Comics Alternative for Young Readers: Reviews of 3×4, The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo: The Monster Mall, and Sheets

Time Codes:

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Boo!

On this episode of the Comics Alternative’s Young Readers show, Gwen is joined by her new co-host, Dr. Krystal Howard, an assistant professor in the Liberal Studies and English departments at California State University, Northridge. Krystal has been reading, writing about, and teaching children’s and YA comics for a number of years and has a particular interest in gender and comics studies. In 2017, Krystal’s essay “Gothic Excess and the Body in Vera Brosgol’s Anya’s Ghost” appeared in Gwen’s co-edited volume (with Michelle Ann Abate), Graphic Novels for Children and Young Adults, and she has another comics-related essay, “Comics Grammar in Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean’s Picture Book Collaborations” that is forthcoming in The Artistry of Neil Gaiman: Finding Light in the Shadows. Regular listeners to the Young Readers show will already know Krystal from her spot as a panelist last summer on a special roundtable that Gwen and Paul Lai hosted on the future of children’s and YA comics.

Before they begin discussing the books for this month’s show, Gwen and Krystal mention the wonderful contributions of Paul Lai, who has recently graduated with his doctorate from the School of Education in Language, Literacy, and Culture at the University of California, Berkeley, and who has begun a new position as Director of UC Berkeley’s prestigious BE3 program, which stands for Berkeley Educators for Equity and Excellence. Paul intends to return to the Comics Alternative family from time to time as a podcaster, and Gwen and Krystal wish him the very best in his new role.

During the main portion of the show, Gwen and Krystal discuss three new releases: Ivan Brunetti’s 3 x 4, published last month by TOON Books and geared towards early elementary readers, and two Halloween-oriented middle grade graphic novels: Drew Weing’s The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo: The Monster Mall, which is the second in the Margo Maloo series from First Second books, and Brenna Thummler’s debut, Sheets, put out by Lion Forge’s Cubhouse imprint.

Both Krystal and Gwen found Brunetti’s 3 x 4 to be a great addition to the plethora of STEM-focused comics that have been published in the last five years, including First Second’s Science Comics series and Mike Holmes and Gene Luen Yang’s Secret Coders. Krystal praises Brunetti for his inclusion of a diverse and eclectic group of young people, and Gwen notes that for the detail-oriented child, every page offers up an opportunity to discover the many ways that the number 12 can be divided into sets!

Next, the two PhDs consider Drew Weing’s follow up to his highly successful first volume of the Margo Maloos series: The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo: The Monster Mall. Gwen appreciates Weing’s decision to continue focusing on the costs of gentrification, while Krystal notes that the inclusion of teenage characters adds a new dimension to the series.

Finally, Gwen and Krystal discuss the amazing debut by Brenna Thummler, Sheets (Lion Forge), which takes place in a lake resort town and focuses on the struggles of a young woman who has become the proprietor of her family’s laundromat, all while trying to fit in at middle school. Her interactions with Wendell, the ghost of an eleven-year-old boy, end up making life a lot better for both of them. Krystal points out Thummler’s attention to figural placement and atmospherics, and Gwen suggests that while some of the plot points might seem a little far-fetched, the novel holds together well and deals with class conflict in a manner that is also present in Weing’s Margo Maloo series.

In November, Gwen and Krystal will be back with another set of books to review, as well as 2018 best-of-list recommendations for our listener’s winter holiday celebrations.

Longbox Review: October 2018 Previews

October 2018 Previews

George and I go over the October 2018 Previews catalog for items shipping starting in December.

Please send your comments to longboxreview@gmail.com, chat with me @longboxreview on Twitter, and visit longboxreview.com. Please subscribe, rate, and review the show via Apple podcasts.

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Comics Alternative Interviews: Another Conversation with Tillie Walden

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:20 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:01 – Interview with Tillie Walden
  • 01:15:35 – Wrap up
  • 01:17:30 – Contact us

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Queer Women in Space, or Women in Space Who Are Queer?

