Comics Alternative for Young Readers: A Review of The Stone Heart and a Discussion of the Essay, “Required Reading: 50 of the Best Kids Comics”

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Required Reading…and Required Reading?

In this episode of The Comics Alternative‘s Young Readers series, Gwen and Paul discuss the second volume in Faith Erin Hicks’s Nameless City trilogy, The Stone Heart (First Second), as well as Paste Magazine’s “Required Reading: 50 of the Best Kids Comics” list. Paul also conducts a “mini-interview” with Gwen about the release of Graphic Novels for Children and Young Adults, a volume she co-edited with Michelle Ann Abate for the University Press of Mississippi.

The show begins with a review of the second volume in Faith Erin Hicks’s Nameless City trilogy, The Stone Heart. They praise the sequel’s strong plot and attention to perils of colonization and cultural erasure, and they consider the way that a number of contemporary comics creators have handled these concepts. Central to their discussion the fact that “Asian-inspired” texts are also a current trend in comics, and they explore the cultural implications of this trend. Finally, the pair react to the news that the trilogy has been optioned for a three-season, thirty-six episode TV series.

Next, Gwen and Paul discuss “best of” lists in general, and in particular, Paste Magazine’s April 7, 2017 article, “Required Reading: 50 of the Best Kids Comics.” There were some obvious picks on the list, some that were exciting…and others that leave Gwen and Paul shaking their heads.

To finish the episode, Paul interviews Gwen about the genesis and contents of Graphic Novels for Children and Young Adults: A Collect of Critical Essays, a volume that she co-edited with Dr. Michelle Ann Abate, a professor of children’s and YA literature and English at The Ohio State University. This “mini-interview” serves as a teaser for an upcoming Comics Alternative roundtable discussion that will feature Gwen, Michelle, and two of the contributors to the volume.

Comic News Insider Episode 692 – The Sweetness of Kevin Colden!

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Comic News Insider: Episode 692 is now available for free download! Click on the link or get it through iTunes! Sponsored by Dynamic Forces.

Reviews: Captain America: Steve Rogers #1, DC Universe Rebirth Special  #1, Scooby Apocalypse #1, X-Men: Apocalypse

Kevin Colden comes all the way up to the CNI studios to co-host and talk about The Sweetness, the new comic by his wife Miss Lasko Gross and himself. He chats with Jimmy about the collaboration on the comic with Miss, what comics he’s reading and raising a genius kid. News includes: Disney acquires the feature film rights to Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, Pikachu’s name changes in Hong Kong, Dwayne The Rock Johnson will be Doc Savage in an upcoming Shane Black directed film, Disney is reportedly not happy with Rogue One and has scheduled reshoots, and Miles Morales may be the star in the next animated Spider-Man film coming out in 2018. 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 Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Alamo All-Stars, The Nameless City, and Paper Girls, Vol. 1

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Of Conflicts and Outsiders

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This month on The Comics Alternative‘s Young Readers series, the Two Hep Cats with PhDs Talking about Comics review three new releases that are different in terms of setting and genre, but take on a common theme: the conflict that can occur when the inhabitants of a city or a region are confronted by outsiders who wish to stake their claim on the land itself or to alter the daily lives of the indigenous people who have lived there for a very long time.

Andy kicks off the show by introducing readers to another volume in Nathan Hale’s popular historical fiction series for middle school readers, Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales. The newest installment, Alamo All-Stars, presents a gripping tale of the battles that ensue among a number of groups who vie to take possession of the landmass that would eventually become the US state of Texas. As with other volumes in the series, the text begins as Nathan Hale, the captured Revolutionary War spy, extends his life by entertaining those British soldiers who are ordered to hang him for treason against the king. As Andy points out, even though the Alamo All-Stars focuses most specifically on the events leading up to and just after the battle at the Alamo in 1836, readers are encouraged to compare 19th-century immigration debates that set off conflicts between the Mexican government and the US immigrants, known as Texians, to the debates that continue today in relation to Mexican immigration to the US. In addition to highlighting Hale’s ability to put forward a complicated geopolitical conflict in ways that are engaging and even, at times, gently humorous, namelesscity_insideAndy and Gwen point to the useful resources for young readers, including a bibliography of history texts on Texas and Mexican history, and helpful resources for teachers and parents, including study guides that are available from Amulet Books’ website.

