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Tag: Great Graphic Novels for Teens 2014

Contagious Passion: Characters Doing What They Love

“The things that you do should be things that you love, and things that you love should be things that you do.” -Ray Bradbury

Passion is contagious. I love hearing people talk about what they love. I’m sucked into their story, even if they are describing something I didn’t find remotely interesting prior to that moment. This is just as true for me in fiction as it is in real life. I am almost immediately won over by characters in a ruthless pursuit of a passion, whether it manifests in a career aspiration, hobby, vocation or, dare we say, calling. Below are just a few characters and their passions I have enjoyed sharing.

Labors of Love:

CathFangiFANGIRL_CoverDec2012-300x444rl by Rainbow Rowell

Cath is a passionate reader and a fan of the fantasy series featuring boy wizard Simon Snow. But Cath isn’t just a fan, she is an active participant in the fandom.  As “Magicath,” she writes Simon Snow fanfiction, first with her sister and then on her own. Writing fanfiction serves as an escape when her own life is difficult or lonely, and it’s Cath’s own fan base that, in part, helps her gain the confidence she will need to write original characters that tell her own unique story. Fangirl readers not only get to read Cath’s story throughout the novel, but her own Simon Snow fanfiction as well.

Will and her friendsWill and Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge; Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens

If I had to give an award for the most unique hobbies I have ever encountered in fiction, I would give it to Wilhelmina and her friends. As Will introduces her friends to the reader, one of the first things we find out about each of them is what they are passionate about.  Will makes her own lamps mostly out of objects found in her aunt’s antique shop, her friend Autumn practices puppetry, Noel is constantly baking, and his little sister Reece makes up-cycled jewelry.  Readers looking for a graphic novel offering some D.I.Y. inspiration need look no furNothing Can Possibly Go Wrong Coverther than Will and Whit. One thing I love about Will and her friends’ hobbies is the way they find ways to share them with their community.  When Hurricane Whitney sweeps through, causing a town-wide blackout, and leaving locals bored, Will and her friends each contribute their talents to a makeshift arts carnival. With a phobia of the dark and a tragic past, making lamps becomes a way for Will to cope with her fears and, eventually, process and express her emotions.

Nate, the robotics club, and the cheerleaders Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen, Illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks; Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens

Nate is president of the high school’s robotics club, a small but dedicated group, struggling for their school’s meager extracurricular funds.  Unfortunately, the school’s cheerleaders are just as dedicated and want the same funding for their cheer uniforms. Though the two groups initially have it out for each other, they become united by their lack of money, and use a cutthroat robotics competition as a last ditch effort to win prize money.  My favorite part of this graphic novel is that two groups bond over the fact that they both love what they do, even though what they love couldn’t possibly be more different. Nate and his friends have to deal with stereotypes surrounding what they love, but they fight them with an inspirational vengeance. (Cheerleaders are NOT dumb, and don’t EVER tell a girl that she shouldn’t be into robotics!)

Did You Love Lost? Try These Books!

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photo by flickr user brewbooks

Where I live, the temperatures and humidity are climbing these days, leaving me feeling a bit bedraggled and wilted. Weather like this prompts a strong nostalgia in me for one of my favorite TV shows, Lost, both because I feel as humidity-drenched as they all look on the island, and because the heat saps my energy, so I need a book with a hook strong enough to generate its own page-turning momentum, the way Lost expertly hooked me with truly bizarre discoveries, goosebump-causing unexplained phenomena, and never-quite-enough tidbits of the characters’ lives before the crash.

While I can never go back to the jaw-dropping, melodramatic delights of viewing Lost for the very first time, I can, and do, regularly seek out reading materials that will deliver that same tantalizing mix of survival, conspiracy, flashback storytelling with globetrotting locales, a diverse and varied cast of secret-keeping characters, and developments so strange I actually say, “What?!” out loud. The books in the following list all offered one or many of those factors.

