Comics Alternative for Young Readers: Reviews of The Dragon Slayer and The Lost Path, and a Discussion of the Children’s Comics-Related Book Market

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Hurling Children over Cliffs

In this episode of the Comics Alternative Young Readers Show, Gwen and Paul review two new releases, both of which have a connection to folklore and fairy tales: Jaime Hernandez’s The Dragon Slayer: Folktales from Latin America from Toon Graphics, and Amélie Fléchais and Jonathan Garnier’s The Lost Path from Lion Forge Comics’ children’s imprint, Cub House. Additionally, Paul and Gwen discuss Brian Hibb’s “Tilting at Windmills #268: Looking at BookScan 2017,” an overview of comics sales that demonstrates that the children’s and YA market continues to grow and that young people are getting comics in a variety of venues, from direct distribution at comics shops to major booksellers to Comixology.

In Part I of the show, Paul and Gwen embark on a detailed discussion of The Dragon Slayer: Folktales from Latin America, a text that includes three short tales, “The Dragon Slayer” and “Tup and the Ants,” both written and drawn by Jaime Hernandez, and “Martina Martínez and Pérez the Mouse,” a collaboration between children’s author Alma Flor Ada and Hernandez. The text begins with a short essay, “Imagination and Tradition,” by noted author F. Isabel Campoy that helps to contextualize the various fairy tales, or “cuentos” that have emerged from the diverse oral and literary traditions, which Campoy terms “a unique blend of Old World and New, spanning a continent across many geographic boundaries and cultures.” Campoy mentions specifically the Catholic, Jewish, Arab, and Moorish influences upon the Spanish, whose tales then encountered those of indigenous peoples from “the Maya, Aztec, Inca, and other Native American cultures.” At the end of the text, Campoy and Ada provide context for the three folktales, as well as a bibliography, and information on the authors. The editors at Toon Graphic have released a paperback Spanish language edition of the text, La Matadragones: Cuentos de Lationoamérica,” and Paul mentions the value of these books in dual language classrooms.

Gwen and Paul then consider the way that The Dragon Slayer fits into Jaime Hernandez’s long and storied career, and they mention both the humor inherent in the stories and the way that Hernandez’s characteristic clear line style conveys characters’ feelings and reactions. The fact that all three tales feature strong women is something that Paul highlights, noting that these tales provide a much-needed emphasis on girls and women who stand up for themselves and serve as problem solvers.

Next, the duo talks about Amélie Fléchais and Jonathan Garnier’s The Lost Path, a vibrant adventure story that includes references to classic fairy tales, Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, and Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Gwen notes the text’s similarity to other contemporary comics in which young people pass through to a magical land where conflict is brewing – she mentions specifically Mairghread Scott and Robin Robinson’s recently released The City on the Other Side (First Second) as an example, while Paul praises the text’s style, from the gorgeous water color page-length spreads to the black and white sketches, which are rich in detail and artistry.

The show concludes with Paul and Gwen discussing the rise in hybrid comics, as well as implications that they have drawn from reading Brian Hibb’s latest report on comics sales.

Comics Alternative, Episode 261: Reviews of Generation Gone, Vol. 1, Assassinistas #1, and Love and Rockets IV #4

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Hackers, Assassins, and Locas

This week Gwen and Derek take a look at three recent and exciting titles. They begin with the first trade collection of Aleš Kot and André Lima Araújo’s Generation Gone (Image Comics). This initial volume establishes the premise of the intriguing series. The story focuses on three hackers who attempt to get into government systems, are discovered, and “infected” with genetic codes that give them supernatural powers. Gwen points out that, in some ways, this narrative is reminiscent of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, although as Derek mentions, Kot and Araújo’s world isn’t anything post-apocalyptic. This first volume introduces what promises to be an engaging series and whets readers’ appetites for what may follow.

Next, the Two People with PhDs Talking about Comics turn to the first of two Hernandez-infused comics covered this week. The first is Gilbert Hernandez and Tini Howard’s Assassinistas #1, part of IDW Publications’ and Shelly Bond’s Black Crown imprint. The debut issue introduces us to three former assassins, two of which — at least as far as we know — have left that life and are attempting to “go legitimate” and live a normal life. However, drama erupts when one of the team, Charlotte “Scarlet” La Costa, has her son kidnapped, bringing another team member, Octavia “Red October” Price, back into a life she thought she had left behind her. And what of the third member of this one-time trio, Rosalyn “Blood” Diamond?  Both of the cohosts enjoyed this title, although the paratextual material in the back of this issue, commentary from editor Shelly Bond, is a bit conspicuous and doesn’t add much.