Next, Gwen introduces Faith Erin Hicks’s highly anticipated first volume in a fantasy graphic trilogy, The Nameless City, published by First Second and geared towards a middle-grade and high-school audience. The prologue introduces the reader to Daidu, a bustling city that sits in a strategic stretch of land that links a major river to the ocean. The narrator, a young explorer, notes that while “the City is named over and over” by conquering forces from the neighboring Dao, Laio, and Yisun Empires, no one has been able “to name it for long,” so the indigenous people have chosen to call it the Nameless City and to call themselves “the nameless.” As the story unfolds, Kai, the son of a prominent general from the Dao Empire, the city’s current ruling power, travels to the Nameless City in order to train to become a warrior. However, Kai is more fascinated with books and learning and soon becomes acquainted with Rat, a homeless orphan whose parents were killed during the Dao conquest. Andy notes that while the friendship that grows between the characters might first appear to be right out of a clichéd “different side of the tracks” plot, Hicks’s storytelling is far more sophisticated. As the narrative progresses, Rat and Kai learn from each other and join forces to encourage the city’s rulers to see beyond their dismissive view of the indigenous culture. papergirls_insideBoth Andy and Gwen admire Jordie Bellaire’s accomplished and effective work as colorist, and they point out Hicks’s ability to depict characters in motion in ways that are both visually stunning and effective in moving the narrative along.

The show concludes with a review of the first volume of Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang’s teen sci-fi series, Paper Girls, a collection of the first five issues of the Image Comics series. Set in 1988 on the day after Halloween, the story follows four twelve-year-old paper carriers who find themselves caught in the midst of what appears to be an alien invasion. Gwen praises the realism of the setting and the convincing portrayal of female adolescence as strengths of the series, and Andy emphasizes how the darker side of the 1980s emerges as the text unfolds. While some of the violence and language marks this as a series for older teens, the two PhDs suggest that these elements add verisimilitude to the text. They also advise parents that while there are other Vaughan texts, such as the Runaways series, that would be a good follow up for teen readers, there are other titles that Vaughan has written that are definitely more appropriate for an adult audience. Both Gwen and Andy highly recommend Paper Girls, Vol. 1 and are eager to see what happens next in the series.

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Comic News Insider Episode 509 – Spider-Max!

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Comic News Insider: Episode 509 is now available for free download! Click on the link or get it through iTunes! Sponsored by Dynamic Forces.

Reviews: Damian: Son of Batman #1, The Fox #1, Sandman Overture #1

Jimmy heads out to the Garden State (New Jersey, if ya didn’t know) to visit his sister and family. His awesome 5 year old nephew, Maximus, chats on mic to Jimmy about his love of superheroes and Star Wars in the most adorable stream of conscious way. Jimmy talks about seeing Gravity, the new X-Men: Days of Future Past trailer and his love of the Thor comic. News includes: DC Comics is moving out west, Fables will end with issue 150, Daredevil coming back in digital form, ol pulp series The Avenger is being reimagined for the CW, The Addams Family animated is on the way, a 5 year old boy with leukemia will be Batman for a day, Ben Kingsley’s secret Marvel project just may be a short film with him reprising his “The Mandarin” role, Marvel brings back Ms. Marvel in the form of a teen character from New Jersey of Muslim heritage named Kamala Khan, First Second announces fantasy graphic novel series called The Nameless City from Faith Erin Hicks and Hourman TV series is in the works at the CW. As always, listener feedback, Top 3 and more. Leave your iTunes comments! 5 stars and nothing but love!

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