Challenge Update – Failed Week 2 of Short and Sweet & 1000+ Pages of Epic Fantasy + a Winning Weekend

Why hello there my jaunty, jocular Bookbaggers!

Welcome to what I have laughingly called the second update of my new challenges, Short and Sweet and 1000+ Pages of Epic Fantasy, despite the fact that last week was a bit of a fail challenge-wise.

As it was my first week back to work after term break, as well as my first week on a diet/exercise plan, it wasn’t a huge surprise that I had barely enough time over the week to complete my challenge goals. Add in planning for my boss’ birthday lunch last week, and her going away party this week, and a wonderfully fun weekend including seeing a comedy gig on Friday night and celebrating my friend Scott’s birthday on the Saturday and Sunday and it’s no wonder that my challenge results were lame:

Short and Sweet challenge badgeI didn’t read any more stories from either Cracklescape by Margo Lanagan or The Living Dead zombie anthology, but I have been reading No Nice Girl by Perry Lindsay a lot to and from work, and in fact I finished it yesterday morning.no nice girlIt wasn’t a life-changing book, or as amazing as High-rise, but its charmingly cheeky, late 1940’s humor made it a fun commute book, and by the end I was surprisingly invested in the characters and longed to know what would happen next. Even though last week had almost no action in this challenge, on the flip-side there wasn’t definite inaction either and I have picked a new book to replace No Nice Girl which I can tell you about in my next update 🙂

1000+ pages of epic fantasy challenge badgeThis challenge was more actively inactive…

The Sending:

Maruman on the cover of The Sending0 pages (0 chapters)

Pages remaining: 441

Brisingr:

Brisingr0 Pages (0 chapters)

Pages remaining: 570

Total:

0 Pages

Pages remaining: 1011

Not a great result so early in the challenge, but as there were good reasons behind my lack of reading, rather than just laziness, I’m not going to beat myself up about it, and as I have a much less eventful weekend planned this week I hope to make amends 🙂

Now onto the much more exciting update of my weekend!

It all kicked off on the Friday, when Sarah and I had tickets to see Felicity Ward’s show, “Iceberg” as part of the Perth International Comedy Festival!

Image from laughingstock.com.au

Image from laughingstock.com.au

It was absolutely hilarious – even more funny than Sarah and I were expecting (we had only seen/heard her on TV and podcasts, never live before) and like any really good stand-up show it also was quite poignant and revolved around a central concept. If this wasn’t enough Felicity announced at the end of the show that she would be selling DVDs of a previous show – The Hedgehog Dilemma – outside for $10! Sarah and I obviously stayed behind to grab one each and were surprised to see that Felicity had set up a modest little selling area (pretty much a little table with DVDs on that she stood next too) and was happily signing DVDs and chatting to people. When we got to the front we had a nice little chat too and left a little stunned that someone who was so amazing on stage was also a really nice, down-to-earth and humble person.

Saturday the fun continued as Sarah and I journeyed into the city centre to celebrate Scott’s birthday and participate in Free Comic Book Day! While Scott is a regular Free Comic Book Day goer, Sarah and I had heard about it (and of course last year Scott kindly picked me up a few comics) but never organised ourselves enough to check it out. Since the event always falls on the first Saturday in May, and this year that’s the weekend before Scott’s Very Important Birthday (I won’t say what number makes it Very Important so he can remain mysterious to all you other Bookbaggers 😉 ) so it seemed a perfect way to kick off celebrations.

Staring from 10ish (AKA Sean Connery at Wimbleton time) we traveled around to four comic book stores in Perth – starting with Comiczone of course, where we got the majority of our free loot, and Sarah and Scott purchased additional bounty; then to the newest of the bunch, Perth Comic Centre (which were hosting the event for the first time and looked quite shocked/pleased by the flood of people going through their tiny shop) where Sarah gasped with joy at the free copy of The Tick which we had not seen at Comiczone; then to Quality Comics where we nabbed a couple more freebies; and lastly Red Griffin Games where I bought a Dr Seuss bag to carry my growing load of comics, plus The Sandman Vol. 5: A Game of You.

