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First Details Revealed for Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One
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First Details Revealed for Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One

BURBANK, CA (April 8, 2021) – Atrocious serial killings on holidays in Gotham send The World’s Greatest Detective into action – confronting both organized crime and a mysterious murderer – in Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One, the next entry in the popular series of the DC Universe Movies. Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, DC and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, the feature-length animated film – which will be accompanied by the latest DC Showcase animated short, The Losers – is set for release on Digital and Blu-ray on June 22, 2021.

Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One will be available on Blu-ray (USA $29.98 SRP; Canada $39.99 SRP) as well as on Digital. The Blu-ray features a Blu-ray disc with the film in hi-definition and a digital version of the movie. Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One will be available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack at a later date in 2022 as a combined presentation of the film with Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two.

Inspired by the iconic mid-1990s DC story from Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One begins as a brutal murder on Halloween prompts Gotham’s young vigilante, the Batman, to form a pact with the city’s only two uncorrupt lawmen (Police Captain James Gordan and District Attorney Harvey Dent) in order to take down The Roman, head of the notorious and powerful Falcone Crime Family. But when more deaths occur on Thanksgiving and Christmas, it becomes clear that, instead of ordinary gang violence, they’re also dealing with a serial killer – the identity of whom, with each conflicting clue, grows harder to discern. Few cases have ever tested the wits of the World’s Greatest Detective like the mystery behind the Holiday Killer.

Lauded for his performance as Red Hood/Jason Todd in 2010’s Batman Under the Red Hood, Jensen Ackles (Supernatural, Smallville) returns to the DC Universe Movies as the title character of Batman/Bruce Wayne. The late Naya Rivera (Glee), who passed away in 2020, gives one of her final performances as Catwoman/Selina Kyle. The all-star cast includes Josh Duhamel (Transformers, Las Vegas) as Harvey Dent, Billy Burke (Twilight, Revolution, Zoo) as James Gordon, Titus Welliver (Bosch, Deadwood, The Town) as Carmine Falcone, David Dastmalchian (The Suicide Squad, Ant-Man, Dune, The Dark Knight) as Calendar Man, Troy Baker (The Last of Us, Batman: Arkham Knight) as Joker, Amy Landecker (Your Honor, Transparent) as Barbara Gordon, Julie Nathanson (Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay) as Gilda Dent, Jack Quaid (The Boys, The Hunger Games) as Alberto, Fred Tatasciore (American Dad!, Family Guy) as Solomon Grundy, Jim Pirri (World of Warcraft franchise) as Sal Maroni, and Alastair Duncan (The Batman, Batman Unlimited franchise) as Alfred. Additional voices provided by Frances Callier, Greg Chun and Gary Leroi Gray.

Chris Palmer (Superman: Man of Tomorrow) directs Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One from a screenplay by Tim Sheridan (Reign of the Supermen, Superman: Man of Tomorrow). Producers are Jim Krieg (Batman: Gotham by Gaslight) and Kimberly S. Moreau (Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). Butch Lukic (Justice Society: World War II, Superman: Man of Tomorrow) is Supervising Producer. Executive Producer is Michael Uslan. Sam Register is Executive Producer.

Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One – Special Features

Blu-ray and Digital

DC Showcase – The Losers (New Animated Short) – The legendary rag-tag team of World War II outcasts – Captain Storm, Johnny Cloud, “Mile-a Minute” Jones, rookie Gunner and Sarge – find themselves marooned on an uncharted island in the South Pacific that is completely overrun with dinosaurs! Their would-be ally on this deadly mission, the mysterious and beautiful Fan Long of the Chinese Security Agency, tells them their job is to rescue the scientists that have been sent to study the time/space anomaly. Perhaps… but what is her mission?

A Sneak Peek at the next DC Universe Movie – An advance look at the next animated film in the popular DC Universe Movies collection, Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two.

From the DC Vault – Batman: The Animated Series – “Christmas With The Joker”

From the DC Vault – Batman: The Animated Series – “It’s Never Too Late”

Looking for a refresher course on animated super hero entertainment before seeing Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One? Check out the wide array of DC Universe Movies now available on HBO Max.

Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One will also be available on Movies Anywhere. Using the free Movies Anywhere app and website, consumers can access all their eligible movies by connecting their Movies Anywhere account with their participating digital retailer accounts.

