Trisha Hughes is a guest on my blog today celebrating the release of her new novel, Vikings to Virgin - The Hazards of Being King. Read about her inspiration for this epic novel and the trilogy to come.
Trisha Hughes is a guest on my blog today celebrating the release of her new novel, Vikings to Virgin - The Hazards of Being King. Read about her inspiration for this epic novel and the trilogy to come.
It's all about love during the Valentine's Week. So far we've read about book love from the reader's perspective but let's change that with the last story in our project. It's high time to look at the storytelling from the writer's point of view. We've invited author Ned Hayes to present his book love story.
A guest post by Ned Hayes
Storytelling as a Calling: A Book Love blog post
by Ned Hayes
Storytelling is a calling: we manufacture meaning out of events through the act of storymaking. After all, the human experience doesn’t really make sense on a day to day basis. Story is a fabric laid transparent over the bumps and bricks of random occurrence, a map showing the past and the future. It is as if we weave a web of story, from inside ourselves, like a spider, and live in it, and call it world.
I believe that story is in fact all powerful in our lives. To be truly human is to tell stories. Without stories – without that rhythm of beginning, middle, and end, without that hopefulness of meaning being given by seeing the pattern of a story – I believe that we become less than human. I believe that storytelling is what makes us human. We are homo storytelli or homo sinificans, the storytelling creature.
This idea of the importance of storytelling was first brought to my attention by the wonderful little book The Dark Interval: towards a theology of story, by John Dominic Crossan. The critic Frank Kermode also wrote a book called The Genesis of Secrecy: on the interpretation of narrative that made an early impact on me. And finally, Annie Dillard’s book Living by Fiction also influenced my ideas about what was possible in fiction.
Today, I write stories because they give me a way to make sense of the world. The world is a complex place, so I don’t restrict myself to one genre or one style. I’ve now written three novels that have ranged across the spectrum of storytelling, from mystery to historical fiction to young adult literary fiction.
In telling stories, I can also help others to also make sense of this often-confusing and often frustrating world as well. The web I weave can be of use to many people. I’ve discovered this to be true most recently through talking to readers of my bestselling novel The Eagle Tree. In this novel, a young boy on the autistic spectrum wrestles to bring together his disintegrating family as he strives to climb an old growth tree. He is trying to make sense of his reality, and in this poignant and difficult story, he finds a great meaning and purpose for his life.
I thought The Eagle Tree was a unique and unusual story. Yet what I’ve been happily surprised by is that many readers have written me to tell me that I successfully captured part of their story of life on the autistic spectrum. They have said to me that I have “told their story” or that my story “helped to show that my son’s life makes sense.” I’ve also been told by other readers that the difficulty of interacting with a family member who has development or neurological differences are described with authenticity and with compassion. They found meaning this book as well. My small words helped to give hope to their experience and made their stories matter. The Eagle Tree is a story that brought meaning to their lives.
Yet along with authenticity, there’s one other duty that novelists have: Entertainment.
“The first duty of the novelist is to entertain,” says Donna Tart, the bestselling author of the smash hit The Goldfinch and The Secret History. “It is a moral duty. People who read your books are sick, sad, traveling, in the hospital waiting room while someone is dying.”
Entertainment = storytelling as a moral duty. We have the deep and meaningful charge to write something that’s entertaining. We are not allowed to tell a boring or meaningless story. Our stories must be interesting, must be inventive, must – in the end – be entertaining to our readers.
Entertainment sometimes gets a bad rap. People think it’s a waste of time. Yet entertainment need not be shallow. Storytelling as entertainment doesn’t need to be meaningless. We don’t have to create something false like The Transformers – because a story like The Hunger Games or 1984 is equally entertaining, yet contains deeper truths and gives insight along with its momentum. Entertainment means delivering a tale that can lift us out of our present reality and give us a vision of something beyond our mundane reality. A good story tells the truth, and carries us along on a tide of hope and insight.