Then feeling slightly foot-sore and over-excited by the sheer volume of free (FREE!) comics we had acquired, lunch was on the horizon, so we ventured down Shafto Lane (a hidden-gem alleyway in the Perth metro with a Irish pub, eateries and shops) in pursuit of Japanese. Unfortunately when we approached the large Taka’s Kitchen we encountered closed doors with a sign proclaiming they’d had to close due to a problem with their gas. Unperturbed we decided that we’d eat at one of many other Japanese places nearby, but before we left Scott suggested we browse the neighboring bookstore, Stefan’s Books. Now, Sarah and I had vowed beforehand that we would be partaking only in free comics and would save our cash for lunch and dinner…yes, we may have already broken that vow by buying a few comics but as Sarah’s were both Tank Girl they didn’t count (Tank Girl being as important, if not more than food) and my carry bag and new Sandman were also vitally important, so we felt we could safely enter a bookshop without being tempted.

We were wrong. Within moments of entering the store Sarah spotted a tantalising shelf of Clive Barker, including the second omnibus of Books of Blood (containing volumes 4-6) which she had been looking for since she found the first set in an op-shop maybe 10 years ago. As I had also read, and loved, volume 1-3 we both stood and stared at the book, almost openly salivating, but managed to avert our eyes and peruse the rest of the books. Then the shopkeeper (Stefan himself) tempted us further by producing a hard cover volume of re-imagined Grimm’s Faerie Tales featuring prominent authors such as Neil Gaiman and Joanne Harris (these being the two I especially went “Ooooooo!” over) which he accidentally got instead of paperbacks so was selling at a paperback price!

At this point Sarah and I gave in and I suggested to her that if she got Books of Blood I’d get the faerie tales and we could loan them to each other. That was the only crumb of convincing we needed, so we headed to the counter where I noticed a beautiful display of the new hardcover Discworld books. Since I am now up to Eric I pulled that one out to take a look (just a look!) which prompted Stefan to tell me about an even more exciting volume he had – a single copy he had found in a supplier warehouse of the rare first illustrated hardcover edition (all of those words fill me with glee). I was doomed from the moment he said there was only one copy, as I’m a sucker for lonely, abandoned goods and one look at the illustrations by Josh Kirby throughout, and I was doomed. I couldn’t justify buying it that day however, but Stefan is holding it for me until Friday 🙂

eric

This is the kind of art found inside - just stunning

This is the kind of art found inside – just stunning

We then had Japanese at a little place down the road before heading off to Scott’s neck of the woods to examine our haul of comics and watch some comic-themed DVDs, detouring on the way to buy additional beverages and for Scott to show us the awesome owl sculpture in front of his local library. Once we got back to Scott’s and unburdened, Sarah and I gave Scott his birthday presents and then we looked through our free comics (we each got around 20!) and chatted about our fabulous day.

free comic book day collage

My haul spread out, plus the official Free Comic Book Day poster which Scott made into badges for us all, my Dr Seuss bag that managed to handle a crazy amount of comics and books, and the fantastic owl sculpture

For the viewing part of the birthday celebration day we started with the newest Simpsons episode, which was about movie piracy and very funny; followed by two episodes of the Doctor Who spin-off, The Sarah Jane Adventures, which featured the 11th Doctor played by Matt Smith; then a documentary about the development of comics from the 1930’s-’80s called Comic Book Confidential; then an epic two-part animated Batman movie, The Dark Knight Returns which sees Batman come out of retirement to clean up Gotham and generally be badass; and lastly another two-ep arc of The Sarah Jane Adventures featuring David Tennant, the 10th Doctor.

movie collageOur amazing weekend continued the next day when Scott surprised Sarah and I with gifts (just comics and DVDs he didn’t want/need anymore, but still – it’s his birthday!) and then we got ready and headed off to have a big breakfast-for-lunch of pancakes, bacon, eggs, hash browns with maple syrup and iced-coffees (aw man my nutritionist is not going to be pleased with my weekend eats! I get a free day but I may have dragged it out over two :P).