BASICS

Blu-ray   $29.98 USA, $39.99 Canada

Blu-ray Languages: English, Spanish, French, German

Blu-ray Subtitles: English, Spanish, French, German, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian

Running Time: 85 minutes

Rated PG-13 for violence, bloody images, language and some smoking

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Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell

What’s the opposite of a romance? Is there a word to describe a story about realizing you’re not in love, and that you need to get out of a relationship?

We could call it “anti-romance,” but that misses the point. It would be a useful word. Maybe someone will comment to let me know it already exists.

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me  is that kind of book: it’s a graphic novel, in that nameless opposite-of-romance genre. Francesca “Freddy” Riley is in high school in Berkeley, and is in a relationship with her school’s most magnetic and compelling figure, the titular Laura Dean.

Laura is a jerk, in the way that massively popular and attractive teenagers often are: no matter what she does or how she acts, everyone accepts it, even loves it. So, as we see her, she’s practically amoral, a monster of need who does whatever she wants at any moment and everyone else swoons at how awesome she is.

Freddy is not happy with this. But she is Laura’s girlfriend. That’s good, because being Laura’s girlfriend is exciting down to the ends of her nerves all the time, often even in good ways. They have some level of a physical relationship — Laura is very physical, with Freddy and other girls, as you would expect — but Breaking Up keeps it school-library friendly by showing the girls in bed or kissing without getting into details of how physical these seventeen-year-olds are getting. [1]

Being Laura’s girlfriend is also good socially, to some degree: everyone in school knows who Freddy is, and she gets reflected glory. Of course, Laura is mercurial and capricious, so everyone in school also knows when Freddy is no longer Laura’s girlfriend, which has happened at pretty much every holiday over the past year.

So being Laura’s girlfriend is also bad. For that reason, and because Laura’s massive neediness keeps Freddy focused on her all the time, rather than on her friends and own life and plans and goals. (Especially friends, in this graphic novel’s case. Most seventeen-year-olds would be worrying about their futures and planning for college, but that’s not happening here.) Those of us who are further along in adulthood will see it as all bad: even the supposedly good stuff is tending to erode Freddy’s sense of self and empowerment. 

Breaking Up is more of a character study than a book of plot: things happen, and time passes, but they’re mostly accumulating moments, each giving Freddy a little more perspective and distance, until she can finally stop being the person Laura Dean keeps breaking up with. She’s got a circle of friends at the beginning, and a new friend she meets along the way – and a girl she kisses impulsively at a party – but this does not turn into a romance. This is not the story of how Freddy dumps Laura and finds Tru Wuv.

It’s the story of how Freddy dumps Laura because it’s what she needs, which is a more honest and true story. And it does take her a long time to do that, which may make some readers of my age start yelling at her through the pages of the book, but the book would be much shorter if Freddy were quicker to realize what she needed to realize.

I’ve gotten this far without stating the obvious: Freddy and Laura are both women. (Girls? Seventeen is so in-between. But let me give them the benefit of the doubt.) [2] That will be important to a lot of young readers looking for stories that represent their own lives — Freddy’s friend group also is a good diverse collection of people you can see someone like Freddy gravitating to in a place like Berkeley. But that they’re both women is not important to the story being told, or the genre it’s told in. And that’s a good thing.

Romances, and whatever anti-romances should really be called, are about people. Two people, typically, though I don’t know if I need to be dogmatic there. They need to have an attraction to each other. Their gender and sex and presentation, though: that can help shape a specific story, but it’s not genre-defining. It’s still romance. These two people are women. That’s what this story is. But a thousand other variations are possible, and exist out there.

So this is a good anti-romance, that happens to be about two seventeen-year-old high school women in Berkeley. I’d expect that from Mariko Tamaki, writer of Skim  and This One Summer . I probably should have expected it from Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, best known for Don’t Do Without Me , but I’d never read her work before this.

If you’re in the mood for anti-romance, or just a story about complicated teenage relationships, check it out. If you’re in a complicated teenage relationship, I feel for you, and hope you know that life does go on and will settle down in time. Maybe Freddy can help show the way for you.

[1] Having been a seventeen-year-old, my bet is as physical as possible, as often as possible, all the time. Laura seems that type, for one thing.

[2] As I type this, I realize that I don’t have a tag for LGBTQ+ books, and suddenly wonder if I should create one. But my tag style is so arch and sarcastic that anything that “fits” here would be a bad idea for multiple reasons. So, unless I just use “LGBTQ+,” it will be without a tag. And, frankly, who cares what this old white guy thinks of LBGBTQ+ books, anyway?

