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Graphic Novelty²

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Fantagraphics Books

Hobo Mom

Hobo Mom– what a title, I had to read it just based off that. But I also read several positive reviews on this atypical story, so I decided to give this short 62 page graphic novel a try.

This subversive tale flips gender norms, by having the mother Tasha be the parent that walked out on her spouse and child. Her ex-husband Tom is a locksmith who is a caring and kind man and has a close relationship with his daughter Sissy. We begin the story by witnessing Tasha ride the rails and her attack by a man that makes her reconsider her travels. She wants to get to know her daughter, who has no memory of her, so obviously Tasha has been gone for years at this point.

*Spoilers* Tom is reluctant to welcome her back, and only agrees if Tasha does not reveal to Sissy that she is her mother. Sissy enjoys Tasha’s company, but never picks up that Tasha is her mother, although she does realize that Tasha makes Tom uncomfortable. Tom tries to forgive Tasha and wants her to stay, and there is a very graphic adult interlude at one point. But Tasha’s wanderlust proves too strong, and off she goes again leaving a trail of pain behind her.

While the book cover was in full color, the illustrations are in black and white except for some slight pink shading done in dot matrix, with simple clean lines.  Although the art was uncomplicated it still was able to convey intense feelings, especially through Tom. The last pages showing Tasha’s thoughts was especially effective as she dreamed of getting away when she was with her family, yet thought of them when she left.

We never find out why Tasha does what she does for with the story’s short length, this really is more a slice-of-life tale, we don’t truly understand the motivations or background of either parent. As a mother myself, I struggled with Tasha’s choices, finding them incredibly selfish- for I think “finding your best self” can be self indulgent in real life. While I never want people to feel trapped and unhappy, I feel there is worth in holding yourself accountable to others.

-Nancy

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Cosplayers

Annie is a cosplayer – she makes costumes for fictional characters and dresses up like them for conventions and for fun. Verti is a photographer and aspiring videographer. They meet and become friends. They spend a summer together making videos, posting them on YouTube, and attending conventions to meet other fans and participate in cosplay contests.

There isn’t so much an overarching story here as it is a series of related vignettes. There is very little plot, character development, or conflict. There really isn’t that much about cosplay. To me, it felt like a few stories about two flimsily-written girls and their screwing around over a summer – and they happen to like anime and cosplay. The hows and whys are omitted, plopping us right in the middle of their story (such as it is) without exposition. There are some stabs at themes of loneliness, attachment in the digital age, and even existentialism, but they felt half-baked and tossed in because, “Why not?”

The art is subpar. It’s drawn simply, which provides easy access to the book, but I found it overly simple. Many panels are one color, or two variations of, and it sort of reminded me of two-color prints. Normally I would have enjoyed it more, but the writing was so paper-thin I just couldn’t get into it. Overall, I found this one really frustrating and disappointing – I am wondering why it was so hyped.

– Kathleen

Shaw, Dash. Cosplayers. 2018.

Guest Post on Reads and Reels

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is an extraordinary and ambitious graphic novel. Equal parts memoir, murder mystery and coming-of-age drama, the art in this book is beyond amazing, and was a perfect read during this Halloween season.

But…you’ll have to check out the blog Reads and Reels to find it, as I shared this incredible book as a guest blogger on Shanannigan’s site. Please head on over to her site to read my post- Guest Post: My Favorite Thing Is Monsters.

-Nancy

(Picture from Emil Ferris)

Ghost World: Book vs Movie

Spoiler alert: I HATED both. Truly hated both the book and movie.

I have read graphic novels I haven’t cared for before.  I didn’t like Sandman or Civil War II, but neither left me with such a bad taste as this story. I was angry at Enid and Rebecca, the two teen-aged best friends, who are so hateful and nasty. Truth be told, I have met people like this- people who are so unhappy with themselves that they strike out at anybody, hoping to elevate their own sorry selves.

A lot of comedies nowadays have characters that are jaded and say sarcastic quips to one another for laughs. But, in a tired trope, they always have a heart of gold and come though to help their friends and family. Well, I would have welcomed that trope here- for these two young women were miserable and petulant. I also did not like how they clung to each other, and would not let anyone else into their tight friendship. While I am blessed to have two best friends, I also have circles of friends from HS, college, my community and work. Why isolate yourself? What happens if the friendship ends for some reason-then you have nobody. Plus, I’ve always been turned off by intensely cliquey people. It’s an affront to my natural sociability.

The artwork in this relatively short book was unique. Drawn in black and white, a blue-green wash overlaid the panels, giving it an odd shading. The backgrounds were drawn realistically, but often the close ups of faces resembled caricatures, and were not attractive. The non-prettying up of the characters lent it some authenticity, as did some of the dialogue, yet I felt the author was trying too hard.

To top it all off- I never learned what Ghost World stood for. Was I not deep enough to understand a metaphor? By the end of the book, I didn’t even care if I was missing a huge clue, I just wanted to be done.

So why, after hating the graphic novel, would I subject myself to the movie? I was curious as to how the two well regarded actresses would portray the parts. Thora Birch as Enid, and Scarlett Johansson as Rebecca were well suited physically to the roles. They captured the world weariness and Gen X angst of the early 90’s. Some roles in the movie were expanded such as Seymour’s character, played by Steve Buscemi. If anything the movie was slightly better than the book, but I’d say it was because I liked the look of the movie better than the way people were drawn in the book. So while it wasn’t a true replication, it kept true to the spirit of the book, and was a faithful adaptation. Thus, I did not like it.

So this review ends up being less a review of the book and movie, and more a commentary of how I feel about people. Be nice! Be kind! Be inclusive! If you don’t have anything nice to say, then shut up. I know I live in a bourgeois bubble at times, but I can still be shocked at how mean people are. Do I have to have a harder shell to succeed? I hope not. At least this book got an emotional response from me, and for that, it was noteworthy.

-Nancy

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