Friday, September 19, 2014

Superheroes Stomping Out Bullying

Guardians of the Galaxy with Gamora

This October is National Bullying Prevention Month.  I am just finding this out myself and it's amazing.  I was bullied when I was younger and no one really talked about it much or took action to prevent it so the fact that there is something being done now is incredible.

The Incredible Hulk

This relates to comics because Marvel is teaming up with the STOMP Out Bullying organization to bring awareness to this increasingly important issue through variant covers to some major titles that they publish.

STOMP Out Bullying is also an interesting organization because they work to decrease and prevent not only face-to-face bullying but also cyberbullying, sexting and other forms of abuse through technology. They also educate others on topics such as homophobia and racism and do this through their website as well as going out and educating communities all over the United States.

Go to their website and find out how you or your organization can get  involved or just pick up the following comics this month.

Captain America, Rocket Raccoon & Star Lord

Full title List of Variant Cover Comics:
  • Avengers #36
  • Captain America #25
  • Guardians of the Galaxy #20
  • Hulk #7
  • Inhuman #7
  • Legendary Star-Lord #4
  • Rocket Raccoon #4

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Gwen Stacy: Spider-Woman

Just this past Wednesday, a new comic came out that I have been waiting to highlight for some time now.

For everyone who loved Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man 1 & 2 , here is a new way to keep that love alive and find a new way to interact with the character you love.  

Gwen Stacy: Spider-Woman
Written by Jason Latour
Art by Robbi Rodriguez
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Colouring by Rico Renzi

In this comic it is not Peter Parker that gets bitten by a radioactive spider but Gwen Stacy.  So naturally, she puts a suit together and gets out there to do some good in the world.

Before you get confused, I should tell you that this story takes place in an alternate universe so while Peter Parker does still exist, Stacy is the focus of the story.  What I am truly interested to see is this new dimension added to the character.  How does she change and what is her backstory that drives her to become a masked superhero?  

What I want from this issue is for it to breathe new life into a character that has been dead for over 40 years in the comic book universe.  I want her to be her own person and not just a love interest for a boy.  

For those of you hesitant about investing in a long running series, don't be worried.  This is a single issue story with no confirmed plans to continue.  This is also sad news because when you really fall for a character and their story, you want to learn more about their lives.  

Hopefully, Marvel will see the interest and buzz surrounding this one-shot title and decide to invest more time in it.  Fingers crossed!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Dream a Little Dream About Bats

Something incredible happened just this past Wednesday.  In a possible future storyline for the Batgirl title called Future's End, they brought back a two familiar faces that I thought would never wear the Bat symbol again.

Batgirl: Future's End #1 - In this issue, the future is bleak.  Batgirl is gone and in her place is the Bete Noir. Not all hope is lost as a league of Batgirls rise from the shadows to take up the mantle that Barbara Gordon left behind.

What we get here is a total treat.  Not a bunch of unfamiliar girls wearing the mask but two familiar faces: Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain.  And trust me, they are more strong and alive than they have ever been.  This is such a great thing since most of us thought they were gone for good.  Scott Snyder's Batman Eternal only succeeded in reintroducing Stephanie Brown as The Spoiler but not as Batgirl.  Take a look at them in all their glory in the panel below.

This issue is heartbreaking in a lot of ways and still really touching as well. The art and writing is so tight that you feel the loss and anger and fear and hope. It's a short glimpse into a possible future for these characters and I am glad I got to experience it.  I wish there could be more.

This is the final issue for Gail Simone for Batgirl and I am so sad to see her go.  She worked hard and did well with it.  All the troubles and struggles she faced with the editors at DC and she still leaves the title having done some great work.  I may have had my issues with it, but it doesn't mean that I did not enjoy it from issue #1 to #34.  I wish her luck on her future projects.

My Take on Against YA

Today, I chose to talk about the infamous Slate article, Against YA, written by Ruth Graham.  I am incredibly late with post since the article was written months ago, but I thought I should give the topic time to calm down.  It also gave me some time to really think about the author's points.  

In the following numbered points, I will be presenting the author's ideas and then following them up with my own.  This is not to say she is totally wrong but more to present two different points of view on the matter.  

1. "But even the myriad defenders of YA fiction admit that the enjoyment of reading this stuff has to do with escapism, instant gratification, and nostalgia."

The thing I take issue with here is that Ruth Graham generalizes.  She takes a few opinions and attaches them to the whole group.  Opinions without context.  Because what she grabs onto here are keywords that startle her.  It is not a full explanation of what adult readers get out of reading YA.

I would also argue that if a book is good and well done, it takes us out of our daily situations and struggles, and deposits us into someone else's story.  It diverts and distracts.  This is effectively, escapism.  I'm not just talking about fiction.  This goes for narrative nonfiction as well.  What I am also not understanding from this article is why escapism, instant gratification and nostalgia are so harmful. I am actually very curious to know how these three things have negatively affected adult readers.  Are these readers allowing escapism and nostalgia to take over their lives? 