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

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Slaughterhouse-Five: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Ryan North and Albert Monteys from Kurt Vonnegut

So this is how it goes: two years ago I had the urge to re-read Slaughterhouse-Five, possibly Kurt Vonnegut’s best novel [1]. And I did . It was still a great novel; it was still deeply sad about humanity. 

About a year later, a graphic novel adaptation of Slaughterhouse-Five came out. It was adapted by Ryan North, creator of Dinosaur Comics and longtime writer of the current, popular version of Squirrel Girl. It was illustrated by Albert Monteys, a Spanish cartoonist who has worked mostly in satire. And now I’ve read that version, too.

So, this time, I need to talk about the pictures, and the transformation of Vonnegut’s words on a page into a visual format. I’ve already said what I had to say about the story itself, about poor Billy Pilgrim’s fate – many of the things I wrote here two years ago I thought again while reading this version; I still agree with all of that. My favorite line is still “Among the things Billy Pilgrim could not change were the past, the present, and the future.”

I have the sense that North has fiddled a bit with the structure and timeline, but that’s a dangerous assumption to make: Vonnegut told the story sideways to begin with. Remember: Billy is unstuck in time. Slaughterhouse-Five, in any version, follows him that way, skipping from moment to moment across decades. It may well be that this is exactly the same structure as Vonnegut’s original. But I don’t think so.

I think North has tweaked things a bit to make better visual transitions: to turn Slaughterhouse-Five into something more purely comics, and not just prose poured into a new form and illustrated. He has to do that just to make Kurt Vonnegut a character in this version. Well, Vonnegut was a character in the novel: his voice was omnipresent, his viewpoint was consistent, his actions were mentioned more than once. But he was the omniscient authorial voice, without a name, mostly not taking human form. North isn’t pretending to be Vonnegut to tell this story – that’s another choice he could have made, or Vonnegut might have made if he’d adapted it himself  – but he wants to tell the same story, and include the Vonnegut bits. So we see Kurt on a plan flying back to German years later with an old buddy. We see him in the distance at the POW camp, at least twice. We see the famous scene where he admits all of the soldiers were babies and agrees to the subtitle of “The Children’s Crusade.” He’s there throughout.

He’s just not our point of view, the way he is in the novel. The graphic novel is less personal to Vonnegut, and maybe more for us: we are the ones watching Bill Pilgrim, directly. We’re not watching Vonnegut put him through his paces. He’s front and center, blinking, confused, trapped in amber. Unstuck.

Monteys has a lightly caricatured style: Pilgrim is probably the least “realistic” looking character, with a very long face and a gigantic nose. It’s an open face, one for showing details of emotion: it was a good choice. It works well. Monteys also varies his panel layouts a lot, dropping into a grid only rarely and breaking out splash pages and huge expanses of white multiple times. He and North have thoroughly turned Slaughterhouse-Five into a visual representation; this is not some Classic Comics template with all of the words shoehorned in.

Listen: I can’t tell you this is just as good as the original. I don’t know how to compare art works across formats like that. The original is a towering masterpiece of 20th century literature. It’s one of the great anti-war novels of all time. That’s a lot to live up to. But this version of Slaughterhouse-Five is beautiful and heartbreaking and sad and true and wonderful and magnificent and engrossing. There is no part of it that I can imagine changing to be better. It’s worth reading if you know the original. It’s maybe even more worth reading if you don’t. That’s what I can tell you.

[1] I haven’t re-read them in decades; my opinion is outdated. I want to read him again; maybe I will.

And I say I had the urge. Maybe I didn’t. Maybe I always was going to re-read it in 2019, and just got to that moment in my own personal mountain-range. Who can say?

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

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The virtual WonderCon panel examining the forthcoming Justice Society: World War II ended a short while ago and can be watched below.

Headlining the panel discussion were actors Stana Katic (Castle, Absentia, A Call To Spy) as the voice of Wonder Woman, Matt Bomer (Doom Patrol, White Collar, The Boys in the Band) as Barry Allen/The Flash, Elysia Rotaru (Arrow) as Black Canary, Omid Abtahi (American Gods, The Mandalorian) as Hawkman, Chris Diamantopoulos (Red Notice, Silicon Valley, voice of Mickey Mouse) as Steve Trevor, Armen Taylor (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind) as Jay Garrick/The Flash,  Liam McIntyre (The Flash, Spartacus, Justice League Dark: Apokolips War) as Aquaman, and Geoff Arend (Madam Secretary, Batman: Hush) as Charles Halstead/Advisor alongside director Jeff Wamester (Guardians of the Galaxy TV series), co-screenwriters Meghan Fitzmartin (Supernatural, DC Super Hero Girls), and Jeremy Adams (Supernatural, Batman: Soul Of The Dragon), and supervising producer Butch Lukic (Superman: Man of Tomorrow, Constantine: City of Demons). Publicist Gary Miereanu moderated the festivities.

