100 Ghosts is a lot of Ghosts, The Perfect Amount

Here is a Twitter conversation I had with Doogie Horner in response to a questions I had about his forthcoming book 100 GHOSTS and working on the review:
Doogie Horner: “Writing about ghosts is like dancing about architecture.” –the ghost of Steve Martin
Reid Harris Cooper: Then it should be easy, I choreographed an entire ballet about the oeuvre of Frank Lloyd Wright. #liesthatlookedbetterinmyhead

If you’ve watched America’s Got Talent in a regular succession or follow comedians on Youtube or maybe even go to comedy clubs then you have had the privilege of hearing Doogie Horner‘s off the cuff, slightly irreverent humor that goes for fast laughs and good quips. If you haven’t well, you can either go watch him on Youtube or read him or twitter, his stuff is as funny on paper as it is on stage.

Another of his skills in comedy though is translating his thoughts into art. His first funny book was full of hilarious charts, all very pop-culture in nature, because, well, Doogie is a pure geek at heart. He loves all things books, comics, movies, television, all of it and it really shows.

His NEXT book is some of his most obscure humor though and it is very very quirky and quick witted but from the visual standpoint. Titled 100 GHOSTS: A GALLERY OF HARMLESS HAUNTS, it’s quite literally just that. 100 ghost drawings that are simply so harmless you can’t be scared but only laugh and smile at these silly-dilly floating sheets with eye holes.

While the majority of them are harmless, a few ARE creepy, scary, strange or bewildering. Especially things like Skull Ghost, but those as well as Muppet Ghost, Some Assembly Required Ghost, and Vinyl Ghost also show Doogie’s not only brilliance, but that he actually learned something in art school.

Yes, you read correctly, Doogie Horner is not a standup comedian, that’s his accidental career. At least I remember hearing that somewhere where he said something like that and in another video he mentioned going to art school. So let’s just go with that, because you know?

RADICAL GHOST

If THAT doesn’t make you want this book I don’t know what will. It means you have no soul, you aren’t even a harmless ghost, you’re a no ghost…. Not a Ghost. You know somewhere in this book there’s a ghost like that… probably, get a copy and check for me. 100 ghosts is a lot of ghosts!

100 GHOSTS: A Gallery of Harmless Ghosts from QUIRK Books comes out on September 10, 2013 for $9.95 in adorably sized hardcover.

For more information check out the books official website.

Book Review: How I Slept My Way to the Middle by Kevin Pollak

I probably first took notice of Kevin Pollak when he played one of two brownies in the Ron Howard directed fantasy comedy WILLOW, opposite Rick Overton.

I have since stayed a fan and tend to enjoy everyone of his performances.

Despite being a “character” actor he’s avoided the “that guy” stigma. His other career as a stand-up and impressionist are part of the reason for that, but the fact that he’s completely versatile owes to it to. He can somehow be both cute, nebbish and non-threatening as he is at being menacing, hyper-intelligent, unlikable and a jerk, sometimes at the same time even.

I got to enjoy him as a stand-up luckily early on in the late 80’s, as we had cable along with HBO and by 10 my folks let me watch things that weren’t for kids. This probably screwed me over mentally but I’m here to talk about Kevin Pollak, not myself.
Although as I read his autobiographical memoir “How I Slept My Way to the Middle” (available November 6, 2012 from Lyons Press) I could not help to see parallels from his discovering himself as a performer at a young age and my own experiences. While they were very different in many ways, his slow rise through hard work and determination makes me wonder where I’d been by 30 if unlike Kevin I didn’t let my setbacks cause me to give up for a long time before climbing again.

Kevin never gave up though. He was tenacious with making a firm edge in becoming both a successful actor and comedian as well as now an excellent memoir writer or in the very least chronicler/collaborator for co-writer Alan Goldsher.

Starting in introduction with a hilarious anecdote about acquring his role in CASINO, the book quickly leaps into a chronological first person prose of Kevin’s upbringing, discovery of comedy and development as a performer. Interceded in the middle of stories and at the end of chapters are “words” from other well known people who have worked with, for, against, aside or just have been in the same room as Kevin. One of the funniest ones has to be Matthew Perry’s, although James Roday’s anecdote is pretty hilarious as well. There are also “A Few Good Words from Kevin’s Mom”, which may not actually been from his mom, but who knows. Many of the stories also have a post-script, in some cases a pre-script which actually is at the end of the story, but is still a reflection of a detail left out.

