March Discussions for Most of Our Groups
Comic-Con’s Graphic Novel Book Clubs almost made it through the month of March before the stay-at-home protocols were introduced. We actually cancelled the last two meetings (Balboa Park and Escondido 1), before CA Governor Gavin Newsom made the announcement to stay at home for the foreseeable future.
In April, the Book Clubs will begin video-conferencing for their meetings via Zoom … and the creation of the Zook Club!
Here’s what the other eight clubs read in March.
For March, the Chula Vista group selected Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran. The story was originally a benefit book for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and later adapted as a graphic novel. This is a retelling of the Snow White fairy tale, but told from the stepmother’s point of view. What if Snow White was not the innocent girl as portrayed in so many adaptations of the fairy tale? What if the true victim was the queen?
Eric moderated the discussion. The majority of the group found the artwork beautiful and the use of color set the tone and mood of the story. Members noted that the character’s faces had minimal features, but were still very expressive (“You can see the hunger in her eyes”). Some readers were reminded of novels that had an alternative point of view (Wicked by Gregory Maguire or Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore).
This book was a departure from the group’s previous choices, and tested the group’s comfort level. Some members liked the “dark and twisty” tone. Others appreciated that the book led them to rethink their childhood beliefs (beyond Snow White). For many in the group this was a reluctant read—at least in the beginning. After reading and discussing, everyone found something in the book they enjoyed ... and thanked Eric for suggesting the book.
The next book will be Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar, Dave Johnson, and Kilian Plunkett.
The Downtown Club went green for March by reading Immortal Hulk Vols 1-2, by Al Ewing and a team of terrific artists including Joe Bennett, Paul Mounts, Lee Garbett, and Ruy Jose. The iconic tale of Bruce Banner and his monstrous alter ego has been given literal new life in this ongoing series which features an unkillable Hulk and an ever-tormented Banner. The discussion was led by Attiba, and it was quickly clear that the club was unanimous in its praise for the book, citing the fascinating psychology of Banner-Hulk, the incredibly detailed art and coloring, and the effective horror elements that surprised some members. All of the parts worked together to give emotional weight to the story. A few found it interesting how gamma radiation itself played such a driving role in the plot, as if it was some magical force motivating characters. Members also noted that even a brief interlude with the Avengers was treated well and deftly avoided any sense of contrivance or distraction. It was definitely a smashing experience.
For April the club will go deep inside the seedy underbelly of the comics industry with Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Bad Weekend.
The Encinitas group’s March selection was Death Wins a Goldfish, by artist Brian Rea. In the first few pages of this humorous book, Death receives a notice from the HR department that he must use his accrued vacation time and take a mandatory year-long sabbatical. The book documents Death’s journal entries as he explores the world of the living. Death experiments with online dating, performing karaoke, and yes, winning a goldfish at a state fair.
Richard led the discussion. The group discussed the book’s light-hearted examination of work/life balance. Robin discussed some of the challenges she’s faced in her teaching career in trying to achieve a proper balance. Sunny shared insights from her military experience, in which work and life are inextricably linked. Karim shared a story of a former supervisor who was required, as in the book, to take vacation time which he had avoided for years. Richard noted a statistic that the average U.S. employee takes only 54% of his/her allotted vacation time each year. The group discussed some of the pressures, formal and informal, which some employers exert to prevent employees from taking time off from work.
The group also discussed Brian Rea’s artistic style in the book. Brian Rea is a former art director for the New York Times, and illustrates the newspaper’s “Modern Love” columns. Marina and Sunny praised Rea’s deceptively simple linework as relatable and endearing. The group noted that Rea used imaginative POV angles and nonverbal character positioning to convey emotions. In an interview about the book with Vanity Fair, Brian Rea said, “If people can feel empathy for a scribbled dark line, somehow I feel like I’ve done my job.”
Karim summarized that the book used the character of Death to explore “the meaning of life beyond work.”
In April, the Encinitas Book Club will be discussing Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter, adapted and illustrated by Darwyn Cooke.
The Escondido 2 group's March selection was Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman and Sam Kieth.
The Amazon website states that "In Preludes & Nocturnes, an occultist attempting to capture Death to bargain for eternal life traps her younger brother Dream instead. After his 70-year imprisonment and eventual escape, Dream, also known as Morpheus, goes on a quest for his lost objects of power. On his arduous journey Morpheus encounters Lucifer, John Constantine, and an all-powerful madman." And what an arduous journey it is! The conversation was lead by Oliver. Escondido 2 had a chance to see the first collected volume of coloring vs. the special 30th Anniversary Edition recoloring. There was a divide on which coloring was preferred, but each had their own beauty that everyone appreciated. One of the members had an amazing story about a panel discussion he saw that featured Gaiman and Kieth chatting. Gaiman stated that without Kieth the art direction and style of Sandman wouldn't be the same. He helped to set the tone of one of the greatest graphic novels of all time. Escondido 2 agrees with this statement! The members thoroughly enjoyed the story, the mixing in of different mythology, the DC characters, and the depth of characterization and Morpheus's journey. Death is a favorite character of the group. It was agreed that the group would want to read further collections of Sandman.
In April, the Escondido 2 Book Club will be discussing The Fade Out Vol. 1 by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.