As the bought books in the top row are outnumbered by the gifted ones below, and definitely by the load of free ones, they don't count as spending money....that's what I keep telling myself anyway :P

As the bought books in the top row are outnumbered by the gifted ones below, and definitely by the load of free ones, they don’t count as spending money….that’s what I keep telling myself anyway 😛

From the top my new goodies are: Fearie Tales: Stories of the Grimm and Gruesome by various; The Sandman Vol. 5: A Game of You by Neil Gaiman (writer), Shawn McManus, Colleen Doran, Bryan Talbot, Dick Giordano, George Pratt, Stan Woch (artists), Daniel Vozzo (colourist), and Todd Klein (letterer); Morning Glories Vol. 1: For a Better Future by Nick Spencer (writer), Joe Eisma (artist), and Rodin Esquejo (cover artist); iZombie Vol. 1: Dead to the World by Chris Roberson (writer), Mike Allred (artist), and Laura Allred (colourist); and last but not least, Hoax Hunters Book 1: Murder, Death, and the Devil by Michael Moreci, Steve Seeley (writers) JM Ringuet, Axel Medellin Machain, and Emilio Laiso (artists).

Overall it was a fantastic weekend, and I hope that Scott had a wonderful time too – he deserves it 🙂

That’ll be it for now Bookbaggers, but hopefully next week I will have a more prosperous challenge update for you!

Until then here’s some animals waving:

whale

bear

  Mike 

Top 10 Graphic Novels I Read in 2013

Hello all and welcome to the first (and hopefully annual) Top 10 Graphic Novels list! I had to do a list of graphic novels as well as my usual one of their pictureless brethren this year as I read so many great ones (thanks in no small part to my Comic Companions challenge). As my re-kindled love affair with comics continues I hope that I can make this list a regular part of my yearly awards to serve as recommendations to any comic-loving Bookbaggers 🙂

So without further ado here is my very first Top 10 Graphic Novels I Read in (insert year here) list:

1.  The Sandman Vol. 4: Season of Mists

by Neil Gaiman (writer),
Kelley JonesMalcolm Jones IIIMike DringenbergMatt WagnerP. Craig Russell,George PrattDick Giordano (artists),
Daniel VozzoSteve Oliff (colourists), and Todd Klein (letterer)

sandman4I read Volumes 1-4 of The Sandman in 2013, which were all amazing but Season of Mists was definitely my favourite so far. Firstly the story of Morpheus/Dream/The Sandman trying to make amends for the revengeful punishment of his lover millenia ago leading him to being the reluctant new owner of Hell with beings from all over vying to be its new master was epic. Secondly it was really cool to see almost all of The Endless (Dream and his siblings) together, especially the gloriously coloured pages which described them. Thirdly the various beings which gathered in Dream’s realm to petition him for ownership of hell (including Gods from various religions, demons and agents of order and chaos) were so different in their methods and reasons for wanting Hell, making the final scenes riveting and wonderfully suspenseful.
If you are a fan of fantasy graphic novels you really must read this fantastic series 🙂

2. The Beatles Graphic by Hervé Bourhis

beatles graphicI learnt so much about The Beatles from this comprehensive biographical comic which goes through every significant moment in the band’s development as well as the personal lives of John, Paul, George and Ringo (plus a bit of background on important figures in their lives, such as Yoko Ono). As it’s written by a Frenchman the book also gives a unique perspective on the Beatles influence on Europe which I found really interesting, and as a fan he did short reviews of every album and single released, not only by the Fab Four, but solo and other collaborative projects, and he was very honest with his opinions. Definitely recommended for Beatles fans and people interested in musical bios.

3. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

persepolis coverThis was another biographical graphic novel (autobio this time) which taught me a lot about Iran before, during and after the Iranian Revolution of 1979, but was also a touching, thoughtful and at times very funny coming-of-age tale. I decided to read Persepolis in honor of Banned Books Week and right away I empathised with the frustrated students who were robbed of this fantastic graphic novel. Yes, it was very confronting which I guess is why people felt it should be banned, but it was well worth it, and I think it would be especially poignant to kids the same age as the author when her story began. If you don’t know much about Iranian history and culture besides what is parroted by the media, or you want a unique perspective on life in a very different world, I would highly recommend Persepolis. 

