kids are animals, librarians are birds

Mr. Wolf’s Class by Aron Nels Steinke. Scholastic Graphix, 2018. 9781338047691. 160pp.

I think I first bought one of Steinke’s self-published minicomics 7 or 8 years ago, back when the Stumptown Comics Fest was still its own thing in Portland. His comics then and since have a genuine good-natured quality, and I really admire how upbeat they are. This is no exception.

Mr. Wolf is a new teacher at his elementary school, and none of his 17 students (each a different species of anthropomorphized animal) is more excited than Margot (a rabbit), who just moved to the neighborhood. On the bus she meets a little slug guy. Sampson (a frog) gets a slightly nasty note and then in trouble for running (to go to the bathroom). There’s some discussions of palindromes brought on by Aziza’s name (she’s a duck who wears a headscarf). And they take a trip to the library where the librarian, Mrs. Bird, checks out books while wearing her fancy red cowboy boots. After a student decides to take a nap in a box, there’s a bit of excitement when everyone searches for her. There’s a brain in a jar, and sharing. By the end of the book it’s clear they’re all pretty good kids, and that they’re in good hands.

Advertisements

Shitty Art

Leonardo Was Right by Roland Topor. Translated by Barbara Wright. John Calder, 1978. Playscript 83. 0714536717.

Sarah: Leonardo Was Right by Roland Topor…This is a play.
G: Oh my god, this is the smallest book we’ve talked about so far… just a 25 page tome.
S: Right, it’s a fast read.
G: Translated from what?
S: From French, oui oui. One of the reasons I’m hesitant to talk about this on Bookthreat is that it’s out of print and wildly overpriced online in both French and English.
G: Our friends in the library world have this thing called interlibrary loan, so don’t worry about it.
S: This was a book that Tom loaned me that he thought I’d find funny because it’s a play that’s entirely about shit. (laughs)
G: I’m picking the book back up!
S: He said I might want to recommend it to you! It’s about this couple who visits another couple in the country and, as the play opens, we discover that their toilet’s backed up and they’re having problems unplugging it. So every time someone has to go to the bathroom they have to go to the neighbor’s house! Then, at dinner that evening, there’s a turd in the center of the table. They need to find out who the phantom shitter is.
G: Oh my god.
S: And both of the men in the couples are policemen, high up, and they start to gather all the clues to find out who did it. One of them ends up interrogating his son, dunking his head in water… it’s ridiculous. But it’s really quite funny, even aside from the poop aspect.
G: And it’s French?
S: It’s French, and the whole time I read it, I was trying to imagine someone putting on this production, imagining it on the stage. What kind of prop poo do you use? Do you use one of those rubber dog-doo things from the joke shop?
G: That’s your whole pitch?
S: Yes. I didn’t like the ending, but other than that it was quite entertaining.
G: Obviously, poop is very funny, Sarah, because you’re laughing, and I’m laughing. My favorite episode of TV ever is from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Who Pooped the Bed? (Editor: Season 4, Episode 7)
S: I think you showed that episode at your birthday party.
G: It sounds like they took the idea right from this. Is the author well-known?
S: Yes, he was a political cartoonist, a playwright, a novelist, and he wrote a bunch of pop songs, including some performed by a Japanese-French chanteuse famous for her unusual hats…
G: (laughs) I don’t know why, but that’s perfect.
S: You should listen to his song about an ambulance… or the disco version.

Regrets, I Ate a Few

The Gallery of Regrettable Food by James Lileks. Crown Publishers, 2001. 0609607820.

Sarah: Part of the significance of this book, because there are plenty of people out there who make fun of the horrible illustrations in old cookbooks, is that James Lileks was one of the first. He was really early on the Internet scene, he has this wonderful website that he’s been working on since the nineties — it’s a great collection of weird old stuff. He’s also funny; he’ll comment on the pictures and not just say “oh, how disgusting!” He’s really amusing, and he’ll start bizarre mini-fictions that continue within and across his captions.
G: (looks at photo and laughs)
S: He talks about how his mom in, I think, 1962 was given a terrible promo cookbook from the North Dakota durum wheat growers… that was the start of his collection, when he found it in his mom’s closet, untouched, in the 90s.
He has a fictional recipe in there based on all the recipes in these books, where you carefully put one atom of chili powder in a dish with a pound of hamburger meat, 36 pounds of flavorless cheese… “if substituting spackle, crumble one yellow crayon for color,” one cup dusty crumbs from the toaster, three grains pepper, one pound salt, then that one atom of chili powder.
Continue reading “Regrets, I Ate a Few”

Charlie and the Brain

Sparks! by Ian Boothby (author) and Nina Matsumoto (illustrator). Scholastic Graphix, 2018. 9781338029468. 190pp.

“I am a litter box and this is my story!”

