If you had told me a year ago that I would be rushing home from work to do some knitting, watch Doctor Who and read children’s comic books (not all at the same time) I don’t think I would have believed you. However, sometimes it’s really good to go back to old hobbies, re-watch something you haven’t seen for a while or explore a genre you know nothing about – and which isn’t going to show up in your “recommended for you” selections.
In our libraries we look after all sorts of books in all sorts of formats, and we need to be able to talk to you – our users – about them. A few years ago I was looking after adult fiction at a library, however I hadn’t read a lot of popular authors. So what I decided to do was to read a book by each of the most popular authors on our annual list. I can’t say that I found a new favourite author, but I certainly felt more confident about answering enquiries from fiction readers.
In a similar way, I always wanted to find out more about our graphic novel collections. They seemed pretty popular, but I didn’t really know where to start. One day I happened to spy a graphic novel called The Gigantic Beard that was Evil and I thought it sounded fun – and it was! And thoughtful, intelligent and different. I’m really glad I gave it a go.
After that initial foray, I didn’t explore much further – so many books, so little time! But then a chum with excellent taste was recommending the work of Neill Cameron. I investigated further and found a series of great children’s comics which are funny, feature a range of different characters, explore interesting topics like British mythology and the future of robotics – and which I can’t put down.
Yes – it is always good to read a comfort book or author or genre (and I’m so excited that Bright we Burn has just arrived), but sometimes it can be just as good to look beyond your horizons – and with a few recommendations – find a new favourite book or author or genre.
What books (etc) have your surprised yourself by liking?
Later this month The Avengers: Infinity War will hit cinema screens (25 April to be exact). Ten years ago Iron Man was the first episode in what has become an ongoing, multi-layered series know as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or MCU). Infinity War represents the coming together of many of these interwoven strands. Hints of what or who would be involved in Infinity War were being dropped as early as Iron Man 2 and Thor, but various powerful Infinity Stones, the Infinity Gauntlet (which can wield the power of these stones), and the character of Thanos (who very much intends to do the wielding) have featured throughout the series.
With such a long timeframe and so many films, it can be easy to lose track of these appearances, so some re-watching might be in order before the release of Infinity War. Or you could just crib from the list below.
Marvel’s The Avengers (2012) – Loki really was up to no good with the Tesseract (aided and abetted by Giant Purple Bad Ass, Thanos). Both Loki and the Tesseract end up in Asgard for safe keeping. Loki’s Chitauri sceptre, which holds the Mind Stone is acquired by S.H.I.E.L.D.
Thor: The Dark World (2013) – The Aether (or the Reality Stone) wreaks havoc with Astrophysicist Jane Foster and at the end of the film is transferred by Asgardian warriors Sif and Volstagg to the care of The Collector.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) – The Mind Stone in Loki’s sceptre falls into Hydra’s hands and is used to create enhanced individuals Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – The Orb (that contains the Power Stone) is the thing that everyone, including Thanos, wants. Originally in the archives of The Collector, it ends up on the planet of Xandar in the care of Nova Corps. The Collector provides a brief explanation to the Guardians of what the Infinity Stones are.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) – Thor has a vision that includes several of the Infinity Stones and the Infinity Gauntlet. The Avengers capture Loki’s sceptre and the Mind Stone which is then used to power a synthetic body with an AI mind, called Vision. The stone sits in his forehead. It is revealed that Thanos has a left-handed Infinity Gauntlet.
Thor: Ragnarok (2017) – The Tesseract is shown in Asgard where Loki makes eyes at it, so there is a suggestion he may have it. Hela reveals that the Infinity Gauntlet held in the same vault is a fake. Thanos makes an ominous appearance.
Black Panther (2018)
Avengers: Infinity War (2018) – This is where the locations of the stones in relation to Thanos and his gauntlet will start to be Very Important.
If you’re planning on seeing Infinity War soon, my suggestion IS THAT YOU WATCH ALL THE MOVIES AGAIN WITH NO BREAKS. No, but seriously don’t do that. That’s just not wise from a health and safety perspective.