Finally, Derek and Gwen wrap up by discussing the latest issue of Love and Rockets IV (Fantagraphics). This fourth issue picks up with the various storylines that both Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez have established going back to the previous Love and Rockets annuals. For Jaime, this means continuing the Princess Animus and Isle narratives, as well as giving us glimpses into both Maggie’s and Hopey’s pasts growing up in Hoppers. And then there’s Derek’s favorite part of this issue, a two-page focus on Ray that follows up on the events in The Love Bunglers. Gilbert’s contributions gives us a brief glimpse into Killer’s career choices, but there is also a Pipo storyline where this foundational character tries to come to terms with a relationship she once had in Palomar. In fact, in extended flashbacks, we’re taken back to “classic” Palomar and characters we haven’t seen for quite a while. But as Derek points out, one of the most striking things about this issue is that we see little of Fritz…and no mention at all of any Fritz imitators. A rarity in recent Love and Rockets issues!

Comics Alternative, On Location: The Hernandez Brothers Panel at HeroesCon 2017

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  • 00:00:26 – Introduction
  • 00:02:22 – Setup of the recording
  • 00:04:30 – The Hernandez brothers panel at HeroesCon
  • 01:08:05 – Wrap up
  • 01:09:46 – Contact us

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A Big Deal

At this year’s HeroesCon, Andy and Derek moderated a couple of panels, one of which was entirely devoted to the Hernandez brothers, Gilbert and Jaime. In this on-location episode, you’ll hear the Two Guys talking with the brothers about their new magazine-sized Love and Rockets series, the logistics of going from an annual to a quarterly, the experiences of continuity and 35+ years of character development, their efforts (especially Gilbert’s) in producing standalone works outside of any serialized format, their historical places within the larger context of non-mainstream comics, and the brothers’ thoughts on the current state of the medium.

Deconstructing Comics #548: Jaime Hernandez

Jaime Hernandez

Love and Rockets continues to impress, and in this episode Koom asks creator Jaime Hernandez some burning questions. Hernandez talks about writing Maggie and Hopey, the dynamics of working on something with your brother, why he gravitates toward female characters, his influences and art style, and more.

Also, Tim and Mulele discuss the current state of the US comics market and Marvel’s recent problems.

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Comics Alternative, Episode 236: Reviews of What Parsifal Saw, Love and Rockets #2, and Redneck #1

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Land of Hopey and Glory

This week the Two Guys give you a double shot of recent Fantagraphics books. They start off with a discussion of Ron Regé Jr.’s What Parsifal Saw, his followup to 2012’s The Cartoon Utopia (the paperback edition of which has also just been released by Fantagraphics). This is the first time that Andy and Derek have covered one of Regé’s books on The Comics Alternative — they’ve discussed his comics before, but only as part of an anthology — and they point out how his art requires a different way of reading. After that, they look at the latest issue of Love and Rockets. The guys never miss an opportunity to discuss what the Hernandez brothers are up to, and in this second issue of the new series they see how both Gilbert and Jaime are continuing the storylines they began in the last couple of Love and Rockets: New Stories annuals. Finally, the Two Guys wrap up with the latest title from Donny Cates, Redneck #1 (Image Comics). With wonderful art by Lisandro Estherren, this is a contemporary vampire story set in East Texas (and not far from Derek). Both feel that this is a successful first issue, but Andy points out that the structure feels similar to what Cates has been doing in God Country and The Paybacks.

Comics Alternative, Episode 218: Reviews of Love and Rockets #1, Garden of the Flesh, and The One Hundred Nights of Hero

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Testicle Jones

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This week the Two Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics check out three recent titles, including the latest contributions from the Hernandez brothers. They begin with Love and Rockets #1 (Fantagraphics), the launch of the brothers’ new (fourth) series that will appear quarterly and in magazine-sized format. This kind of presentation harkens back to the original run of Love and Rockets beginning in the early 1980s. Andy and Derek are quick to point out that, while the format may have changed, the storytelling picks up where the Love and Rockets: New Stories annual left off. Jaime continues his previous storylines surrounding Princess Animus, Vivian’s half-sister Tonta, and, perhaps most notable, Maggie and Hopey’s punk reunion. With Gilbert, it’s the always evolving and convoluted Fritz saga, with even more Fritz imitators to keep track of.

And on the topic of Beto…The next book under discussion is his Garden of the Flesh (Fantagraphics). This is Gilbert’s treatment of the Book of Genesis, although with less fidelity than Robert Crumb has demonstrated. As you might expect, there’s a lot of explicit content, something that you might find in his Blubber series. In fact, the guys note that what we have with Garden of the Flesh is the story of Adam and Eve and the story of Noah and the flood…but with a lot of money shots.