Sterg and Derek are happy to have Tillie Walden back on the podcast. (She was originally on The Comics Alternative in June 2015, her very first podcast interview!) Her latest book, On a Sunbeam, will be released next week from First Second. This narrative actually began as a webcomic — one that was nominated for an Eisner Award last year, and one that is still available online — but now it will be available in print. The Two Guys talk with Tillie about the process of creating On a Sunbeam and its importance as a webcomic, the science fiction scaffolding around which the narrative is constructed, and how this work compares to some of her earlier books. In fact, much of the conversation is focused on the kind of fantastical stories Tillie spins out, with flying fish planes and cats large enough to ride on. The guys also ask her about last year’s Spinning, the winner of a 2018 Eisner Award for Best Reality-Based Work, and the creative shifts she had to make with this outright autobiography. Over the course of their conversation, Tillie shares her experiences growing as a storyteller, her large and dedicated fanbase, the almost improvisational nature of her writing, and her discomfort being pigeonholed primarily as a writer for teens or as a lesbian creator.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Youssef Daoudi

Time Codes:

  • 00:24 – Introduction
  • 02:22 – Setup of interview
  • 04:01 – Interview with Youssef Daoudi
  • 52:10 – Wrap up
  • 52:47 – Contact us

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Hey, pop! Re-bop! Mop! Y-e-a-h!

Youssef Daoudi is a French creator whose previous albums include La Trilogie Noire, published by Casterman, and several works released by Glénat, including Mayday, Ring, and Tripoli. Unfortunately, these books aren’t yet available in English, but you can discover the art and storytelling of Daoudi through his brand new book from First Second, Monk!: Thelonious, Pannonica, and the Friendship behind a Musical Revolution. Indeed, as Youssef discusses with me in this interview you’re about to here, Monk! is his first work to be written originally in English, and later to be translated into French. This isn’t a graphic biography of the jazz legend, often called “The Mad Monk” or “The High Priest of Bop,” but a portrait of his relationship with Kathleen Annie Pannoica de Koenigswarter, a free-spirted and jazz-impassioned baroness who was a member of the Rothschild family. Daoudi meticulously lays out the contours of that relationship and how each sustained the other. In our conversation Derek talks with Youssef about the genesis of this project, his love of jazz, and what it was about mid-century bebop culture — and in particular, the lives of Monk and Pannonica — that so captured his imagination.

Comics Alternative for Young Readers: Reviews of The Cardboard Kingdom, All Summer Long, and Be Prepared

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“It puts the rust in rustic”

On this episode of the Comics Alternative’s Young Readers show, Gwen and Derek discuss summer 2018 new releases, all geared to middle-grade readers. The first text, edited and illustrated by Chad Sell, is The Cardboard Kingdom, released by Random House Graphic. Readers learn about the lives and dreams of a group of neighborhood kids in short stories written by Jay Fuller, David DeMeo, Katie Schenkel, Kris Moore, Molly Muldoon, Vid Alliger, Manuel Betancourt, Michael Cole, Cloud Jacobs, and Barbara Perez Marquez. The second text they discuss is Hope Larson’s All Summer Long from Farrar Straus Giroux. And finally, Gwen and Derek review Vera Brosgol’s long-awaited memoir, Be Prepared, released by First Second Books.

They start by reviewing a comic that demonstrates the experimentation that is currently taking place in the young reader category: Chad Sell’s edited collection of connected short stories, The Cardboard Kingdom. Set in a suburban neighborhood and featuring a truly diverse and engaging group of young kids, these stories show how imagination can function as a coping device. Young reader short story collections are not entirely new. Random House has also supported the Comics Squad series, edited by Jennifer Holm and a rotating cast of co-editors, that have included themed volumes on “Recess,” “Lunch,” and “Detention.” However, this short story collection boast only one artist, Chad Sell, and is presented as a cohesive narrative, with authors identified only at the end of the text. As such, the comic has a more cohesive feel, rather than a collection of fundamentally different stories that are linked only by theme.

After that, Gwen and Derek check out Hope Larson’s All Summer Long. This is the story of a 13-year-old, Bina, and her attempts to find meaning over the course of a summer. Growing up, she had been used to spending the summer with her best friend Austin, but during this particular summer, Austin goes off to soccer camp, leaving Bina to fend for herself. And part of this fending includes Austin’s aggressive older sister, Charlie. This is a book all about growing up and finding your way over the course of significant life changes.

Finally, Gwen and Derek discuss Vera Brosgol’s Be Prepared. This memoir focuses on the summer between 4th and 5th grades, when she attends Russian summer camp in the hope of finding friends with whom she will have something in common. The opening vignette in the novel focuses on young Vera’s sense of cultural and economic isolation: as an immigrant from Russia and the daughter of a single mom living in a prosperous east coast suburb, she is often slow to pick up on the latest trends — such as American Girl dolls — and unable to approximate the lavish birthday parties that her classmates’ parents are able to throw for their children. At the end of the school year, Vera listens to the plans that her friends are making, attending girl scout camp, taking vacations to faraway destinations…and she feels left out again. However, at the Russian Orthodox church that she attends, Vera learns from Ksenya, a Sunday school friend, about Orra, a Russian heritage camp, and she is certain that it will not only be fun, but will give her something to talk about with her school friends in autumn. While the experience is certainly life changing, it nonetheless becomes something quite different than what Vera had expected.

