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.”
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.”
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.
What if that snarky comment that you thought was so clever was preserved forever, and not on some server, but in the very room that you first gave thought to it? What if every thought, every act, everything, in that room, were saved forever, beyond deletion? That is what this graphic novel is about. “Here,” by Richard McGuire, invites you to observe one particular spot through hundreds of thousands of years. Often, we see that spot as a room, a living room, in a house. But, at other times, it’s wide open to the forces of nature, both in the past and in the future.
Considering that all of time is fair game for this story, with all the vast possibilities, we do spend a considerable amount of time, a relatively brief speck of time, in a room. It’s that space, when it once was a room, that would seem to be significant. We relate to a room best, especially one in or around our own time. The ability to dwell, just dwell, in a room is the cornerstone of civilization. And the last one hundred years or so have been a golden age for room dwellers. That’s the lifespan of our main character, a living room. It helps to anchor us, being in a relatively familiar room. In this narrative, we observe a cast of characters also anchored, biding their time, wasting their time, anchored by conformity, domesticity, and convenience. What is anyone really doing? They’re dwelling.
It’s the little things that count, we are told. But it’s the big things that really get our attention, once a myriad of little things have taken place. Little. Big. Lives are made up of both. As McGuire observes, there sure are a lot of little moments. Even the big moments aren’t so big. We see a lot of accidents take place among the characters. Accidental moments that go off with a bang. A man slips from his chair. Another man falls from a ladder. The biggest incident seems to be a man struggling to breathe, perhaps having a stroke. In all that time, that space has one noteworthy moment, a visit from Benjamin Franklin. And that, my friend, is life, in a random little space, and is par for the course.
McGuire finds the compelling within what seems quite the opposite. A random little space, what does it really matter? Ah, well, humans have loved and lost and lived over many generations upon this stage. And, if you observe the flickering images long enough, you find patterns and you find something of a story, a universal struggle. McGuire’s style is wonderfully lean, low-key, and pared down. It has as much to do with comics and it does with painting, easily evoking the world of Alex Katz, peopled with lost souls floating along in the suburbs. In the end, though, it’s all about comics as the interplay among panels heats up and we learn all sorts of things all from the vantage point of one spot somewhere in New England.
What is impressive about this book is that McGuire took a clever concept and fully followed through. As you open up the first pages, you know what may follow. Will he pull it off? I mean, look, he’s set up a premise, a room with a year in the caption box above. Is he going to really take us for a ride and have the years change in interesting ways and have us see that space in interesting ways? Yes! That is what McGuire accomplishes. And, if that’s not enough for you, then you’re one cold snarky so-and-so. The premise is ambitious and the vision is sincere. These are not things to take lightly.
The idea is that McGuire has taken us on a new kind of ride. That was the goal when this graphic novel was first just a six-page work of comics in 1989, in “Raw” magazine, volume 2, number 1. That was certainly a postmodernist shot in the arm for comics. “Here” articulated an intriguing storytelling tool with how it arranged a number of panels on a page all taking place at different times. Of course, it’s not completely new. Comics, after all, by its very nature, involves panels playing with the notion of time. Still, McGuire was introducing something new into the comics landscape. He was offering up some original ideas on points of view. He was also playing with tempo. And, he was most certainly fascinated with the quotidian, an almost morbid fascination with the minutiae of life. It was something new and in step with a rising sensibility to celebrate the mundane and everyday. His particular take on things would be taken into other directions by Chris Ware.
“Here” is a beautiful realization of an intriguing concept. It is a pleasure to read.
“Here” is a 304-page full-color hardcover, published by Pantheon Books, an imprint of Random House. You can purchase it at Amazon right here.
Welcome to Hipsterville: SUGAR SKULL by Charles Burns
Welcome to hipsterville. If there is something that is both scary and fascinating to observe (like a train wreck) it is the activity of a hipster. Charles Burns completes his ode to the lives of hipsters gone terribly wrong in the final part of his Nitnit trilogy, “Sugar Skull.” Outside of a Stephen King novel, this new book by Burns offers up plenty to be creeped out over. Think of it as “Carrie” for the Gen X set.