But if you do want to do a bit of catch up I’d recommend watching:
Captain America: Civil War is worth another look to be reminded of how the various Avengers were placed at the end of that film, and it’s directed by the Russo brothers who are both helming Infinity War
It is with great sadness that I write a tribute to one of New Zealand’s best cartoonists.
Murray Ball (26 January 1939 – 12 March 2017) was from my home town, Feilding. Stanway I’m pretty sure, or at least Halcombe. Proud as punch they are – because he also made the All Blacks.
Murray Ball was someone who made us laugh, love, dream, and curse the Nor’ Wester. He brought great characters to life in Wal, The Dog, Horse, Cooch, Cheeky Hobson, and many others besides.
I’ve always been into comics. Footrot Flats is a love I share with my Dad. I remember collecting the annuals to add to our collection. We all went to the movie. A friend of mine walked down the aisle to “Slice of Heaven.” Lol.
Murray’s cartoons and characters addressed pivotal moments and issues in our history – the Springbok Tour coming to mind – rugby being very close to Ball’s heart. I still have the clipping from the Manawatu Evening Standard, when the Dog wrote in to say he was hanging up his All Black Jersey.
I’m English and grew up on this one. If you enjoyed The Beano in your younger years, or are young now, you’ll get a laugh out of this annual. Many of the classic characters are still there – such as Dennis the Menace (and his dog Gnasher), The Bash Street Kids, Bananaman, Roger the Dodger and Minnie the Minx.
The old favourites look ever so slightly different, as some have been drawn by new artists. The stories are up to date with modern technology, media and language, but the essence of the old Beano remains.
Christchurch City Libraries also hold a really interesting History of The Beano which tells how Gnasher first arrived (then mysteriously disappears) in Beanotown. A must for purists.
And did you know, you can also view the latest weekly issues of The Beano on PressReader? The last three months are available – just sign in with your library card number and password.
Who’d have thought the popular award-winning Canadian novelist, poet and short story writer would put out a comic book. I’m amazed.
And Angel Catbird is amazing! Harking back to early comics of the 1940s, this entertaining story has all the elements of the genre. Surviving a near fatal collision with a car, his beloved cat Ding, an owl and a DNA changing serum, our Hero Strig Feleedus is transformed into Angel Catbird. The once-quiet scientist now has a six-pack, owl wings and a cat’s tail and must come to terms with his new abilities. There are some funny scenes as he learns to supress his baser instincts.
Evil villain Dr Muroid; part human, part rat, commands an army of rats he intends to humanise, feminise (eewww), and take over the World! If only he can get his clawed little hands on the formula. Meanwhile, down at Club Catastrophe, Cate Leone prepares for war … Part Femme Fatale and half cat, Margaret wanted Catbird’s a love interest drawn sexy but not gratuitously, as befits a feminist author.
In her introduction Atwood explains that even though she is “a nice literary old lady”, she drew comic book characters as a child and has never stopped; influenced by early comics such as Little Lulu, Mickey Mouse, Rip Kirby, Mary Worth, Marvel and Dick Tracy, and the later political satire of Walt Kelly’s Pogo.
Nature Canada, a cause close to Margaret’s heart, has added the odd footnote to the story – suggestions on how to protect both cats and the environment. The statistics are interesting without lecturing.
I’m hooked and can’t wait for Volume 2 – due out in February 2017.
It seems apt to be writing about American cartoonist Raina Telgemeier’s latest graphic novel Ghosts (released September 2016) after a night or two of ‘dark and stormy’ wild weather across the country. I lay in bed snuggled up with my children to keep warm, making up spooky stories to tell them as the wind lashed the trees. It was the kind of weather that gets one imagining something eerie in the air… like ghosts, perhaps.
Ghosts is a little bit different from Raina’s previous, award-winning, autobiographical graphic novels Smile (2010) and Sisters (2014). For fans expecting another story from her real life, she points out this is her first true fiction story “not at all based on real stuff.”