Comic News Insider Episode 864 – SDCC Press Barrage!

Comic News Insider: Episode 864 is now available for free download! Click on the link or get it through iTunes! Sponsored by Dynamic Forces.

Reviews: Batman Vol 3 #50, Captain America Vol 9 #1, Catwoman Vol 5 #1, Elvira Mistress Of The Dark Vol 2 #1, Ant Man and The Wasp 

Prepping for San Diego Comic Con leaves Jimmy curled up in a ball of stress so he recruits pals to help out! Thanks to Ashley, Rich and Jon for those audio reviews. And to newswoman Emily for providing the news! Which includes: DC Comics announced Anatomy of a Metahuman with stunning art from Ming Doyle, Neil Gaiman announces Neverwhere sequel, R.L. Stine has signed an original graphic novel deal with Boom! Studios and more! Leave your iTunes comments! 5 stars and nothing but love! Also, get a hold of us!

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Comic News Insider Episode 852 – TCAF: First Second Special Pt 2 w/ Hope Larson/Charise Mericle Harper!

Comic News Insider: Episode 852 is now available for free download! Click on the link or get it through iTunes! Sponsored by Dynamic Forces.

Jimmy went to the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) over the weeekend and got a ton of great interviews! In this episode, he talked to Hope Larson and Charise Mericle Harper. Hope chats about her new book All Summer Long as well as her run on Goldie Vance and Batgirl. Charise talks about crafts and her new book Crafty Cat and the Great Butterfly Battle. Leave your iTunes comments! 5 stars and nothing but love! Also, get a hold of us!

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Comic News Insider Episode 848 – TCAF: First Second Special Pt 1 w/ Vera Brosgol/Jen Wang!

Comic News Insider: Episode 848 is now available for free download! Click on the link or get it through iTunes! Sponsored by Dynamic Forces.

Jimmy went to the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) over the weeekend and got a ton of great interviews! In this episode, he talked to Vera Brosgol and Jen Wang. Vera talks about her current semi-autobiographical book Be Prepared and they even go off on a tangent about cooking. Jen talks about The Prince and the Dressmaker and Jimmy wonders if she could have a second career as a fashion designer. Leave your iTunes comments! 5 stars and nothing but love! Also, get a hold of us!

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Comic News Insider Episode 845 – La Vie en Podcasts avec Pénélope Bagieu!

Comic News Insider: Episode 845 is now available for free download! Click on the link or get it through iTunes! Sponsored by Dynamic Forces.

Jimmy finally got to sit down with friend Penelope Bagieu for a lengthy interview about her new graphic novel, BRAZEN: REBEL LADIES WHO ROCKED THE WORLD. They chat in detail about the book, past work, music, film, comedy, travel, fans and her rap name. (Tune in to find out!). Enjoy this engaging, smart, thoughtful, and funny interview with one of the most interesting and delightful people around. And go buy that book! You’ll love it! Leave your iTunes comments! 5 stars and nothing but love! Also, get a hold of us!

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Comics Alternative Interviews: Mairghread Scott and Robin Robinson

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:25 – Introduction
  • 00:02:49 – Setup of interview
  • 00:03:58 – Interview with Mairghread Scott and Robin Robinson
  • 01:03:26 – Wrap up
  • 01:04:32 – Contact us

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If You’re Going to San Francisco

First Second has recently published The City on the Other Side, a historically based fantasy written by Mairghread Scott and with art by Robin Robinson. Gwen and Derek talk with the creators about their new book, the genesis behind the concept, and their decision to base their narrative in San Francisco. This is a compelling story that should have wide appeal, and not only with younger readers. Over the course of the conversation, Mairghread and Robin share their experiences researching various cultures’ folklore (upon which many of the figures are based), the importance of character design, their methods of collaboration, and the significance of maps.

Comics Alternative, Euro Comics: Reviews of Brazen and Yellow Negroes and Other Imaginary Creatures

Time Codes:

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Pants On

This month Pascal and Derek look at two recent books that, while strikingly different in their storytelling approaches, are both insightful examinations of the socio-historical forces that shape individuals’ lives. They begin with Pénélope Bagieu’s Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World (First Second), a collection of 29 short biographies profiling women throughout history who have pushed back and defined themselves on their own terms. This book began as a series of webcomics that appeared on Le Monde‘s blog between January and October 2016. There was actually one original entry, a biographical look at Phulan Devi, that didn’t make it into the American text, and the guys speculate as to why this might have been.