This is why I like to read fantasy, horror and science-fiction. These genres don’t hide their attempts to entertain: these types of books wear their badges of entertainment on their sleeves, plain for all to see. Even the covers of these books communicate their intent, with their spaceships and unicorns and fantastic sorceries. Some of my favorite fantastical and horrific stories include John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy, The Ritual by Adam Nevill, and Tim Power’s The Stress of Her Regard.
In the science-fiction realm, I also have special favorites. Some of the stories I admire the most in these areas include The Sheep Look Up, by John Brunner, Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler, and Downbelow Station by C.J. Cherryh and of course, many books by Ursula Le Guin, most notably The Left Hand of Darkness.
All the books I’ve named above provide wonderful entertainment while providing deeper insight. Yet the charge we bear to entertain goes beyond the simple affectations of fantasy and spaceships. As storytellers, we have a moral charge to give our readers a removal from the world, an escape hatch into a new way of thinking. Even literary fiction must entertain – it must deliver some insight and tale that lifts the quotidian events of our lives into a higher mythical and hyper-realistic realm. The story must move us.
I found this truth brought home to me when I wrote my second novel Sinful Folk. The famous literary agent Jenny Bent read the first draft and told me “This is beautiful writing, but there’s not enough real storytelling here.” So over the course of one year after I received Ms. Bent’s feedback, I rewrote the entire book to bring my characters from just a land of beautiful (yet un-entertaining) prose into a story that was worth the telling. To learn how to tell an entertaining piece of historical fantasy, I went back and re-read some of the masters of historical fiction, especially those who wrote about the medieval period.
The books that most influenced my approach to historical storytelling included Morality Play by Barry Unsworth, Ella March Chase’s The Virgin Queen's Daughter, Brenda Vantrease’s The Illuminator, Kathryn Le Veque’s The Warrior Poet and Karen Maitland’s The Owl Killers.
The story that I re-wrote as the novel Sinful Folk was finally published. It had become a heartfelt and harrowing tale that moved my main character – a fourteenth century woman – from a place of peril and heartbreak through great danger until she achieved the heights of power and privilege. My character changed over the course of the novel, transforming from fearful subterfuge into a driven, motivated heroine who conquered the High Court of England. I changed the book into a real story. And when Sinful Folk was finally published, it was described by New York Times bestselling author Brenda Vantrease herself as a “A pilgrim tale worthy of Chaucer, delivered by a master storyteller” and received starred reviews in BookList, BookNote and many other publications.
In fact, all of the authors I list above -- whose work I read as inspiration – ended up endorsing the novel Sinful Folk (with the exception of Barry Unsworth, who had unfortunately passed away just before I published my novel).
I think this love of authentic tales that entertain goes back to my childhood, when I found myself alone much of the time. And alone with only a good book to read. So books became my companions and my friends. Donna Tartt points out that “Books are written by the alone for the alone.” C.S. Lewis said “I read to know that I am not alone.” This is true of every reader. We read to connect with other human perspectives, to know those voices and embrace those souls. We also read to be accompanied by other voices in our solitary trek through time.
When I was a child, the books that brought me companionship included Mischief in Fez by Eleanor Hoffman, Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea Trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and finally, a story I’ve re-read many times – the deep and meaningful Watership Down, by Richard Adams.
Hoffman’s work brought me into other worlds, and showed me possibilities beyond my ken. Le Guin demonstrated the power of brevity in telling a fascinating tale, while Tolkien showed that fantasy could tell deeper truths, even while being tremendously entertaining. Adams continues to show me – every time I read him – that deep and powerful stories lie all around us, even in the lives of rabbits and seagulls, and that all we have to do is pay attention. The web of story surrounds us: all we have to do is open our eyes. Today, the tales told in these stories still resound in my dreams, and still are echoed in the books I write today.
Finally, for anyone who is interested in telling a story, it’s important to note that listening to a story is how you become a story-teller yourself.
I believe that to tell stories, we must read stories. Writers are readers. Therefore, I recommend anyone who wishes to write first become an avid reader. Read a book a month, a book a week, even a book a day. Become a reader, and you will be well equipped to be a writer. And you will never be alone as long as you have books and the tales within them.
