Tomie dePaola in his studio in New London, N.H., in 2013. Of the many books he wrote and illustrated, he said the ones that resonated most with children were inspired by his own life.Credit…Jim Cole/Associated Press
Tomie dePaola, one of my favorite children’s book illustrators, and perhaps yours, has passed away. I always admired his great sense of style and the masterful ease he had with conjuring up his distinctive storytelling. His stories of a grandma witch with an eternally full pasta pot, beginning with Strega Nona (1975), were beloved by generations of children.
Much in the same spirit as another favorite artist, Tomi Ungerer, who died last year, dePaola had a signature style and a heartfelt vision that carried him through his 30-year career. Speaking of hearts, dePaola got to signing his work with a heart and never stopped. As he explained: “The heart has become a sort of symbol for me. I also use it as shorthand, or an abbreviation, for ‘love.’”
You have probably heard of Anonymous, the so-called, “hacker activist group,” but perhaps you’re not so clear on the details. Then consider this new graphic novel: A for Anonymous: How a Mysterious Hacker Collective Transformed the World(Bold Type Books; on sale March 31) by David Kushner and Koren Shadmi. The journalist and illustrator, who teamed up once before on Rise of the Dungeon Master, tell the story of the legendary hacktivist group Anonymous—from their origin story to their most daring exploits.
Who or What is Anonymous?
As a cartoonist myself, I can tell you that Kushner and Shadmi both understand the comics language. The art of visual storytelling requires a precise and concise translation from another medium. Unless you’ve done it yourself, it can be hard to appreciate the work involved. Yes, you need to edit like a madman but you also have to strike a balance as you juggle various facts and events. Some wrongheaded critic may accuse you of taking too much out and leaving a disjointed thread. But, if you’ve carefully laid out your work, cooler heads will prevail and hail you a genius! Kushner knows how to write a comics script and Shadmi knows how to compliment the steady tempo that Kushner has set up. And off we go as we follow Kushner’s reportage on the whole Anonymous phenomena.
Anonymous is not a group and it’s not a person.
In A for Anonymous, Kushner and Shadmi follow the Anonymous phenomena, including its acts of rebellion set to embarrass rich and powerful targets—from Sony and Paypal to the Church of Scientology and the Ferguson Police Department—all in the name of freedom of speech and information. Much like Kushner’s well-received New Yorker article from which this book is adapted, this work follows Commander X as a guide to all the anonymous activity, giving readers a character they can follow through a story that involves a wide variety of shadowy figures. What we come to appreciate is that Anonymous is not any one person or group but a vast network, not all pursuing the same goal. The origins of Anonymous go back to early efforts by a small club of hobbyist coders known as The Cult of the Dead Cow. Back in the mid-1980s, they chose to deliver a blow to the powerful and nefarious Church of Scientology. They started messing with their online forum. It was a small but significant act of protest, one of the earliest hacks. Not exactly the work of a sinister criminal element. And then things began to snowball into bigger acts of protest like crashing government websites in support of downtrodden rebels. We follow along to the development of 4chan and the swamp of cowardly acts of hate and violence. Not all fun and games by a long shot. All in all, this is a fascinating guide to help us better appreciate and understand the virtual rabbit hole that attracts virtually anyone.
A for Anonymous is a 128-page trade paperback, black & white, published by Bold Type Books will be released on March 31, 2020. For more details, visit Hachette Book Group right here.
Hasbro’s current Marvel Legends packaging features multiple plastic elements that the company plans to eliminate. (Photo credit: The Pop Insider)
Depending upon your level of participation, one aspect of pop culture that could be high on your radar is collecting. Let’s focus on action figures. Hasbro, with a forward-looking approach to the environment, will be doing away with plastic packaging for its action figures. Let that sink in. Is this something that makes you jump up? An excellent story on this can found over at Pop Insider.
Seriously, even the most casual observer can appreciate how pretty, and safe and secure, a collectible figure looks encased within its hermetically sealed world. Yes, if you didn’t know, collectors love that. Most collectors want the action figure to stay in the box! Sure, they claim to enjoy a nice debate over it. But, no, most of them want the darn thing to stay out of harm’s way and not have to endure the ravages of time in any way, shape, or form like us mere mortals.