Surprised to find himself in World War II, but instinctively aware of his new role, The Flash (voiced by Matt Bomer) makes quick work of a platoon of Nazi soldiers terrorizing a war-torn village in this all-new clip from Justice Society: World War II. Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, DC and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, the all-new feature-length animated film arrives on Digital starting April 27, 2021, and on 4K Combo Pack and Blu-ray on May 11, 2021.

“The Suicide Squad” new trailer has a BIG Easter Egg for c
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“The Suicide Squad” new trailer has a BIG Easter Egg for comics fans

Hey, we just got a new trailer for The Suicide Squad, which will be in theaters and streaming on HBOMax August 6th! Let’s see if you can spot the BIG Easter egg. Go watch it, then come back here…

All done? Fun, huh? But what Easter egg am I talking about? It’s this:

In the trailer, we see Savant, played by Michael Rooker, getting a bomb implanted in him so that Amanda Waller can keep him in line– do anything she doesn’t like, and BOOM!

But who’s doing the implanting? Dr. Fitzgibbon, that kindly old gent on the right who looks like he wouldn’t harm a fly?

Why, that’s John Ostrander, ComicMix columnist and creator of the Suicide Squad and Amanda Waller. He’s quite literally the guy who killed off at least 18 members of the Squad and maimed so many more. So it makes perfect sense that James Gunn would reach out and bring John (who’s a gifted actor in his own right) to inflict further damage onto these poor actors.

Come to think of it, it reminds us of the first issue of Suicide Squad where John killed off an entire airport full of actors.

Here’s the official statement:

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Trese, Vol. 1: Murder on Balete Drive by Budjette Tan & KaJo Baldisimo

Thirteen years ago, I saw this book for the first time (in an earlier edition). I was fairly late: it was published in comics form several years before that, but I did have the slight disadvantage of being on the other side of the world.

I was impressed then; I’m equally impressed now. The Trese stories are great urban fantasy in comics form: taking a lot of the standard furniture of the genre (attractive young female protagonist with a mysterious past, powerful protectors, and a complicated relationship with the local supernatural powers, plus a lot of the mystery-plot aspects) and using them well, while also centering on very specific supernatural elements that we non-Filipinos are unfamiliar with. (See also my post on the third volume ; that’s as far as I’ve seen so far.)

It didn’t have to be Philippine mythology: there are probably dozens of places in the world that could support a similarly new and energetic series, from Vietnam to Nigeria to Chile to Nunavut. (Not the Lake District or Transylvania or Bavaria.) But these creators were Filipino, so that was the world they knew, and they have been making great use of it.

The good news is that you can find Trese now, which you mostly couldn’t for the last decade. (After I lost my copies in the flood of 2011, I didn’t have them, either.) The American comics company Ablaze published an edition of this first collection, Murder on Balete Drive , late last year, and the second one is scheduled for June. There’s an animated series on Netflix, though some googling hasn’t gotten me to any solid information on the date it will be (or was?) released. With any luck, the rest of the eight books published in the Philippines will come here (and the rest of the world) as well, and creators Budjette Tan and KaJo Baldisimo can spend more time making these stories and less time being high-powered global advertising guys.

Balete Drive collects what were the original first four issues, all standalone stories. Baldisimo has redrawn the art, so it’s even stronger than it originally was: stunningly inky and atmospheric, in a style immediately accessible to Americans but still inherently Filipino. (Remembering how many Filipinos have done great work in American comics for the past six or seven decades, this should not be a surprise.) Tan has added short sections after each story to give a little more background on the supernatural entities in each section – these aren’t necessary, but they’re useful for us non-Filipinos. So this is the best possible edition of these stories: possibly annoying to Filipinos who have been supporting it for a decade, but gratifying to those of us elsewhere in the world who finally get to see it for ourselves.