And what's your book love story? Join our project, write your story, publish it on your BookLikes blog and tag with why I love tag so we could find it and share it. You can also add the link to your book love stories in the comment section below.
Dear BookLikers, writers and readers, thank you so much for participating in this amazing project. Presenting all those stories to You and about You was a fascinating time and we hope that you've enjoyed the book love story week as much as we did.
We're looking forward to creating more projects as such -- so, who's in? :)
It's all about love during the Valentine's Week. Each day of the Valentine's week will present one book love story with a different genre insight. Today, it's all about romance books. We're happy to welcome Cat's Books: Romance on BookLikes blog.
Watch out for the last Book Love Story on BookLikes blog tomorrow!
A guest post by Cat's Books: Romance
I unabashedly love Romance Novels.
I love them as at the center of the best ones are optimism, human connection, and feminism. The Happily Ever After promise allows the reader to explore very dark themes at times wit the knowledge that there will be hope and love no matter what.
Because the main stay of romance is the find of a partner, the question of how to build a lasting connection and all the psychological l complexity of that quests shapes every romance. Most every romance is female centered. Female desire and viewpoints control the narrative.
The genre is vast spanning from science fiction, fantasy, new adult, young adult, contemporary, paranormal, historical, comedy, erotic, and eventing new sub genres all the time.
In Romance, we can see the changing of social norms and the critical effort to see and explore through character and the lens of love hate and discrimination in all its forms while loving the body in all its diversity and sexuality which houses us all.
At its best, the genre leads the way and it has a heck of a lot of fun at the same time.
Here are some great love stories, you should try.
Let It Shine by Alyssa Cole: Historical Interracial Romance set during the Civll Rights Era
Kulti by Mariana Zapata: Contemporary Slow Burn Soccer Romance
To Seduce a Sinner by Elizabeth Hoyt: Historical Plain Heroine and with a Hero with PTSD
Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison: Paranormal Dragon Shifter Hero and Thief Heroine
Watch out for the last Book Love Story on BookLikes blog tomorrow! If you'd like to join, please do! Write your book love story on your blog and add the link in the comment section below. Make sure to add why I love tag to your post so we could find it and share it.
It's all about love during the Valentine's Week. Each day of the Valentine's week will present one book love story with a different genre insight. Today, it's all about historical fiction. We're happy to welcome Susanna from SusannaG - Confessions of a Crazy Cat Lady on BookLikes blog.
A guest post by Susanna from SusannaG - Confessions of a Crazy Cat Lady
I love historical fiction. I love it in so many of its forms, from fictionalized biographies of long-dead monarchs, to stories about "normal people" of the past, to historical mysteries, time travel stories, and historical romances.
Why do I love historical fiction? I read in order to be taken on a trip to places I would otherwise never visit, and historical fiction is the gateway to the past. And I love and am interested in the past - I trained as a historian.
I confess I can be a bit picky about historical fiction. There is nothing more likely to take me out of the flow of a book I'm enjoying than to run headlong into a "fact" that's wrong. My next reaction is undoubtedly going to be "well, if they got that wrong, what else did they get wrong that I didn't catch?" But good historical novel can give you a feel for another time and place in great ways. You can feel like you've been there yourself.
I have been in love with historical fiction ever since I was a child, and my mother gave me Esther Forbes' Johnny Tremain or Elizabeth Goudge's The Little White Horse. These books took me on trips to the birth of the American Revolution, and to a remote valley in 1830s England. The stars of these shows were always children, of course, because they were also children's literature.
When I was a little older, she gave me YA novels like A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver, E.L. Konigsburg's fictionalized biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Since YA mostly didn't exist then, she also gave me novels written for adults that she thought I might enjoy. These included, I remember, both Mary Renault's The King Must Die and Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels, which led to trips to ancient Greece and to the battle of Gettysburg.
She also gave me novels by Georgette Heyer - my first regency romances - and introduced me to the "Williamsburg novels" of Elswyth Thane. Heyer has never been out of print, but Thane's novels can be hard to find these days, as they are long out of print.