Finally, Andy and Derek turn to Isabel Greenberg’s The One Hundred Nights of Hero (Little Brown). This is her follow up to 2014’s The Encyclopedia of Early Earth, and everything is set in the same storyworld. Here we find the return of god/creator BirdMan and his children Kid and Kiddo. And as with Greenberg’s first book, the overriding theme in The One Hundred Nights of Hero is storytelling. This time around, however, that theme is linked directly to female empowerment and sisterhood. With more than a tip of the pen to One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, Greenberg’s tale demonstrates not only how worlds are created through language, but the dynamics underlying the control of those worlds.

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Comics Alternative, Episode 183: Reviews of Love & Rockets: New Stories 8, Girl Crazy, and Blubber #2

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“At this point Gilbert is just f**cking with us”

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This week’s episode is a Hernandez-centric show. On it, the Two Guys with PhDs play a little catch-up with some of Gilbert and Jaime’s comics that have come out over the past few months. They begin with the latest installment of Love & Rockets: New Stories (Fantagraphics), and most of the tales in this volume continue what began in last year’s annual. In fact, both Andy and Derek feel that New Stories 8 can be best appreciated, and better understood, when read alongside its predecessor. Jaime’s contributions — the Princess Animus, Maggie and Hopey, and Tonta storylines — are fairly straightforward, although the guys aren’t entirely sure how Princess Animus will ultimately fit into the Love & Rockets world. (Is it similar to the Ti-Girls with Jaime playing around with the superhero genre again? Might Penny Century be involved in some way?) But things aren’t as clear-cut when it comes to Gilbert’s selections, all centered on Fritz in some way. Over the last two New Stories annuals, Gilbert has been mapping out a complex narrative concerning the B-movie star and her imitators, chock-full of unusual characters, many LoveRockets8-interiorof whom look alike…and purposefully so. The guys comment on the ways in which Gilbert is manipulating his sequential chronology and the general weirdness surrounding Fritz’s world. And given the labyrinthine nature of this current volume of Love & Rockets, Derek advocates for a much-needed Hernandez brothers wiki and challenges listeners to begin creating one. Next, they turn to the new edition of Girl Crazy (Dark Horse Books). This originally began as a three-issue miniseries published by Dark Horse in 1996 and then collected as a single volume the following year. But that book has been out of print for some time, and now the publisher is rereleasing this new hardbound edition to stand alongside other Dark Horse books by Gilbert, including Speak of the Devil, Citizen Rex (with his brother, Mario), Fatima: The Blood Spinners, Loverboys, and last year’s Grip: The Strange World of Men. Both Andy and Derek note that, with Girl Crazy, the story still holds up, and it’s yet another example of Gilbert’s no-holds-barred storytelling. At the same time, they point out that the art in Girl Crazy is noticeably different from his most recent style, with its detailed texturing and heavier inks. Finally, the guys wrap up with the second issue of Gilbert’s Blubber (Fantagraphics), a comic-book series that is a strange amalgamation of experimental storytelling and pornography. This is definitely not a title for those with tender sensibilities and who are easily offended. In fact, Derek and Andy point out that, for the most part, all the stories in this issue include a lot of sucking and f**king…and not only between humans. There are zombies, robots, and fantastical creatures involved, as well. It’s all weird, wacky, and fun, but after discussing Blubber #2 the Two Guys really feel like they need to take a shower.

GirlCrazy-interior

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Deconstructing Comics #440: Love Bunglers

Love BunglersDid you think Love & Rockets was over?! Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez continue to release new work about once a year, and in this episode Kumar and Matt sit down and discuss some of it, with particular attention paid to Jaime’s The Love Bunglers. (Spoiler warning!)

Also: the tension between indy creators who want to do single-issue type comics, and the economic realities shoving them toward larger collections…

Deconstructing Comics site

Deconstructing Comics #405: Teaching comics as literature

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It’s been a long time coming, but a fair number of teachers in mainstream American education are finally recognizing that what the comics medium brings to the table can be just as meaty and challenging as the best prose novels. This week we meet Juan Mah y Busch, an Associate Professor at Loyola Marymount University. Juan teaches comics like Frank Miller’s 300 and Anders Nilsen’s Dogs and Water not in special “comics appreciation” courses, but alongside novels like Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” to make other points about cultural history.

How do fellow faculty and administrators react to comics in the classroom? Do students have any trouble with the concept? Why can comics often be better for teaching cultural history than most other media? That and more in this episode!

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Deconstructing Comics #300: Love & Rockets: Jaime Hernandez

L&R JaimeThe series Love & Rockets, featuring individual works by the Hernandez brothers, started in 1981 as a self-published magazine, but was quickly picked up by Fantagraphics. Over the last 30 years, the brothers’ work has continued to develop & astound. This week Tim and Kumar take a look at the Love & Rockets work of Jaime Hernandez, with special guest (and former Fantagraphics employee) Tom Spurgeon!

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