All together it fits as a 200+ page comedy special, which might be like a 4 hour show if performed. Maybe more, maybe less. Mostly funny, sometimes stupid, occasionally tragic. Kevin didn’t always have it easy, he had relationship problems, financial problems, and confidence problems. He’s very mellow in one breath and a sarcastic egomaniac in the next. A man who think he’s accomplished nothing and is extremely humble about his career, then a braggart who thinks no one else could achieve what he has. This personality has probably kept him as a commodity, but away from that breakout role that made him a household name. Not that he isn’t a household name, his name is known, but he definitely teeters on that strange balance between star and “that guy who was in that thing” on a regular basis. He seems comfortable with this too, as much as he hates it, he’s embraced… as much as one can.

What’s fascinating about the memoir is that it actually does go all the way up to the point of the publication, covering the bases of him getting into internet and the creation of Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show and it’s very exciting success. In a time when many stories of celebs (autobio and biog) stop at pinnacles of success 10-15 years before the actual writing of the book, this makes this one just that much better.

(Also, it has photos throughout, black & white yes, but published in context instead of just an insert in the middle)

{This review is based on Advanced Reading Copy}

As an addition to this review, here’s once again (it was embedded in a Book Expo overview) a video I filmed of Kevin promoting the book using his Christopher Walken impression:

Antoine Wilson’s Panorama City: Book Review

When one grows up insulated and with not much world experience, you would assume that the world will both be an oyster and possibly swallow that person whole at the same time.

I personally can’t say that is something I’ll ever get to experience. Seeing the world for the first time as an adult, since my parents starts making me my own man at a young age, I learned the appreciation at a young age as well. The not knowing what you have till it’s gone or once having it realizing it wasn’t what you wanted. That all came to me young, long before I ever had to consider it or worry about it. Not to say I faltered here or there, but luckily I’m also quite smart. Not to try and sound egotistical even, I have a good brain. I catch on quick, I know what’s happening, I’m aware of my surrounding.

Unlike some classic fictional characters who have been both locked in their own world and not very smart till the world hits them head on. The most notable of these of course would be Winston Groom’s Forrest Gump, but to completely use him as a reference to discuss Antoine Wilson‘s PANORAMA CITY would give its protagonist disservice.

Oppen Porter is definitely not the smartest guy in the world, he’s quite naive indeed and it takes him awhile to process things, but he’s not completely a lucky clueless fool. In a shirt time he experiences what to some would be years of experiences. Love, heartbreak, religious awakening, spirtual founding, job promotion, switching careers, oppression, new friends, old friends, losing friends, death. All in less than two months, two tumultuous exciting months that he relays to his unborn child through tapes.

This device of first person narrative through what could be conceived as transcripts is a clever way to get pulled into Oppen’s viewpoint while also feeling like a listener who knows that it is only one viewpoint. This is a theme of everything Oppen tells his future son though, varying viewpoints and how no one way is right or wrong, they just are.

Life in many ways always seems to work in circles, but not perfect circles. Circles with spikes and protraction. I was reminded of this throughout PANORAMA CITY and yet it also gave me a feeling of hope. Antoine Wilson’s wordplay and semblance of sentiment and wonderment through Oppen causes one to see the world with new, more open (slight pun intended) eyes and a desire to live life to its fullest whatever that means for ones self.

The book also really made me want a bicycle more than ever.

Here’s an original drawing of a bike by the author Antoine Wilson.

The preceding review was based off an advanced galley.
PANORAMA CITY by Antoine Wilson is scheduled to come out September 25, 2012 from Houghton Miflin Harcourt.

Book Expo America 2012 – Day 1

My first official day of Book Expo America was to keep it simply, monumental. I got to the Javits Center at 6 AM in preperation for insanity in procuring tickets for day one events, but it wasn’t as big a deal as I expected. I ended up getting tickets for Dennis Lehane, Molly Ringwald, Lee Woodruff and Natalie Merchant and circumstances had me only not using one ticket.