Yes, I have always loved historical fiction.
What historical novels might be a good place to start, if you've never read much of the genre before?
Well, if you love, for example, contemporary mysteries or romances, you might do well to pick a historical mystery or romance - there are plenty of both. If you like science fiction, you might try a time travel story. There are several types of story that are historical fiction mixed with another genre - if you like that other genre, you might want to start there.
Or perhaps you can pick a period and place that sounds interesting to you, and start there. Some settings are more popular than others - if you want to read stories about ancient Rome or Tudor England, you're in great shape. Other settings may be less popular, but can certainly supply great reads - 1600s Japan is not a common setting (in English, anyway), but is the setting for James Clavell's terrific Shogun.
But let me make a few more specific recommendations, of historical novels I adore. Maybe you will love some of them, too.
Gary Corby's books about Nicolaos, the only private investigator in Pericles' Athens, and often featuring his annoying younger brother, Socrates, are a fun read. They begin with The Pericles Commission.
Colleen McCullough's The Masters of Rome series, which starts with The First Man in Rome, tells the tale of the fall of the Roman Republic, from the conflict of Marius and Sulla, through Julius Caesar vs. Pompey, and the tale of Augustus, Mark Antony, and Cleopatra. Note: McCullough adores Julius Caesar to the point of hero-worship.
Robert Graves' I, Claudius and Claudius the God are the purported autobiography of Rome's st-st-stuttering fourth emperor, the Emperor Claudius, who was found cowering behind a curtain after the murder of his nephew, Caligula. But mostly it's a wonderful tale of murder and mayhem and madness in the imperial family, and most of all, of Augustus' poisonous (in more ways than one) wife, Livia.
Lindsay Davis' The Course of Honor is the tale of the Emperor Vespasian, and his long love affair with Caenis, a slave in the imperial household.
Ellis Peters wrote many tales of Brother Cadfael - I'm not so fond of the first, but the second, One Corpse Too Many, is a great introduction to the series, set in the 1100s in Shrewsbury, England.
Maurice Druon's Cursed Kings series, which starts with The Iron King, tells the tale of the fall of France's Capet kings, and the start of the Hundred Years War.
Connie Willis' Doomsday Book is a pair of stories - one of a historian from 2060 Oxford's time machine project, set to research the 1300s, and the other of her colleagues in 2060, who realize that they've accidentally sent her to the wrong time and place - and they aren't sure they can get her back.
Anya Seton's Katherine is a fictionalized biography of Katherine Swynford, Geoffrey Chaucer's sister-in-law, and third wife of John of Gaunt. Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt are the ancestors of the modern British royal family. A tale of romance, adultery, murder, plague, and rebellion.
Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies are the first two volumes of a trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's great minister. These cover the collapse of Henry's marriage to Katherine of Aragon, and the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn. These might be easier to follow if you know the general outline of what happened to the wives of Henry VIII.
C.J. Sansom's wonderful Shardlake novels are the best historical mysteries I have ever read. Matthew Shardlake is a hunchbacked Tudor lawyer, and when we meet him in Dissolution, it's 1537 and he's working for Thomas Cromwell, dissolving monasteries. Cromwell sends him down to investigate a doomed (and frozen) monastery in Sussex. The previous investigator was murdered there.
Judith Rock's The Rhetoric of Death is the first of several fine historical mysteries about Jesuits and the ballet, in the Paris of Louis XIV.
Lisa See's Peony in Love is a strange tale from 1600s China, told by an Angry Ghost.
Daphne du Maurier's The Glass Blowers is the tale of her own family during the French Revolution.
Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell is a strange and lovely mixture of historical fiction about the Napoleonic wars, and fantasy about the return of magic to the land. Take my advice and don't get involved with The Man With the Thistle-Down Hair, or his seelie court.
A.S. Byatt's Possession tells two stories - one of two Victorian poets, and another of the English professors who research them in the 1980s. There is a great deal of faux Victorian poetry, as well as a fanatical American collector, and a spot of grave robbing.
