In addition to Grampa, this one issue features comics goodness from Kate Beaton! Jeffrey Brown! Nicholas Gurewitch! Kevin Huizenga! Jeff Lemire! Frank Santoro! Dash Shaw! Jillian Tamaki! Johnen Vasquez! Shannon Wheeler! And my first story ever for Marvel Comics, starring the Fabulous Frog-man!
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Now Mark Waid has made my younger self eat his own words with Irredeemable and Incorruptible. I'm collecting Irredeemable in trades and Incorruptible electronically through Comixology's Boom Studios App. (BTW, if you've got an iExpensiveDeviceOfSomeSort and haven't played with any of the Comixology comics-reading apps, you're missing out! I never thought reading on a screen could be so pleasurable.)
Both Irredeemable and Incorruptible are cape-wearing roller coaster rides with soul. Waid explores the nature of evil through a series of superpowered fistfights. Brilliant. This is a master of the genre at the top of his game.
Age-wise, I'd say this is appropriate for high school and up.
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But, I must admit, some of his comics leave me cold. And that's to be expected, given that he is probably the most prolific cartoonist to ever cartoon on planet Earth. With literally hundreds of thousands of Tezuka pages in existence, SOMETHING'S bound to not work for any given reader.
Astroboy, arguably his most famous creation, happens to be one of those Tezuka comics that I can't get into. I think Astroboy's design is really cool (how can anyone not love a robot with machine guns that come out of his butt) and I tried so hard to like his comics... but I couldn't.
Except for Volume 3 of the Dark Horse Astroboy reprints, which I read last week!!! Mostly because it's three shades of awesome.
Volume 3 reprints the story "Greatest Robot On Earth" and it's as fun as comics get. Pluto, a giant robot with demon-like horns, tries to become the greatest robot on Earth by destroying the other top seven robots, one of whom is our hero Astroboy. What follows is sort of a robotic MMA tournament, with a discussion about the purpose of AI woven in for good measure. Supposedly, every kid in Japan knows this story. Manga master Naoki Urasawa has even retold it in his series Pluto.
If you're looking for a way to get into kid's manga, this might be your best bet.
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A friend was kind enough to suggest The Eternal Smile to her bookclub. She asked my wife for some discussion questions to help make her case.
Here's what we came up with:
1. In each story of The Eternal Smile, the main character makes a dishonorable choice that eventually leads to the truth. Duncan breaks his promise to the Frog King. Gran'pa Greenbax lets his temper get the better of him and murders Filbert. Janet manipulates Steve into going on a date with her. In each case, do you believe the end result justifies the means?
2. In "Duncan's Kingdom", the reader's understanding of Brother Patchwork's role changes as the story progresses. Eventually, it's revealed that Brother Patchwork is really Duncan himself. Have you ever had an experience where your understanding of yourself changed? What caused the change?
3. In "Gran'pa Greenbax and the Eternal Smile," all the frog characters are deeply flawed. Who do you believe is the most heroic? Why?
4. In "Urgent Request," Janet and Steve use each other for their own ends. Do you believe that they eventually establish an authentic relationship despite this? Why or why not?
5. The three stories present three different relationships between fantasy and reality. Which is the harshest on fantasy? Which is the most forgiving?
6. Consider your own use of fantasy media (movies, videogames, television), and that of your friends and relatives. Which of the three stories most closely reflects your own views of fantasy?
Thought it might be good to share, just in case... you know... somebody else wants to use The Eternal Smile for their bookclub. :)
Got any discussion questions of your own? Let me know!
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There are some amazing graphic novel memoirs out there -- I think nowadays it's the second most popular comics genre after superheroes -- but very few of them are appropriate for middle schoolers. Raina Telgemeier's Smile fills that gap brilliantly.
In her preteen years, Raina had a painful accident that robbed her of her two front teeth. This full-color, beautifully illustrated graphic novel details all the drama that followed, both inside and outside the dentist's office.
Raina's got a lovely, consistent style that I've always admired (and been a little jealous of)...bits of Lynn Johnston mixed in with a charm that's all her own. If your childhood best friend were a cartooning style, she would look like a line from Raina's pen.
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