A Journey into Graphic Novels

secondsI consider myself a big nerd and comics seem to go hand in hand with the social status. I never really got into comics (or graphic novels) and when I did attempt I never knew where to start. There are millions of reboots and story arcs for the thousands of different superheroes out there but which ones are good and where do I start? It was Scott Pilgrim that started my journey into graphic novels and with Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Seconds recent release, I thought now would be a perfect time to talk about the graphic novels I love.

As an easy way to distinguish between comics and graphic novels, I call single issues (30-40 pages) a comic and a graphic novel is the anthology that contains a full story arc (normally 4-5 single issues). What I find really interesting about a graphic novel is that it is simply a new way to tell a story. It is not always about the superhero, graphic novels can explore high concepts in a whole new way.Maus

Take the only graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize, Maus by Art Spiegelman. In this story we read about Vladek Spiegelman and his wife, it is biography of living and surviving Hitler’s Europe. The graphic novel not only addresses the holocaust and life in a war torn country it does it in a unique way. Exploring the reality and fears of surviving in a visual way, the Jews are depicted as mice and the Nazi’s hunting them as cats.

persepolisThere is also the autobiographic story of Marjane Satrapi  in Persepolis, a coming of age story of a girl living in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution. The whole concept of cultural change works really well in this graphical depiction. There is even an animated adaptation which is worth checking out (even if it is exactly the same). If you prefer a more quasi-autobiographical story maybe try Ghost World by Daniel Clowes or even something by Chris Ware like Jimmy Corrigan or Building Stories.

sex criminalsFinally, if you prefer your graphic novels to be about superheros or people coming to terms with their new found powers, I have some suggestions for you as well. Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon by Matt Fraction is the first story arc in this new Hawkeye series and explores a life of a superhero outside fighting crime and saving the world. Also by Matt Fraction, with the help of Chip Zdarsky is the weird and wonderfully dirty Sex Criminals. This is a story of a woman that discovers that time freezes after an orgasm and the shenanigans she can get up to with so much quiet time. This graphic novel will not be for everyone; if you want something very different that is full of dirty visual puns then I would recommend it.

I would love to recommend more comics but some of my suggestions are not yet released as a complete story arc yet. If you are interested in more graphic novel suggests let me know in the comments below. I hope this will give you some suggestions if you have never tried a graphic novel before. I’m also happy to take more recommendations in the comments below. Happy reading.

Tara Moss, The Fictional Woman and Feminism

The Fictional WomanI had the great fortune to attend an author event for Tara Moss who was promoting her new book The Fictional Woman. For those who don’t know, Moss is a Canadian-Australian author that started out as a model at 14 years old. She claimed she was a tall nerdy girl at the time but kept hearing people say “you should be a model” so much that she eventually did. Her dream was to be an author but you aren’t much encouragement as a teenage girl to pursue a dream like that. To date Tara Moss has nine novels and The Fictional Woman is her first non-fiction title.

I was hoping to have had a chance to read The Fictional Woman before going into the event but you know what it is like, sometimes life and, more importantly, other books get in the way. I didn’t even have a chance to read a few pages to get an idea of what the book would be like but I have had a quick look since the event. There is something about an author event that I love, the experience to hear them talk about the book often makes me excited about it as well; even if it is an event for a book I hate.

Putting aside the fact I haven’t read the book, I still want to talk about it. The title comes from that idea that everyone seems to have a fictional element to their life, we tend to be placed into moulds and people don’t always believe everything we do or say. Tara Moss, like most people have had this experience; she even took a polygraph test to prove that she wrote her novels. It is important to note that this is not strictly a memoir but also a social critique on our modern world and feminism.

For Moss to write this topic, she needed to provide some historical context, how women have been treated from out the ages, etc. Looking at women in fiction we often see similar archetypes, like the rags to riches story from Cinderella, which requires a man to be happy. Look at the heroines; they are normally facing off against an evil woman, often a crazy old woman that has been depicted as a witch. Thinking about these archetypes and we see they all stem from fairy tales or medieval fiction, a time where woman weren’t considered as equals. There is also the historical context of Tara Moss‘ life that is important to look at; how a model changes peoples’ opinions of herself and all the choices of her life that have influenced her views on feminism, this is why people tend to treat this book as a memoir rather than a social critique.

It is obvious that I’m very impressed with Tara Moss; she is an intelligent woman that puts a lot of thought and research into her books and her interests. I think as far as role models go, she makes for an excellent choice. She went as far as creating Makedde Vanderwall (from her crime series) so she could learn about the world of psychology, forensics and so on. But she takes her research much more serious that that; becoming a qualified private investigator, and taking lessons on how to use weapons. She was even set on fire and choked unconscious just to understand what it felt like. She is an impressive person and even though I was looking forward to reading her new book, seeing her live has really excited me. I’ve since started reading The Fictional Woman and can confirm this book is well worth picking up.

How Nietzsche Turned me into a Reader

Hey! Nietzsche!I’m not really interested in giving people a quick introduction; I tend to mix my personal life, humour, sarcasm and knowledge into my book reviews and blog posts. However I do want to kick off talking about the book that turned me into a reader.  It wasn’t until 2009 that I discovered the joys of books and reading and something inside me clicked and I wanted to consume every book I saw. This life changing event was all because of one book, an Australian non-fiction title called Hey! Nietzsche! Leave Them Kids Alone! by Craig Schuftan.

At the time I listened to a lot of music and would have cited AFI, My Chemical Romance, Weezer, and so on as some of my favourite bands. In face I was right into the music that was been played on Triple J. Craig Schuftan was a radio producer at Triple J at the time and there was a short show he made for the station called The Culture Club. In this show he would talk about the connection rock and roll has to art and literary worlds. Friedrich Nietzsche was claiming, “I am no man, I am dynamite” well before AC/DC’s song TNT.

That was a real revelation for me and I picked up Hey! Nietzsche! Leave Them Kids Alone! (subtitled; The Romantic Movement, Rock and Roll, and the End of Civilisation as We Know It) and began reading it. However it didn’t stop there; this book connected the so called ‘emo’ movement with The Romantic Movement, I never thought these bands would have anything in common with the greats like Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley or John Keats but I had to find out.

Hey! Nietzsche! Leave Them Kids Alone! by  Craig Schuftan ended up taking half a year to complete; not because I was a slow reader but I wanted to know more,and  I read poetry by Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats, and researched online. I picked up books like Frankenstein (an obsession of mine), Dracula and Wuthering Heights just because they were mentioned. This was a weird turn in my life but my growing thirst for knowledge became an obsession with reading. I have now set a life goal to read everything on the 1001 Books you must read before you die list.

It is weird to think one book can have such a huge impact on my life but I credit Craig Schuftan (and my wife) for such a positive improvement in my life. I will eventually read Craig Schuftan’s books The Culture Club: Modern Art, Rock and Roll and other stuff your parents warned you about and Entertain Us!: The Rise and Fall of Alternative Rock in the Nineties but I’ve put them off because I suspect the same amount of research will be involved.

Has a book had such a positive impact in your life? I would love to know in the comments. Also are there any other books that explore the connections between art and literature with pop-culture?