30 March 2008

Yet Again, Art

Pride of Baghdad
Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon

I like to talk about art in comics. Art is cool. Art makes me happy, and, just as in the writing, excellence or the lack thereof can make or break a comic. I mean, I can still read a well-written comic with terrible art, just as I can read a terribly-written comic with beautiful art. But it will make me a sad, solemn creature. It's not nearly as much fun.

Not that Pride of Baghdad is really fun, but it's certainly well-written and beautifully illustrated. The animals are well-drawn without being Disneyish, because I don't think anything could kill the mood of this quite like a little glimpse of Simba. Simba's cute and everything, but Ali looks a lot more like an actual lion.

Care was obviously taken to draw animals that actually looked like they would in real life, and I appreciate that. Like I said, no Disney. The antelope looks like a real antelope, the monkeys look like real monkeys, and that bear is fucking terrifying. I don't know how much of an animal guy Niko Henrichon is, but at least he cares about getting his illustrations to look right.

Besides the accuracy of the animals, I was very impressed by the coloring. Reading Pride of Baghdad is sort of like swimming in paint; everything is intense, very heavily saturated. The zoo is yellow. Safa's flashback is blue and red. The outside, in the wilderness, is green, and the city is golden. And then in the palace it's the same blue-black as Safa's flashback, but with a yellowish-green tint. It's got the same atmosphere of terror. It's very cool flipping through and seeing how much care was put into coloring things properly.

My one problem was that sometimes things were too detailed. Getting the lines on a lines mane right is one thing, but when the zoo is bombed and the giraffe's head blows up I didn't really need to see individual vertebrae. That was just...gross.

It's worth a look from an artist's perspective. I certainly couldn't do it, but I'd like to meet someone who could. That would be awesome.

Abrupt Endings

Pride of Baghdad
Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon

LOL spoilers

Some people in class have complained about the ending of Pride of Baghdad. It's really abrupt, and a lot of people didn't like that--they wanted more after the lions were shot, or more about their lives before the zoo bombing.

I think that might've been interesting, but I have to say that I like the ending as is. It's startling and freaky and moderately heart-wrenching, but I think that was the point. It's a comic about war. Note the phrasing--it's not a "war comic." I've always thought of those as being more about heroic soldiers and adventures. Pride of Baghdad is a comic about war, about what it is and what is does and how people are affected. And it's important to note that, like the ending of this book, war itself is frequently startling and freaky and heart-wrenching.

If there was more of the story, it feels like it would take away from the impact of the ending. More on the beginning wouldn't really be interesting. Yeah, it's about lions, but zoo lions lead fairly boring lives. Not so much goes on with an animal who lives at a zoo. More after the end, on the other hand, would risk A.I. syndrome. You know what that is. It's that thing that some books and movies and television shows do when they have a perfect ending and then continue to drag on for another fifteen minutes or three seasons or whatever.

Pride of Baghdad is a good example of Thomas Hobbes' comment on life during wartime: "No arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short" (Leviathan Pt. 1, Ch. 13). It may not be a comic about humanity, but that's pretty much what's going on here. An abrupt ending is appropriate to that. It's upsetting, and that's the point.

Dearth of Words

Pride of Baghdad
Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon

Again I find that I have trouble of thinking of what to say about this book. Not the same kind of trouble as American Born Chinese, of course. That was a trouble of being entirely satisfied, to the point where I couldn't find a criticism to make. With Pride of Baghdad it's more that there's a lot to say and I have trouble deciding what would be most interesting and deserving of discussion.

I suppose that yet again the best place to start would be with what we talked about in class. We did talk about a lot; there are a few decent jumping-off points. Education is always a good one, but as I'm not a teacher and don't intend to be one, I think I'd like to talk about this from the perspective of a librarian. I do work at a library, and I plan to be a professional librarian, so it's not such a bad place to start.

The subject of librarians first came up in class as a hypothetical situation. What if a librarian wishes to expand her library's graphic novel collection and comes across a catalogue listing for Pride of Baghdad? It's well-reviewed and reasonably topical--or, if this is in a couple of decades, not topical but historical. And hey, it's about a family of lions. Is this for children? If it's ordered for children, then what's the librarian going to do when it comes and she takes a quick flip through?

Well, first, I'd hope that a responsible librarian wouldn't immediately categorize a graphic novel as children's fare. That's irresponsible, and...well...stupid. It's a terrible idea to think that just because two things use the same medium, they have similar content. The Lord of the Rings is not Lord of the Flies, Memento is not The Court Jester, and Pride of Baghdad is certainly not a Superman comic.

Secondly, talking animals. That shouldn't automatically fall into the category of children's books either. It's a little harder to convince people of, given the overwhelming avalanche of animal books for children, but the animal allegory is still a fine tradition. Animal Farm, for example, came up in class, and the Nun's Priest's Tale in The Canterbury Tales is all about animals. And then there are the modern not-necessarily-for-children animal comics, like the ones that got talked about in my boyfriend's blog, This is NOT a tie-in. Or, hell. Fritz the Cat.

Still, descriptions can be vague. If one wanted to be brief, one could describe Pride of Baghdad as simply a book about "a family of lions in wartime Iraq," and, as my favorite Buffy quote puts it, a vague disclaimer is nobody's friend. Although I'd hope it wouldn't be listed in any sort of catalogue of children's books.

Anyway, speaking from my own perspective as a librarian, I'd certainly have this in any library I may someday get to run. It's a great story. But if someone tried to order it for the children's section I would scold them for narrow-mindedness. I'd let a kid check it out, but I'd probably want some sort of parental permission, or at least a written recommendation from a teacher.

