Resistance is futile

Cover of Star Trek, The Green LanternHave you ever seen a book and known you just had to read it–not because you thought you would actually like it necessarily, but because not reading it was just–inconceivable? Well, that’s how I felt when I saw Star Trek, Green Lantern: The Spectrum War.

I’ve never really gotten into reading graphic novels, unless you count the Asterix and Tintin books I used to read when I was a kid. And I don’t know much about the Green Lantern, except that he’s, uh, green, and he, well, carries a lantern. But I am a Trekkie!* And even though I’ve never really felt the need to read much Trek fiction, I just had to read this! Resistance was futile!

And you know what? I loved it! The artwork beautifully captures the rebooted Star Trek characters, and as I read, I could literally hear Chekov, Spock, and Bones talking in my head. What’s not to love about a book that does that?

I mean, OK, the Superhero-Trek mash-up was a little goofy, but reading it put a smile on my face, and sometimes that’s just what you want a book to do.

And while we’re talking about Star Trek, last weekend Mr K had the brilliant idea of sending the kids to see Finding Dory while we went to see Star Trek Beyond, and I have to say I had a fantastic time! It was funny, exciting, and even touching. Bones and Spock were hilariously paired up, Kirk was his usual arrogant self, and new-girl Jaylah kicked butt, which was awesome. In the August issue of Empire, director Justin Lin said:

In making Star Trek Beyond, I wanted to embrace the essence of Trek

And that is exactly what he did. It’s Trek as it should be!

 

*Read about my fangirl experience when I met Marina Sirtis

Superheroes and villains

heroesvillainswebtile

Have you recently been bitten by a radioactive spider? Do you like to wear colourful tights under cover of darkness? Can you leap earthquake-damaged buildings in a single bound?

If you answered yes to any of the above (or even if you didn’t), Central Library Peterborough needs your help! We’ve received word that the local supervillains are planning to descend on us between 1-3pm on the 25th of June, and we’re woefully unprotected*!

If you don’t have a secret identity pre-prepared, we can help you create your own superhero masks and cuffs on the day, and if you’re feeling out of practice we’ll have some superhero training activities to test your superpowers. When you’re ready, hunt for the supervillains around the library! Or have a go at our comics table — design your own superhero/villain costume, participate in our collaborative comics, and colour in some of your favourite comics characters!

There’ll be spot prizes on the day, so dust off your Armageddon costumes and head over to Central Library Peterborough for some comics-related shenanigans.

Cover of Sewing Dress-up: 35 Cute and Easy Costumes for KidsIf you’re after some inspiration or practical advice, we can help –

*Barbara Gordon/Batgirl is out of town for a library conference

Cosplay and Comics at Papanui Library

Love reading and drawing your own comics? Do you want help with your drawing, assistance with your technique and tips on comics, publishing etc and a free comic? All of this for no charge? Right then get yourself signed up for our free comic drawing workshop at Papanui Library with Spencer Hall, artist/cartoonist. The workshop is for ages 12-18, registered attendees only and a limit of 30. We won’t let you go hungry either, there will be pizzas from Hell.

comic book day posterThere was a waiting list of disappointed young cartoonists last year so don’t delay, break out the light sabers, shake out those capes, slap on the face paint and come dressed as your favourite comic book/Manga character and be in for a prize.

International Free Comic Book Day is on Saturday 7 May this year but our event, which will include free comics courtesy of Comics Compulsion, will be on Saturday 21 May.

The selection of free comics this year ranges from Dark Horse to Archie to Strawberry Shortcake to Titan’s Assassins Creed to Love and Rockets. Something for all tastes.

To see what you might be missing check out last year’s pictures.

Meanwhile back at the library our comic book collection grows apace. We have comic books about Men who dress as Bats, Women as Cats, Green Men, muscly men, and animals that talk, Bart Simpson and Adventures, Mysteries, Funnies, Scareys, the lot. I was delighted to see Scrooge McDuck, nephew Donald and the Beagle Boys make a comeback in hard cover. Made me quite nostalgic for my young reading self.

Conspicuous consumption

For me holidays are always an opportunity to consume, not merely Christmas dinner leftovers and far too many Ferrero Rochers, but also culture. The books, movies and TV shows I haven’t had time for during the year get their chance over the festive break. It’s always a struggle, of course. There’s simply too much to get through.

So how did I do this year? Not too badly actually. Here’s what I managed to cram into a week and a half of public holidays and annual leave.

Movies

I made a real effort this year to grab a bunch of movies I was curious about but never got around to watching. Results were patchy.