My happenings were very whirlwind, so I feel the best way to focus on things is to discuss the things I procured based upon my schedule and then highlight all the awesome things I found and procured out of schedule.

My first main thing was Batman & Robin Vol. 1 by Peter Tomasi, with art by Patrick Gleason and Mick Gray. This would be of the New 52 series. I was very pleasantly surprised to see that the offereing was the retail hardcover edition. I had been planning to get two of the new Batman books once in trade paperback (I’ve already ordered Animal Man, Frankenstein and Swamp Thing), but to have this hardcover signed by Peter warning me to not go into Gotham City is an extra awesome.

From here I ended up in my longest line of the entire show. So long it cut into two planned book signings I wanted to go to, but the line was to get the super limited, absolutely awesome attache case promotion for Lemony Snicket’s All The Wrong Questions. The attache case has a bar of soap, a pen, a calendar, a business card, an info sheet and a sneak preview of two chapters. The official website mentioned is LSATWQ.com which will only allow you to get on a newsletter for now, but should offer much more soon. Not to make you jealous but just to whet your appetite, I’ve provided two quick images from the promotional giveaway. The book arrives in October.

Next on my agenda that I was able to hit up was music producer Jeffrey Weber, who has written a humor filled memoir titled You’ve Got A Deal! I actually brought him my copy of a David Benoit CD that he had produced which really pleased him. We discussed some of what he was working on now and he mentioned he was working with the former lead singer of Atlantic Starr, but I forget if he said if it was Bryant or Weathers.

Following was Natalie Merchant. There was no CD or galley, but the poster she signed is quite beautiful. I also brought an old Natalie CD of her performing in 1999 for her to sign. She wasn’t really keep on doing photos, but I was able to get a little something. I’m shocked to see how salt & pepper has gone, but she’s still lovely as ever. The forthcoming book is a special edition of LEAVE YOUER SLEEP, collecting the poems she performed on the same named album with art by Barbara McClintlock and includes the original 2010 album.

I had just enough time to grab a galley of The Highskies Adventures of Bluejay the Pirate, available September 2012 and talk to writer/artist Scott Nash, then leaping on to the fast line for TROLLHUNTERS by Michael Dahl, available August 2012 before heading halfway across the building for the William Joyce signing.

The line for Joyce wasn’t as long as Snicket but it was pretty long. Once I got to the front it was worth it though as I was able to get a little bit of info out of Joyce on future projects. A Numberlys short is forthcoming, another app for Morris Lessmore and within a year, Moonbot’s first feature length.

After Joyce I met some smooth sailing as I went and picked up Fooling Houdini by Alex Stone, a book that caught my attention from its youtube video. The book is available now

My memory is a little foggy but after that I think I went right over to a nearby table for The Little White Duck by Andres Vera Martinez. This book is absolutely stunning, Andres art is just so awesome and I could stare it forever.

Although I may have first headed over to get a tasty treat and meet Chef Mike Isabella. The treat was a rainbow cookie hand baked by Mike and they also served some Proseco. Mike has a cookbook called Crazy Good Italian, coming in October.

So foggy still in order, but let’s say from there I went over to a longer than expected line for Pat Oliffe who was signing Captain America Joins The Avengers. Oliffe used a new style or at least a style that I am not used to seeing from him for this book, but it looks great and then I was able to say hello to Walter Mosley and have him sign a copy of his new excellent sci-fiction flipbook GIFT OF FIRE / ON THE HEAD OF A PIN before rushing to use my Molly Ringwald ticket.

I wish I could get a better photo of Molly, but her publisher rushed the line. I at least got this shot here and I look forward to reading her novel, When It Happens To You, coming in September. I must say Molly looks gorgeous, the best she has in years. I’d kill for a kiss, or something, I don’t know what I’m saying. Childhood crushes die hard… they die hard.

 

I used my Lee Woodruff ticket after this as well to get her upcoming Those We Love Most, scheduled for September. The Dennis Lehane line was really long, so I’m glad I was able to grab the galley for his newest.

The final thing in my schedule was Tracy Hickman who was signing with his wife their new series EVENTTIDE. I had a very pleasant talk with Tracy about my longtime love of his work with Margaret Weiss and got this taken from super far away photo done by one their publisher Shadow Moon people.

