Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Guest Artist- WOlly McNair!!! Cartooning Club, September 19!!

  I forget how I got into contact with WOlly McNair- whether he contacted me or if someone who was coming to last year's Return of Mini-Con knew him and asked me to contact him- but the VERY important thing was he gladly said "yes" to being a part of the show that day!
  Talented, humble, friendly, encouraging, knowledgeable, interesting, engaging, driven- all of these words could go to describe him as he divides his time between the everyday and his desire to take his art to the next level- and if one of the big publishers comes calling, well, all the better. But as he told me at last year's event "It's what I wanted at one time (to work for the big three), but I've seen plenty of artists get known without having to go that route."
  Along with being a guest at last year's mini-con (and a popular one, at that!), WOlly has been a booth artist at C2E2 in Chicago, Wizardworld regional comics events, Heroes Con, Cola Con in Columbia, SC and TONS of other places. Add in showings of his art at various college and university galleries, the Mint Museum in Charlotte, the Museum of Fine Art in Columbia and other places. His comic credits include work for indie publishers like iDreamz Studios, Da Servant Comics and Kiser Studios. If James Brown was the hardest working man in show business, then WOlly just might be the hardest working artist on the convention circuit these days!
 WOlly will be our guest at the Sept. 29 Cartooning Club here at the Union West Library. The Club begins at 5:30- be early to get a good seat!
 You can find more about WOlly on his blog, http://www.rebelsblogged.blogspot.com/.
 AND- you can check out him in action at last year's event and see some of his craftsmanship in these images. Enjoy!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Star Wars Day coming to Union West in October

 Star Wars Day is coming to the library! Plans are being made, details are being ironed out, and supplies are being procured all to bring our library patrons the best Star Wars experience we can deliver. On the board are costumes, a visit from the 501st legion, displays of all things Star Wars, a showing of a Star Wars movie, coloring pages, give-aways and... a lightsaber competition that will be so cool it could become the next great sport!
 Keep checking back here as details come up!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Campfire celebrates 200 years of Miss Bennett and Mr. Darcy

  Let's just get this out of the way now- not everyone likes graphic novels, especially when it comes to looking at them as literature and especially when it comes to adapting literary classics. Got it. Understood. Now on to the review...
  Jane Austen wrote Pride & Prejudice 200 years ago. Because of this book, and Austen's other works, her stories and characters have been enjoyed by fans for generations. It has been remade into about every form of media out there, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to find out there are board games or PC games that encompass Austen's stories.
 With the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice , Campfire chose an ideal time to release this graphic novel. The job of adapting the book into a script was handled by Laurence Sach. From my quick Google-search investigation, this appears to be his first comic work. The art was done by Rajesh Nagulkonda, a regular illustrator at Campfire whose prior credits include Alice in Wonderland, Oliver  Twist, Krishna, The Time Machine and Romeo and Juliet- just to name a few. There are three colorists credited to this book- Nagulakonda, Vijay Sharma and Dilip Walia. I was a little surprised by this as I didn't consider the coloring in this book to be one of it's better features. But what was most surprising- and may best explain any shortcomings the book has- is the fact that FIVE people are credited as editors. Seriously, five different minds all trying to give direction to this story?!
  I must admit, I have never read Jane Austen. As I dove into reading the story I found a world of people dependent not on hard work or great ideas to get by in the world, but rather people depending on luck and manners to escape the unspoken caste system they are in. Apparently, who you knew was more important than what you did (in one scene, some women belittle Lizzie because she has a lawyer in her family. Okay, insert your lawyer joke here. Go ahead, I'll wait.), and those of fortune determined, sometimes on a whim, who would rise and fall among the various social strata they controlled. What makes the story compelling, then, is Mr. Darcy's counter-culture approach to things. Certainly people can tell Mr. Darcy is well off given his appearance, his home and his friends, yet he does not rub this into the faces of those "beneath" him. Darcy actually treats all people with humility and respect, but he is exceedingly quiet and not at all self-seeking. The few times he does speak up he does without tact- probably because he is not the "social butterfly" that his friends and acquaintances are.
 On the other side of the coin, there is Lizzie. She is one of five daughters to an over-anxious mother who wants her children to marry into wealthy families, while her father seems to be far less anxious and weighs people's character and motives more than their income or social standing. Lizzie is smart, with a sharp wit and no feeling of inferiority to anyone. Her concern is not marriage for the sake of financial security, but rather love. Darcy and Lizzie get off to a less than ideal start, yet begin to be attracted to each other without knowing the other person's feelings. Darcy must overcome the obstacles his friends put in his way while Lizzie must discover the truth behind the stories she has heard about Darcy.
If this is indeed Laurence Sach's first writing for comics he has done a very good job of delivering an entertaining story that would seem to mimic, if not repeat, the dialogue from the book. Nagulakonda has done a serviceable job at the least and a well laid-out story at the best. Early on I had a hard time distinguishing some characters from others, making the conversations a little confusing. But as the story picks up and the characters narrow down, the storytelling becomes fluid and clear and even impactful at times, like when Mr. Darcy surprises Lizzie, riding his horse in a pose similar the painting of Napoleon crossing the Alps.
I'm Napoleon! D'oh! I mean Darcy!
 If the writing and the main art are good, then the coloring leaves me scratching my head. For three colorists and five editors to pick a color palette from an Easter egg just gives the story an artificial look to it. Colors look too washed out and bright and the lush greens of the outdoors lack a visual pop. When the story moves indoors, there are a few times when the crew (that covers everyone- colorists and editors) gets it right, providing warm colors against shadows creating a cozy indoor feel to the scenes.
The warm colors captured in this scene make these some of the best looking pages in the book.
 Is the 104 page book worth the $16.99 price point? For those who don't go for superheroes in their graphic novels I think this book will be very compelling. People who have always meant to read the book but just couldn't find the time will enjoy this edition that provides a good story with far more depth than a Cliffs Notes booklet. Hopefully, as stated in the company's mission, this book will serve as a doorway to encourage readers to seek out the original book. Pride and Prejudice hits shelves October 29.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Hamster Sam's Return is a fun and spacey ride!