Elswyth Thane's Yankee Stranger tells the story of the American Civil War, through the eyes of the members of two intermarried Virginia families, the Spragues and the Days, and those of Eden Day's fiance, a Yankee reporter.
Geraldine Brooks tells a very different story of the Civil War in March - the story of the father of the sisters in Little Women. He has a very different war from the accounts he sends home to his wife and daughters.
Amy Stewart's Girl Waits with Gun is the tale of New Jersey's first female sheriff's deputy, and how she got the job.
Laurie R. King's The Beekeeper's Apprentice is the first of her dozen or so Mary Russell novels. In 1915, the teen-aged Mary Russell, disguised as a boy, is wandering the Suffolk downs, and encounters a bad-tempered man hunting bees - his name is Sherlock Holmes. This book is the story of her apprenticeship in detection, and of their first big case. If you're picky about Sherlock Holmes, you might want to give this series a pass.
R.F. Delderfield's To Serve Them All My Days tells the tale of David Powlett-Jones, a Welsh miner's son, a shattered man invalided out of World War I, who goes to teach history at a Bamfylde, a remote boy's school.
Watch out for more Book Love Stories on BookLikes blog this week! If you'd like to join, please do! Write your book love story on your blog and add the link in the comment section below. Make sure to add why I love tag to your post so we could find it and share it.
It's all about love during the Valentine's Week. Each day of the Valentine's week will present one book love story with a different genre insight. Today, it's all about comic books and graphic novels. We're happy to welcome Grimlock ♥ Vision on BookLikes blog.
A guest post by Grimlock ♥ Vision
I remember was first introduced to comic books by one of my first boyfriends, whom I indulged. It was, by the way, the death of our relationship: he took me the store, and reluctantly handed me She-Hulk I dumped him within a week, hoarding my own stack of X-Men. He probably looked at the comics, looked at me, and asked, ‘But why?’ He underestimated me, and I couldn't abide by that. It killed the relationship, but struck up a life long love of comics. I’ve always loved books as well as movies and TV, so the cinematic flair of the visual aspects combined with storytelling just works for me in comics.
Let me break down the difference between comic books and graphic novels. Comics are shorter, come out monthly, and are stapled together, and thus have a more magazine like look and feel to them. Most graphic novels combine issues into a more book-like format with a spine: four to six issues tend to be fairly standard, although I’ve seen both shorter and longer graphic novels as well as original graphic novels. Comics are usually slightly more expensive than their bound counterparts, although if you’re into digital reading, I highly suggest Comixology. You can find many, many sales as well as a collection of free comics.
Finally, please let it be noted: I don’t know everything about comics. I tend to specialize. I will get into one character, or writer, or franchise and focus heavily on that. Marvel was my introduction, it’s been the publisher I’ve been most heavily invested in - emotionally and monetarily - and is my primary love.
I'm going to recommend some comics by publisher.
Wolverine, and the X-Men, were some of my first Marvel hits. Claremont's runs are always excellent. Morrison’s New X-Men run is superb, relatively newer work. For classic Wolverine, I’d suggest Weapon X, which tells of how he got the metal in his bones. Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men is a must read (as is his Doctor Strange.) If you like your Wolverine a little more girl-powered, try Tom Taylor’s All-New Wolverine, which focuses on Wolverine's clone, Laura Kinney.
I love the All-New Ghost Rider, as seen on Agents of SHIELD. But I loved him before he hit the small screens, from his first appearance in All-New Ghost Rider. He was a little more diverse, the car is super hot, and I loved the mastery of how he became the Ghost Rider. His new series Ghost Rider is a little less impressive to me, but it’s only a couple issues in so I’m giving it more of a chance.
Right now, though, my focuses are on three characters: Black Bolt, the king of the Inhumans, Vision and his daughter Viv, and Deadpool.