  • Housebound – I’d heard good things about this Kiwi horror-comedy and they weren’t wrong. High on the creepy factor but plenty of laughs too. Haunted house meets awkward mother-daughter dynamic. Highly recommended.
  • Spirited Away – Critically acclaimed Japanese animation from Studio Ghibli. I’ve never really been into anime and this movie didn’t change my mind. Just a bit too weird and fantastical for me.
  • Never Let Me Go – I really like Carey Mulligan but when the other two points of a love triangle are Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley, I’m going to struggle. A beautiful film to look at (if you like the colour brown) but quite slow paced. Do not watch if you’re in a bad mood already, as it’s a bit of a downer (based on the book by Kazuo Ishiguro).

A selection of DVDs

  • They Came Together – I really, really wanted to like this. I’m a massive Amy Poehler fan and I adore Paul Rudd but this attempt to subvert the cliches and tropes of the rom-com failed to hit the mark. I couldn’t help thinking this would have worked brilliantly as an SNL sketch, but just couldn’t stretch to a whole film. Some fun moments but not enough of them, unfortunately.
  • Turbo Kid – Canadian/NZ co-production that had a lot of buzz at last year’s New Zealand International Film Festival. A retro-futuristic post-apocalyptic wasteland, BMXs, extreme cheesiness, that guy off McLeod’s Daughters, and what must have been an absolutely massive fake blood budget. What’s not to love? With knowing nods to everything from Soylent Green, to Mad Max and Cherry 2000, this pastiche/homage to sci-fi was a lot of fun to watch (though sometimes through your fingers because INTESTINES).

Television

  • cover of The White Queen The White Queen – On a whim, for a bit of escapism I started watching this series based on Philipa Gregory’s historical novels The White Queen, The Red Queen and The Kingmaker’s Daughter and ended binge-watching the whole thing. It covers the turbulent period during which the houses of York and Lancaster were battling for the throne of England, the War of the Roses. It begins with King Edward IV falling for a fetching Lancastrian widow and portrays the power grabs, manipulations and betrayals of his reign and beyond. It was this period of history that inspired George R. R. Martin’s Song of ice and fire novels and this series is similar, in bloodiness, intrigue, and, er, nudity. Not a bad substitute until the next season of Game of Thrones turns up (if you’re into that kind of thing).

Books

  • Cover of Truths, half truths & little white lies: A memoirTruths, half truths & little white lies: A memoir by Nick Frost – Often memoirs of famous people give you the impression that from a young age they were destined for stardom and great things. Nick Frost’s book has you marvelling that he managed to leave the house, let alone have a successful career, what with all the drugs and not being very confident and having a traumatic upbringing. It’s the story of an ordinary man who has struggles and demons just like everybody else and not in a “oh, I’ll just book into The Priory for a bit of rehab, dahling”, showing off kind of way, but the unglamorous “everything’s gone a bit terrible” way. This made me want to read Simon Pegg’s Nerd do well again and compare flatting anecdotes.
  • Concrete Park vol 2 – More violence, betrayal and sci-fi adventures on a prison planet. Waiting not very patiently for volume 3.

So how did you do over the break? Get a few titles ticked off your To Read (or To Watch) list?

Geek girls unite!

I am something of a fangirl about a variety of things but my main obsessions at this point in time are Star Wars and anything Joss Whedon has ever done, said, or breathed on.

Some people will never understand the levels of devotion and excitement I experience when trawling the action figures aisle at K-Mart, or researching Star Wars cosplay on the Internet…and that’s perfectly okay. I cannot for the life of me understand the appeal of motorsport, and scrapbooking leaves me cold. Each to their own.

Cover of The fangirls' guide to the galaxyThis idea of respecting each others fandoms is a big one in Sam Maggs’ brilliant how-to The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Geek Girls. This book is the self-affirming “I’m okay, you’re okay” tome that geek ladies everywhere have been waiting for. I wasn’t very far into the book before I found myself wondering why on earth noone had written it before. It very obviously needed to exist and Sam Maggs’, fangirl extraodinaire (her cosplay game is on point) and associate editor of geek girl culture site The Mary Sue, is just the woman for the job.

The book celebrates the variety of fandoms that we lady-folk enjoy and it’s actually quite educational. There’s some fangirl terminology explained, (I have an additional use for the word “shipping” now), as well as providing the basics on a range of fandoms, some of which I’m not personally that familiar with, like gaming and anime. The book includes short interviews with some successful fangirl actors, writers, and artists, a rundown on the best “cons” aka fan conventions (sadly all North American though SDCC is on my bucket list) and con etiquette, and a really useful primer on feminism. What exactly is “intersectional feminism” and where do I sign up? This book has got you sorted.