In between all this schedule stuff I found many more galleys, got on lined for things I didn’t realize in planning and checked out the booths with self publishers/lesser known writers and I’ll be focusing on those in the next paragraphs. I procured the items throughout the show and trying to remember the order at this point would be pure insanity, so I’m just going to randomly pull from the pile of stuff I got that I didn’t know I wanted, but glad I got and talk about it.

One of the best random, unplanned books/meetings I had on Wednesday was with Kevin Powell. If you watched MTV back in the day and I mean BACK in the day or follow New York politics the name will seem familiar to you. He is a three time congresional candidate (unfortunatley unsuccessful) and was Kevin, the awesome music writer who was on season one of The Real World. Through Lulu Press he has published his newest collection of essays titled, Barak Obama, Ronald Reagan, and The Ghost of Dr.King, which is available now.

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro. There was poster with a letter to readers that really intrigued and the plot made me think of films like Incognito and this Matt Dillon film about an art forger and this other one with Meg Ryan, but I might’ve imagined both of those. Either way, it seems like a fascinating book. It’s scheduled to come out in October.

The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen. I absolutely loved his first book translated in America, The Keeper of Lost Causes, and I expect the same here. Available August.

As I was leaving the Javits, a booth of what would not be but appeared to East Asian food caught my eye. Instead they were distribituing The Festival of Earthly Delights by Matt Dojny and also handing out weird food bags like asian dried flowers and crickets, and other stuff, but I took crickets, they had candy too. You can get a free e-book of the novel at http://bit.ly/KxSSv5

From Papercutz entertainment comes a brand new Three Stooges graphic novel that coincided to come with the film. It isn’t attached to the movie though, it’s all an original stories featuring those lovable Stooge brothers written by Papercutz EIC, legendary comics writer/editor Jim Salicrup and longtime Archie Comics writer George Gladir, with art by truly legendary comics artist Stan Goldberg.

Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures by Emma Straub, scheduled for September is a 1920’s tale of Hollywood, telling the rise of a young film starlet, I can only hope that despite the kind of simple description of the book in the back, the prose is strong and there are twists along the way.

I mentioned I had to skip the Dennis Lehane signing, despite having a ticket because the line was just too long, but luckily I got the ARC of his upcoming Live By Night. Scheduled to come out October 2nd, it’s an epic rise of the gangster story during the roaring Prohibition twenties of the East Coast with what I expect the usual turns of surprises we’ve come to expect from the gritty storyteller. This is one of those reads I’m really looking forward to.

Vordak The Incomprehensible: Double Trouble is the third book in the hilarious series, in this one Vordak gets a clone and mayhem and hilarity ensues. It is scheduled for August.

Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch, scheduled for October is very different than his first book Eleventh Plague in terms of the world, but continues to explore self discovery, friendship and genre settings that allow for an excellent balance.

The Ninth Captain Underpants Epic Novel by Dav Pilkey is titled And The Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers. I absolutely love everything Pilkey has done and I doubt this latest will be any different.

Tap Out by Eric Devine got my notice because its based in MMA and based on conversations with the publisher’s my interest gained to make it a definite read. It shall be available in September.

Try the Morgue by Eva Maria Stahl, scheduled for October is a fictional novel based on the real life of the author whose real name is not Eva Maria Stahl, because before writing she ran guns for dangerous war criminals. This book is already popular internationally and finally comes to America.

One of the things I love doing when not hitting schedules or hunting for galleys is exploring the lesser known, smaller independent booths be they Children’s or Adult. I am going to end this article discussing two finds there on Day one.

First up is the work of Cathy Carroll, who publishes her work through My Imagination Publishing. She writes and illustrates the titles and has a truly charming style that reminds me of Matt Feazel and Rich Burlew as she brings simple stick figures to amazing life, but her work is more charming. She has two books out now, LUKAS which came out in 2010 and MY ABC & SAY which just came out and I believed premiered at BEA and has more forthcoming.