I’ll start with Black Bolt. The Inhumans were created when the Kree, aliens looking for living weapons, experimented on a small population of humans. When they come of age in their society, they’re exposed to the Terrigen mists in a process called Terrigenesis. This brings their latent powers, which are varied, to the fore. Black Bolt was experimented on when he was in the fetus and was born more powerful than the average Inhuman. I love Black Bolt for a couple reasons. The power that comes from his voice makes it impossible for him to use it at all. If he speaks, he destroys his home and those he loves, reminding me of the blind seer trope from the Greek myths I loved as a child. Except at one point, he declares war by literally saying that one word. Everything before him explodes, making a strong statement about the power of words In addition, the restraint that he shows in training himself not to make a sound even when he sleeps is something that draws me to his character.
For Black Bolt, I would suggest starting with Paul Jenkins’ Inhumans, then moving right on to Charles Soules’ Inhuman, followed by his dual series All-New Inhumans and Uncanny Inhumans. Inhumans vs. X-Men is a well thought out crossover, in which characters are paired up perfectly. If you want to see Black Bolt speak, give the alternate universe Attilan Rising a try. Three new Inhuman series are slated for this year: Black Bolt, The Royals and Secret Warriors.
Vision is a no brainer as he's my sex appeal in the Marvel universe. Vision is a synthezoid, which means is that he has organs, but they are’t organic. Ultron created him to take down the Avengers, and he joined them instead. He can control his density, and become insubstantial enough to walk through things in his way, or let them pass through him, or increase his weight to hit back hard. He’s also portrayed by Paul Bettany in the new Marvel movies.
Vision has a lot of solid older stories, but I’m going to focus on the ones I love the most: the newer ones. Vision had his own series written by Tom King. It’s heartbreaking and all too human and one of the best things I’ve read ever. It sadly only lasted twelve issues, and I reread this as a buddy read whenever the opportunity arises. As for him as an Avenger, he was in the second series of Uncanny Avengers which I adored. I also loved what was done in All-New, All-Different Avengers, as well in the new Avengers, both written by Mark Waid. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Rage of Ultron, which focused not only on Ultron, but his relationship with his father, Hank Pym, and his son, Vision. It’s lushly illustrated and I’ve read it twice.
Viv, his daughter, is much like both her father and her mother, Virginia. She shows up in Vision as well as the new Champions series, alongside Ms. Marvel, who is another much beloved character. I highly recommend Champions, not only because I’m interested in both Vision and Viv. It’s a powerful statement about the modern world, the problems it faces, and the way that they help women being terrorized by Islamic radicals is incredibly empowering - and touching.
Deadpool? I’m not getting lazy on this. I’ve just put in a lot of work, and someone called this the most helpful post they’ve ever read about getting into a comic book series, so I feel like I can post this here: Where to Start with Deadpool
I’d add that he becomes an Avenger in the third Uncanny Avengers series, which I really enjoyed as well.
Another note: Marvel has Kamala Khan, a Muslim American hero, has a lady Thor, a black Captain America, and has Ta-Nehisi Coates writing The Black Panther and Roxanne Gay co-writing Black Panther: World of Wakanda. (Coates is her co-author.) Moon Girl is the smartest character in the universe - and a black girl. They’ve also had transgender characters, a gay marriage, a lesbian couple who raised Miss America - and Miss America is also a lesbian. Prodigy has come out as bisexual. Angela by Marguerite Bennet featuring the trans woman Sera, are both highly recommended. (So Angela: Asgard’s Assasin, 1602: Witch Hunter Angela, and Angela Queen of Hel. And of course her work on A-Force, the all-women version of the Avengers.) Basically? Marvel is doing a lot for diversity right now, including hiring more diversely. I should note that the woman who writes Ms. Marvel is a convert to the Muslim religion which gives her series a lot of little moments that feel incredibly real.
So I am a recent DC convert. I’m not going to go over this character by character; I don’t have the kind of knowledge to do that. I’m going to suggest my favorites and tell you why I love them, but then I’m going to let others, who might be more knowledgable, speak up if they so choose.
