Tag Archives: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review: ‘Part of It: Comics and Confessions’ by Ariel Schrag

PART OF IT by Ariel Schrag

The comics medium can be as clear and as ambiguous as the work requires. One of the great things about comics is its unlimited and distinct potential to alternate between clarity and mystery. When you feature yourself in your own work, you seek the right balance. Someone quite capable of playing with those modulations is writer/artist Ariel Schrag. Her recent collection of comics is entitled, Part of It: Comics and Confessions, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Ms. Schrag is known for a number of brilliant memoir comics that feature her growing up, struggling through high school, and finding her way. While her work can neatly fit within the categories of YA and LGBTQ, it certainly transcends any label or genre. And don’t let anyone tell you different: a good coming-of-age story will always be welcome and never go out of style. We’re human and we all have our own unique tales to tell. This new collection of comics provides compelling proof of that.

Page from Part of It

Part of It is a collection that culls through some of Schrag’s best work over the years. Probably the best piece is one from a 2004 anthology with an eyeglasses theme. In this one, we find Schrag having been sucked into a vortex of vacillation over just what constitutes the perfect pair of eyewear. Is it promoting the best experience possible? Does it look right? Does it fit right? Is it dated? Is it…sass? Just one meaningless derisive utterance from her little sister triggers heartbreaking regret. Schrag tentatively enters a room with her latest choice in glasses. All it takes is one negative comment, “Sass,” from her sibling, and it’s all over.

Just wanting to be “part of it.”

Ms. Schrag has proven to be quite a funny and adroit writer. As an openly gay woman, she has shared excellent insights and observations. That said, whatever a writer’s background, it’s the work that speaks for itself in the end. Sexuality is not the key element, for instance, in the eyeglasses piece just mentioned above. In fact, sexuality is often part of a bigger picture in a typical auto-bio comic. You simply share things about yourself in the process of telling a story, in the service of the narrative. If all goes well, your tale combines the universal and the specific in a satisfying way. While all these pieces come from different places and times, Schrag finds common ground and eloquently returns again and again to a theme of wanting to be accepted, wanting to be “part of it.” This is a great collection of comics. Wonderfully wicked good fun!

Part of It: Comics and Confessions is a 176-page trade paperback, published by Mariner Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

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Filed under Ariel Schrag, Books, Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, LGBTQ, Young Adult

Gifts 2014: ‘WHAT IF?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions’ by Randall Munroe

What-If-Randall-Munroe

Geek out this holiday season with Randall Munroe’s “WHAT IF?” This #1 New York Times Bestseller will undoubtedly make the perfect gift for the science lover, the comics lover, and the geek in your life.

Millions of people visit xkcd.com each week to read Randall Munroe’s iconic webcomic. Now, its sister blog has been transformed into a book, “WHAT IF?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions.”

“WHAT IF” is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and is available here, here, and here.

You can read a roundup of praise below:

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Filed under Comics, Gifts, Gifts 2014, Randall Munroe, Webcomics, xkcd

Interview: Bill Kartalopoulos and THE BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2014

Bill-Kartalopoulos-Best-American-Comics

It is a pleasure to chat about comics, especially with someone as well-versed on the subject as Bill Kartalopoulos. For this interview, the occasion is the 2014 volume of “The Best American Comics,” which Bill takes over as the new series editor. I thought I’d take the opportunity to ask him about his thoughts on the term, “alternative comics,” since he led an interesting panel discussion on that topic at SPX back in 2012 entitled, “Life After Alternative Comics.” This was a way to frame the conversation.

Bill Kartalopoulos is a great observer of, and participant in, today’s comics scene. Part of his impressive resume includes being the program coordinator for the Small Press Expo as well as the program director for the MoCCA Arts Festival. Both of these events are essential barometers of prevailing trends. So, if Bill suggests that alternative comics are dead, I listen. Of course, he doesn’t really suggest that, at least not as you might think. But, let me continue…

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Filed under Alternative Comics, Art Spiegelman, Bill Kartalopoulos, Comics, Education, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Independent Comics, Indie, MoCCA Arts Festival, New York City, SPX, The Best American Comics

WHAT IF? A New Book by xkcd creator Randall Munroe

xkcd- Munroe-What-If

Millions of people visit xkcd.com each week to read Randall Munroe’s iconic webcomic. Today, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announces it will publish Munroe’s new book “WHAT IF?: Serious Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions” on September 2, 2014. Based on the wildly popular blog of the same name, WHAT IF?, the book, will feature new hypothetical questions and answers illustrated by infographics, lists and, of course, Randall’s signature stick figure drawings. We’ll also revisit some of his favorite questions from the blog. It’s the perfect book for anyone who has ever wondered how fast you can hit a speed bump while driving and live, or what would happen if a Richter 15 earthquake hit New York City.

Starting today you can pre-order it from your favorite bookseller (Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Indie Bound). There are also foreign editions, including a UK and Commonwealth edition and a German edition.

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Filed under Books, Comics, Comics News, Webcomics, xkcd