All of the stories are about Alexandra Trese. She’s young, she’s called in when the Manila police have a weird case that they don’t know what to do with, she has skills and knowledge and contacts that can solve those problems – usually in ways that at least do not add more violence. But the supernatural is a dark and dangerous place, for anyone caught up in it and and possibly even for Trese. Her father, Anton, was respected and powerful but does not seem to be around now – and she’s very clear she is not her father. So there are story hooks for later, set carefully and with skill.

These are the first four cases of hers we know about. They clearly were not the first cases of her life: Tan and Baldisimo may some day go back and tell those stories. (They may already have.) They are dark and dangerous cases, with various monsters causing trouble and relationships that need to be carefully talked back into place. Luckily, Manila has Alexandra Trese to do that for them.

And, luckily, you have the stories of Alexandra Trese to look forward to.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

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5 Worlds Book 3: The Red Maze by Siegel, Siegel, Bouma, Rockefeller & Sun

I am bad at reviewing books in a timely fashion. And that can lead to being bad at reviewing books, period. I’m going to keep this post short, but I reserve the right to decide it’s pointless to begin with and delete it all.

(If you’re reading this, I didn’t.)

5 Worlds is a young-readers graphic novel series, coming out roughly annually. I missed the first book, The Sand Warrior . If any of what I type below sounds interesting, go check out that book. I did look at the second one, The Cobalt Prince , during my 2018 Book-A-Day run. I’ve now just read the third book, 2019’s The Red Maze . Last year there was a new book, The Amber Anthem . And the finale, The Emerald Gate , is coming this May, but doesn’t seem to be available for pre-order yet.

I didn’t remember Cobalt well when I dove into Red, and I obviously never went back to Sand, and won’t move on to Amber or Emerald. So most of what I could say about this book is beside the point – and that pains me, since a publicist actually sent this to me, back in the spring of 2019, in the hopes I would give a little attention to it when it was new and shiny and looking for an audience.

The five worlds are an interesting, mildly complex soft-SF universe, with five habitable spheres (I think four are actually moons, though it’s not super-clear if they’re moons of the same thing or not) and different governments and people on each of them. It’s all pitched at a level for young readers, but these stories are about ecology and corruption and believing in yourself and doing the right thing and finding the people who can make things better. All good things, obviously.

I read this too quickly, and I’m not going to get into plot details. There is a mild case of Chosen One-itis in our heroine, Oona Lee, and maybe almost as much in her friend Jax Amboy. Actually, the third major character, An Tzu, might be equally chosen for other things.

This isn’t really a book for me: I try to engage with YA graphic stories, since I love their energy and the sense of possibility in great books for young readers. But I somewhat bounced off of this, after not quite clicking with Cobalt. So all I can do is point to it, say that it looks to be quite good for what it is, but that I’ve been reading it half-assedly, and that’s not good for me or the book.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

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Clifford the Big Red Dog: The Movie Graphic Novel by Georgia Ball and Chi Ngo

No media property is “real” until it becomes as big as it possibly can be, until it becomes a movie. Every novel, every comics series, every TV show, every webseries, every nonfiction book, every song, every TikTok sea shanty aspires to turn into a big budget motion-picture that will dilute and adulterate what was special about the original thing while making vast amounts of money for the same few global multimedia conglomerates and making the newly shiny, market-tested and subtly stupider thing vastly better known among people who would never bother to pay attention to the original thing.

This is yet another sign that our world is inherently flawed, and that, if there are any gods, they hate us.

Norman Bridwell wrote and illustrated over fifty books about Clifford the Big Red Dog, using first his own imagination, his wife’s stories of her childhood imaginary playmate, and his daughter’s name (Emily Elizabeth). As the years went on, those books were influenced by the generations of kids that grew up with Clifford between the original book in 1963 and Bridwell’s death in 2014.

Those books still exist, and are the real Clifford. Nothing else will ever replace or tarnish them. (Though plenty of them are pretty minor: ABCs and other unexciting series entries. If there’s fifty of anything, not all of them will be gems.) Since then, there’s been a couple of animated TV shows, with either the usual gigantic Clifford or the equally canonical tiny puppy Clifford.

And, of course, people tried to make a movie at various times. Over the past two years, they finally succeeded: a live-action movie with a CGI Clifford was released this past November. Since line extensions are a thing, there was eventually a book of the movie of the books, Clifford the Big Red Dog: The Movie Graphic Novel , adapted by Georgia Ball from the screenplay and story, and drawn by Chi Ngo. It featured a more cartoony Clifford and a modern comics-rounded versions of the movie actors, rather than trying to be photo-accurate.

