg, one of the newest prisoners of Kaijumax, is a single father with one goal; make sure my kids are ok. But when you’ve got rival prison gangs, like the Crypts, J-Pop, Megafauna and Mechs, planning their next moves and seeking new recruits, guards smuggling in drugs, and a new big Kaiju to contend with, Electrogorg begins to lose hope of ever being reunited with his kids. While the premise may seem tame and the colorful artistic style fun, this book explores the major issues in the modern prison system in a brutally honest fashion.

2017.12 Attack on Titan Attack on Titan
Written and Illustrated by Hajime Isayama
Published by Kodansha Comics

One thing that makes giant monsters so scary is their foreignness, the grotesque nature of their physicality and their divorce from the pure human form. In Isayama’s long running manga series Attack on Titan, the monsters are unique because they are giant humanoids known as titans who mindlessly roam the world, consuming humans for no apparent reason. Humans have decided to protect themselves from the titans by living behind 100-meter-high walls, all of humanity in three concentric, circular kingdoms, each with their unique social system. Following several young recruits in the defense corps, Attack on Titan is a fun, quick dystopian read filled with intriguing characters and a unique future historical setting.

 Gronk coverGronk
Written and Illustrated by Katie Cook
Published by Action Lab

 Gronk is a bad monster, very bad! So bad that she’s left the monsterdome and has been adopted by a human named Dale, and her two pets, Kitty, a cat, and Harli, a large Newfoundland dog. Dale enjoys her secluded life in the Canadian woods of being creative, the perfect place for Gronk to hide without causing too much suspicion. Originally a webcomic, these short, four panel comics are reminiscent of the Sunday funnies, but for all ages. Gronk’s exploration of the human world and Dale’s unwavering nerdiness proves a little green monster can bring many hours of joy to readers of all ages.

Monstress cover Monstress
Written by Marjorie Liu
Illustrated by Sana Takeda
Published by Image Comics

High fantasy stories have not always been my cup of tea. Either the world is not immersive enough for me to buy into the premise or it is so removed from reality that I have no way to relate to. In Monstress, the balance is perfect as Maiko navigates the world of the Arcanic, magical creatures with animalistic elements, and the Cumea who use the Aracnic to fuel their magical powers. An Arcanic herself, Maika Halfwolf harbors an old evil within her which may be defeated if she can learn the secrets of her mother. The world building in this comic is stunning. It uses Asian centric cultures as a starting point and pulls a lot of artistic influences from that. For a more subtle, but just as scary, monster story, Monstress is an excellent choice and reminds me a lot of Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom trilogy.

Jack Kirby & Steve Ditko

Note how I’m not putting down any specific books to represent the amazing Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. Kirby, one of the comic book pioneers wrote a lot of silver age comics like Tales of Suspense, Strange Tales, Tales to Astonish, which contains the origins of some superheroes and villains still around today, including Magneto and Iron Man, Fing Fang Foom and Groot and other out of this world monsters like Klagg and Gorgilla. What I like most looking at his monster comics is comparing it to his romance comics, which he also pioneered. Steve Ditko, who worked with Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, worked in the pulp comics of the 60s and 70s under Eerie and Creepy Magazine. Later, he drew comic adaptations of mega monster movie characters like Konga and Gorgo. Seriously, go do a Google Image search for Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko and monsters and you will see innovative creature design and an amazing gallery of covers. Then, you know, go check out some of their books.

2017.12 Interview (2)I really encourage you to go see Colossal. I don’t want to spoil too much before it’s released wide, but I’d love to know your thoughts on it! Also, do you have any monster comics you’d recommend to someone? Let me know by tweeting me @librnwithissues using the hashtag #ColossalComics.

If you’d like to check out one of Vigalondo’s shorts, I recommend 7:35 in the Morning a short film with a surprising twist.