However it does similarly revolve around two sisters:
Eleven-year-old Catrina and her family are moving to the small coastal town of Bahía de la Luna because her younger sister, Maya, is sick. Cat isn’t happy about leaving her friends, but she tries not to complain because she knows Maya will benefit from the clean, cool air that blows in from the sea. As the girls settle in, they learn there’s something a little spooky about their new town…
Have a peek at an excerpt of Ghosts set in the missions of foggy northern California and during the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos).
Raina’s illustrated stories of her life growing up appeal to 7, 17 and 37 year-olds alike. I thought it was curious that my copy of Raina’s book Smile had gone missing from my bedside table one night and when I went to check on my young son, supposedly asleep in bed, I found he had taken it and was totally absorbed and asking for more – I suspect it was the smiley face on the cover that attracted him. He quickly became a big fan of Raina’s despite the content of her books being from a female perspective and about sisterhood and female friendships. This is a great reminder not to gender stereotype readers’ interests.
Moreover, graphic novels are a great hook for reluctant readers. I like to think of Raina’s comics as ‘gateway graphic novels’ and wanted to meet Raina partly just to thank her for really igniting my son’s reading. I also blame Raina for my son wanting a pet fish (her fish poo scene had him in hysterics) as well as his first iPod for his birthday (just like her character in Sisters, although in her case it was a cassette player, being the 1980s). Happy Birthday son – you’re also getting Ghosts for your birthday too!
Raina’s talk at the IBBY Congress My life as a Comic and Comics are my life
The title of Raina’s talk at the IBBY Congress My Life as a Comic and Comics are My Life highlights how interchangeable these two aspects are for her. Indira Neville, from the National Library of New Zealand in Auckland – and a cartoonist in her own right – introduced Raina by acknowledging her impact on making a greater space for women in comics. Raina then talked about her influences on her comic-making as a child.
Raina shared her early influences and inspirations as a child growing up in the 1980s in America (like me) such as the Care Bears, the Smurfs, Strawberry Shortcake and Scooby Doo cartoons. Perhaps a reminder not to write off children’s seemingly vacuous television viewing. She was talking about my childhood too! She also highly rates the comic series Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Waterson and Bone by Jeff Smith as both being important in her becoming a cartoonist.
Raina was also a huge fan of realistic fiction such as that of Judy Blume and of Beverly Cleary and her stories of sisters Beezus and Ramona. Raina was interested in what kids her age were doing and was enamoured with For Better and for Worse by Lynn Johnston – in this comic strip the characters grew up every year alongside her and her family in real life so they felt like friends or neighbours to Raina and for her, lives blurred between reality and comics – much like her own work does.
A seminal comic she received was from her father, Barefoot Gen by Keiji Nakazawa, which ends with the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. She said she cried for two days after the ending and was fascinated with how “comics can make you feel a huge emotional response” – this resonated with her from a young age. She credits Barefoot Gen with waking her up to the power of storytelling.
“Comics can make you feel a huge emotional response.”
Another spark was a 1st grade teacher who set a year long assignment of diary writing where the teacher would write back and forth to the students in diaries they were keeping. Raina helped illustrate her school annuals and yearbooks and she kept an illustrated journal all through school and college, drawing her day in a visual diary. She still keeps a weekly comic diary. She says “all my influences get chucked into a blender and what comes out is my own original work.”
Raised in San Francisco, Raina went to the School of Visual Arts in New York, “having been enamoured with the city due to shows like Sesame Street”, and there she studied illustration and comic-making. She made mini-comics “back in the pre-internet days” and distributed about 7,000 copies of her her mini-comic ‘Take-out’ (7 issues, 12-pages black and white). She sold them for a whopping $1 a piece and would be thrilled when she received a cheque for $2.50 for selling a few comics. Her advice at the conference on how to get good at drawing comics? “Trace and copy is a great way to learn how to make shapes.” Simple as that.