After that they discuss Yvan Alagbé’s Yellow Negroes and Other Imaginary Creatures, just released from New York Review Comics. This is a much less conventional collection, at least in terms of its narrative and visual styles. The book includes seven short pieces that were originally created between 1995 and 2017. The title story is the longest, and most sophisticated, of the bunch, but Pascal and Derek also spend some time focusing on “The Suitcase” and “Postcard from Montreuil.”  What almost all of the stories in this book focus on, in one way or another, is France’s colonialist past and its ramifications to this day.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Marcus Sedgwick and Thomas Taylor

Time Codes:

  • 00:26 – Introduction
  • 03:15 – Setup of interview
  • 04:11 – Interview with Marcus Sedgwick and Thomas Taylor
  • 51:00 – Wrap up
  • 52:16 – Contact us

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Gothic Tintin

On this interview episode, Gwen and Derek talk with the creative team behind Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter, a new book out from First Second. Both Marcus Sedgwick and Thomas Taylor share their experiences conceiving the premise, their process of collaboration, and their hopes to further explore this fantastical world. Scarlett Hart is the story of the titular protagonist who carries on in her deceased parents’ footsteps, keeping her city free of monsters. With the help of her steadfast assistant Napoleon, she hunts down big nasties while trying to stay one step ahead of her nemesis, fellow monster hunter Count Stankovic. Over the course of their conversation, Marcus and Thomas discuss their love of weird monsters and young adventure narratives, combining these passions to create what they refer to as a “gothic Tintin.”

Comics Alternative for Young Readers: Reviews of The Prince and the Dressmaker and Speak: The Graphic Novel

Time Codes:

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Art and Perceptions

Gwen and Paul are back with another Young Readers episode. For February, they discuss two recent publications, both that explore how perceptions, for better or for worse, figure into our lives. They begin with Jen Wang’s The Prince and the Dressmaker (First Second), a fairy tale-like narrative focusing on romance, identity, and creativity. Next, they look at Speak: The Graphic Novel (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux), a comics adaptation of Laurie Halse Anderson’s young adult novel Speak. Illustrated by Emily Carroll, it’s a story of a young high school outcast who uses art to confront the hardships that have kept her on the margins.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Back with Box Brown

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:43 – Introduction
  • 00:03:01 – Setup of interview
  • 00:05:06 – Interview with Box Brown
  • 01:05:35 – Wrap up
  • 01:06:48 – Contact us

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Thank You Very Much

Box Brown returns to The Comics Alternative, this time discussing his new book Is This Guy for Real?: The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman, just out this week from First Second. Similar to his previous Andre the Giant, this is a graphic biography of a colorful celebrity with a complicated life story…and involving wrestling. Box talks with Derek about his ideas for beginning this project, his appreciation of stand-up comedy, the challenges he faced in constructing Kaufman’s story, and how his emphases are notably different from those of Miloš Forman’s 1999 biopic Man on the Moon. And since both Box and Derek are big Andy Kaufman fans, there’s a lot of nerding out and reminiscing over the comedian’s many TV appearances, many of which can be found on YouTube. So put on your wrestling tights, slip into that sequin high-collar Elvis jacket, and get ready to engage with this friendly, friendly world.

Episode 264: Our Favorite Comics of 2017

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:27 – Introduction
  • 00:03:14 – Contexts and caveats
  • 00:11:32 – Our favorite comics of 2017
  • 02:09:06 – Wrapping up our favorites, and honorable mentions
  • 02:13:52 – Contact us

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And the Winner Is…

Paul and Derek are back with The Comics Alternative‘s annual “Favorites” episode. This is where the Two Guys share what they consider to be the best comics of the past year. Usually this year-end show is released as the very last regular review episode of each year, but this time around the guys had to postpone the recording due to family issues. But we’re not far from the end of 2017, and Paul and Derek wanted to get the show out in as timely a manner as possible. So here you have it, the Two Guys’ 10 favorite titles of 2017:

Paul’s Top 10 of 2017

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Derek’s Top 10 of 2017

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The Honorable Mentions…These Titles Almost, but Just Didn’t Quite, Make It onto Each Guy’s List

For Paul

For Derek