Fight to the Last Man — Interview With the Creative Team Behind ‘The Stranger’


(This post originally appeared on GeekDad here.)

Maybe I’ve just started noticing it for some reason, but it seems like there’s been an uptick in the number (and popularity) of graphic novels by French creators making their way States-side recently.

Toon Books has begun publishing the first English-language translations of the Philémon series, Snowpiercer made quite a splash thanks to its big-screen adaptation with Chris Evans, and now First Second Books is publishing English-language versions of the massively popular Last Man series.

The first book in the series, The Stranger, released in March, and First Second is planning to release Books 2 and 3 later this year. Books 4–6 will hopefully follow in 2016, which will bring us more or less in line with the French releases. There are a total of 12 volumes planned for the entire story.

The Stranger focuses on a gladiatorial contest–the Games–in what seems to be a medieval world in which magic is not only possible but also the very soul of the Games. Teams compete and wield elemental powers against one another in the ring (think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Ultimate Fighting).

Continue reading

Magic, Myths, and Monsters: Interview with Jim Zub and Steve Cummings of ‘Wayward’


(This interview originally appeared on GeekDad here.)

When it comes to comics, it’s not often that I’m immediately taken in and captivated by an ongoing series. It usually takes a few issues for the creative team to find its groove and for me to find something worth latching on to.

Wayward – from writer Jim Zub, artist Steve Cummings, and Image Comics – burst onto the scene last year, and from the very first issue, I was hooked. The story, often described as “Buffy in Japan,” was smart and intriguing. The art was phenomenal. And the series wasted no time in becoming fantastic. From page 1, Zub and Cummings felt completely at home in the world they were creating.

That comfort and confidence was evident on every page – every panel – and Wayward quickly became one of my favorite series.

The story follows half-Irish, half-Japanese teenager Rori Lane as she adjusts to her new life in Tokyo with her mother. Things don’t exactly go according to plan, though. Almost immediately, she’s attacked by mythical monsters no one else can see, discovers she suddenly has a superpower, and falls in with a small band of teenage “misfits” who possess other incredible powers.

This is an original superhero story without the spandex, a coming-of-age story that blends ancient Japanese mythology with modern Tokyo, and a good ol’ fashioned monster tale.

It’s also an epic in the making, and I highly recommend it.

Continue reading

‘Part-Time Princesses’: Mean Girls With a Paycheck


(This post originally appeared on GeekDad here.)

Part-Time Princesses is a new graphic novel from Monica Gallagher and Oni Press that released digitally (an issue a week) on Comixology before the physical book arrived in stores.

The story follows Tiffany, Amber, Courtney, and Michelle: four high school seniors who work part-time as costumed princesses at Enchanted Park, their town’s local run-down amusement park. It’s very reminiscent of Storybook Land, which was a similar park near where I grew up in New Jersey (and still very much operational).

Continue reading

Interview with ‘Howtoons’ Artist Nick Dragotta


(This interview originally appeared on GeekDad here.)

Comics that aspire to be educational are not the easiest things to create. Well, I take that back; I guess they might be easy enough. There certainly are a lot of really bad “educational” comics out there. However, good comics that successfully educate and entertain are ridiculously hard to make.

If you’re skeptical that such a thing exists, I have two things to say to you. First, I don’t blame you. Second, I invite you to look no further than Howtoons (put out by Image Comics). Howtoons is the brainchild of artist Nick Dragotta and engineer/inventor Saul Griffith, and it aims to teach kids the fundamentals of math, science, and engineering through DIY projects that use everyday household materials.

Think Mr. Wizard in graphic novel form.

Step-by-step instructions for each project are in comic story form, and those instructions are sandwiched into a storyline that follows two siblings (Tucker and Celine) who make the projects themselves and go on adventures. Two collections (Howtoons: Tools of Mass Construction and Howtoons: [Re]Ignition are now available. Both are fantastic.

I had the chance to chat with artist Nick Dragotta—who is perhaps best known for his work on Image Comics’ East of West with Jonathan Hickman—about his work on Howtoons, getting kids interested in STEAM subjects, and how to make the world a better place.

Continue reading

Interview With Caldecott Honorees Jillian & Mariko Tamaki

ThisOneSummer-awards(This interview originally appeared on GeekDad here.)

