Comics Alternative for Young Readers: A Publisher Spotlight on First Second Books

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Monstrous Mysteries

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Gwen and Andy are back with something different for the Young Readers edition of The Comics Alternative: their very first publisher spotlight on First Second Books. The Two People with PhDs have looked at many First Second books in the past, but this time they’re looking at the publisher’s fall selections. (Since they covered Ben Hatke’s Mighty Jack in their August show, Gwen and Andy give it just a brief mention here, but you should definitely check it out!) They begin with Andy Hirsch’s Varmints, a wild adventure set in the Old West with sister and brother Opie and Ned, searching for the man who shot their ma. If you like Western stories filled with action, action, and more action, this is the book for you. (And don’t miss the Comics Alternative interview with Andy Hirsch!)

Next, they turn to Quirk’s Quest: Into the Outlands by Robert Christie and Deborah Lang, an exploration adventure with the crew of the H.M.S. Gwaniimander under the command of Captain Quenterindy Quirk. Quirk’s voyage quickly meets with a near disaster as his crew discovers a land of deadly giants, a valley of weird creatures, and a sorceress who may or may not have the crew’s best interests in mind. Christie and Lang’s characters may look like something out of a Jim Henson production, but the world they’ve created is unique and compelling.

Eric Orchard’s Bera the One-Headed Troll is yet a different type of quest story, this one featuring the titular troll and her owl companion Winslowe as they discover an abandoned human baby on their pumpkin patch island. Everyone seems to want the child for their own nefarious purposes, but Bera is determined to keep the baby safe from mermaids, witches, and a creature called Cloote, the former head witch of the Troll King. Orchard’s wonderfully bizarre illustrations combine with masterful storytelling that’s filled with humor and depth.

Finally, the Two People with PhDs look at The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo by Drew Weing, the story of a young girl who’s a “monster mediator,” someone who patrols the streets of Echo City for trolls, ogres, and ghosts. And they’re all afraid of her! (Note: Sean and Derek discussed the online version of this series in the June webcomics episode.) Andy and Gwen both agree that Margo Maloo is a spectacular story, but it’s so much more. It’s also a book that works on multiple levels touching on the fears, prejudices, and anxieties of us all. First Second is a treasure trove of great books and Gwen and Andy hope that you’ll want to read them all!

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Comics Alternative for Young Readers: Reviews of Mighty Jack and Ghosts

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All happy families…?

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Although some kids may not be so excited to be heading back to school, Gwen and Andy (the Two People with PhDs) give young readers cause to rejoice this month with the upcoming release of two new graphic novels: Mighty Jack (First Second) by Ben Hatke and Ghosts (Graphix/Scholastic) by Raina Telgemeier.

Andy starts things off with Mighty Jack, the story of a kid named Jack who’s not having a very fun summer. To make ends meet, Jack’s single mom finds a second job, but that means Jack will have sole responsibility of keeping an eye on his autistic sister Maddy. Maddy never speaks, until one day at a flea market she shocks Jack by telling him that he must buy a box of seeds from a sketchy-looking man. Later, as Jack and Maddy plant a garden with their new seeds, weird, magical, and dangerous things begin to happen.

Next, Gwen introduces the highly-anticipated new book by Raina Telgemeier, Ghosts. It’s the story of Catrina and her family as they move from Los Angeles to the Northern California coast, hoping the climate will agree with Cat’s sister Maya, who suffers from cystic fibrosis. Cat is shocked to discover that everyone in their new town seems obsessed with ghosts, even Maya. Cat just wishes they could just go back to L.A., but her parents — and perhaps the ghosts — have other plans.

Gwen and Andy point out elements common in both books: parental issues, sibling rivalries and bonding, freedom, danger, and fear of the unknown. Both books are multilayered, superbly told, and they should appeal equally to readers young and old (something of a rarity these days). Although their art styles are quite different, these two books demonstrate that Hatke and Telgemeier are both masterful storytellers. These creators are producing what are perhaps their best works. It’s an exciting time for comics readers of all ages, and these are two books to pick up with confidence.

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Comic News Insider Episode 699 – Racing to 700!

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Comic News Insider: Episode 699 is now available for free download! Click on the link or get it through iTunes! Sponsored by Dynamic Forces.

