Tag Archives: graphic novels

Movie Review: ‘The Diary of a Teenage Girl’

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Just like “Ophelia,” in John Millais’s 1852 painting, submerging in the waters, so too 15-year-old Minnie Goetze floats and then descends the depths of her bath tub. We see her nude body sinking down the blue-green of her own misery only to resurface as a finely-drawn portrait by the same Minnie Goetze. Welcome to “The Diary of a Teenage Girl,” based upon the book of the same title by cartoonist and writer Phoebe Gloeckner. This is Gloeckner’s fictionalized account of her sexual awakening, circa 1976, at the age of 15 at the hands of a 35-year-old man, the boyfriend of her mother. By all counts, this is a story of rape and incest. Through poetic license, the raw source material is transcended and another transformative story rises from the brackish waters from which it came. And it is up to audiences if they will accept such a journey.

Bel Powley channeling Millais's 1852 painting, "Ophelia"

Bel Powley channeling Millais’s 1852 painting, “Ophelia”

Phoebe Gloeckner took her reality of rape and incest and shaped it into fiction. And then writer-director Marielle Heller took that fiction and adapted it for her film. With a safe distance from the actual events and persons, an uninhibited and honest story is possible. It turns out that 15-year-old Minnie Goetze appears to be empowered by the sexual relationship with 35-year-old Monroe. It’s San Francisco in 1976, experimentation with sex and drugs is in the forefront. Minnie, ill-equipped to navigate through the loopy zeitgeist, finds herself lost and on a classic downward spiral: she has a threesome, drops acid and performs oral sex in a bar bathroom while pretending to be a prostitute. All this happens without any judgment placed upon her.

Okay, just go and read Phoebe Gloeckner's "The Diary of a Teenage Girl"

Okay, just go and read Phoebe Gloeckner’s “The Diary of a Teenage Girl”

This is a complicated film. It is, after all, adapted from a complicated, and quite extraordinary, prose and comics hybrid. It can not be encouraged enough that, if the movie grabs your interest, then you must read the book. In a one-of-kind fictionalized memoir, Phoebe Gloeckner expresses her story in a way that you need to read to believe. In the end, her goal was to create a greater truth. The movie follows closely but, my its very nature, tells a story with a different tone and view. Gloeckner addresses these shifts from her work to the film in this insightful interview with the A.V. Club right here.

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Bel Powley portrays Minnie with a wide-eyed broad innocence. In somewhat a similar sense, so does Kristen Wig as Minnie’s mother, Charlotte. And, in his own way, so does Alexander Skarsgård as Monroe, Minnie’s predatory Lothario. It’s the self-conscious attempt to evoke the act of reading Gloeckner’s unique work that can be problematic. Gloeckner’s narrative is prose followed by an illustration followed by comics and more prose and so on. The crux of the problem of translating Gloeckner’s vision into film is that it really is virtually impossible: you are really walking into a land mine when you mix comics, film, and address rape and incest. Parts of the film seem to read as too cartoony when, paradoxically, the same scene in Gloeckner’s comics does not read so much as “cartoony” as simply entering a different world, reading something within a different world. The film, even it doesn’t intend to, seems to take its subject too lightly.

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Not to sound too much like Marshall McLuhan, but when you read comics, you are reading and, when you see something evoking the feeling of reading comics, which happens often in this film, you are reading the content and the medium, and that can be very distracting. It can also be a wonderful combination of distraction and entertainment like the multi-layered tribute to the grand curmudgeon Harvey Pekar in “American Splendor.” If you have a lighter subject, you can get away with much more. But with the double whammy subjects of rape and incest, it raises the stakes so high as to be a virtually insurmountable challenge. With all that said, this is a very unique film. All I can is that I’m happy to find that this 15-year-old character is in the very capable hands of 23-year-old Bel Powley.

“The Diary of a Teenage Girl” is a film that will definitely challenge you. But, keep in mind, to best appreciate what this film is doing, read Phoebe Gloeckner’s book. A new revised edition, published by North Atlantic Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, has just been released. You can find it at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Autobio Comics, Autobiography, Comics, Movie Reviews, movies, Phoebe Gloeckner

Review: STEVE JOBS: Insanely Great

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Steve Jobs is a person who had a lot of great days, so many of which directly impacted the great days of countless others. By that measure alone, Jobs led a remarkable life, a life quite worthy of remarking upon at length. To do this through the comics medium is a worthy endeavor. To do it right, the way Jessie Hartland did, is an inspiration. Her graphic novel, or “graphic biography,” tells the story of a man who, by luck and pluck, ends up going down in history as one of the great technological trailblazers. He was a really nice guy and a bit of a stink but, all told, a person to look up to and to learn from. “Steve Jobs: Insanely Great,” give us an accessible, engaging, and thoroughly entertaining biography.