Every year, the American Library Association breaks out the medals and awards children’s and young adult books with some of the most prestigious awards they have to offer. The big two—and those with which most people are familiar—are the Newbery Medal (for outstanding contribution to children’s literature) and the Caldecott Medal (for most distinguished American picture book for children).

Graphic novels have always had a somewhat … uncomfortable relationship with these awards. Some claim that they shouldn’t be considered alongside more “traditional” children’s books, and some argue that there should be an entirely separate award for graphic novels.

This year, for the first time ever, graphic novels were recognized in a huge way. This One Summer, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki and written by Mariko Tamaki, was awarded with both a Caldecott Honor and a Printz Honor (for excellence in literature written for young adults). This was the first graphic novel to ever be recognized with a Caldecott and only the second to snag a Printz.

Continue reading

Interview with Newbery Honoree Cece Bell


(This interview originally appeared on GeekDad here.)

Every year, the American Library Association breaks out the medals and awards children’s and young adult books with some of the most prestigious awards they have to offer. The big two—and those with which most people are familiar—are the Newbery Medal (for outstanding contribution to children’s literature) and the Caldecott Medal (for most distinguished American picture book for children).

Graphic novels have always had a somewhat … uncomfortable relationship with these awards. Some claim that they shouldn’t be considered alongside more “traditional” children’s books, and some argue that there should be an entirely separate award for graphic novels.

This year, for the first time ever, graphic novels were recognized in a huge way. Cece Bell’s El Deafo received a Newbery Honor, and This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki became the first graphic novel to be awarded a Caldecott Honor. (Click here for my interview with Mariko and Jillian Tamaki.)

Cece Bell’s graphic memoir appeared on many Best of 2014 lists for its charming, honest, and funny portrayal of her experiences and struggles after she loses her hearing (due to meningitis) at a young age.

I had the opportunity to chat with Cece Bell soon after she won the Newbery about the award, setting a precedent, and the lessons she’s learned.

Continue reading

Blog Tour: Last of the Sandwalkers

Sandwalkers BlogTourBanner

Today, we’ve got a bit of a treat. Jay Hosler is a biology professor and cartoonist, and lucky for us, he’s combined those two things with spectacular results!

His newest graphic novel, Last of the Sandwalkers, was just released from First Second, and it is phenomenal. It takes you on a journey inside an intricate society of beetles, and believe me when I tell you: it’s well worth the journey.

I’ll be doing a full review of the book in the coming days, but today I’m more than happy to turn it over to Jay! The Roarbots is the penultimate stop on his blog tour, which has been amazing in that each stop has featured a different beetle.

Therefore, without further ado, take it away Jay….

Continue reading

Cast Away on the Letter A


  • Cast Away on the Letter A (A Philémon Adventure)
  • written/illustrated by Fred
  • published by Toon Books (Candlewick Press) (2014)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

There’s something about a book that begins with a map. Maybe it appeals to my inner explorer. Maybe it appeal to the inner 9-year-old who pored over world maps, lost in the wonder of what those little dots and intersecting lines represented.

Whatever it is, when I open a book and am immediately confronted with a mid-century National Geographic world map…I’m in.

I have to admit that before cracking open this beautiful little book, I was wholly unfamiliar with the character of Philémon. I’d hazard a guess that most Americans are. The character began in the French magazine Pilote in 1965 and was eventually successful enough to merit its own series of books.

Continue reading

Monster on the Hill

Photo Dec 12, 10 28 50 AM

  • Monster on the Hill
  • written and illustrated by Rob Harrell
  • published by Top Shelf Productions (2013)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

Imagine a world where every town has its own monster, and that monster is part menace/part savior. Like a hometown sports team, the monster is a point of pride. The townsfolk are terrified of its attacks, but they also delight in its rampages. This is hometown pride on an entirely new, wackadoo level.

And just like sports teams, it all boils down to being able to taunt “OUR monster is better than YOUR monster.”

Some monsters win the World Series every year. Some are the Chicago Cubs of the monster world. Enter Rayburn: the pathetic monster that has totally disappointed his townspeople.

