Welcome, lovely listeners, to Issue 30, 31, 32 of Comics Squee. Each podcast our panelists, powered by love…feared by evil, discuss the comic books, graphic novels, and general sequential art geekery that excites them.
Our superpowers are tangents and tentacles.
Steering the revolving 4th chair today is our guest, comics writer Christina Rice. She has written several issues of My Little Pony: Friends Forever. Long time listeners of the podcast are well aware of my love for the MLP franchise. Christina’s also a librarian and an aficionado of Golden Age Hollywood, as well as an expert on sadly forgotten starlet, and rebel, Ann Dorvak.
In this issue of Comics Squee we have: a series of true crime graphic novels ; the world’s favorite kick-ass sesquepedalian librarian ; historically bad decisions leading to cannibalism ; and not the X-Men, but sort of really.
John: John Byrne’s Next Men by John Byrne (starts at 00:02:04.108)
This series started back in 1992. It’s about a secret government project to create super powered people. It’s the pet project of a senator, but he’s finally having to shut it down after decades of non-success because certain inspectors are coming.
Out of it come these kids with powers. They’ve spent all their lives in a virtual reality they call The Greenery, while in the real world their bodies are being worked on and modified by the scientists of the project. In The Greenery they just have to think of something and it appears and happens. They basically grew up in their own minds. So real reality is a bit of a shock.
One of the things that John really liked about Next Men, when it was new back in the ’90s, was that the characters’ powers all had consequences and equivalent disadvantages. The kid who has speed powers, once in the real world, gets his feet blistered by the friction of running real fast after it burns his shoes off. The woman with invulnerability can use one of her hairs to cut through steel prison bars, but she can’t feel heat or cold and begins missing the sensation of human touch. The guy with super strength has proportional clumsiness. And so on.
That’s sort of old hat now, but in the early 1990s that was a new and unexplored idea.
Next Men holds up well. It’s has expressive art and good storytelling with interesting characters. It’s available in collected issue trade paperback editions.
April: Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Donner Dinner Party by Nathan Hale (starts at 00:11:41.300)
This graphic novel is targeted to kids, though with the respect to their intelligence that all readers appreciate and which makes a work also appealing to adult readers. It tells the history of the Donner Party, the settlers who got snowed in in the Sierra Nevada mountains on their way to California and had to resort to cannibalism to survive.
The story is told by Nathan Hale, famous Civil War spy (who is the subject of the first volume in the series). He’s with a hangman, waiting for enough of a crowd to gather to hang a red coat. The comic itself is written and drawn by a cartoonist likewise named Nathan Hale.
The Donner Dinner Party is well paced, and has a lot of information, including maps and an infographic in the back showing who survived, who died, and who got et. And all of their troubles really do come down to monumentally bad decisions, mostly driven by the party’s leader, Mr. Reed.
The comic also has just the right touch of comedy, literal gallows humor, needed to make a dark topic approachable. The art is a solid cartooning style. The coloring is all shades of one tone; green for this volume, though other volumes are all yellow or blue.
Chriss: Rex Libris by James Turner (starts at 00:22:12.750)
Rex Libris is drawn in a very angular sort of digital style, reminiscent of works down in Illustrator. James Turner is an illustrator who does a lot of work for magazines and newspapers. The comic is also very wordy for a comic. It has LOTSSSSSS of words. Chriss walked away from it the first time she picked it up because of the large volume of text in the comic. But she only got 4 blocks away from the shop before she was all, “I just can’t stop thinking about that comic.”
Rex Libris is head librarian at Middleton Public Library. His boss is Thoth, the Egyptian god of wisdom and knowledge. The door to the office and the back stacks is a portal guarded by the sphinx – and yes, you must answer a riddle correctly to pass her. The back stacks are so huge Rex has to take a little funicular through them.
His co workers are Circe, yes THAT Circe; though elderly now and reformed, she is grounded from field missions due to turning an obnoxious library patron into a pig. Rex’s field partner is Simonides, a would-be-despot and world conquered who was turned into a sparrow for his crimes.
In the first volume, I Librarian, Rex and Simonides use crystals powered by pseudo-science to teleport to a planet populated by snowmen aliens in order to retrieve the WAY overdue Principe Mathmatica from the evil warlord ruling the world.
The second volume, Book of Monsters, features such delights as Yeti’s in iceberg battleships sending giant war penguins after Rex.
There are JUST two volumes in the Rex Libris series. So it’s all complete. Sadly.
Christine Rice: Rick Geary’s Treasury of Victorian Murder series by Rick Geary (starts at 00:28:36.581)
This is another series of history telling comics, friendly to both adult and young reader consumption. This one a bit grimmer, focusing on true crime unsolved murders from the Victorian era. Famous cases like Jack the Ripper and Lizzy Borden, and lesser known crimes as well.
Our guest, Christine Rice, came to comics late. Like many she thought of comic books just as superhero stories, which she wasn’t interested in reading. Because she’s a history librarian, Christine’s husband got her books in this Treasury of Murder series. So, Rick Geary’s Treasury of Murder books got her into comics. And now she rights My Little Pony comics.
Christine isn’t a big fan of true crime, and isn’t in to gory or grime reading. But the history that Rick Geary presents in his books is compelling and informative. And while entertaining the reader with facts, refrains from solving the murder for them by fitting those facts into a pet theory of who dunnit. And the artwork is illustrative but not graphic, which makes it approachable even for people like Christine who are more into rainbows, ponies, and kittens.
- 4a) Tangent 1: Action Philosophers by Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey (starts at 00:35:33.500)
- 4b) Tangent 2: Colonial Comics (starts at 00:36:32.250)
Question Time: Which characters have the best libraries? (starts at 00:37:26.750)
- Twilight Sparkle
- Docotor Strange
- Doctor Fate
- Courtney Crumerin (contirbuted by listener Keenan Kubrick via Facebook)
- Dream from Sandman (contirbuted by listener Keenan Kubrick via Facebook)
- Rex Libris
- Orpheus, from Venture Brothers (a Doctor Strange analog)
- Nick and Anastasia Mystery, from Mystery Society
- Doctor Penumbra from the prose work Dr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Book Store (a bookstore is still a collection of books, so we’re counting it)
What We’re Looking Forward to Reading Next (starts at 00:39:35.000)
Going to look for some Rick Geary books
- Christine Rice:
Scottie Young’s Rocket Racoon and ’40s noir The Fade Out by Ed Brubaker.
The hardback collections of Saga and Sex Criminals
volume 13 of Yotsuba, whenever it may come out