Start with Batgirl from Burnside. She’s strong, smart, and confident, and I love both the writing and the art. I should also mention that it’s illustrated by a woman, so I felt that the art itself was more real in that it didn’t put women in impossible poses that would break their backs if they tried actually standing that way. The creative team wasn’t intact for Rebirth and I’m such a fan of them together, I didn’t follow.
Love, love, love this series. The artwork by Jim Lee is superb and the storyline is tense and paranoid and incredibly tight.
I’ve slacked and haven’t quite finished all the comics I have. I do love what I read: Wonder Woman is pure of heart, innocent, maybe even a little naive in some ways, but also incredibly strong and even beautiful. She also looks like she has some weight: she has a little meat on her bones, and that made her more appealing to me, as did the fact that she tried to talk first and fight as a last resort.
Wrong in all the right ways and the basis for the new AMC TV show. It touches upon religion a lot and I can easily see someone thinking of this as blasphemous. If you're okay with that, violence, drinking, drugs, and just all kinds of wrongness in fiction, though, it's a compelling read that asks a lot of big, hard questions without handing you the reader pat answers.
I’m talking John Ostrander. His wife, Kim Yale, co-penned many stories and they created Oracle after the Killing Joke disabled Barbara Gordon. It also tapped into the current political clime and made statements about them, as well as giving Amanda Waller a compelling backstory and making her an incredibly strong black woman.
The brutal death of Jason Todd, aka Robin, at the hands of the Joker. Brutal and effective, making me feel for a character I’d just come to know. Another heartbreaking, but worthwhile read.
The new Rebirth event was lauded, as it spawned so many series that the fans adored. I don’t read that many, but I do read the new Batman by Tom King of Vision fame, Cyborg, the new Suicide Squad, and Blue Beetle. I love them all.
Midnighter is a pastiche of Batman, with Apollo as the pastiche of Superman, they’re also the ‘World’s Finest Couple.’ Steven Orlando’s take on Midnighter wasn’t just ultra-violent - any incarnation of him should be. It was also full of heart and humor and even warmth. It got cancelled but lived on in Orlando's current Midnighter and Apollo mini-series that I’m also loving.
Red Tornado is similar to Vision and I love him. I’ve read a lot of Young Justice with him, as well as The Tornado’s Path, but he’s sorely underused. I also fell in love with the Trinity of Sin, because I adored The Question’s angst filled backstory, but he hasn’t really been seen since.
Also, DC’s new Dr. Fate is of Egyptian descent, and my sister loves the way they handle the mentally ill in general: put them in an asylum where they try to help them, instead of killing them, or imprisoning them like the Inhumans do with Maximus. (Athough their treatment of mental health in Moon Knight is spectacular and the Scarlet Witch, who has been dealing with trauma and PTSD, was deftly handled. Same with Jen Walters in Hulk.) They haven’t allowed Batwoman, who is a lesbian, to marry her girlfriend stating that they don’t believe their heroes should be happy. Red Tornado married his wife and they adopted a child, though, and Superman is currently raising a child with Lois Lane, so I feel that they didn’t think that out completely, though. Still, they have some representation and are getting better about it in general in my opinion.
I’m going to put this out here: I love IDW for their media franchises. The Buffy series they’ve done - continuing it beyond season seven in comic format - utilizes many screenwriters from the series and is overseen by Joss Whedon himself. Their work on Transformers is just stunning. I mostly read them for tie-ins. They do good work outside of that, too, but nothing that compels me quite as much as the franchise work they do.
My favorite series are those written by Roberts, who wrote a fan novel that I also adored. Furman used to be my favorite Transformers scribe. And this isn’t a slight: his work is fun, exciting and in character. Barber’s Robots in Disguise and Roberts More Than Meets the Eye were just better than Furman's runs. MTMtE in particular is transcendent, tackling sexuality, politics, religion, philosophy, and anything else you can throw at the series. It does so deftly and with so much humor that it makes me laugh out loud with every single issue. And again, this is not a slight to Barber, who ended up writing the Doctor Strange/Punisher crossover that I loved. Barber simply isn’t quite Roberts. Which is daunting: Roberts is nuanced, and foreshadows years ahead. You think a panel is just funny and two years later, you read something that makes you go back and go ‘oh, that’s why that was there.’