But all collectors of some of the most coveted actions figures will need to adjust. Hasbro is the prime source, the undisputed champ. So, folks will need to give this a little think. One of the first road blocks that could trigger some trauma is having to deal with the fact that, without the plastic packaging, a potential buyer can’t inspect the product before buying! No more plastic see-through windows! Then there’s the ultimate conundrum, once the toy is purchased, do you still just leave it in the box, not really knowing what lies inside, or do you dare open the box and actually handle it, risking it being compromised in some way? It becomes a philosophical question, for some people, doesn’t it? Should we all do our part to save the world or are we better off focusing on saving the mint condition of a collectible action figure?
For me, if I were to purchase a collectible figure, I would try to get a look at it before I bought it and then I would plan to display it out of the box. I’d buy a collector’s cube and display it that way. But, most likely, I wouldn’t buy a figure in the first place. I don’t rule it out though. Some of these figures are definitely charming. I don’t think they add up to a viable investment. Maybe everyone just needs to relax and take it all in stride. Buy one of these items, take it out of the box and never plan to sell it, just display it in your office. All this is assuming that you’re an adult collector. If you’re a kid, then tear open the box already and get on with life! Who is buying these figures the most, the adults or the kids?
It will be interesting to see how things develop as this plastic packaging is phased out in the next two years. With just the adult market in mind, is there perhaps some biodegradable plastic that can replace the plastic currently used for those essential windows on the display box? All this makes my head spin since, if you stop and consider the position of most, if not all, adult collectors, this plastic packaging will never be thrown out! The whole point, for just about every collector, is to leave the figure in the box! Also, keep in mind, the figure itself is made out of plastic!
You know you’ve found the right thriller movie when it’s full of suspense, tension, excitement, and a compelling plot. One of the more offbeat and unusual examples of this is the 2017 movie, Hangman, starring Al Pacino, Karl Urban and Brittany Snow, which lived up to its promise of keeping audiences on the edge of their seats.
So, let’s take a look at some of this year’s highly anticipated thriller films.
Vivarium (March 27)
Vivarium (Credit: Variety)
Ireland’s famous director Lorcan Finnegan will be showing an unconventional and sinister portrait of marriage through his latest film, Vivarium. In the film, Tom and Gemma, played by Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots, are looking for a place together. In their search, they find themselves in a suburban neighborhood of never-ending rows of eerily identical houses with no person or car in sight. After their realtor suddenly disappears, the couple soon realizes that there is no way out of the village. Screen Daily’s review of the film highlights that the low-key science-fiction thriller confidently executes the hells of aging, commitment, and parenthood in the most unconventional way possible. Have a look at their mind-boggling trailer:
Swallow (March 6)
Swallow (Credit: Roger Ebert)
While many consider pregnancy as a miracle or gift that should be celebrated, it made life even more miserable for Haley Bennett’s character, Hunter, who may seem to have it all. As the pressure of her controlling in-laws’ and husband’s expectations weigh her down, Hunter develops a dangerous disorder called pica – a condition that has her compulsively swallowing inedible and life-threatening objects. Rotten Tomatoes’ write up on Swallow outlines how the film directed by Carlo Mirabella-Davis tackles the unfortunate ways people try to reclaim independence in the face of an inescapable and oppressive system. Here’s a clip to give you a peek at some of the things Hunter swallows:
The Card Counter (Early 2020)
The Card Counter (Credit: The Hollywood Reporter)
Oscar-nominee Paul Schrader’s next film is the revenge thriller The Card Counter. It will star Oscar Isaac as William Tell, a gambler who just wants to play cards, and Tiffany Haddish as a mysterious gambling financier named La Linda. The movie will follow Tell as he sets out to reform a young man seeking revenge and help him win the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas with La Linda’s aid. While regular audience members might not be able to aim as high, CardPlayer Lifestyle’s review of PPPoker explains that casual players can participate in online tournaments and clubs to seek their next thrill. The popularity of online gaming is sure to drive a lot of the interest for this film; however, unfortunately, Paul Schrader reported that they had to stop production after one of the actors tested positive for the novel coronavirus. With the filming abruptly halted, no poster or trailer has been released yet, but rest assured that the filming will commence once the pandemic dies down.
