Three Very Big and One Very Small: Books for YOU This Summer -or- The Comics in the Classroom Guy Tells You About Some Good Books While Revealing How Boring He Can Be During the Summer
What I have here are four books that I think YOU might enjoy this summer while lying on the beach (I think I'd rather go to work than do that), or while sitting at the cottage (which I don't actually think I'd like, either), or while sitting on the porch at home knowing that as long as you are reading a good book you can block out the fact that the lawn needs mowing, the house needs painting, the garage needs re-shingled and that tomorrow you have to go to the beach with your wife and kids because you don't want to be THAT guy - the guy that only does stuff he likes with his kids - that guy stinks, and..
Sorry, I think I wandered around a little there.where was I?
Anyway, here are some books, comic and otherwise, that I enjoyed recently and that I plan on handing off to a couple of people I know who I think will like them.
I'll start with the smallest, quickest read, and the one that has nothing at all to do with comics. Mr. Fooster: Travelling on a Whim is a very strange and wonderful little book that would be perfect to bring to the park or any of those awful summery places I mentioned above. It is sort of hard to describe, so I'll let the publisher do it for me:
"Mr. Fooster seems like your average fellow, albeit one who travels with an old bottle of bubble soap. One Tuesday morning, however, he takes us into a rich and vivid world unlike any we've seen before-a world where questioning your assumptions can set you free. Heading out the door with no particular place to go, Mr. Fooster is led by his boundless curiosity to reflect on questions like why is it you never see baby pigeons, and who figured out how to eat artichokes? Mr. Fooster shows us that pondering the little things in life can be a reward unto itself." (From RandomHouse.com)
Also, there is a giant bug that goes to space, a DeSoto made from a bubble..and some other wonderfully odd stuff.
It's written by Tom Corwin and illustrated by Craig Frazier and it's modeled more like a kid's picture book that a standard novel or graphic novel. There are only a couple hundred words to a page and opposite each page of text is a warm sketch by Frazier. The charming prose and woodcut-like illustrations make for a pleasant reading experience.
I really enjoyed Mr. Fooster. It might be seen as a bit pricey for its size (14.95 us), but I liked it. Many of the graphic novels I read and review can be quick reads as well, and I don't think the value of a book can be based only on how thick it is. I actually gave it to a friend who was in the hospital wondering if he was going to get good news or not. He was an avid reader in healthier times, but not for a while. I left it on his side-table, not sure if he would bother or not. He did read it, and it helped keep his mind off things for the couple of hours he spent with Mr. Fooster. That's a win.
The next book for your summer enjoyment is Studio Space: The World's Greatest Comic Illustrators at Work
This book is not for kids. Most of the books that are mentioned on this site are for kids and many are school safe. Studio Space is really not one of them. It is not for your class, and it is not for your nephew for his 13 th birthday. This book has nudes and a few comic pages with violent or sexual content (used to illustrate the body of work over a career). This book is not for kids.
It's not supposed to be for kids - it is supposed to be for adults.
Hey! Wait a minute. You're an adult!
I picked up this book the other day with no intention of including it on the site, but after reading a few chapters, I realized that some of you readers might be interested in it.
Studio Space is a collection of personal essays written by modern comics' best known and influential comic artists. The range is impressive, from the legendary Joe Kubert to newer masters like Alex Ross and Tim Bradstreet with people like Frank Miller and Walt Simonson in between.
What got me thinking about writing up a piece on Space was the idea I had that this would be in interesting resource for art teacher or parents of kids that have immersed themselves in the world of comics. Many of the artists in the book mentioned how their parents or teachers did not understand and did not support, or know how to support their love of the medium. I often find my self repeating a version of the line: "How can we expect kids to accept as important the things we are trying to teach them if we do not take seriously the things that they are passionate about?" "Regular" art teachers take some hard knocks here, and that is due to the lack of support the artists felt growing up, but I think they come out ahead in the end. Many acknowledge the influences non-comic artists played in them becoming the creators they are today.
Although I would have appreciated more pictures of the artist's workspaces (it is called, Studio Space , after all), Space is a wonderful resource; a sneak peak at the process professional illustrators go through, and the tools they use to complete a project. Marker pens, Winsor and Newton Series 7 Sables, toothbrushes, tablets and Photoshop: I had a lot of fun reading about the different tools used. Underneath it all though, was the fact that no matter what tool was used, it all came down to the talent of the artist. Technique and tool knowledge - two important skill sets for aspiring artists - comic and otherwise.
I would have appreciated an essay or two by legendary manga artists that I, and many new manga readers, would be unfamiliar with. I grew up reading Kubert's amazing Sgt. Rock comics, but I really don't know who one would grow up reading in the manga world. Also, no female artists were featured - the biggest names in comics to date have been male, but I hope if a sequel or expanded second edition is planned we will hear from these talents.
Anyway.This is a book that I wanted to keep coming back to over the week I read it. It is interesting, well put together and not something that loses momentum if, while sitting on the beach, you are pulled away to break up a sand fight or to keep the kids from burying dad in the sand to close to the water (buried dad + tide = ruined vacation).
It has been published in hard and softcover simultaneously. Both are 320 pages and quite hefty: Physical Info: 8.72 x 0.89 x 11.09 inches, (2.77 lbs) My Softcover cost 29.99.
The next two I am sort of going to review together. They are both big, thick comic anthologies. Both are written and illustrated by people you are possibly familiar with if you have watched any of the big animated movies out over the past few years. Both are terrifically well written and illustrated. Both are pretty much appropriate for your middle schooler, with a couple of stories that may make you think twice, but nothing too serious (I wouldn't call them school safe though). Both cost around $25 US / $30 Canadian, and both are very good quality for the money.
Out of Picture 2 is a 240 page comic anthology by the animation geniuses from Blue Sky Studios; the people behind Ice Age , Robots (underrated, but very good), and Horton Hears a Who . The project was originated to give these artists a chance to shine as individuals. The result is a stunning book full of stories that you sort of walk in on; I mean that they are seldom full stories, but pieces of stories. It makes your mind fill in those missing pieces, which is part of the draw for me.
The line that sprang into my head when I was reading this oversized book was: Out of Picture 2 can be that first art-book for those comic readers that never buy art-books, and it can be that first graphic novel for the art lovers that have never bought a graphic novel.
The other comic anthology is thicker, but easier to tote around this summer, because its dimensions are more.standard. FLIGHT 4 , edited once again by Kazu Kibuishi is really a no brainer for many comic fans. It is a successful anthology series loosely based around the theme of flight; and with this being the fourth volume one might think that it has begun to lose momentum, that the steam has run out. That is not the case. Although volume 3 still has my favorite of all the Flight stories (Polaris), 4 is every bit as good as the others.
It is Stunning and Varied. There is something for everyone in this. No, it will not likely convert that friend that thinks comics are stupid. Nothing will ever convince some people, but, this will certainly impress people that were not even aware that comics like this are even made.
Volume 5 is due out this week, so if you pick up and read one, you will have enough to keep you going until you are sick of the beach.
But, for me I guess that would be accomplished half way through an Archie Digest....There you go. Another great summertime suggestion.
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