The most frustrating thing about this is that no one takes a Transformers comic seriously. And it very much is, despite the humor and warmth. I was talking about Whirl, who is one of my favorite characters and Jessica wanted to know more about him. I sent her two Whirl heavy issues via Comixology - and got her hooked on both series.
IDW had a crossover event called Revolution that I, full disclosure, hated. It meshed certain series, like Transformers and GI Joe and ROM, and made it so they had what they called a ‘shared universe.’ What this means is they share the same fictional universe now and IDW doesn’t have to come up with convoluted reasons why Transformers are in a GI Joe comic. RiD and MTMtE were cancelled, although Barber is writing Optimus Prime and Roberts is writing Lost Light. I love LL and am less in love with OP.
Astounding. It feels very much like the series and the artwork is some of the best that I’ve seen that is based on real people. There’s also Angel and Faith, that continues with, well, Angel and Faith. It’s also superb, as is there Spike mini-series.
This manages to be as adorable, insightful, and odd as the original movie. Just a beautiful, hopeful story that is good for any age!
Illegal racing. Hot vehicles. Drawn by the woman who penciled Batgirl from Burnside. It’s a fun series, although I’ve only read the first issue.
Expansive Space opera. It has robot families which is a plus to me, but the main draws are the fantastic art and storyline that is about overcoming hatred and war and joining together to form a family. And keeping it together. Very adult, shows sex scenes pretty graphically, and has drug use and the violence that goes along with war and being on the run from both warring parties. Beautiful, hopeful, heartbreaking. Just one of the best comic series out there today.
I fell in love with how dark and gritty this was when it came out, and I feel it got stronger later on. The original issues are still fun, but it takes a bit to find it’s footing. It lost the plot, and I dropped this series, and then there was a new Spawn, who I’m not as into as Al Simmons. Pretty typical deal with the devil, and then it gets more and more convoluted. I feel that recently a solid storyline came back into play so I’m reading this again. I’d suggest the original issues, anything with Angela - who was later sold off to Marvel after Neil Gaiman won her rights in a lawsuit, the Hellspawn retelling, and anything after Resurrection. Very violent, and deals with abuse, racism, and suicide in just some of the issues I’ve read.
I have to include this small press for Kim and Kim, which includes a transgender Kim. It’s fun, it’s funny, and it’s a positive portrayal of a transgender woman. Just for the record: Kim’s father insists on calling her ‘him’ and ‘son’, but doesn’t correct his employees when they refer to her by her proper gender. There’s a rift between father and daughter, no doubt because he can’t accept her as she is. But if you don’t want to read that, then steer clear of this.
However, if you’re tempted by futuristic bounty hunters and robot gorillas, then by all means read this. Also, please note that the writer is a trans woman, which is probably why it doesn’t play into a lot of the stereotypes about trans woman. I loved it so much that I bought a small box of Black Mask collector edition covers on sale the next time I was in Newbury because I just trust the press after this one work.
The most resistance I get to comics is that they aren’t a serious, thought provoking medium. I’d counter with The Champions - and have in real life - and also by saying that Time listed DC’s Watchmen as one of their best 100 novels. Maus, Art Spiegelman’s two volume masterpiece, went a long way towards legitimizing comics. It’s a heart wrenching, biographical tale of his father during the Holocaust where all the Nazi’s are portrayed as cats while their victims are mice, thus the name. A more recent entry is WE3, another heart breaker. This time, Grant Morrison tackles animal testing, and it’s a worthwhile and ultimately hopeful miniseries, but I’ve warned anyone away who can’t deal with cruelty towards animals. Still, it’s proof of the power of comics, especially when it comes to making a political statement and trying to change the world for the better. It’s one of the comics I’d start people off with who believe that comics are simply kiddy stories.
I hope this leaves you with something you're interested in. If not, drop me a line here, on my blog, or DM me and I'll see if I know of anything that might entice you! If you're just interested in reading reviews of comics, feel free to follow me!
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