MIND MGMT Vol. 1: The Manager by Matt Kindt – Perhaps an obvious pick, given that Lost producer Damon Lindelof loved this so much he wrote the foreword, and that Kindt has given Lost a very direct nod by numbering the “lost” flight in his story 815. It’s supposed to appeal to Lost fans. But just because a thing is supposed to appeal doesn’t always mean it hits its mark. Imagine my delight then, to be promised by Lindelof that I was in for just the kind of wild ride Lost used to deliver so reliably, and then to have the book in my hand actually take me on just such a ride. This is one of those plots that keeps unfolding to reveal new layers, introducing new characters, and feeding you information from the past and the present without ever explaining anything fully (so just resign yourself to a degree of uncertainty about everything).  MIND MGMT Vol. 1 was one of 2014’s Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens, and the graphic format here really served the fragmented storytelling; what was going on in the frames could be saying one thing, and then the frame itself could say something else entirely, and the reader could follow the action through many places and time periods very quickly with a few key visual cues. The best part, for me, of discovering this bizarre (and, fair warning, violent) world; it’s an ongoing series. 

SuperMOOC Mania! Part Three – Social Inequality in Comics

SuperMOOC2You guys!  I’m so excited to be with you again on our journey of comics, social issues and SuperMOOCs.  I have now reached the halfway point of the SuperMOOC I’ve been participating in since March – Social Issues through Comic Books, so a few more months of me focusing on issues and then it’s back to focusing on…well, mainly Batman, but other stuff, too, I promise!

For this 3rd module, our SuperMOOC community has been reading comics that deal with Social Inequality, and what an eye-opening and fascinating subject to tackle through comic books.  From nonfiction to dystopian to superhero, all the ranges of graphic reads were well represented, and they all looked at social inequality in a different and responsible way.  I was happy to see that, yet again, I had only read one of the books that we are studying; all the rest of the required texts were comics that were new to me, but have now moved up to the top of my “must recommend” list.

Keep these in mind for readers who are interested in or grappling with social inequality or for those just looking for a great comic.  At this point, I’m really stretching it with the “let’s start with Batman” speech, but let me try it again.  Hmmm.  Well, our first book is written by Gail Simone, who is the current writer on Batgirl…and it’s set in the world of Metropolis and Gotham City, so there you go.

The Movement, Volume 1The Movement, Volume 1:  Class Warfare by Gail Simone & Freddie Williams II:  If you haven’t read any of Gail Simone’s comics (and start with Secret Six, btw, if you do), you are seriously missing out as Gail is just straight up a great writer.  With her new comic book series for DC, The Movement, Gail brings us to Coral City, which, as I mentioned, is part of the same universe in which Metropolis & Gotham City exist.  In Coral City, there are the rich and the poor, those that try to help and those that try to hurt and, oh yeah – superheroes.  To say that the poor have it rough is an understatement.  Not only do the police (well, some of them, not all) run afoul of the laws they are supposed to be upholding, but there’s a killer out there who is targeting the destitute.  However, there’s a movement rising…and they call themselves, ahem, The Movement.  No longer will this group stand aside and let people be hurt, taken advantage of or killed.  They’re using the one thing they’ve got more of…and that’s their minds (slight nod to Jarvis Cocker & Pulp for the misappropriation of that line).  They’re also using their technology to catch people in the act and keep them honest.  But, can these strong-willed superheroes work together to stop the madness or will the serial killer without a face (well, not really, but no one’s actually seen it) continue to haunt the streets and the downtrodden?  Trust me, reading Gail’s work is a joy; never didactic and always thought provoking.

Comics That Will Tickle Your Funny Bone!

photo by flickr user Michelle Kiker
photo by flickr user Michelle Kiker

I love reading funny books and comics, and who doesn’t?  Getting in a good belly laugh at any and all times of the day is the best!  Unfortunately, it can be kind of difficult finding truly funny books that aren’t something like a “funny mystery” or a “romance with humor elements.”  Luckily, there have been quite a few funny comic books that have come out in the past year or so that definitely have jokes that will keep you in stitches.  Whether you like superheroes, Star Wars, Princesses and/or bubblegum or cursed football team owners, you’ll definitely find something on this list that will come in handy when you are feeling down in the dumps or are just in the mood for a right good laugh.

 

Darth Vader and Son & Vader’s Little Princess by Jeffrey Brown:  I have enjoyed all of Jeffrey Brown’s comics and graphic novels which he both writes and illustrates.  But, he forever endeared himself to me with his books of little one page vignettes of the exploits of Darth Vader and his kiddos, Luke & Leia – Darth Vader and Son & Vader’s Little Princess.  Brown imagines a world where Darth Vader is actively parenting Luke and Leia through their kid & teen years, and it is hilarious.  Imagine a Vader that has to pretend to love a Father’s Day tie from his son or a Lord Vader counseling a teenage Leia after relationship problems.  For hard-core and casual Star Wars fans, these two books are Jedi approved!