That first line is one of the best of all time, though the AI litter box doesn’t just tell it’s own story, it also tells that of two cats, August (a genius inventor and its creator) and Charlie, the brave cat who helped August escape the lab where they were experimented on. Together they wear a robotic dog suit to perform heroic deeds around town and hide their identities. A local newscaster is suspicious of the dog — is it causing the trouble it’s solving? A very mean and smart “baby” out to conquer the world is trying to capture the cats. And there’s a chatty squirrel who may not be as friendly as he seems. It’s got the beauty and insanity of a great Saturday morning cartoon, and the heart of a wonderful story about friendship. Plus it’s fun. I’m shoving this into the faces of both my teenage daughter and my “stop trying to make me laugh” wife because I know they’ll love it, too.

Matsumoto and Boothby co-created a 2009 Eisner Award winning short, “Murder He Wrote,” which appeared in the comic book The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror #14. Boothby writes quite a bit for Matt Groening’s Bongo Comics line, as well as for TV. Matsumoto has done work for Bongo, wrote and illustrated Yōkaiden for Del Rey, and created the popular webcomic Saturnalia (which sadly no longer seems to be available online).

Hideo with a Thousand Faces

I Am A Hero Omnibus 1 by Kengo Hanazawa. Dark Horse, 2016. 9781616559205.
I Am A Hero Omnibus 2 by Kengo Hanazawa. Dark Horse, 2016. 9781506700199.
I Am A Hero Omnibus 3 by Kengo Hanazawa. Dark Horse, 2017. 9781506701455.

Hideo, in his mid-30s, still wants to be a successful manga artist. Despite having published a few of his own stories, he mostly works as an assistant for others. His girlfriend is pretty nice, and he’s one of the few folks in Japan who legally owns a gun, but he’s kind of drifting through his life. As news reports about violent people biting each other begin, nothing really changes. In fact, most Japanese citizens hardly seem to notice what’s going on around them. (Or are they just too polite to say anything?) And by the time they do notice it’s too late. By then Hideo’s life has fallen apart, he’s gotten out of the city (on a train ride that reminded me of the Korean film Train to Busan), and he’s living the American zombie apocalypse dream: he’s the only man with a gun.

Questions answered by the end of Omnibus 3:
Do headshots kill these zombies? Not always. Do bites cause zombification? Yes. Are zombie babies scary? Oh yeah.

Unanswered questions:
Can half-zombie schoolgirls be trusted? Why are some of the zombies all twisted up and spidery, like their bones have been rearranged? How do some zombies open their mouths wide enough to swallow the top of another person’s head?

Four More Years!

Liartown: The First Four Years by Sean Tejaratchi. Feral House, 2017. 9781627310543.

Sarah: It’s weird, I recognized the image of the possum on the cover because it was the author’s twitter icon. He’s one of those guys, I don’t know if I ever followed him, but everyone thought he was hilarious and retweeted him a lot, so I saw his tweets. Then once I got into this book, I realized I know him from like five other things. He’s super creative and you will recognize some of these pieces from his Liartown blog.
Gene: It’s a sort of Photoshopped looking cover.
S: Almost photo collage. Tejaratchi’s background is in design and among other things he makes props for films. He also makes the things in this book. One of the reasons I like it and thought you’d really like it is

we’re both really into book and magazine and album cover design. We can recognize things from different eras. We’re trash collectors of cultural items.
G: We’re trash collectors! That’s a good way to put it.
S: He absolutely is the same kind of person. Here’s the first pieces, grocery ads that are… weirdly confused? Like if you had a grocery ad written by someone with a severe head injury or…
G: Like an English as a second language thing? I see peanut loaf, river nubs… I like this because it looks real and you wonder “Why am I even looking at this?” and then, oh!
S: Everything in the book is like that. They absolutely look like real things, real books and magazines and ads, then the jokes sneak up on you.
Continue reading “Four More Years!”

Best Use of Poorly-Remembered Lessons Since Let’s Parler Franglais

What I Think Happened: An Underresearched History of the Western World by Evany Rosen. Arsenal Pulp Press, 2017. 9781551526955.

I was already pretty excited for this book before I even started: it’s the first volume in a new humor imprint of Arsenal Pulp Press edited by the comedian/author Charles Demers AND it’s written by the delightful Evany Rosen. Then I laughed out loud at least twice reading the first page of the introduction. Rosen recounts English and American history based on:

  1. her sketchy recollections of the history degree she barely finished in an honors program that was much too ambitious for her college-aged self,
  2. her avid enthusiasm for history as a series of fascinating anecdotes, and
  3. her strong and judgmental (and funny) opinions on history.

This is EXACTLY my speed. She has a hilarious and extremely useful chapter on how to evaluate what kind of military history your boyfriend’s dad is into (“If you don’t share my own unabashedly dad-like fondness for mentally storing partially correct factoids about tactical military history so you can spout them off at random while you drag your flabbergasted partner through an out-of-the-way tank museum that you seem to have Yelped into existence through sheer force of will, this chapter is for you.”), plus others on “America’s Dumpiest Presidents” and “My Personal Obsession with Napoleon.” There’s even a chapter on the history of cheese, which she admits is the best-researched in the book. I gave this book to my mom who, like me, enjoys a good tank museum, and I am eagerly awaiting the second book in the imprint (by the also delightful Alicia Tobin) later this year.