Cover of Ms Marvel 3My favourite chapter is “Your new faves: Kick-ass female characters you need to know” as it’s basically a recommended reading (and watching) list. It’s what turned me on to Ms Marvel, has me adding the movie Haywire to my For Later shelf, and casting my gaze towards Tamora Pierce’s Immortal series. Yes sirree, we librarians like a good book recommendation more than most.

Speaking of which, I’d also highly recommend Felicia Day’s You’re never weird on the Internet (almost). Day swims in much the same sea that The Fangirl’s Guide does. She’s well known as an actor in genre shows like Supernatural, Eureka, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and has always been a nerd and fangirl herself, particularly in the area of MMORPG.

Cover of You're never weird on the internet (almost)Just to give you a notion of Felicia Day’s cultural caché – Joss Whedon wrote the foreword to the book and the back cover features a glowing endorsement from… George R. R. Martin.

So yeah, lady is connected.

But it wasn’t always so. The funniest parts in the book are where Day documents her offbeat childhood of being homeschooled and rather isolated from her peers. In such conditions her weirdness was able to fully ripen (to the benefit of us all). As an awkward oddball, she sought out belonging and community via the only means available to her… the Internet. And she’s been hanging out there, making awesome things happen ever since.

The book is heavy on self-deprecating humour and tells the tale of an awkward child who turned into… an awkward woman. But one who has learned to back herself, make stuff she loves and push on through the bad (addiction, anxiety issues, gamer-gate etc) with humour and whatever the dork equivalent of “grace” is.

Do you have any recommendations for great geek girl reads (or viewing for that matter)?

Make a Fun Palaces comic

Get your Fun Palaces on right now with the Fun Palaces Comic Maker!

You can drag and drop characters inspired by Emily Medley’s original Fun Palaces illustration into a comic-book story. Just move the images around, and add captions to tell your own Fun Palace adventure. Once it is looking slick,:

  • “Preview” – you can save the image to your computer
  • “Submit” and add to the already expanding collection of Fun Palace comics which will be shared at funpalaces.tumblr.com.

Here’s my maiden effort.

Comic

Kia ora and big ups to the very talented Talia Yat and Phil Gullberg of the State Library of Queensland who made the Fun Palaces comic maker, based on a concept by man-who-makes-things-happen (and library lover)  Matt Finch.

See you at Fun Palaces – it is on tomorrow and Sunday (3 and 4 October). The first Fun Palaces in the world this year will be the Christchurch ones!

A half circle journey – Suki Kim and North Korea

Cover of Without you, there is no usThere are only patchy representations of North Korea in our popular culture – comedians dressed up as Kim Jong-il, Team America, that recent Interview movie. In a world where the Iron Curtain has come down, it is still Unknown. But Suki Kim knows North Korea, she’s been there many times. Suki is coming to Christchurch on Sunday 30 August as part of the WORD Christchurch Shifting Points of View events in the Christchurch Arts Festival. Her topic: On North Korea: Inventing the Truth and she’s in conversation with Paula Morris.

Her book Without you, there is no us: My time with the sons of North Korea’s Elite. A Memoir unveils what has been hidden. It starts with the death of Kim Jong-il in 2011 and then goes back into history, and into Suki’s time as a teacher at PUST- the all-male Pyongyang University of Science and Technology.

If this were the sort of story that invites readers to nod with empathy and walk away both satisfied and educated, I would say that I travelled full circle. But in truth my journey was barely half a circle, a sad one that could never be completed, because those who were at the center of the harrowing history are almost certainly long dead, or old and dying, and time is running out before their stories are lost in the dust of the past. (p. 11)

Suki shows us Pyongyang as a place of rules, bureaucracy, and regimentation. North Korea is full of constraints  – and the constriction is political, emotional, and intellectual. On some of their school trips, there are glimpses of starving people, and forced labour. It is a place where even the sons of the elite have an existence that is controlled, and devoid of freedom.  Everyone is watched, you are likely to be spied upon, and the very words you utter must conform or you might be reported. Suki wants to open the world up to her students, but knows she can’t:

It was a fine dance. I wanted to push them, but not too much; to expose them to the outside world, but not so subtly that no one would notice… Awakening my students to what was not in the regime’s program could mean death for them and those they loved … Awakening was a luxury available only to those in the free world. (p. 70)

Suki teaches, but she is continually taking notes for her book. She observes her students open up,  and how some lie and deceive.  I was swayed by her emotional currents:

And so I went from love to pity to repulsion and distrust, then back to empathy and love again, and these switches of feeling were confusing. I reminded myself that I did not come from a place where mind games were a prerequisite for survival to such an extreme degree, a place where the slightest act of rebellion could have unimaginable consequences. (p. 134)

This is a book that could easily be claustrophic. But it isn’t, because she provides such captivating views of the Koreas North and South, and family history, and her own emotional landscape. Her book will make you understand North Korea in a new way.