A Quiet Place 2 (March 20)
A Quiet Place 2 (Credit: Insider)
After surviving the deadly events at home, the Abbott family must now face the outside world where monsters that hunt by sound and many others can be found. Entertainment Weekly’s preview of A Quiet Place 2 expressed that the movie will also provide viewers with a sense of what the world and the family were like before the nightmarish events happened. As the family realizes that there are other survivors out there, the movie will touch on how far an individual in distress can extend a hand to others in the same situation. Emily Blunt, who plays Evelyn Abbott, shared that it is important that the movie talks about the fractured sense of community that’s happening right now on a global scale. See the new creatures that will haunt your dreams through this trailer:
The Woman in the Window (May 15)
The Woman in the Window (Credit: Sinefesto)
Based on The New York Times bestselling book The Woman in the Window, by A.J. Finn, the film of the same title, starring Amy Adams, will be a psychological mystery thriller you should definitely look forward to. The film follows Adams’s character Anna Fox who is a child psychologist consumed by a case of agoraphobia and a hefty amount of wine and pills which leads her to obsess over her neighbors. One day as she looks outside the window, she witnesses what looks like a murder. Coming off as a closed-off drunk, the police didn’t believe Anna when she reported what she saw. The rest of the movie will revolve around unearthing the truth behind Anna and her claim. With its Oscar pedigree cast and addictive plot, Pop Sugar’s spoiler feature highlights how the film will be just as big of a hit as the book it was based on. Watch the trailer and see for yourself: did Anna really witness a murder or was it just a product of her hallucinations?
The Vast of Night, directed by Andrew Patterson, screenplay by Craig W. Sanger and James Montague, cinematography by Miguel Ioann and Littin Menz, Amazon Studios, release date May 29, 2020 (USA)
I enjoy exploring a broad range of topics but my core niche resides somewhere “between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge.” Go back far enough and maybe it’s the same for you. It sure is with this film. It begins with a retro living room scene and an antique television with a flickering image. An announcer refers to a “frequency caught between logic and myth” and introduces Paradox Theatre and that night’s episode, The Vast of Night, which is also the title of this film. As an added bonus for any loyal Twilight Zone fan, the next scene is set in Cayuga, New Mexico. Rod Serling’s prodcution company during TZ was named, Cayuga Productions. So, the bar is set pretty high and it follows through. I simply could not stop once I began.
Fay picks up strange signals.
The camera proceeds to snake its way into that night’s basketball game at Cayuga High School. It’s the 1950s and it feels like it in a glorious way. Everett (Jake Horowitz) is a teenager set on becoming the next Edward R. Murrow. Fay (Sierra McCormick) is a teenager completely enthralled with Everett. They both wander around the high school gym with a tape recorder making the most of the latest technology. Everett is so poised and Fay is so frantic. It seems like anything is possible with an added tension that maybe more is possible than anyone could ever have imagined.
This film makes me think of some of my favorite period pieces, like Back to the Future or The Last Picture Show. What The Vast of Night does so well is completely embrace its time period and manage to give it new life, say something new about it. The viewer enters into a complete and fully realized world. In fact, some of the best moments are when the camera is set loose and, like a snake, slithers about town, taking us on a ground level tour through main street, back to the high school basketball game, and over to the local radio station.
The camera slithers along like a snake.
However, in the end, it’s the dynamic performances by both Horowitz and McCormick that really steal the show: the chemistry between them; and the lonely moments when they’re apart. McCormick is especially engaging as an expert switchboard operator. I don’t know if, in fact, operators could work from home but Fay does in this movie. Fay and that enormous switchboard are quite a sight to behold. And, of course, all of this is leading up to something. These characters can’t be too far from Roswell, New Mexico. And those strange sounds that Fay is picking up must mean something. Overall, this is one of the most charming and engaging movies I’ve seen in a long while. Oddly enough, it fits right in with the strange times we’re all currently living through. This film won’t be out until May so keep an eye out for it.
BANG! published by Dark Horse Comics, writer Matt Kindt (MIND MGMT), artist Wilfredo Torres (JUPITER’S CIRCLE), colorist Nayoung Kim and letterer Nate Piekos. Issue 2 out on March 17, 2020.
Dark Horse is doing very well with its comic book series BANG! John Shaw, its main character, must be America’s favorite barefoot tough guy since Die Hard‘s John McClane. Yeah, there’s a real foot thing going on here so you can file this under “Comics with a Foot Theme.” John Shaw is credited with sensitive feet and described in the book like this: “He’s barefoot. They never hear him coming.” And he even has a pretty good plot to work with: he’s the guy staying one barefoot step ahead of the terrorists in order to stay alive and possibly save the fabric of reality. Matt Kindt has always been a creator who works best with offbeat stories and this looks to have checked all the boxes on weird compelling adventure.
The first printing of BANG! issue 1 sold out ahead of publication, following widespread press attention and endorsements from Keanu Reeves and some of the comic book industry’s most respected writers and artists. Issue 2 of BANG! is on sale from Dark Horse Comics on March 17, 2020.