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Jessie Hartland’s style is quite light and breezy, disarmingly so. She packs quite a lot of information in this book, all neatly assembled in a seemingly effortless way. The life of Steve Jobs seems like that of a never-ending race. Just before the starting gun, Jobs is all flexed and ready and then he’s off and never ever really stops until the very, very end. What a life!

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There’s all these things he’s supposed to have said like, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” It sends a chill down my spine. I need to get up for a moment and pace around. This day. This time. This life. Study this above page for a moment. It would make a great poster, wouldn’t it? Very simple yet powerful. That is what Hartland has tapped into, Job’s pursuit of something powerful through simplicity. It wouldn’t be the money that would make him happy, although he was happy to use the money to pursue his dreams. Throughout the book, you can’t help but get swept up by the sense of urgency as one bright kid becomes one even brighter man.

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Who is this book meant for? Everyone, quite literally. You could say grades 8 and up. It’s definitely something younger readers will appreciate and it seems that Hartland has an ideal reader of say, thirteen, in mind as she is careful to include various details that older readers might take for granted. I especially like her two-page spreads explaining such things as “What’s New! Late 1990s.” Along with a rapidly growing internet and digital cameras, Hartland depicts a rogue’s gallery of portable music players. This, of course, is a sly reference to what lies ahead. Much in the same spirit as her biography of Julia Child, Hartland does her best to balance a myriad of facts. She does a great job, for instance, in lightly touching on the drug use of a young Steve Jobs. It is filed away with an assortment of other exploration and soul-searching, like traveling to India. Idle time is balanced with driven work. Ultimately, this book depicts a life well lived, conscious of the moment.

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“Steve Jobs: Insanely Great,” by Jessie Hartland is published by Schwartz Wade Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Visit our friends at Penguin Random House right here.

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Filed under Biography, Comics, Computers, Steve Jobs

Preview: Jackie Estrada’s Comic Book People 2

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Jackie Estrada’s “Comic Book People 2,” a behind-the-scenes look at the comics industry in the 1990s, will be available at your local comics shop on September 2 and on Amazon on September 10. You can currently find the first book “Comic Book People: Photographs from the 1970s and 1980s,” right here. You can find “Comic Book People 2” scheduled for release at your LCS right here.

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“Comic Book People 2” is a high-quality hardcover coffee table book that offers a unique peek at the comics industry in the 1990s. It features some 600 candid photos of comics creators taken by Jackie Estrada at the San Diego Comic-Con, WonderCon, Chicago ComiCon, APE, SPX, and other shows during the decade, along with commentary and anecdotes about each person. The photos depict not only the big names of the period but also up-and-coming stars early in their careers as well as Golden and Silver Age comic book greats who were still with us.

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“The 1990s were a great time for new faces that are now familiar fixtures, such as Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Jeff Smith, Terry Moore, Garth Ennis, Colleen Doran, David Lapham, and Paul Pope,” says Estrada. “But even as these new creators came on the scene, a number of Golden and Silver Age greats were still with us, and I was fortunate to be able to photograph many of them.” Among the venerated artists in the book are Frank Frazetta, Carmine Infantino, Gene Colan, Al Williamson, Sheldon Moldoff, Nick Cardy, and of course Will Eisner and Jack Kirby.

The 1990s were a transitional era in comics: Image emerged, lots of other new publishers got into the mix, the direct market flourished, and the self-publishing and indie comics movements really took off. The number of comic conventions also increased all around the U.S. And Jackie Estrada was there, capturing the scene in candid images.

It was during the 1990s that Estrada and her husband Batton Lash formed Exhibit A Press to produce his comics series Wolff& Byrd, Counselors of the Macabre (aka Supernatural Law). Many of the photos in Comic Book People 2 were taken at shows where they exhibited, from the Chicago ComiCon and WonderCon to the Small Press Expo and APE, as well as the San Diego Comic-Con. The book covers the full spectrum of creators, from mainstream superhero writers and artists to small press cartoonists, as well as people behind the scenes in the industry, such as publishers, editors, retailers, and distributors. Among the events of the 1990s featured are the foundings of Milestone and Friends of Lulu and activities of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