(I like cartoony, and think cartoons should be cartoony. So I’m inclined to like this better than the movie anyway.) 

I don’t quite see why the movie exists in the first place, but I like what Ball and Ngo have turned it into here. There’s a movie-level story here, as there must be, and they have to roll that out. But they have a light touch with character and Ngo in particular has a knack for open, expressive faces. So this is pleasant even as it hits all of the same kid-movie story beats that all of us will see coming from miles away.

In this story, there is a girl named Emily. Her middle name is Elizabeth, but she doesn’t use it on a daily basis. She lives in New York City: her mother is a harried paralegal and her father is mostly out of the picture, forgetful and divorced and away. We’re a far way from the nuclear suburban family of 1963; Emily is also mildly bullied at her fancy school, since she’s the scholarship kid and clearly not rich like the others. And she’s going to be in the care of her Uncle Casey for her birthday, as mom has to jet off to Chicago for a big case.

And, elsewhere in the city, there’s a little red puppy looking for a home, and a mysterious man named Bridwell who helps and cares for animals. That latter is a very nice touch: I can forgive a lot of the generic plot of this story because it clearly has its heart in the right place.

I regret to inform you that there is also a rapacious corporation that wants to profit from big-red-dogness, since a Big Movie must have a Big Movie Villain, and this one is no exception. From the graphic novel, it looks like this element is handled about as well as one could hope, given that it exists at all.

This is the book of a movie for kids, so of course there is a happy ending. Everything must come out for the best in the best cinematical worlds. And I am deeply cynical, but this is a nice story that a lot of kids, I hope, will enjoy. Whether they need or want the story in graphic-novel form rather than the movie, I can’t say: I have no interest in seeing what this story would look like with John Cleese as Bridwell (!!!!??? which I discovered while typing this), but I am not ten and have not been for a long time.

So: this is a thing. It exists. It is derivative of the movie, which is probably somewhat derivative of the John Ritter TV show, which was clearly derivative of the Bridwell books. But it’s pretty nice, for all that. You could definitely do worse.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

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Maria M. by Gilbert Hernandez

If you are me, you will have noticed that this post is not tagged “I Love (And Rockets) Mondays,” and that it is not appearing on a Monday. If you are not me, you did not notice and do not care.

But that tiny, silly issue of nomenclature is at very central to this book — Gilbert Hernandez’s full-length graphic novel Maria M.  is not a “Love and Rockets” story. But it is a meta-Love and Rockets story, a comics version of a movie from his L&R world, like his previous stories Chance in Hell and The Troublemakers  and Love from the Shadows . (And then there’s Speak of the Devil, which is really weird — supposedly the “true story” of the events that inspired a movie of the same name within the L&R world, so the true fictional version of something that we previously half-saw a fictionalized fictional version of.)

So this is a version of the story we’ve already seen part of in Poison River  – but Hernandez is specifically telling us it is a packaged story, designed for a purpose, turned into fiction and cleaned up for a particular audience. I think it’s meant to be a ’90s movie set mostly in the ’60s, something from the Goodfellas era, in a world where that gangster era was more Latin than Italiano.

And, of course, all of Hernandez’s graphic novels are fictions. But the level of fiction in them is clearly important to him: that some are the “real” story and some are the sensationalized movie version. This one is a movie version, but Maria M. looks to be a relatively big-budget, moderately prestigious picture – probably not made with serious expectations of Oscars, but one that would be reviewed well and remembered fondly, that was a strong stepping-stone for its cast and crew and a sturdy, dependable, engrossing piece of entertainment for its era.

It is is that: Hernandez is good at making fictions that resemble other fictions. (Though, this time out, he isn’t deliberately trying to ape wide-screen images with his panels, the way he mostly did with the earlier movie-books; Maria M. is laid out like a “normal” Hernandez comic, with standard panel progressions and lots of variations in size.)

And the story itself? We are somewhere unclear. From Poison River, we know it’s an unnamed Latin American country, but here it’s left entirely unspecified. It’s probably that same country; it’s probably not the US. We begin in the late ’50s; Maria is a voluptuous eighteen and has no daughters. Unlike Hernandez’s Palomar and Luba stories, Maria M. is not about family – not about that kind of family, not about Maria’s family. It is about family in the way that all gangster stories are.