Continue reading

Maddy Kettle: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch


  • Maddy Kettle: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch
  • by Eric Orchard
  • published by Top Shelf Productions (2014)
  • Price: $14.95
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Right away, my kids wanted to know who the Thimblewitch was. Is she good? Is she bad? What does she want? This is the sign of a good book in my house: one that engages their curiosity with questions from the get-go. A good cover or a good title can do that. This book has both. We’re off to a good start.

I picked up Maddy Kettle on a whim from Top Shelf at this year’s Small Press Expo. I admit, it was in a small stack of other books–Top Shelf puts out some great stuff–but it had just been released that weekend.

The book tells the story of 11-year-old Maddy. Through flashbacks, we learn that she works in her parents’ bookstore, but the book begins with her parents already turned into kangaroo rats.

This elicited a torrent of giggles. Zoey thought it hilarious that her parents are rats (since it’s not immediately explained that the parents were turned into rats by the Thimblewitch). Five pages in, and we’re still on the right track.

Continue reading

Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Witches #1


  • Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Witches – The Magic Swan Goose and the Lord of the Forest
  • written/illustrated/lettered by: S.M. Vidaurri
  • published by Archaia (Boom! Studios)
  • Price: $3.99
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Jim Henson’s Storyteller is back. If you don’t remember the original show from 1988, I’m so sorry. It was a groundbreaking series (for 1988) that blended live actors with Henson’s puppetry magic and retold European folktales and legends.

The show only survived for one season of 9 episodes, and it was briefly revived a few years later for a handful of episodes that centered on various Greek myths. John Hurt portrayed the storyteller in the first series, and it’s his contribution that sticks with me to to this day. The puppets made the show unique, but Hurt made the show a classic.

The episodes are bookended by the Storyteller, beside a roaring fire, telling the story to the viewer (and his talking dog). He then acts as narrator throughout the tales.

This new comic by Archaia stays true to that spirit. Though the Storyteller and his dog only appear on the final page of the first issue in silhouette, his presence is certainly felt throughout. The story is told mostly through narration–there is little dialogue–and S.M. Vidaurri adeptly captures the “voice” of Henson’s original Storyteller.

Continue reading

Star Wars #9 (Marvel)

Issue #9 (March 1978): Showdown on a Wasteland World

  • Writer/Editor: Roy Thomas
  • Illustrators: Howard Chaykin & Tom Palmer

Previously in this series.

This issue begins with three solid pages of Han’s narration, bringing the reader up to speed on what happened in the previous two issues! I guess the creators weren’t confident enough that their readers either read or understood the nonsense that happened in those pages. Can’t say I blame them.

Continue reading

Star Wars #8 (Marvel)

Issue #8 (February 1978): Eight for Aduba-3

  • Writer/Editor: Roy Thomas
  • Artist/Co-Plotter: Howard Chaykin

Previously in this series.

Our story, as it were, continues. The promise of Jaxxon is finally fulfilled. I mean, look! There he is, right on the cover!

We pick up right where the last issue leaves off, with Han and Chewie doin’ a little harmless womanizing in the cantina. Well, not quite harmless. Remember the blue woman who wanted to “take a walk and swap life stories” with Han? Turns out she has a boyfriend.

Continue reading

Tiny Titans: Return to the Treehouse #1

  • Tiny Titans: Return to the Treehouse
  • writers: Art Baltazar & Franco
  • artist: Art Baltazar
  • published by DC Comics
  • Roar Score: 4/5

The Tiny Titans are back! After a two-year absence from the comics shelves, they’ve returned for a 6-issue limited series. Baltazar and Franco’s unique take on the Titans ran for 50 issues in its earlier life, which is impressive because it was such an anomaly. How many genuinely family-friendly comics last that long? Answer: Not many.

In the interim, Baltazar and Franco have taken their signature style on a whirlwind tour through DC (with the excellent Superman Family Adventures and Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam), Dynamite (including Captain Action Cat and Li’l Battlestar Galactica), Capstone (the stellar Super-Pets chapter books), and their own Aw Yeah Comics imprint. They’ve become an unstoppable force. Which is how it should be.