Finally is Captain McFinn and Friends. This series is entire program on Anti-Bullying which features books, music, a ebook app, school visits, an after school program and just an amazing campaign. I plan to a fuller write-up, as I do with MANY of the books here and in the following BEA Day reports, but I must say go check out the website to this now. The characters are extremely well drawn, and the integration along the whole brand is fabulous.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey and appreciate that my recollections are far from over as there were two more days and I am still recovering from the intensity of it all.

She Went to Hell and took us with her

Hello, Chuck Palahniuck, it’s me Reid Harris Cooper. I just wanted to let you know that your newest book is compelling and successfully fills many of the holes it creates along the way, creating interesting characters and a vivid image of a designed hell I can see well animated by John Kricfalusi. On the other hand it is at times quite pretentious, overly wordy and particularly annoying. While you can easily blame this on your protagonist and the first person speech, it did not have to be this way. Certain choices were made in terms of structure, repeated style use and pushed upon ideas that at times I almost tossed the book across the room in frustration. It is almost a sign that the book got accidentally water damaged making it look mangled, but not unreadable.


DAMNED is the newest upcoming book from the acclaimed writer of Fight Club, Survivor, Choke, Lullaby, Haunted, Rant and a few more. Many are thinking of it as possibly a return to form that he seems to have possibly lost, but I see it as more experimentation from a writer who refuses to be locked down into any type of style or particular voice other than that of unreliable narrators and reveals that flips he story late into the book, sometimes too late to make a dent, other times perfectly sculpting pure genius. In many ways, DAMNED does both.

Chuck seems to have definitely done his research here and while it is admirable and adds to the scenery, at times it almost feels like he is trying to boast more than even educate through his various characters that he can talk about Hell because he went and read all the various books, scriptures, theologian essays and more. I applaud his effort, while also rolling my eyes at it. I almost feel it’d been more interesting for him to create his entirely own vision of Hell than the cobbled together version in this book. There are some really hilarious, fantastically brilliant ideas here and some of them are fully formed, while others just get touched upon making you desire more. This could be to the possibility of an upcoming sequel. If said sequel doesn’t exist though they’re just nuggets that will lay there untouched; Very cute, interesting nuggets that will only percolate in the readers mind, but never to be fully fleshed out and formed.

As an entire package the book tells a full and complete tale that is both visually entertaining and mentally stimulating, yet falters from expansive sections which could’ve easily been in fast forward and at times The major plot “twist” can be easily telegraphed from an early sequence as well that is just really longer and weirder than it needed to be. I feel like I’m spitting more venom than sprinkles here for a book I actually cared enough to finish, especially since books that start to piss me off usually get tossed on the ground and given a beat down, but the fact is that I really saw a lot of potential in this story and I feel at least a sequel could save it, but as it stands I can only recommend it to the the most stalwart fan of Chuck’s or those who really love contemporary visions of Hell via the dialogue of a young girl who finds empowerment through Death and Dismemberment.

DAMNED currently has a release date of October 18, 2011 in America and is published by Doubleday. It will be a hardcover with a retail price of $24.95, but obviously cheaper through sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

A Bad Company, A Fun Book

The Hart Family is one of the most celebrated and possibly the first (there are timeline arguments to be made)  first families of professional wrestling/sports entertainment.  There have been quite a few books written about and by the Hart family, most notably Bret Hart’s biting, brutal, hate laced, but honest Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling.  I was a huge fan of this almost 10 year in the making tome which was more transcription of audio diary than Bret’s actual writing.  Bret happens to be a great writer and has/had a regular column in the Calgary Sun.  That column was once in awhile written by his older brother Bruce, the brother that without, Bret may’ve have never decided to have his father Fritz turn him into “the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be”.

Bruce Hart, the second oldest brother,  has chosen that the time was right for him to tell his very slanted side of the story in ECW Press’ Straight From The Heart.

I was very gratified to get the opportunity to read and review this book from the Publicity department at ECW Press at Book Expo America.  As a story/skewed memoir it is as enetertaining as any wrestling autobiogrphies of recent memory.  There’s fervor, details, psychology, analysis and a great story.

It’s a shame that much of Bruce’s memories or at least how he chose to put them on the page are false, incorrect, missing details or just outright lies.  This doesn’t change their quality of storytelling, but if one wants to really learn about the history of Stampede wrestling or even Bruce’s own wrestling career, this isn’t the place to look.

As the book continues down its path Bruce is also much more bitter than Bret ever came across in his book.  Of course in respect, he has every reason to be bitter.  Even through the lies and machinations, the hardships that Bruce experienced do shine and they set him apart as a person way different than his more famous family members.  He seems to have a lot of vitriol for his former brother-in-laws David Smith and Dynamite Kid and he holds no punches with them, but he equally seems to have a detest for Bret.  He also seems to feel he deserves credit for Bret’s success, stating he ghost wrote every single column in the Calgary Sun and that every decision and gimmick concept that Bret used to become “The Hitman” came from him.  I find this a little hard to believe.  As hard it is to believe that every single time Bruce had the chance to make it big, some crisis happened or someone else messed it up and his family screwed it all up for him.

Even for as much respect and love he shows his father Stu and the great history, which seems more accurate than anything in the book, of Stampede’s beginnings, the latter passages show that he equally feels like his father was to blame for failure and he was the reason they had success, but since he was “in charge”, he had to take credit for everything, be it failure or success.

Later on, he seems to pull back on his anger of Stu, but the feelings on Bret do not stop and sound tantamount to slander, but its such interesting and intriguing slander that it comes across as awesome fiction instead of a statement.  Which as I stated much of the book comes across as, as have many other wrestling books.  Unlike the very personal and open statements of Mick Foley or Chris Jericho’s books, Bruce’s book have much more in common with the books he personally quotes from, such as Ric Flair and Vince Russo.  This isn’t history, it’s HIS history and he backs it up with other people’s skewed histories instead of the video truth.

There’s also a ton of hypocrisy in his world view, but that also makes for fascinating and compelling reading.  In the end though he thanks us the most and hopes we enjoyed the read, as much as he’s enjoyed the ride.  I did indeed.

I would’ve like some further clarity on the current situation of his life, where he once again got married to a woman 20 years younger than him and had a child at 56.  He skipped ahead from his father’s passing in 2003 to Bret’s return to the fold of Vince McMahon’s corporation (in which Bret continues to appear in 2011 and probably beyond).  Much happened in those intervening years though.  I guess Bruce couldn’t think of a sufficient lie to tell to make that interesting.

It may seem crazy, but I still highly recommend Straight From The Heart, just go in there with an open mind.  You can choose to also take it at face value and if you’re not a real wrestling fan who actually gives a damn, do that and enjoy it, cause well, you will.

Addendum:  The book has some awesome photos.  Here’s an example:

The book also provides you names and time periods that while his memories of how things went down is inaccurate, they give you a great guide to the resource that is the internet and you can find lots of classic Stampede wrestling on Youtube:

Bruce Hart vs. Dynamite Kid

Owen Hart vs. “Bad News” Allen

Made for Each Other – Having a monster for a boyfriend

High School romances are a tricky practice. Telling quality stories about Highschool romance are an even trickier practice. They’re set-up to be hokey automatically. Looking at any of the best romantic comedy films movies about people in High School and falling in love, they have a penchant for cheesiness and ridiculous. The best of them seem to have a penchant for staying charming or endearing through their supporting characters and just something inherent.

Imagine if they tried to do that in a graphic novel, but also throw in a supernatural element. That addition could easily bring things over the top in silliness, but delicately balances that edge between sweet and ridiculous.

I was attracted to wanting to look at this after researching the online art of Eldon Cowgur. I was not familiar with him before this, but the cover pulled me in and when I saw his webcomic Astray3 I knew I had to see what he would do with a longer format comic.

 

 

While it was Eldon’s art that brought me in, he actually had a variety of flaws in art in such a larger format. Nothing super jarring, but if it wasn’t for Paul D. Storrie‘s script there was no way I’d finish this graphic novel. While the begginning starts off in a little bit too much of “You are joining us in a program that already in progresss” feel, it quickly catches up with itself and is smooth sailing from there. Discovering our female star, our male love interest and then our quirky and fun supporting cast comes with clever dialogue and what I have to assume concepts from Storrie which Eldon bring to life perfectly.

This is by far not the most perfect book. The full page reveal of the MAIN monster of this tale is not as TA-DOW as possible. While it is a great drawing into itself, in context, the dude is just not ugly enough. That’s really not a deal breaker to the enjoyment of this one and I say check it out if you like comics and romance.