2. "But crucially, YA books present the teenage perspective in a fundamentally uncritical way. It’s not simply that YA readers are asked to immerse themselves in a character’s emotional life—that’s the trick of so much great fiction—but that they are asked to abandon the mature insights into that perspective that they (supposedly) have acquired as adults."

This rings false for me.  In reading a YA novel as an adult, you are asked to read.  You are not asked to abandon your own beliefs and values.  I think that that is taking it a bit far.  I have never wavered in being critical of a character and their actions because of the age range of a novel.  As the author herself proves in her own article, you can read YA and still find characters to be unrealistic and ridiculous.

To say that authors write a character with the expectation that readers should swoon for them is so strange. They present characters they create and it is up to us to decide what we think.

3. "Most importantly, these books consistently indulge in the kind of endings that teenagers want to see, but which adult readers ought to reject as far too simple. YA endings are uniformly satisfying, whether that satisfaction comes through weeping or cheering. These endings are emblematic of the fact that the emotional and moral ambiguity of adult fiction—of the real world—is nowhere in evidence in YA fiction."

What I find so intriguing about the above idea is that she connects the real world with adult fiction in the same sentence.  She talks about how realistic or contemporary YA is not reflective of the real world and I agree, it is not.  But I do not expect it to be since it is fiction.  It is a story that someone thought up that takes place in a world similar to our own.  There are no spirits or superpowers or angels or futuristic technology.

Do I want loose ends tied up in this fictional universe? You bet I do.  Why should adults reject a happy or satisfying ending to a story that is not real?  Because life is disappointing and unfair and it can end abruptly? Adults and teens know how life truly flows.  Wanting a good ending to a book is not a bad thing or a sign of maturity.

Final Words:  I feel that Ruth Graham's article is a reactionary piece because she fears that young adult novels are replacing literary fiction for adult readers.  It is my opinion, as an adult, that literary fiction is not for everyone and not for every reading moment.  I believe that readers should read widely, across genres and across bookstore age categories or else they will miss out on the joys of reading.  Readers should feel comfortable in trying new things and not be shamed by friends, family or their peers for doing so.  But how can they when a sarcastic article like this one is published a few times a year?

I also think that many adults can relate to contemporary YA fiction because sometimes the situations presented in those books reflect their adult lives.  Before you scoff and close this page, give me a moment to explain.  Life is messy and confusing, obvious right? However, turning 21 or 35 or 48 or 57 does not end that. Some people take decades to figure out what they want out of life, what they want to do and who they want to be.  They also make immature decisions and make painful mistakes. YA contemporary fiction presents all that in the formative years.  

What Ruth Graham lacks is an understanding that adults are people who are ultimately different.  You cannot shoehorn people into your own self-created categories of what a reader is and what they should be reading and what their reading experience should be like.  Truth is that some individuals find literary fiction too boring, formulaic, highbrow and inaccessible.  These are actual comments made by my friends who are tired of academia and their constant need to pretend that literary novels are always 100% amazing.

Just read what you want.  Do not be ashamed of it.  Be critical and question it.  Have fun.

Graham, R. (2014). Against YA. Slate.  Retrieved from

Monday, September 8, 2014

International Literacy Day 2014

Literacy is something I feel very strongly about.  I believe everyone has the right to learn to read and write and to be able to understand how to access information. You may be sitting there reading this and thinking to yourself, "Well, of course.  That goes without saying and without your flowery language."

My point is, however, there are many people in this world (young and old) that do not know how to read, write or access the information they need.  Today is International Literacy Day 2014 and it is a day to be thankful for what we have and to bring awareness.

UNESCO (i.e. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has created an amazing infographic.  Below is just one part of the whole thing.  I hope you'll check it out.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

How to Read a Book 101

So September 6th (i.e. today) is Read a Book Day!  In honor of this most auspicious day,  I am posting a graphic that I found on the Quirk Books website .  I thought it was pretty cool and fitting.  It was made by the talented Mike Rogalski.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Wolf in the Woods

Through the Woods written & illustrated by Emily Carroll

A collection of five short illustrated stories about what lurks in the dark woods and what can follow you home out of the woods.

As it was mentioned above, there are five stories in this book as well as a chilling introduction and conclusion.

This graphic novel is solid all the way through and each story is more haunting and frightening than the last.  The tales are suspenseful and creepy.  The kind of creepy that builds over time until it reaches a high point at the end of the story and you're left utterly gobsmacked.

I am not afraid to say that reading this book in one sitting in the middle of the night made me consider sleeping with the light on. 

I also really loved the art.  The figures and landscapes and composition of each page and panel were so well done.  Every piece of artwork in this novel is so beautiful and terrifying.  And when combined with the handwritten-like lettering? It is an unstoppable force of suggestion. That the reader should be afraid because something terrible is coming. Emily Carroll with her fairy-tale writing style, her colouring choices, the structure of the art and the lettering create an atmosphere that envelopes the reader and only lets them go on the last page.

I hope she releases another set of short stories like these soon because I am hungry for more. 

Emily Carroll also has a website where she has some short stories and other pieces of artwork posted. So check her out, you will be glad that you did.