  When "Hamster Sam" came out a little over three years ago, it seemed creator Dave McDonald hit on a great character with a great story model and a slick, animated look. Plans were then made to send Sam into space.
Three years later, Dave said the story and the format went through several changes to create and finish  Hamster S.A.M.  Odd-ventures in Space! The first thing noticeably different from the first book is the size- a smaller format, but more pages. And no color this time around- a cost-saving measure that keeps the price of the book at $9.99 for 101 pages. Compared to the original book with 32 pages for $15.95, losing the color and gaining more story is a definite win for the reader.

Hamster Sam creator Dave McDonald sketching at the Union West Mini-Con in 2010.
 With more room for the story, Sam is reunited with Miles the inch worm, and new characters Louise and Clark (younger, curious hamsters) and Fescue (a mullet adorned field mouse). As in the first adventure, the book is full of silly gags and puns that are sure to make many adults groan and smile at the same time, while the "gross-out" jokes (or "gags"- get it?) involving bad food, sneezes and other humorous bodily functions will have kids cringing and laughing at the same time.

 Sam's storyline is loose and not very deep- it is paced out more like an old Looney Toons cartoon with many little asides, and really serves more as a vehicle to introduce us to the new characters, set up all sorts of jokes, and work in classroom elements into the book in a way that doesn't come across as rigid or textbook. This is the arena in which Dave's book really shines and sets itself apart from so many other graphic novels on the market. Teachers, homeschoolers and other educators- you can use this book as a doorway into science, space exploration, and history (and maybe even Elvis!). And kids, even if your teachers don't use the book to discuss these topics, it may encourage you to explore and learn on your own. There is a segment called "Hamsternauts Through History" that mirrors history so closely, only the names have been changed. Hamster Sam and Fescue explore what gravity does, how astronauts eat, and even the cost of space flight. Along with all of that, Dave offers up great vocabulary words like abacus, sanitation, resourceful, ingredients, atmosphere, tambourine, suede, and participle just to name a few. Throw in an interview with NASA astronaut Col. Gregory H. Johnson that is off-beat but yields space and astronaut information kids have likely not read before, and add in a couple art lessons on creating characters from simple shapes and designing aliens and teachers have lesson ideas for for all kinds of creative activities.

Younger readers from grades two (and proficient readers in first grade) to four will find the book fun and challenging, while kids in fifth and sixth grades will find the book to be a funny, escapist story that may prompt them to explore further. I highly recommend this book, especially for the early elementary crowd!

The book will "launch" for sale at the Baltimore Comic Con, Sept. 7 & 8, and will be available through Amazon.com, Follett Library Resources, Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Barnes & Noble.com so librarians, school librarians and teachers should be able to find the book.

 You can visit Dave McDonald and Hamster Sam at http://www.davemcdonald.com/ . Dave is also on Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hamster-Sam/67932248561?ref+hl Twitter- @DaveMcDonald4U and on instagram.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Loki- When it is good to be BAD!

One of the coolest things to happen at this year's San Diego Comic Con had to be the appearance of Loki, the Norse god of mischief, to the audience at the Marvel movie panel. As Marvel movie exec Kevin Feige was introducing the sequel Thor: The Dark World his microphone failed then the lights went out. What came after was fan girl screaming like you here at one of those teen boy band appearances (okay- and fan boys were probably screaming just like the fan girls, too).

 Here is a short video of Loki (aka Tom Hiddleston) and his appearance.

If you want to see everything that went on with Hiddleston's appearance, including his command for certain audience members to kneel, check out the first few minutes of this link-

I had a lot of fun watching this on the internet, I can only imagine how much fun it was for over 6,000 people who had spent hours waiting for just a glimpse of the upcoming films and a chance to see some of the cast.

 Loki has been a fun character to follow in the Marvel movies and the Marvel comics universe- let's hope his appearance in Thor: The Dark World isn't his last for this film franchise.