4. Batman: The Killing Joke: The Deluxe Edition

by Alan Moore (writer), Brian Bolland (artist, colorist, writer), Ellie De Ville and Richard Starkings (letterers)

the-killing-joke-deluxe-front-cover1This one is straying into more traditional comic territory, but this spectacular deluxe edition which I borrowed off my friend Scott, is far more than your run-of-the-mill Batman comic. Firstly, let me just say, I use to read any and every Batman comic that came into my local library, and would reread my favourites (namely anything with Harley Quinn) over and over. When I borrowed The Killing Joke it had probably been 10 or 15 years since I’d last dived into a Batman comic and yet it felt like I had never left, and it was even more engrossing than I remember. This may be thanks to the brilliantly twisted mind of Alan Moore, or to Brian Bolland’s amazing art, or maybe just because it delved deep into the past of the Joker like nothing I’d ever read before, but whatever it was made for a gripping read! I would of course recommend this to Batman fans (if they haven’t already read it of course) but also to people who like Batman but don’t really know where to begin in the huge backlog of comics – this one is not to be missed.

5. Clive Barker Omnibus (collecting The Thief of Always The Great and Secret Show ; and Seduth)

by Clive BarkerKris OpriskoChris Ryall,  Christopher Monfette (writers), Gabriel HernandezGabriel RodriguezRay Zone (artists),  Robbie Robbins (letterer)

CliveBarker_OmnibusAs a Clive Barker fan I was eager to read this omnibus, especially since I had read The Thief of Always earlier in the year, The Great and Secret Show was one of my first trips into the world of Barker and was starting to become a vague memory, and Seduth had never been published elsewhere. None of them disappointed either in the story-telling/adaptation or the artwork – hell, even the lettering was stunning and perfectly fit the mood of each story! I read each story on a different day (in fact I think I read The Great and Secret Show over a couple of days because it made up the bulk of the omnibus) so I was fully immersed in each story at the time, and even though I had read two of the three in novel form, I felt like I was experiencing them for the first time. I would definitely recommend this to Barker fans, but also to people who may have wanted to read his stuff before but prefer a graphic novel format.

6. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Tales

by Joss WhedonJane Espenson,  Becky Cloonan and others (writers)
Tim Sale,Doug PetrieLeinil Francis YuGene Colan and others (artists)

buffy talesThis was without a doubt one of the best presents I got on my last birthday, if not the best hands down and it definitely had to go on this list! My lovely workmate Scott gifted it to me around my birthday in October and I was in love from the moment I looked at it. It contained a treasure-trove of stories I never even knew about before, written by former writers of the show amongst a bevy of other talented writers, with each story beautifully, and uniquely brought to life by a cast of gifted artists. There wasn’t a single story I didn’t like (though some of course stood out more than others) and it made New Books November even more fun in its role of Official Mascot. I have already raved about it to my Buffy-loving friends (though I keep forgetting to loan it to my best friend Sarah, a Buffy fan from way back, as its so big and ironically gets missed whenever I give her a bunch of graphic novels to try) but I would highly recommend it to any Buffy fan out there, especially if you love comic art – there’s so many styles on offer here its a veritable smörgåsbord for comic-art geeks 😀

7. The Books of Magic

by Neil Gaiman (writer), John BoltonScott HamptonCharles Vess and Paul Johnson (artists)

books of magicThis one was read later in the year, just days before Christmas, but I enjoyed it so much I was willing to push earlier titles off the list in order for it to make my Top 10. Being written my Neil Gaiman, with a somewhat Sandman-esque feel to it and each section illustrated by a different artist to fit the mood of each realm, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I loved this graphic novel. It was one of those stories that you just fall into, and for the minutes, hours, or days that you read it you are lost to another world. In the case of The Books of Magic I was gone for about an hour or so as it’s a sort of mini-series kind of graphic novel, with 4 parts. I have since put my brother on to it, and he was just as lost (I watched him read it so I can attest that he was definitely not all there anymore!) and I plan to find and add it to my growing comic/graphic novel collection 🙂 I would recommend this to Neil Gaiman fans, especially if you like the Sandman, and fans of epic, archetypal fantasy.