Raina frequented comic conventions to promote her work and was approached at one by Scholastic Book Group, who were kicking off Graphix – an imprint of Scholastic. Raina had only done short comics up to that point so wasn’t sure what to do for a larger book so they asked her what she really liked reading herself as a kid. Answer: The Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M. Martin, which just happened to be in Scholastic stable of books and wow, two weeks later she had a book contract to illustrate the beloved series. She lifts the dialogue straight from the books and each of the four books took a year to make. Initially in black and white they have been reprinted in colour and since then have been on the New York Times Best Sellers list (colour sells!) She says she can see herself across several characters in The Baby-Sitter’s Club but Kristy is her favourite and of course the character in her comics she can relate to the most is herself… She went on to write and illustrate several graphic novels about her experiences growing up, also published by Scholastic.
Warning: Contains graphic content (of a dental nature) Smile (2010) depicts the aftermath of an incident that led to Raina having her teeth reconstructed between the ages of 11-15, after falling over and damaging her permanent front teeth. This was a very self-conscious time of life and her graphic novel lays bare these awkward years and the accompanying bullying as well. There is something innocent and wholesome about Raina’s stories and she comes across as cheerful but there were certainly no smiles when she presented a photo in her talk of her gruesome dental files from this time period. Set in the time covering the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in San Francisco, Raina says in Smile: “I survived a major earthquake. I guess in the grand scheme of things losing a couple of teeth isn’t the end of the world.”
Sisters (2014) was based on one panel in Smile about a family road trip and delves into the relationship with her younger sister Amara and wider family dynamics many readers will relate to.
Raina can’t wait to be a big sister. But once Amara is born, things aren’t quite how she expected them to be. Amara is cute, but she’s also a cranky, grouchy baby, and mostly prefers to play by herself. Their relationship doesn’t improve much over the years, but when a baby brother enters the picture and later, when something doesn’t seem right between their parents, they realize they must figure out how to get along. They are sisters, after all…
Present-day narrative and perfectly placed flashbacks tell the story of her relationship with her sister, which unfolds during the course of a road trip from their home in San Francisco to a family reunion in Colorado.
What’s the drama with Drama?
After the dramas in Smile came the real Drama (2012). Set in middle school years, partly Raina’s intent with Drama was to honour the technical people who do the work behind the scenes in school drama and stage productions (as opposed to the select few who make it on stage). Drama is a homage to these friendships and the camaraderie that occurs between them. In the story are twin boys who are gay, just like her best friends were at school. On the controversy of having young gay students depicted in Drama, she says she is pleased Scholastic backed her and notes her based-on-a-true story graphic novel is actually indicative of the real world compared to fantasy-driven comics which get less questioned. Moreover she says:
“I hear from kids thanking me for validating their existence.”
This I think is the essence of what makes her work so popular among readers young and old alike – they can find themselves in her stories: in the sibling spats, in the humiliating experiences, negotiating friendships and in the minutiae of school and home life.
What other comics and books does Raina recommend for readers who love her graphic novels?
She gave special mention in her presentation to: El Deafo (2014) by Cece Bell Raina rates it as: “The best middle grade memoir about hearing loss you will ever read.” Okay, it may be the only one. Roller Girl (2015) by Victoria Jamieson. A graphic novel adventure about a girl who discovers roller derby right as she and her best friend are growing apart. Sunny Side Up (2015) by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm. From the brother-and-sister creators of Babymouse, Sunny Side Up follows the lives of kids whose older brother’s delinquent behaviour has thrown their family into chaos.
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.
If you’re after some inspiration or practical advice, we can help –
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.
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!
Calling all time lords, cybermen, daleks, and time/space travelling companions!
Central Library Peterborough is hosting a Doctor Who themed event on Saturday the 15th of August, free for all humans and other species to attend.
Cosplay as your favourite character and be in to win prizes for best dressed! There’ll also be colouring in, puzzles, Doctor Who books and DVDs to borrow, and from 2.30 – 3.00 we’ll be holding a quiz to test you on your Doctor Who trivia. If you get the answers correct then you’ll win a prize, and if you’re unlucky there might be the possibility of trying some fish fingers and custard à la the Eleventh Doctor! Who could turn that down?
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.