Cover of PyongyangIf you want to read more about this strange and fascinating place, I recommend the graphic novel Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle. It captures that same alienness and constriction found in Suki’s story.

There seems to be a flurry of new books about North Korea. We want to understand.

Cover of The firector is the commander Cover of The girl with seven names Cover of The Great Leader and the fighter pilot Cover of Marching through suffering Cover of Under the same sky Cover of Dear Leader

Free Comic Book Day

On Free Comic Book Day – Saturday 2 May 2015 –  I went to Comics Compulsion in Papanui, and we bought a My Little Pony comic and got some freebies.

Meanwhile 31 teens were at Papanui Library celebrating Free Comic Book Day with a fun workshop and pizza and comic swap. Spencer Hall and Elijah Lopez, two graphic artists, helped the budding comic-makers with drawing technique tips and advice.  Comics Compulsion came to the party with free comics.

Free Comic Day at Papanui Library

Spencer thought the teens “made some really great work!” He animated some of their pictures together on his blog.

Find out more

How Marvel-lous

Cover of Avengers the ultimate guideThe Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU as it’s known in the geeksphere, continues to grow with the recent release of blockbuster action movie The Avengers: Age of Ultron. And it won’t stop there. We’re currently in Phase Two, with further films and spin-offs due for release from next year.

What makes the MCU so interesting is that rather than simply being a disparate series of films (and television shows) featuring different super heroes who happen to originate from the same comic book company, there are multiple character crossovers between the films (both starring and supporting), and tantalising hints in post-credit sequences of future instalments. There is a master plan at work and it’s increasingly hard to keep a track of.

For those of you feeling a little overwhelmed by all the superheroes (and who wouldn’t?), I’ve prepared a crib sheet so you can navigate your way around the MCU with confidence.

Phase One

Phase One of the MCU officially began back in 2008 with the first Iron Man movie.

Cover of Iron Man the ultimate guide to the armoured super heroCover of The invincible Iron ManCover of Ultimate Iron Man II

Cover of The Incredible Hulk, Planet HulkThe Incredible Hulk film followed (the one with Ed Norton). Norton was supposed to continue playing the Hulk through The Avengers movies but “talks broke down” and he was replaced in later outings by Mark Ruffalo. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

For those of you who like your Hulk more “bodybuilder in green paint” than “CGI motion capture”, we have four seasons of the TV series on DVD.

The next films in the series were Iron Man 2 in 2010 and Thor in 2011.
Thor introduced fan-favourite, Loki.

Cover of Thor God of ThunderCover of Thor the mighty avengerCover of New ultimates Thor rebornCover of Thor the trials of Loki

2011 also brought us the first Captain America film (curious “Cap” fans may want to check out the 1970s TV series).

Cover of Captain America the tomorrow soldierCover of Captain America volume 4Cover of  Marvel masterworks presents Captain America volume 2Cover of Captain America volume 3

Phase One ended in 2012 with the first Avengers film which brought Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk and Captain America together and added Black Widow and Hawkeye in for good measure. We also got our first look at villian, Thanos.

Cover of The Avengers 1Cover of Avengers 1 Avengers worldCover of The Avengers time runs out volume 2

Phase Two

Cover of Thor: the dark world preludePhase Two kicked off in 2013 with Iron Man 3 and was quickly followed by Thor sequel, Thor: The Dark World.

Also in 2013, the first series of Marvel’s Agents of Shield aired which followed on from events in The Avengers movie and features recurring film character, Agent Coulson.

In 2014 Captain America: The Winter Soldier was released as was box office smash Guardians of the Galaxy (which included more screentime for Thanos). The retro vibe of the movie soundtrack album meant it was just as popular as the film.

Cover of Guardians of the galaxy volume 1Cover of Guardians of the galaxy cosmic avengers volume 1Cover of Guardians of the galaxy volume 3 guardians disassembledCover of Guardians of the galaxy

On television Marvel’s Agents of Shield returned in 2014 and events that took place during The Winter Soldier continued to have repercussions in the show’s second season. Though it stands on its own the series contains ideas and story arcs that are likely to make an appearance in the Marvel films. Recent episodes of the show (as yet unscreened in New Zealand) have been coordinated to set up the opening of The Avengers sequel.