Jackie has been both a comics fan and a photographer since the 1960s, and she has been to every San Diego Comic-Con. Her involvement in comics has included editing publications for Comic-Con, being the administrator of the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards since 1990, serving as president of Friends of Lulu, and being the co-publisher of Exhibit A Press, which has produced Comic Book People 2. Her photos of comics creators have appeared in numerous books and publications, from Paul Levitz’s 75 Years of DC Comics and Julius Schwartz’s autobiography Man of Two Worlds to Alter Ego and Comics Buyer’s Guide. Most prominently, dozens of her photos were used in Dark Horse’s Comics: Between the Panels and in Comic-Con: 40 Years of Artists, Writers, Fans, and Friends. Most recently, her photos could be seen in the PBS special, “Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle,” on the history of superheroes.

You could not ask for a better guide on the formidable world of comics than Jackie Estrada.

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Filed under Cartoonists, Comic-Con, Comics, Ellen Forney, Frank Frazetta, Jackie Estrada, Photography, pop culture, Will Eisner

Webcomic Review: Three Ring Samurai

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“What is a clown without a circus, a samurai without a master? When your character and identity are written on your skin, can you ever escape being the person you used to be?” — from Three Ring Samurai

Three Ring Samurai will not be denied! Pookie is a cross between High Plains Drifter and Billy Jack. He’s a homicidal samurai clown and sure looks the part, tattoos from head to toe, including permanent clown makeup. This is one fierce dude! We first meet Pookie as he’s reached his lowest point, lost and nearly dead. And then as luck, or misfortune, would have it, Pookie is found by some locals who crack his skull with a mighty blow and then take him home to rehabilitate him. Three Ring Samurai is an excellent webcomic, script by Ryk Brink and art by Ike Golden, that promises a lot and delivers a lot.

"Acid Rain" - Original Concept Art for Three Ring Samurai by Ike Golden

“Acid Rain” – Original Concept Art for Three Ring Samurai by Ike Golden

The above is “Acid Rain,” original concept art for Three Ring Samurai by Ike Golden. If you’d like your very own high res desktop background, go to Gumroad right here.

Ike Golden has a nice easy flowing and precise style. The violent moments are artfully dealt with and evoke a profound finality with the demise of each character. Of course, Pookie will tell you himself that he’s not trying to kill everyone in sight. There are plenty of lowlifes out to get him. He just gives back as good, or better, than he gets. For fans of dieselpunk, Fallout, Mad Max, anime, kung fu and samurai films, this one’s for you. Keep up with Three Ring Samurai right here.

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Filed under Comics, Webcomics

Joshua Boulet at Exterminator City, Push/Pull Gallery, Seattle

As any card-carrying local artist and cartoonist should do, I went down to check out the indie comic show Exterminator City, part of Push/Pull Studio & Gallery here in the Phinney-Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle. Exterminator City is put together by Push/Pull member, Seth Goodkind, who is a local cartoonist and published illustrator.

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Plenty of stellar talent including Allen Gladfelter, Adam Lynn, Megan Noel, Noel Franklin, Scott Faulkner, and Eli Tripoli, to name a few. Coming off the heels of my awesome time at Hempfest last weekend, it was perfect timing to meet up with Joshua Boulet. He’s a fine example of how cannabis and comics mix quite well. In this video interview, Joshua is kind enough to share his sketchbook. BTW, I picked up his “Draw Occupy Wall Street” which I will review in a future post!

"I MET TOMMY CHONG!" by Joshua Boulet

“I MET TOMMY CHONG!” by Joshua Boulet

Here at Comics Grinder, we’ll keep exploring the interconnections between comics and cannabis as well as cannabis in general from time to time. You could say that both comics and cannabis remain somewhat misunderstood by the general public while also receiving a general thumbs up. That said, we can tackle both subjects thoughtfully and respectfully one post at a time.

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Now, let’s focus on the venue for this comics event. Exterminator City was made possible by the Push/Pull Gallery. My heart goes out to them as both an artist and a curator. For many years, I curated art shows at Glo’s Diner with an emphasis on fringe art, specifically alternative comics. Well, Pull/Pull is ready to take things to a new level as they move toward a permanent home. With your help, Push/Pull will achieve its goal through its Kickstarter campaign, which closes on September 4, 2015, that you can visit right here.