Secrets Of New York Live! with Sarah Funky and Tom Delgado
New York City, you just gotta love it and so that leads us to this post. First off, Sarah Funky owns her own tour company where she provides you with her take on New York City. Due to COVID-19, people are hesitant to do public gatherings so that impacts all sorts of business, including all facets of the tourism industry. Sarah Funky thought she’d try a virtual tour with another tour guide, Tom Delgado, to let folks know that we’re all in this together!
New York City is made up of five boroughs, with a wide spectrum of housing options. It is that fact that makes it possible for 8.5 million people, from all strata of society, to make New York City the vibrant and diverse place that it is. These are the sort of facts that Tom Delgado proudly presents on his tours. And the same goes, of course, for Sarah Funky. These two are true blue New Yorkers proud to share their insights, and secrets, about the Big Apple.
Among the many secrets that Sarah presents on her tours is one that she’s particularly fond of. If you wander over to South Street Seaport, you will find the ultimate view of Brooklyn Bridge. It is quite a view and, no wonder, a secret that can’t stay a secret but must be shared. Sarah’s enthusiasm is priceless as she gives you a taste of her tours and shares the stage with Tom. It’s that can-do spirit that’s going to get us through this current crisis. We will get through this and we’ll come back even stronger, just like New York City. UPDATE: The time to view the virtual tour has expired but here’s a look at what Sarah has to offer on her tours and definitely something to look forward to once we return to our more routine lives:
Max in America: Into the Land of Trump by Henry Chamberlain
There’s not a moment to lose. I’m getting fired up and ready to go sell some books. Hey there, friends, consider getting a copy of Max in America: Into the Land of Trump, available at Amazon or ask me directly or go to my blog’s store. I’d love to know what you think and don’t be shy about reviewing it at Amazon too! But don’t just take my word for it. Check out what author Stacey E. Bryan has to say over at her blog…
Diego Guerra is a remarkable talent. It takes a lot to keep my interest and Guerra had me turning pages to The Island, an amazing work in comics that is currently in progress. I champion excellent storytellers and I am compelled to share them with you whenever possible. One Guerra title (with writer Justin Gray) that is available now is Lady Redbeard #1 and you can find it over at comiXology. But, while you’re there, take a closer look at a couple of other Guerra works. You’ll see him team up with writer Caje Brennan Knight for the quirky thriller, Mental Cases, and that’s very promising. But then look over to volume 3 of the comics anthology, Octal, and you’ll find Guerra’s excellent dystopian piece, The Foundling. The more Guerra is left to himself to grow, the better he gets! And that brings me back to The Island, which needs to come out as soon as possible. It is, without a doubt, an excellent example of the adult fantasy genre. I’m talking about comics that are truly intended for mature audiences that involve more complex and offbeat narratives, often mix in sci-fi themes and find that sweet spot of high art in erotica in the spirit of such greats as Alejandro Jodorowsky and Milo Manara. Diego Guerra is well inside that line of witty and sophisticated cartoonists. He is an artist, and writer, riding high, at the top of his game.
Excerpt from Diego Guerra and Justin Gray’s Lady Redbeard #1
Diego Guerra is an award-winning artist, animator, 3D modeler, director, producer, and former editor of Acme Comics. He was the director and producer of the animated feature, Desterrada (official selection in animation festivals from three continents). He has created more than 400 comic book pages for 15 clients in the last 3 years. In other words, Guerra is a seasoned pro and his polished and refined work demonstrates that.
Spring is in the air and we’re getting more sunshine. While 2020 gives us plenty for pause, there is a need for optimism and comfort. For me, once I’m wearing a nice pair of sunglasses, it puts me in a good mood. It’s a bit of a ritual as I look for the last pair I wore or go ahead and buy glasses online. I do a similar thing when I buy flip flops online. Someone stylish wearing a cool pair of sunglasses symbolizes good times. Its a state of mind that I enjoy being in and you probably do too. I must say, if I’m healthy and have no business wearing a mask, I’ll find all the contentment and comfort that I need in a really snazzy pair of sunglasses. That beautiful pair of sunglasses will block away the ugliness and my worries, at least for a short while, long enough to take a stroll and know that all will feel a little more right in my world someday soon. Yes, we’ll be on vacation or some adventure before too long. A really snazzy pair of sunglasses can not only symbolize leisure; it can help give us a healthy dose of hope.