The first book the La Jolla club read this month was Murder Falcon, written and drawn by Daniel Warren Johnson. Kyle led the discussion and this book was given an unanimous positive rating by all group members. Murder Falcon is the story of monsters and relationships and breakups and metal. The protagonist, Jake, is weighed down by the monsters he has to battle until he gets help in the form of Murder Falcon (or Murf to his friends), a butt-kicking, name-taking, monster-crushing ally that only gets better as Jake shreds on his guitar. In order to fight off more powerful monsters, Jake needs to reunite his former band, Brooticus. This story had tons of monster, heart, soul, and most of all, METAL. The group had fun discussing what we listened to while reading Murder Falcon. Some even listened to the official playlist with Daniel Warren Johnson playing guitar. Rock On!
The second book we read was a deeper dive into Jeff Lemire’s Black Hammer Universe with Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil, illustrated by David Rubin. This adjunct to the main storyline introduces some of the villains. The group enjoyed how Rubin drew the characters, especially Chthu-Lou. We all agreed that this book provided a more robust universe and look forward to exploring it more in the months to come!
In April, La Jolla will be reading The Boys Vol. 3: Good for the Soul by Garth Ennis, Darick Robertson and Tony Avina.
For March, the Mission Valley Book Club dove into In Waves by AJ Dungo. In Waves is a staggeringly beautiful book that weaves together the history of surfing with Dungo’s real life experience of losing his partner to cancer. Rendered in clean lines and monochromes, the deceptive simplicity of In Waves allows Dungo’s message of grief and hope to wash over the reader like an ocean tide. Mission Valley has been reading graphic novels together for over six years and in that time, only two books have been unanimously enjoyed. In Waves became the third. Tears were shed, hugs given, and it speaks volumes to the heart of this novel and the comradery of the Mission Valley Book Club, that so many were willing to open themselves up in such a manner.
Everyone agreed that they would recommend this book to a friend who was suffering from grief of any kind, as it cuts to the core of the feeling, but never allows one to lose sight of the hope still out there in the world. When people leave your life there is always grief, but there are also those that remain, who hold out their hand, and implore you to plunge into the breakers again.
For April, Mission Valley will be reading Crowded by Christopher Sebela, Ro Stein, and Ted Brandt and Dark Agents: Book One by Vince Alvendia and Janina Scarlet.
This month the Comic-Con Museum Charter Member club dove into the adventures of Erin, Mac, KJ, and Tiffany in Paper Girls Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughn, Cliff Chiang, and Matt Wilson. The discussion was led by first time moderator Damaso. Much of the early part of the time was spent looking at the characters and what archetypes each member not only thought that the girls fulfilled, but which one members identified with.
Throughout the evening time was spent examining not only the alternate world the Paper Girls seem to come from, one almost like our own but not quite the same, but also the differences they must have experienced and how that changes the perceptions of the reader.
In the discussion about Cliff Chiang's art paired with Matt Wilson's colors, most of the members agreed that the book was served well by the decisions made although some members found certain choices internally odd towards the end of the first volume but chalked it up to personal preference. Overall the group loved the book and would definitely consider not only reading it on their own but seeing volume 2 as a book for the club possibly.
For the month of April the club will be reading Snowpiercer by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette in their very first foray into ZookClub!
North Park started their annual complete comic series read this year with the first three volumes of Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, Matt Wilson, Jared K. Fletcher, and Dee Cunniffe. Paper Girls is the story of four pre-teen newspaper delivery girls (Erin, MacKenzie, KJ, and Tiffany) in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio as they make their rounds the morning after Halloween in 1988. After meeting up to deliver papers together they become caught up in a war between two time-travelling factions: pterodactyl-mounted armored future establishment “Old-Timers,” and alien-language speaking teenagers from even further in the future who raid the past. Soon the girls are flung into the “future” of 2016 as well as thousands of years into the past and are frequently separated as they try to get back to their home time of 1988, meeting future versions of themselves along the way.
Kha led our discussion this month, and while some members wanted to focus on the mechanics of time travel and the narrative threads of what was happening, others felt that it wasn’t really trying to make sense. The time travel was just a means to an end of the story, with one member likening it to the level of science of the Back to the Future movies. Once they just went with the flow, they enjoyed the story much more. One highlight of these three volumes was one character, Erin, meeting herself 18 years in the future and coming to terms with her expectations of adulthood versus how she actually turned out. North Park had read the first volume a few years ago, and some of the members who weren’t the biggest fans then liked it more with the next two volumes to flesh out the story and especially the characters.
While everyone liked the style and pencils of Cliff Chiang’s art, what really stood out for everyone was Matt Wilson’s colors. Everyone loved the bright colors and tones that Wilson used in the different time periods. From the purple-pink sky while the time-travelers fought to the surreal hues of the numerous dream sequences, Wilson was a huge standout in their discussions, prompting one member to declare that she’s going to find everything he has colored to read (which was exactly the same thing she said when the group discussed one of his other projects, the second volume of Phonogram over a year ago). Everyone was excited to read the next half of the series, if for nothing else than to hopefully have some of their time-travelling questions answered.
In April North Park will travel a year into the past from Paper Girls timeline to tackle Watchmen, the 1987 classic by Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, and John Higgins that helped herald American comics’ transition from the kid stories to a medium worthy of adult attention.