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Filed under Alternative Comics, Comic Arts Festivals, Comics, Comix, Exterminator City, Independent Comics, Indie, Joshua Boulet, mini-comics, Minicomics, Push/Pull Studio & Gallery, Seattle, Underground Comics

Review: ‘Locomotive / IDEOLO,’ published by Centrala

"Locomotive / IDEOLO," published by Centrala

“Locomotive / IDEOLO,” published by Centrala

“Locomotive / IDEOLO,” published by Centrala, is one beautiful and simple idea brought to life for all its worth: take a beloved famous Polish poem for children and then adapt it for adults. The poem is “The Locomotive,” by Julian Tuwim (September 13, 1894 – December 27, 1953) who is remembered for his satirical and subversive poetry. Listen to “The Locomotive” in Polish and, even if you don’t speak the language, it evokes the strains and struggles of the mighty steam-powered monster. What designer Małgorzata Gurowska and journalist Joanna Ruszczyk have done with this book is provide a unique format upon which to meditate on Tuwim’s poem.

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I found this book to be a great form of therapy as I lingered upon each page. Gurowska and Ruszczyk provide an intoxicating mix of light and dark content. We have animals that appear to be undergoing an organized exodus while other animals have been neatly packed as surplus. And the same goes for humans. On the train cars, as we begin, it seems that we have everything we would ever need for anything: a celebration, a riot, the next all-out war. As we proceed from train car to train car, the stakes grow higher, the urgency more crushing. Countless suitcases are stored away never to be reunited with their owners. Troops are deployed. War is imminent or already unleashed.

And amid all the mounting tension, there is a cry for change. The political commentary is sly and well-placed challenging the reader to face difficult questions about national identity, racism, anti-Semitism, and attitudes towards ecology and animals. The design is impeccable and does a great job of evoking a highly regimented state of alert. The clean and sharp silhouettes of rabbits, soccer players, and suitcases will hit you with their significance. Contemplate each page and then spread out the entire book, just like an accordion, to fully appreciate it.

From Julian Tuwim’s THE LOCOMOTIVE:

A big locomotive has pulled into town,
Heavy, humungus, with sweat rolling down,
A plump jumbo olive.
Huffing and puffing and panting and smelly.
Fire belches forth from her fat cast iron belly

“Locomotive / IDEOLO” is a 188-page hardcover and is appropriate for ages 9 and up. Visit our friends at Centrala right here.

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Filed under Centrala, Comics, Design, Graphic Design, Illustration, Poetry

Review: WELCOME BACK #1 (of 4)

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WELCOME BACK, published by Boom! Studios, is a sly philosophical action-packed comic. It is part sci-fi, part horror, and part youth against the world. Mali is an intriguing main character. She’s 26 years-old and doesn’t have her act together yet, although she has plenty of solid reasons for that. Being the step-daughter of an infamous serial killer will do that.

In the course of this first issue, we come to see that, in fact, Mali is right on track to meet her true destiny. Christopher Sebela’s script is a perfect story of a most unlikely heroine. And Jonathan Brandon Sawyer’s artwork is very fluid while also well-balanced. All the figures move about in a well-defined space. We believe in Mali right out of the gate.

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There’s a nice easy-going quality to this story which happens to also be pretty dark. Chalk it up to a hip depiction of the resilience of youth. Mali will need to be ready and able to bounce back from anything once she’s gotten a clue as to what is up ahead for her. As it turns out, she is a warrior who has lived countless other lives. Who knew? Not, Mali, not right away. But all the clues have been adding up. Meanwhile, there’s Mali’s perennial rival, Tess.

What I like most about this comic is that it is fearless. It has quite a lot going on. It’s one of those what I’d call an “umbrella comic,” one that can manage to hold anything under its title. Lookit, Mali and Tess have been battling it out since the dawn of battles. As Mali says herself, “there’s no winning. The victor takes themselves out, following the target into the next life.” Now, that’s a bold and fearless premise. This comic is up to the task.

WELCOME BACK #1 is a four-part series and is available as of August 19. For more details, visit our friends at Boom! Studios right here.

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Filed under Boom! Studios, Comics, Comics Reviews

Review: KING #1, published by Amazon Publishing’s Jet City Comics

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It’s all in a day’s work for King as he yet again searches for the “life seed” and avoids being eaten by some mutant. King is the last human survivor of the apocalypse. And that doesn’t mean he can do whatever he wants, not when the entire fate of humanity rests on his shoulders via the bureaucracy that is the Los Angeles Department of Reclamation. Funny stuff thanks to critically acclaimed comic book writer Joshua Hale Fialkov (The Bunker, Echoes, and I, Vampire). And it all jumps out vividly thanks to superstar artists Bernard Chang and Marcelo Maiolo (Green Lantern Corps, Batman Beyond). Where did this crazy good comic come from? It’s from Amazon Publishing’s Jet City Comics!