Continue reading

Silver Surfer #1

  • Silver Surfer #1: The Most Important Person in the Universe
  • writers: Dan Slott and Michael Allred
  • color artist: Laura Allred
  • published by Marvel Comics
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Full disclosure time. Growing up, I was exclusively a DC reader. I never even read a Marvel superhero comic until I was an adult. The characters just never interested me. Blasphemy, I know.

Now, I’m a full-on convert. If we’re talking capes and spandex, it’s the Marvel universe that I find fascinating. I still flip through DC books every Wednesday, but I’m usually appalled at most of what I see. But that’s content for an entirely different post.

When I saw there was a new Silver Surfer book written by Mike Allred, I jumped. Allred’s Madman comics were a staple of my teenage years. And this new title just looked too cool to miss.

Continue reading

Star Wars #7 (Marvel)

Issue #7 (January 1978): New Planets, New Perils!

  • Writer/Editor: Roy Thomas
  • Artist/Co-plotter: Howard Chaykin

Well, here we are. Finally beyond the movie. We finally get new stories! And….what a mixed bag we get.

The issue picks up where the movie left off. Han and Chewie say goodbye to Luke and Leia and blast off with their reward to pay off Jabba. Kudos to the writers for following up on this plot point. Beginning in this issue, we follow the exploits of Han and Chewie for a while. Why? They actually address this on the letters page:

For the present, in order to gain a breathing space while director/creator George Lucas himself is deciding where the movie sequel (and novelizations thereof) will head, the lads are concentrating a bit more on the adventures of Han and Chewbacca.

Apparently, at the time, no one thought Han and Chewie would play much of an important role in subsequent movies. Anyway, back to this issue…

Continue reading

Star Wars #6 (Marvel)

Issue #6 (December 1977): Is This The Final Chapter?

  • Writer/Editor: Roy Thomas
  • Artist/Storyteller: Howard Chaykin

In what’s starting to feel like a theme, we need to first address this cover. Last week, we were given a cover that was all about misdirection, and it must’ve worked (from a marketing perspective). I mean, of course it worked. Just look at the entire Silver Age. Anyway, take a look at this one. “See Luke Skywalker Battle Darth Vader!”

Well, I guess so, in a manner of speaking. I mean, Vader did chase down Luke’s X-Wing during the trench run, but they never actually “do battle.” I don’t think Luke even fires on Vader. And they certainly don’t have a lightsaber duel with a helpless Princess Leia cowering on the ground next to them. What a disservice to her character, especially since her tough, independent demeanor is actually represented in these comics.

Are you prepared for the “soul-shattering climax”? I know I am…

Continue reading

The Misadventures of Salem Hyde, Book 2

  • The Misadventures of Salem Hyde, Book 2: Big Birthday Bash
  • written and illustrated by Frank Cammuso
  • published by Amulet Books (Abrams)
  • Roar Score: 3/5

(For our review of Salem Hyde, Book One, click here.)

Salem and Whammy are back. This time, Salem has been invited to a birthday party and wants to give the best birthday present ever. Alas, Whammy is still there to make sure she doesn’t use her magic.

Continue reading

Cleopatra in Space

  • Cleopatra in Space, Book 1: Target Practice
  • written and illustrated by Mike Maihack
  • published by Graphix (Scholastic)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

If the title doesn’t grab your attention, you might want to check your pulse. And if the cover doesn’t totally captivate you, then you might seriously be dead. Consult your physician.

This is a book that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. I was overjoyed when I heard that Scholastic had decided to publish it and give it a treatment that the story and art deserve. Cleopatra in Space is the creation of the awesomely amazing artist Mike Maihack — an artist we love so much in our house that I might border on hyperbole here. Apologies.

Continue reading

Captain Action Cat

  • Captain Action Cat #1: The Timestream CATastrophe!
  • written and illustrated by Art Baltazar
  • written by Franco & Chris “Zod” Smits
  • published by Dynamite Comics
  • Roar Score: 4/5

I’ll admit it. We’ll buy pretty much anything by the Aw Yeah! guys. Super-Pets, Tiny Titans, Superman Family Adventures, even Battlestar Galactica(!). Art and Franco can do no wrong in my house.

So when we saw Captain Action Cat beckoning to us from the slew of new comics this week, we had to have it. And it doesn’t disappoint.

Continue reading