A further television series, Marvel’s Agent Carter, features Peggy Carter from the first Captain America movie who has also appeared in Marvel’s Agents of Shield episodes in flashback. There’s a lot of “interweaving” in the MCU.

Meanwhile, Netflix series Marvel’s Daredevil has also recently been released.

Cover of Daredevil volume 2Cover of Daredevil the man without fear volume 9 King of hell's kitchenCover of Daredevil volume 6Cover of Daredevil end of days

Cover of Avengers Rage of UltronCover of Avengers battle against UltronSo far this year on the movie front we’ve had The Avengers: Age of Ultron but Ant-man is expected in a few months’ time.

Phase Three

Looking forward to Phase Three which roughly spans 2016-2019, there is a third Captain America instalment planned, a second Guardians of the Galaxy, and a third Thor film.

A Marvel’s Agents of Shield spin-off TV series has just been announced, and there will be an Avengers “Infinity War” two-parter which may or may not involve The Avengers and Guardians gangs crossing paths.

Cover of Thanso the infinity revelationCover of Avengers Infinity 4Cover of Avengers assemble

Cover of Captain Marvel volume 2 downOn the schedule are also a highly anticipated female super hero film, Captain Marvel, as well as Black Panther, Doctor Strange, and Inhumans.

Phew.

And if you’re all “Marvel-ed out” now, I don’t blame you. Though if you’re keen for more hot comic action, it’s Free Comic Book Day tomorrow so get amongst, either at your local comic book store or at our Papanui Library event.
Otherwise, why not just sit back and enjoy Jeremy Clint Barton/Hawkeye Renner singing about being the least super of the super heroes?

Best book covers of 2014 – My pick of New Zealand’s finest

This awards ceremony starts with the winners. My two favourites of the year:

Cover of Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen

Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen by Dylan Horrocks. I could have picked any of Dylan’s four covers represented below. The man is a massive New Zealand talent, and deserves all the kudos. Onya Dylan.

Cover of Creamy Psychology

Creamy Psychology
A survey of the work of photographer Yvonne Todd. Artists and photographers – like cartoonists – often have a head start when it comes to good covers. They have the images. And this is hypnotically creepy and yet alluring. Love it, and the title.

Let’s continue the awards ceremony with two strong Christchurch-focused titles. Potently distinctive, and both representing well what is inside.

Cover of Shigeru Ban Cover of Once in a lifetime

Last year I praised the array of fantastic cartoony covers on New Zealand books. I’m pleased to see more goodies this year. I feel like a Dylan Horrocks cover is so damn good, and generally indicative of an excellent book too. Two of them this year are his own collections.

Cover of Wake Cover of Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen Cover of Empty Bones Cover of Incomplete Works

More proof that artists give good cover. As do poets.

Cover of Creamy Psychology Cover of Waha Cover of Cinema Cover of Edwin's Egg Cover of There's a medical name for this

Beautiful fiction.

Cover of Of things gone astray Cover of The Drowning City Cover of Landscape with Solitary Figure Cover of Where the Rehoku bone sings

Some super covers for kids and teens.

Cover of Construction Cover of Doctor Grundy's undies Cover of NZ shore and sea Cover of Dappled Annie Cover of Sage. Cover of While we run Cover of A treasury of NZ poems

Very New Zealand. And evocative.

Cover of Reach Cover of Autobiography

Typographical delights.

Cover of How to be dead Cover of Arms race Cover of Infidelities Cover of Vertical Living Cover of Tell you what Cover of The Bright side

There is a boom of publishing in the area of First World War history. This has an appropriate solemnity and gravitas. As do some others employing black and white photography.

Cover of How we remember Cover of Prendergast Cover of Berry Boys Cover of Deadline Cover of Frank Worsley Cover of Iggy's airforce tales Cover of Patient Cover of The Mighty Totara

I love this one. Love love LOVE.

Cover of Peter Smith

A lineup of stuff can make for an attractive cover.

Cover of Pills and Potions

Book of the year. But though the cover is distinctive and recognisable (it looks a bit like the Shroud in Turin?), I kind of wish it had a Sharon Murdoch cartoon on the cover. She is on Twitter as @domesticanimal and is all kinds of awesome.

Cover of Dirty Politics

For more book cover and design, see the PANZ Book Design Awards.