Reviews:  Cryptocracy #1, Jade Street Protection Services #1, Super Human Resources #1, Zoe Dare vs Disasteroid #1

We are one episode away til the big 700th anniversary recording this Sunday! Jimmy is joined in studio by Rachel Felstein and Kristen French in the rotating co-host chair(s). They are also going to be part of the CNI Chorus this weekend as they have in the past. Oh yes, as usual, there will be songs! In this episode, we talk about more 700 happenings/guests/etc. News includes: the sad passing of TV’s Lois Lane, Noel Neill, Samuel L. Jackson says his Star Wars character, Mace Windu, is still alive, Tom Felton is joining the cast of The Flash as a series regular, Marvel is unveiling a 13′ bronze Captain America statue at SDCC, Pixar says it will only have original movies starting in 2019 and lay off sequels for awhile, and the OED has added “Scooby snack” as a word. Leave your iTunes comments! 5 stars and nothing but love! Also, get a hold of us!

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Comics Alternative for Young Readers: Reviews of Veda: Assembly Required and Little Robot

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Robots Gone Wild!

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On this episode of The Comics Alternative‘s “Young Readers” series, Gwen and Andy are back to take a look at two books about robots. (They didn’t plan it that way, really.) Both titles actually have more in common than just robots in that they each address issues of friendship, belonging, and how technology has changed our lives and the lives of our youth. Both books also contain strong young female protagonists whose friends aren’t always human. Gwen starts Veda.pagethings off with a look at Veda: Assembly Required (Dark Horse), by Samuel Teer, Hyeondo Park, and Kelly Fitzpatrick. Gwen and Andy both thought the premise of a young girl raised by robots in a factory was interesting and perhaps not as dystopian as you might think. The use of icons as a communication device takes a bit of getting used to, but most readers will quickly adapt to them and will no doubt find they are an essential component of the story. For younger readers, Andy describes Ben Hatke’s new book, Little Robot (First Second), a project writer and illustrator Ben Hatke discussed briefly with the Two Guys in an interview from last year. In this new, largely wordless graphic novel, Hatke takes readers on a journey robot2from the trailer park to a junkyard where a young girl discovers a set of tools and a new friend in the form of a little lost robot. But someone else is looking for this robot, someone whose intentions are not as friendly as our young protagonist. Gwen and Andy discuss not only Hatke’s wonderful artistic and storytelling abilities, but also the fact that he has chosen a young African American girl as his protagonist, something no one else in the comics world seems to be talking about. Hmmm…. In all, Gwen and Andy find it fascinating that both books — by different creators working in different styles — speak to some universal truths of friendship, social constructs, and finding your place in the world.

And since we are just a few weeks away from Halloween, Gwen and Andy decided to hand out a few early treats (no tricks, we promise!) in the form of some spooky graphic novel suggestions for teens and younger readers.

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Comic News Insider Episode 402 – Bristol Expo/CamCon Recaps w/ Becky Cloonan, Emma Vieceli, Sonia Leong & Morag Lewis

Comic News Insider: Episode 402 is now available for free download! Click on the link or get it through iTunes! Sponsored by Dynamic Forces.

Reviews: Fury MAX #1, Mind The Gap #1, Rex Zombie Killer One Shot, Trio #1 

Jimmy is in the UK covering Bristol Expo and Kapow Con for about 12 days! He recorded this episode in Cambridge at lovely host Emma Vieceli’s house along with fellow traveling Yank Becky Cloonan and UK comic creators Sonia Leong and Morag Lewis. It’s a recap of Bristol Expo in Bristol which Jimmy attended and CamCon in Cambridge which Emma, Sonia and Morag attended. You can also read Jimmy’s recap here (and follow his UK adventures on his website). No news but lots of interviews and recap love! Jimmy got tons of great interviews at Bristol. So many that there will be an extra show on Saturday so you can hear them all. In this show, you’ll hear: Adam Cadwell, Marc Ellerby, Gavin Mitchell, PJ Montgomery, Joe Glass, Dani Abram, Jennie Gyllblad, Corey Brotherson, Yomi Ayeni, Harry Markos and Joel Meadows! Phew! Lots of great UK creators to be heard. Jimmy’s heading off to Kapow Con this weekend in London so expect more great interviews and news! As always, listener feedback, the Top 3 and more! Leave your iTunes comments! 5 stars and nothing but love!

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p.s. Apologies for the speed of the episode and fast talking. We were heading out into Cambridge for PIES!