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KING is truly an exciting comic in all ways possible. It’s a trip into a wild, hilarious, and incredibly awesome world. For seasoned comics readers, and newcomers alike, this one will blow you away with its combination of wit and beauty.

I’m really impressed with the audacious irreverence to Fialkov’s script which often will evoke a spoken word authenticity with its spontaneity. Don’t we all want our hero to succeed and lead everyone to the Garden of Barbara Eden?

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Check out the above panel excerpt. King is describing the perennial quest for the life seed. And here, out of the blue, he says it can sometimes involve a sexy creature but, all too often, is more about a rock with some purple sparkleys. Who thinks like this? Very funny.

King’s journey is nonstop whipsmart action and sharp humor. It’s going to be a sheer pleasure to keep up with this series as this first issue is impeccable.

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KING #1 is a 31-page comic and is available as of August 19, 2015. The KING graphic novel is a Kindle Serial published in five issues for one price of only $5.99. This serial will run for a total of five issues, with each issue delivered monthly at no additional cost until the collected series is complete.

And, of course, you can always get the paperback when it’s available on January 20, 2016 for only $14.95. Check out the details by visiting our friends at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Amazon, Amazon Publishing, Bernard Chang, Comics, Jet City Comics, Joshua Hale Fialkov, Los Angeles

Preview: HENCHGIRL #2

Henchgirl #2-Scout-Comics

October sees the return of HENCHGIRL, by Kristen Gudsnuk, published by Scout Comics.

From Diamond Previews:

Check out the comic that io9.com calls “A terribly fun read!” Mary Posa hates her job. She works long hours for little pay, no insurance, and worst of all, no respect. Her co-workers are jerks and her boss doesn’t appreciate her. He’s also a supervillain. Cursed with a conscience, Mary would give anything to be something other than a Henchgirl. Playboy billionaire Greg Gains is holding a masked ball for the elite of Crepe City; Mary and the Butterfly Gang have orchestrated an infallible heist to infiltrate and relieve Gains of his gains. What could go wrong?

HENCHGIRL #2 is listed as Diamond Previews Item Code: AUG151680, will be in your local comics shop on October 28th, and is priced at $3.99. Find it in your current Diamond Previews.

Be sure to visit the Henchgirl site right here.

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Filed under Comics, Diamond Previews, Kristen Gudsnuk, Scout Comics

Review: ‘HILO: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth’ by Judd Winick

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When Daniel Jackson Lim first encounters Hilo, the little outer space alien, he sees a boy his own age flat on his back after falling from the sky and making a cataclysmic impact. He reaches out to him and – Snap! – there’s a mighty electrical charge that compels D.J. to scream, “Aaaah!” The die is cast. This becomes Hilo’s favorite word! Aaaah! Perfect as a greeting, a sign of approval, or just whenever. And so begins Judd Winick’s magical and hilarious all-ages graphic novel. And, yes, this is truly all-ages as adults and kids alike will groove to Winkick’s humor which evokes Bill Watterson’s “Calvin and Hobbes.”

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Here at Comics Grinder, I do my utmost best to bring to you an appealing mix of content geared to adults as well as content geared to children. And, as I’ve often said, it’s really great when you find a shining example of a bona fide all-ages comic. If you’re familiar with Judd Winick, you know that he has a healthy sense of humor as well as a thoughtful and caring side. Check out this interview that Whitney Matheson did with Winick right here. It goes back to Winick’s time on MTV’s “The Real World” in the ’90s. During the show, Winick became close friends with his housemate, Pedro, the first “Real World” housemate living with HIV. Winick would go on to create a graphic novel about Pedro entitled, “Pedro and Me: Friendship, Loss, and What I Learned.”

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It’s a combination of irreverent and energetic storytelling, bold artwork, and a great heart that makes this boy-out-of-world adventure so worthwhile. Readers will be won over long before Hilo has a clue as to what his destiny is to be.

The next adventure will be entitled, “HILO: Saving the Whole Wide World.” Yes, there will be more after this initial adventure, “HILO: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth.” And it only makes sense. It takes a while for Hilo to figure out what’s going on.

“HILO: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth” is a 208-page full-color hardcover published by Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House. It is available as of September 1, 2015. For more details, visit Penguin Random House right here. You can also visit Random House Kids right here.

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Filed under Children, Children's Books, Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Judd Winick, MTV, Random House