8. The Book of Human Insects by Osamu Tezuka

BookofHumanInsectsThis one I have to admit was bought because of its bizarre title (I love me a weird title :P) but I was also intrigued because the author and artist is the mind behind Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion, two of my favourite shows from when I was a kid (thanks in part to them being faves of my mum who saw them new, and the habit of Australian TV in the early 90’s playing lots of repeats of classic shows) but I had never read his graphic novels. The Book of Human Insects was worlds away from the cartoons of my youth, but I loved the juxtaposition of Tezuka’s big-eyed, round-faced characters in a world of sex, manipulation, fraud, violence and intrigue. The feel of the story was very film noir, with a classic femme fatale as the main character, and it was a fun blend of absurdity and relatability. I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone (I haven’t passed it on to my brother or friends coz I’m not sure if they’d like it) but if you like manga with a lot of depth, and many a dash of odd, or if like me you’re curious about Tezuka’s work beyond adorable kings of the jungle and robot boys with rocket books, give this a try.

9. Nevermore 

by Edgar Allan Poe , Ian EdgintonJamie DelanoJohn Reppion, and Leah Moore (writers) and D’IsraeliJames (Jim) FletcherJohn McCreaShane Oakley and Steve Pugh (artists)nevermoreI read Nevermore at a perfect time, right after my Poe.My.God! Challenge when I still had all the stories fresh in my mind. This anthology took 9 of Poe’s most famous tales (The Raven; The Pit and the Pendulum; The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar; The Murders in the Rue Morgue; The Fall of the House of Usher; The Black Cat; The Oval Portrait; The Tell-Tale Heart; and The Masque of the Red Death) and re-tells them in modern (or sometimes futuristic) settings, each illustrated by a different artist in their style, but sticking to a moody black and grey colour scheme. I thought the adaptations were really clever and the black and grey ink work really put me in a dark, gothic, Poe sort of mood 🙂 Unfortunately because this was a library item I couldn’t hand it straight on to my brother (who is a huge Poe fan since he was a kid) but I hope to add it to my collection in the future, and in the meantime if he’s interested, I can always get it out from my work, since that’s the library it came from (albeit a different campus) and make him swear in blood that it returns unharmed. Very fitting for Poe, don’t ya think? 😛 I would recommend this to Poe fans, people who like classic tales interpreted into new settings, or anyone who likes a dark, broody graphic novel.

10. Fray

by Joss Whedon (writer), Karl Moline (penciler),Andy Owens (inker), Dave Stewart (colourist) and Michelle Madsen (colourist and letterer)frayThis last one was tricky because I had a bunch of great contenders, but once I discounted parts in ongoing series’ (a rule that made compiling this list easier, but one I don’t think I’ll stick to next year) there was one amongst the final choices that stood out. Fray is another graphic novel loaned to me by my friend Scott, and another one set in the Buffy Universe, but far in the future after magic has left the world and Slayers aren’t even a blip on history’s radar. To me this felt almost like a Buffy reboot as it had some of the great elements of early episodes of Buffy when she was training and coming to grips with her destiny. The difference between Fray and early Buffy though is firstly it is set in a very different time and place complete with amazing futuristic scenery and interesting slang, and secondly Melaka Fray can already kick some arse as she is a sort-of cat burglar by trade. I really enjoyed the story, but what made it stick out in my mind was the art. Wow. The way Karl Moline and Andy Owens drew and inked the characters and backgrounds were stunning, and the colours by Dave Stewart and Michelle Madsen were glorious, especially Melaka’s multi-coloured hair. This is a big recommendation for Buffy fans but even if you’re not really familiar with the show (cue gasps and a look of horror from the author) this is a great stand-alone.