October Book Club Book Report!
The leaves are changing color, the days are getting shorter and cooler … somewhere in this great land of ours, but not necessarily here in San Diego! Nonetheless, our intrepid groups of readers—all 4 of them—once again met to discuss what they read for October.
The Downtown book club read the late, great Darwyn Cooke’s magnum opus, DC: The New Frontier for their October book. Cooke’s giant story (close to 400 pages) spans from World War II to the early 1960s (and the launch of President John F. Kennedy’s “New Frontier,” hence the title) and includes familiar and unfamiliar DC characters, all contributing to the story of how the DCU heroes came together to fight a world-threatening entity. Readers loved both Cooke’s art and story and Dave Stewart’s brilliant color art, but especially singled out the character design by writer/artist Cooke, including his warrior Wonder Woman, and down-to-earth Martian Manhunter. In fact, the author’s female characters were pointed out a number of times, including one of the best depictions of Lois Lane ever in comics. Group members were shocked by how intimate the story was, even though it had tons of characters in it. Moderator Erik pointed out that he’s read this book many times and always finds something new in it, and those that have done the same agreed. Everyone admired Cooke’s 3-panel per page structure and how well it served the storytelling. But most of all, people loved the sense of joy and optimism this story had, far from the doom and gloom of superheroes in comics over the past few decades.
In November, the Downtown group gets on their bikes and helps deliver morning newspapers with Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang.
Since October means all things spooky, Mission Valley decided to delve into horror and noir with Mike Mignola’s Hellboy: Seed of Destruction. The first volume of the Hellboy saga, this graphic novel is a great introduction to the character and was enjoyed by all. Moderator Yvonne, who brought custom-made Hellboy magnets for everyone, led the discussion on what makes Hellboy such a great character. The only one of his kind and given a rough lot in life, Hellboy could be a depressing character, but his lust for life, coupled with his quirky asides make him such a relatable character. His quips in the face of danger, and the haunting beauty of Mignola’s art, make for a great tale. Of course there was talk of the Hellboy films and shockingly two book club members had not seen them! Everyone was quick to instruct them to watch the movies post haste. Hellboy fans also instructed the group to check out the Hellboy story “Pancakes.”
Next month, Mission Valley goes back to school with Giant Days.
For the month of October, North Park tackled the 487-page graphic novel, The Sculptor by Scott McCloud. The book revolves around struggling artist, David Smith, who makes a Faustian-like deal to shape any material with his bare hands. In exchange for this ability, he only has 200 days left to live.
Readers were able to follow along with David’s passionate journey through snippets of events and key moments as each day draws closer to his last. As a result, many deeply reflective questions were posed regarding the art world, each individual’s legacy and life in general. The artwork had a limited color palette (black, white and blue), which often directly reflected David’s melancholic state of mind and aided in setting the tone of the story.
The most prominent characters featured in the story each added their own element of importance to David’s life. David’s long-time friend Ollie had an extensive knowledge of his past. The ghost of Uncle Harry a.k.a. Death was slightly humorous while also ominous … and had an uncanny resemblance to Stan Lee! Without giving away any spoilers, the ending was almost universally found to be fitting and satisfying while remaining true to the integrity of the story. Also, many could see the book becoming a movie with its very defined beginning, middle and end!
The North Park book club will be reading Through the Woods by Emily Carroll for next month.
The La Jolla group’s October title was an unusual superhero story in that it involved superheroes, yet no bad guys were harmed during the making of the story. Paul Dini’s Dark Night: A True Batman Story, illustrated by Eduardo Risso, was an autobiographical tale of the famed comics and animation writer’s mugging, and depicted his struggles with self-acceptance and self-doubt both before and after the event. Moderator Robert led the discussion which delved into Dini’s introspective style and spurred a lot of talk in the group, with the honesty in his internal dialogue deemed admirable. The memoir format seemed to be a refreshing change from the group’s other readings as well. For the traditional superhero comic fan, Dini incorporated Batman’s Rogues Gallery as proxies for his various conflicting thoughts and feelings, which was nicely used both as a fun and playful element, as well as a vehicle for intense reflection. Overall, the title’s themes of overcoming real-life adversity led to the book to being positively received and well-regarded by the La Jolla book club.
Next up in November: Southern Bastards, Book One by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour.