Friday, March 20, 2009

Waitaminute -- DC Comics Is Doing Something Innovative? And Fun?!

DC comics has announced a new, 12 issue, weekly series titled, Wednesday Comics. Wednesday Comics will look like a standard pamphlet comic, but will unfold into a shape and size approximating a Sunday comics insert.
And it just gets funner!
Neil Gaiman and Mike Allred are going to be doing a Metamorpho strip. Kyle Baker is doing a Hawkman strip. Dave Gibbons, Paul Pope, Amanda Conner and Walt Simonson also contributing.
For a lengthier description, hit up Robot 6.

Neil Gaiman on The Colbert Report
Kyle Baker Does X-Men Funnies

Lit Lists

The Comics Reporter has finally chosen his Best Comics of '08.

Charlie English (The Snow Tourist) picks his Top 10 Snow Books.

Laura Lippman (Life Sentences) comes clean about her 10 Favorite Memoirs.

GQ Magazine recommends 20 graphic novels you should read after Watchmen.

Karl Knausgaard (A Time to Every Purpose Under Heaven) confesses his Top 10 Literary Depictions of Angels.

An Aussie website is holding an ongoing poll to find out the Top 100 Sci-Fi Books. You're welcome to participate, mate.

Another online poll, this one held by The Romance Reader. How many of their Top 100 Romance Books have you used

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Go, Look!

Dark Roasted Blend has posted a creepy collection of book reviews: H. P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness And Other Masterpieces of Terror. Making good great, they've included scans of the books' original illustrations!
Go, look!

MA school board member argues that "students should return to the fundamentals taught in the Pnakotic Manuscripts."

Book News, In Brief

The world's first full-color e-book reader went on sale this week in Japan. Folks with an extra $1000 lying around can check out's ad article for details.

Snooty bookstores can be fun! Publishers Weekly profiles Secret Headquarters in LA, while The Christian Science Monitor tells the story of Boston's Barefoot Books.
(P.S. Peep Secret Headquarters' Stan Lee Tee -- it's rad!)

Everybody wants to see their name in the paper, just not like this: "A former adult bookstore employee pleaded innocent Tuesday to allegations he stole an inflatable doll". Friends and family (and co-workers!) of the accused can read the full story here.

After the humiliating experience that was #Queryfail, wounded would-be writers ought to peruse The Times Online's lists of literary one-hit wonders and cursed second novels. There's comfort to be found in the knowledge that you've never made these mistakes. Yet.
(Thanks to for the tip!)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Month Has Passed. Time To 'Fess Up.
Did You See Your Query Letter On #Queryfail?

Last month, literary agent Colleen Lindsay hosted #Queryfail, an online cleansing ritual wherein she and her fellow agents spent the day sharing the worst queries they'd received.
Embracing the technology of today, the first annual #Queryfail was held via Twitter. Although this kept the posts to 140 characters, it did little to limit the laughs.
For those of you that missed February's query letter colonic, was kind enough to transfer all 89 pages worth to html. Now you can pore over the posts at your own pace, searching for your query.

But first, a few of my favorites:

danielliterary: Call yourself a "published author" when what you really mean is "self-published"? #queryfail

bostonbookgirl: My fav #queryfail ever? Sending multiple letters from prison about the book you want to write about how you were framed. For murder.

danielliterary: "I have written a 2,500 word novel..." No, you've written a pamphlet. #queryfail

_Starry: Title: "Preacher turned Porn Star," with cover mockup - #queryfail

_Starry: Handwritten query on scrap paper w/ eyeglasses ad...saying, "Sorry about the paper, we recycle" #queryfail

thegreatmissjj: Don't send me your manuscript and tell me to start reading at page 312 because that's "where it gets good." #queryfail

thegreatmissjj: If we've rejected your first manuscript, we probably won't be interested in the SEQUEL. #queryfail

Tracy Marchini: Pedophiles writing picture books to correct their past wrongs - #queryfail

Random Assortment of Comic Book Links

Awesomed By Comics provides a one paragraph anecdote summarizing life in a post-Watchmen-movie world.

Manga editorialist Kethylia Duuk'Tarquith asks, Bouncing Boobs and Tentacle Rapes: Is it Ever Okay? Spoilers: She thinks it is...sometimes.

Losanjealous has paired random philosophy quotes with random Bill Keane cartoons, creating the hilarious hybrid, The Nietzsche Family Circus.
(Thanks to The Hooded Utilitarian for the tip!)

The Topless Robot acts as a travel agent, listing The 10 Worst Comic Book Vacation Destinations. What I found funniest/most disturbing about this list was that the top two picks were also the only nonfiction destinations.

An open letter to Darwyn Cooke: After the one-two punch of DC: The New Frontier and your issue of Solo, I though you were the shizznit. Then you put out those less than stellar Spirit comics and The New Frontier cash-in tie-in, and I thought that aliens had replaced you with a dupe. For this lapse in faith, I apologize. If James Simes' photo of your adaptation of Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter is any indication, you're still one talented sonuvagun. (That, or the aliens gave finally you back. In which case: Thanks, aliens! I've missed him!)

Less than a week after an original copy of Action Comics #1 sold for $317,200, an issue of All-Negro Comics #1 is being put up for auction. ANC is being billed as 'the first comic book ever created by an African-American man for an African-American audience.'
(For the full story of All-Negro Comics #1-- with scans! -- click here.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

It's Time For Today's Where The Wild Things Are Adaptation Update

This time, it's the official movie poster, care of and

(I hope the film is just as big and furry and messy looking.)

The WTWTA skateboard decks
The Dave Eggers-penned book-based-on-a-movie-based-on-a-book
Ain't It Cool News' looong interview with Spike Jonze

Recommended Viewing:
Neil Gaiman on The Colbert Report

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Tuesday's Tip for Flailing Writers: Links!

If you're reading this instead of writing, chances are you're looking for distractions. Here's a fun one: Harvard Business Publishing's Are You a Grammar Geek? quiz.

Dianne Emley (author of the Detective Nan Vining series) shares her 10 Commandments of Fiction Writing. Feel free to smash them against a mountain if'n you disagree.

Are you sassy, brassy, or brassy with a hint of sass? Comics author/artist Paul Kupperberg has jotted down a few tips towards finding and refining your authorial 'voice.'
(Thanks to Journalista! for the link.)

Alright, so this last link is directed at a very select sort of writer: The critic. got a bunch of their book reviewers together to discuss snobbery, how to make criticism fun and the need for cultural gatekeepers. Truth be told, it's worth reading even if you're not a critic.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Yet Another Where the Wild Things Are Adaptation Update

...this time, care of
If you've been wondering when the hell you're going to finally see footage from Spike Jonze's adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are, wonder no more. A scooper tells us that the trailer - not a teaser, he specifies, but a full length trailer - will be in front of Monsters vs Aliens.. Finally, a reason to see that movie!
To read a description of the trailer, its special effects, and the 'hug-ability' of the Wild Things, head to CHUD for the rest of their post.

Comic Book Review:
Silver Surfer: Requiem by Straczynski & Ribic

Since the Silver Surfer's inception in 1966, the character has been an outlet for countless authors' overwrought, over-written, middle-aged angst. But is it any wonder why? Unlike most of Marvel's menagerie, the Silver Surfer isn't a fast-talking teenager or a testosterone fueled he-man. He's an intellectual alien prone to alliterate elegies and impassioned pleas for peace. If you're a corporate comics writer with a flash drive full of unpublished poetry, you couldn't ask for a better mouthpiece!

Silver Surfer: Requiem
by J.M. Straczynski & Esad Ribic continues this tradition. It's a four-issue funeral parlor farewell, complete with purple prose. The plot is simple: The Silver Surfer is dying, and has only one month to live. Ever the emotional E.T., he decides to spend his last 30 days re-visiting the people and places he loved most. If that sounds to you like a set-up for a series of somber guest-star appearances, you're right!

The first issue features the Fantastic Four, which is fitting, as theirs was the first comic book that the Silver Surfer appeared in. Straczynski does a nice job writing the FF here. Their dialogue and interactions are completely character based, reminding me of the original Kirby & Lee comics. The Thing and Johnny Storm's bickering is spot on (i.e. it's actually funny, and feels natural instead of forced), and Sue Storm is given a small moment of silent tenderness that'll break your heart. It's been a long time since a guest-spot has made me want to read more of the guest-stars' comics, but this book had me placing an order for the Fantastic Four Omnibus Vol. 2 as soon as I was finished. And in this world of synergistic sales, isn't that what guest spots are really all about?

Issue two is told from Spider-Man's perspective. Beginning with a goofy battle with a giant robot and ending with a solemn rooftop eulogy, this issue sees the Surfer finally connecting with Earth's inhabitants after 40-some-odd years (real time, not Marvel Comics time) of disconnect. Now, I know that this is sacrilege, but I've never been much of a Spider-Man fan. That said, I found his inclusion here to be inspired. Straczynski keeps all of the smart-alecy one-liners that the character is known for, but tweaks them, using them less as punchlines than as the sort of uncomfortable joking one resorts to when confronted with tragedy. It's a nice touch.
Oh, and as an added plus, this is the issue where we finally find out why the Silver Surfer rides a surfboard -- and the reason is pure, pothead poetry.

The third issue begins with a brief visit from the master of the mystical arts, Dr. Strange. ("Dr. Richards called me because...well, because doctors always consult other doctors when they find themselves at the end of a diagnosis they can't beat.") The doctor is there to say goodbye to the Surfer and to give him a magic flame. ("It is divided into two parts. That which existed before you came, and that which was created after [...] you saved our world from extinction. The fire of that knowledge will merge with you, will always be a part of you. [...] This way, you will always know what you preserved...and what was created through your kindness.") After thanking the Doc, the Silver Surfer takes off into outer space, headed home to the planet and the woman he was forced to leave years ago. But as this is only issue three of four, the Surfer is inevitably delayed en route -- this time by a religious war raging between two neighboring planets. Thus begins a brief, sci-fi side-story with obvious allegory a-plenty. In Straczynski's defense, I think that this mini-story's main goal isn't to preach, but to further illustrate Dr. Strange's "That which existed before you came, and that which was created after" line quoted above. Is it a touch heavy handed? You bet it is. But a touch heavy handed is what Silver Surfer fans have come to expect. It's as much a part of the character as the shiny, silver skin and the pupil-less, Orphan Annie eyes. Hell, even Stan Lee refers to his cosmic creation as "the most soliloquizing superhero of them all," and Stan is no stranger to heavy handed soliloquizing!

The fourth and final issue is narrated by The Watcher. It begins with an unconscious Silver Surfer lying sprawled out on his board, soaring through space. When he finally awakens, he finds that he is on his home planet, Zenn-La. Confined to a Kubrickian hospital bed with his beloved Shalla-Bal standing beside him, the Surfer becomes the star attraction of his own living wake. Citizens from all over Zenn-La stream past to thank the man that "saved them, their children, and their children's children." Even Galactus -- the giant, God-like, planet eater responsible for the Silver Surfer's life of solitude -- makes an appearance. I won't spoil the purpose of Galactus' visit, or what it means for the fate of the Silver Surfer and the people of Zenn-La. Suffice it to say, it provides the sort of ending that fits perfectly with what came before, yet was impossible to anticipate.

For better and for worse, SS:R's artist, Esad Ribic, is clearly of the 'Alex Ross school' of painted comic book art. In the book's few action scenes, this is a bit of a hindrance, as the characters tend to look static and slightly dull. Fortunately, there are only two such scenes. The rest of the time, Ribic's painted approach serves to enhance the intended solemnity of the piece. His autumnal palette keeps things sufficiently somber, and he makes outer space look infinite and isolating all at once. Ribic's best 'trick' is his portrayal of the Surfer. He gives the character very little visible emotion, yet by using repeated close-ups, we as the readers are forced to transfer whatever emotion we are feeling onto the character's mirror-like face.

Reading Silver Surfer: Requiem, I was repeatedly reminded of two other comics:
1. Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore's Watchmen #4 (a.k.a. The Dr. Manhattan issue)
In both SS:R and W#4, the lead characters have reached the end of their respective stays on Earth and are ready to move on. But where Dr. Manhattan's seeming omnipotence leaves him feeling largely removed from Earth's inhabitants, the Surfer's seeming omnipotence only expands his empathy. Another thing that struck me as similar was the way that both writers chose to accentuate the 'otherness' of their lead characters by using what could be called 'cold' or 'sterile' dialogue. While I know that this is a genre trope, both Moore and Straczynski managed to elevate it beyond mere cliché, transforming clunky and clinical terminology into something strangely beautiful.
2. Frank Quitely and Grant Morrison's All Star Superman
This one even more so. You have two alien superheroes dealing with their impending deaths. Superman has twelve days(?), the Silver Surfer has a month. Both are physically deteriorating, yet spiritually strong. Their last acts are to say goodbye to a who's who of funnybook friends, while working to ensure these friends' future safety. Both series' basic structures are also the same; each issue is a self-contained story, with all of these stories combining to tell one over-arching tale. And the endings! (WARNING: EXTREME SPOILERS AHEAD!) At the end of both series, both heroes become celestial light sources -- Superman becomes a part of/the heart of Earth's sun, and the Silver Surfer is transformed into a star.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that Silver Surfer: Requiem is equal to either All Star Superman or Watchmen. Those two comics are gold medal classics, the work of insanely talented writers and artists at the top of their game. But I will say this: SS:R is one of the few corporate comics in recent memory which attempted to achieve something similarly artistic. All things considered, a silver medal seems totally apt.

Book News (and reviews), In Brief

In an effort to win back wealthy WASP readers, The Washington Post reminisces about How American Ghettos Were Made. Okay, so it's actually a review of Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America by Beryl Satter, but I needed to do something to get your attention -- it's Monday morning!

Also in The Washington Post: On Campus, Vampires Are Besting the Beats. An excerpt: On today's college campuses, you're more likely to hear a werewolf howl than Allen Ginsberg, and Nin's transgressive sexuality has been replaced by the fervent chastity of Bella Swan. It's as though somebody stole Abbie Hoffman's book -- and a whole generation of radical lit along with it.

The Sydney Morning Herald is the kinkiest corporate newspaper publishing today. Don't believe me? Check out their four page profile of author Charlotte Roche. An excerpt: Feuchtgebiete, which translates as Wetlands or Moist Patches, is the debut novel from Charlotte Roche. As it opens, we find 18-year-old narrator Helen Memel in hospital after an accident shaving her intimate parts. The remainder of the book plays out entirely on the proctology ward where, in between ruminating on her hemorrhoids and sexual proclivities, Helen asks her male nurse to photograph her wound, tries to seduce him and hides under her bed to masturbate. She has an insatiable, childlike curiosity about the sight, smell and taste of bodies, especially hers. She is also exuberantly promiscuous. Hygiene, she reflects, "is not a major concern of mine". When she uses public toilets, she likes to rub her vagina around the lavatory seat and has experimented with long periods of not washing her vagina to investigate its erotic impact - dabbing her pubic perfume behind her earlobes. "It works wonders from the moment you greet someone with a kiss on each cheek." You don't come across prose like that in the Christian Science Monitor, now do ya?

A Non-Book News (or reviews) Link!
The periodic table of typefaces.