I believe it was designed to reach out to kind of reader who doesn’t read and would rather read a comic, but it is pretty heavy in its comic book story-telling devices and it is not something someone who isn’t already reading comics to check it out, but what do I know?

This review was derived from a digital galley from Net Galley.  Special thanks to them and to publisher Capstone Books.

Up, Up and Chocolate Covered Banana!

I’ve been a fan of Art Balzatar since some of his earliest work in “The Cray Baby Adventures” and have been happy to follow him through the years with his self published “Patrick the Wolf Boy” (co-created with Franco) and his Disney Adventures’ serial “Gorilla, Gorilla”.

When “TINY TITANS” debuted in 2008, I was super excited to see Art, alongside Franco working on an out of continuity super cute easy to read and enjoy superhero comic that could feature your favorite superhero at any time. For over thirty issues, the brand of humor combined with simple, clever eye-popping cartoon visuals, the book has continually delivered.

Last year I first heard of Art getting a new gig as the illustrator to a series of children’s books based on the adventures of The Super-Pets. I was excited to see what his super cute art style could bring to adorable animals with super powers.

Luckily I have finally been able to appreciate one of these books through NetGalley and publisher Capstone Books.

That book is “Midway Monkey Madness” and it is absolutely charming. I’m not familiar with writer Sarah Hines Stephens but her writing is fast paced, jovial and fun, which perfectly suits Art’s strengths as an illustrator as well as being perfect for young readers as designed.

While the star of the book is Beepo, the Super Monkey and boy does Art draw a cute monkey I must exclaim I loved that The Wonder Twins show up with their monkey Gleek. The Wonder Twins are silly, kind of dorky, but something about them are endearing and when used right are just fun-loving and awesome. This is one of those time.

These picture books combine the excellence of good young children’s books with the awesomeness of a comic book with sound effects, usage of well known and established characters and lots of action. I highly recommend this and sight unseen the rest of the Super Pets series to parents who want a fun read for their kids and comic fans who can’t get enough of Art Balzatar’s art.

wondertwinsbyartbalzatar

Dogs ala Steadman

bookofdogs

One of the world’s greatest cartoonists, painters and humorists Ralph Steadman has done many types of books. Fiction, children’s stories, guides to wine country, a biography of Sigmund Freud, versions of Alice in Wonderland and of course the seminal work Fear and Loathing.

His latest book focuses on dogs. It is not his first book about dogs, but the first with the obvious title of The Ralph Steadman Book of Dogs. Full of images spanning 1996-2010 it is a truly fun romp. Almost all of Steadman’s style are here. His gonzo style of sketches with text, his abstract painting, his blots alongside extremely realistic depictions.

There seems to be an attempt at a humorous guide to raising dogs within the 90+ page volume. I find Steadman’s artistic, but sloppy gonzo pen quite difficult to read perfectly, but I admire it from a conceptual sense. The images are very hit or miss, which has been my experience with Steadman on the usual. Some of his caricatures are just shockingly ingenious, while others are head scratching perplexing and not in the good way. I will stare at an image and be completely lost in what he was trying to convey and yet then the next image will be like a bulls-eye shot. Nail on the head perfection of what illustration can provide and offer.

This book I feel definitely fits a much more Steadman niche market than previous endeavors. Dogs are not as universal as wine. Drawings of dogs are not going to be a lot of people’s cup of tea. Especially when most people can not agree on how tea should be served or which are the best kind of leaves. Besides the point, fans of Steadman probably do not agree on what is better; his intrinsic abstract color work or his awkward or his sensible black and white sketch work. I like the pieces that combine all his conceptualizations, techniques and styles into one cohesive image.

The Book of Dogs doesn’t have many of those, but it has plenty that a Steadman fan should appreciate. It is not the greatest choice as an introduction to Ralph though, as it doesn’t truly show off what his delicate mad mind has the ability to create. If you are a fan of Steadman, it is definitely one to add to your collection, if not, go become a fan, so you want to add it.

The US Edition of The Ralph Steadman Book of Dogs is scheduled to come out May 4, 2011 from Houghton-Mifflin Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  This review is based off an Internet Galley.