Over the course of the next couple of decades, she weaves in and out of the lives of a group of pornographers and gangsters, many of whom become obsessed with her. She never accomplishes much, never gets rich and famous the way she wants to be, never really gets out. But she does come to be happy with what she gets, as far as we see, which is not nothing.

The later parts of the story are largely about her relationship with the fictional version of Gorgo – I won’t spoil any of that, but I mean “relationship” in an expansive sense that is not at all equivalent to sitting-around-talking-about-our-feelings. This is a Hernandez book about gangsters, and a crime movie presented on the page: there will be gunplay and ambushes and torture and various horrors along the way. But Hernandez means this to be a movie, and he knows how movies are supposed to be structured: he knows how audiences want movies to end.

Maria M. is the most successful of the Hernandez movie-books, which is unsurprising. It was designed to be the capstone of them to begin with: the book that was actually based on a good, successful movie, with the biggest dramatic sweep and the strongest story. We should not be surprised that Gilbert Hernandez can make a strong, crowd-pleasing story when he sets out to do it; we should remember that he usually sets out to do different things each time.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

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Allergic by Megan Wagner Lloyd and Michelle Mee Nutter

The thing to remember about young readers is that they’re young. Maybe not everything in the world is new to them (“Wow! Breakfast is oatmeal! I’ve never seen that before!”), but they’re seeing and experiencing new ideas and concepts and situations all the time.

It can be hard for those of us who haven’t hit that concentrated dose of newness for years to remember what that was like, but the best stories for young people embody that sense: they’re stories for people who are living newness all the time, building their selves day by day and figuring out what they think and feel about lots of things all the time.

So I try to keep that in mind with books for that audience: to think they way they would, and not the way I do. I’m probably not as good at it as I think I am, of course. But you always have to try.

Allergic  is a graphic novel for young people. If you’re dismissive, you could call it an “issue book.” But everything’s an issue book if it resonates with something in your life: an issue is just a thing that actually touches you. And this is a book that will touch a lot of people — there are a lot of kids who suddenly realize they’re allergic to something, when that something comes into their lives for the first time.

It could be peanuts or pollen or penicillin or a bee sting. It could be life-threatening, or annoying, or barely noticeable, or anywhere on that spectrum. It could be obvious, or sneaky and hard to track down. It could be something that kid loves, or something that kid wasn’t that interested in anyway. 

So it’s a big “issue,” that a lot of people need to worry about on a daily basis.

Writer Megan Wagner Lloyd and artist Michelle Mee Nutter have taken those facts, and an understanding of that young audience, and built them into a story about one girl — because we all respond better to good stories, we all want to see someone else working through things to understand how we could do it ourselves.

Maggie is young — just turning ten as the book opens. She’s wanted a puppy for a while: she’s planning to be a vet when she grows up; she loves animals, though entirely from afar up to now. And you can guess that it doesn’t go the way she wants. She has a strong allergic reaction to pet dander. After a few tests, it turns out she reacts badly — rashes, swelling, itching — to just about any animal with fur.

So she goes through all the usual stages: anger (at her parents, at the world), denial (which doesn’t last long; her skin gives her away if she’s near a furry animal), bargaining (as she runs through a list of non-furry animals and finds them all wanting), and finally acceptance. She meets other young people, at her school and elsewhere, who are allergic, to other things and in other ways. She learns what we all learn: you need to find the ways your life can go around the roadblocks and detours every life throws up, to make the life that’s the combination of what you want and what you can get.

Maggie’s in a good position; she should have a good life. She has a loving family, good medical support, a new understanding of this annoying way her body works. And her story will resonate with a lot of other young people, struggling with allergies or other issues — Lloyd and Nutter tell her story well, and tell a wider story than I’m focusing on. Maggie has twin younger brothers and her mother has a new baby on the way; she has friends at school and other activities. She has a life, and Allergic is about her life, not just this annoying skin reaction she has.

This is obviously mostly for young people: that’s what it’s for, that’s what it does well. But if you have the care of a young person with an allergy, or any medical/personal issue that could be similar, you might want to take a look at it for yourself, and for that young person.

Note: I’m actually ahead of publication on a review, for the first time in a long time. Allergic officially goes on sale this coming Tuesday, March 2nd. If you order it right now, your bookstore will probably be able to have a copy for you that morning. (Or you can use my link and have a exploitative hegemonic megacorporation deliver it directly to your home: your choice.)

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.