Charles Yu is the author of the novel “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe” and the short story collections “Third Class Superhero” and “Sorry Please Thank You.” In 2007, Yu won the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 Award. When discussing Yu’s work, Italo Calvino comes up as does Douglas Adams and Kurt Vonnegut. What strikes me is Yu’s flair for a natural and casual humor mixed in with philosophical musings and various games with language and narrative. You can read my review of “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe” right here.
“Most people I know live their lives moving in a constant forward direction, the whole time looking backward.”
― Charles Yu, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
There is a very strong contingent of sci-fi fans who take issue with Charles Yu’s time travel novel being true science fiction. Well, how about if we all just take a deep breath and relax and just call it fiction. Does that work for you? To get caught up in the sci-fi is not the right approach. Take, for instance, Stephen King’s “11/22/63.” The sci-fi in that book amounts to a very simple “portal,” you walk through a door and that’s it. For the hardcore crowd, well, one of the greatest, if not the greatest work on time travel, Jack Finney’s “Time and Again,” also employs a simple process to get on with the time travelin’. That’s not to say Yu is happy to settle for a magic door because, in fact, he goes all quantum physics on you in his own way. So, let’s revisit “How to Live,” which was recently reissued in print and is also now an e-book.
Michael Cho laughed with recognition when I compared his character, Corinna Park, with Truman Capote’s Holly Golightly. Granted, it is by no means an exact match but the two are kindred spirits in many ways. There is something very appealing and relatable about Corinna Park. In Cho’s debut graphic novel, “Shoplifter,” we observe a young woman’s struggle to find her place in the world. We appreciate that struggle as well as the increasingly disconnected world we live in. You can read my review here.
Cho is an illustrator, cartoonist, and writer whose previously published work includes “Back Alleys and Urban Landscapes,” a collection of sketches depicting Toronto’s cityscape. Born in South Korea, he has lived in Canada since he was six.
Seth, author of “Palookaville,” has said, “Michael Cho’s ‘Shoplifter,’ his first graphic novel, is a joy to behold–so beautiful it will make all other cartoonists weep with envy.”
In this interview, Cho speaks to the impatience of youth and life in the big city for young people. This is part of an unfolding story. Cho is looking forward to pursuing this narrative further with other characters. “Shoplifter” is the first of five graphic novels with intertwined themes.
“Shoplifter” has two-color illustrations throughout and is available as of September 2, 2014. It is published by Pantheon, a division of Random House. To pre-order, visit Random House right here.
The fresh face of youth, complete with a cute smirk, is such a fleeting thing. Meet Corinna Park. She thought she’d take the big city by storm, have wildly witty friends, and knock out her first novel by sundown. In the graphic novel, “Shoplifter,” Michael Cho guides us through the life of a new generation’s Holly Golightly.
Any number of people, places, and things stick in our memory and we wonder sometimes what it all means. In Bryan Lee O’Malley’s new graphic novel, “Seconds,” we have a character, Katie, who wonders and wishes about her life constantly. She’s 29-years-old and on the brink of something new in her life but she’s very uncertain about the future. And then, one fateful night, a little goblin girl sits atop her dresser offering some relief from all her worries.
As is the case with any rising indie star, now is the time for Bryan Lee O’Malley to take it up with a big house, as in Random House. “Seconds” looks like a wonderful vehicle for O’Malley’s sense of whimsy. Having much of the action set in a diner should provide a good grounding. This can’t help but make it onto many a list of the best graphic novels for 2014.
Comics Alliance is really showing the love for this book. You can check out much of their excellent coverage right here.
You can visit Mr. O’Malley at his website here. And check out Random House where you’ll see that this baby is slated to take on the world on July 15, 2014. Check that out here.