It's a great book. But it's not for kids.

24 March 2008

Things You Might Enjoy, If You Enjoy This Sort Of Thing--Episode Six

Girl Genius
Phil and Kaja Foglio

Quick hit here. Another webcomic.

It is steampunk fantasy with mad scientists. Ultimate sexy.

Miss Becca out.

23 March 2008

Three Dimensions

The Complete Bone
Jeff Smith

I saw some screenshots from intended Bone video games on Jeff Smith's website the other day, and I have to say, I'm disturbed. They don't change the art style radically, but they do put the characters in 3-d. It's creepy.

I don't quite know why it bothers me so much in this situation. Normally I like fancitive three-dimensional computer animation. I think it's cool. Especially if it's a Pixar movie. Bone in three dimensions, however, bugs me to no end.

I think it's partially that I find charm in the flatness of the art style of the comics. Everything is beautifully detailed. Even the Bones are detailed; they're just generally minimal. The backgrounds are gorgeous and intense. The people look like people. I think the art would convert well to simple two-dimensional animation. It doesn't need the added "realism" of three-dimensional computer animation. That just makes it look silly.

Also, Jeff Smith does a lot with facial expressions. His people have lots of emotions, and their faces show them well. Eyes widen. Jaws drop. It's almost like Looney Toons. That looks good when it's flat.

...also the animation just isn't very good. -_-

Thorn The Archetype

The Complete Bone
Jeff Smith


So on Wednesday we had what may be one of my favorite class discussions so far. We talked about literary and artistic archetypes, connecting them to Bone and the characters therein. I think, given this, that it'd be a good time to talk about Thorn.

I like Thorn because she gets to be three archetypes at once. At first she's a good maiden type, almost but not quite a damsel in distress. She gets in trouble, and then people save her. She's also an exotic foreign girl--not so much to the reader, necessarily, but certainly to Fone Bone and his brothers. Then, once we find out her background and she gets her sword, she gets to be a warrior princess.

I also like Thorn because of the all-ages aspect of Bone I was talking about last post. She's pretty and intriguing without being overly sexual. The chronology of the story suggests that she's about twenty, but she looks like a normal person instead of some blonde bombshell. And she's a good example.

Not that I think all kids should be like Thorn, but she's worth looking at as some sort of role model. She's smart, and generally reasonable, and good to people. Sometimes she gets really angry, but generally not without good reason. Sometimes she goes tearing off when it's not a good idea, but it's not like she's just being wild and rebellious. She does get unreasonable occasionally, but for the most part she's a good person.

So she also gets to be a fourth archetype, one that's less traditional: she is the awesome young lady. That's the one who's not a wilting flower damsel, not necessarily exotic and sexy, and not necessarily an ass-kicking type. She's just a girl who knows where her head's at. She's like an older version of Neil Gaiman's character Coraline. And that's really cool.

22 March 2008

Magic Bone

The Complete Bone
Jeff Smith

This week's reading was the immense tome that is Jeff Smith's glorious work of fiction, The Complete Bone. Much of the discussion had to do with the subject of "all-ages" comics--what makes them so, and things of that ilk. Several reasons were given, at least for Bone. No sex. Expressive character art. Lots of humor.

What I think is important, though, is the immensity of the story. It reads quickly, because of all the pictures, but it's still nine volumes long. It's a genuine epic fantasy, and it's for sort of for children, which is something I think we need more of. There are children's series, including long-running monthlies like Animorphs, but you can't buy most of those in one huge volume. That is restricted to books for grown-ups.

comes in one huge volume, and yet I think I could provoke a child to read all of it. They're putting out color versions targeted just at kids, but I don't even think I'd need that. The art is cool without color, and honestly the coloring is a little weird. It has action and adventure and comedy and fighting and stupid, stupid rat creatures, and also romance that doesn't involve any kissing, which is a big selling point for children.

It is awesome for children in the same way that opera can be awesome for children; kids like stuff that's a little bit dark and scary and gross. Kingdok could probably give a kid nightmares, but then he gets defeated, and Briar is creepy but silly and weird at the same time. It's a story that's big and scary and intense, but then the good guys win. And it's good for teaching concepts, I think--at least, for teaching kids why it's good to be like Fone Bone and not at all like Phoney. It's like The Neverending Story, which is a beautiful epic story that children should read so that they can learn the value of retaining their imaginations and remembering who they are.

Someday I'm going to make my children read Bone. Children should read more. Bone is good for that.

16 March 2008

Things You Might Enjoy, If You Enjoy This Sort Of Thing--Episode Five

Otter Soldiers
Elina Hopeasaari

Following on my review of last week, this is another webcomic for your perusal. Like Grayling, it's not the typical newspaper-strip format--this, again, is closer to full pages of trade paperbacks getting put up online.

It's called Otter Soldiers. It's Finnish.

Before you ask, yes. It's available in English. The author actually translates it herself; the website has two sections, one in Finnish and one in English. I've linked to the English one, of course. Story premise is as follows (not a quote):

We are in Finland. Santa Claus is dead. His elves have gone crazy and are trying to improve the world by causing "bad" children to disappear. An eleven-year-old girl's friend disappears, and she hooks up with an angry, depressed woman and some fairies to save the world.

No, I'm not making that up.

It's a fairly weird comic in the first place, as you can see, made even weirder by the fact that the author's English translation occasionally uses some really bizarre grammar. I want to learn Finnish now, just to see where she's getting these grammatical constructions from. The two main characters--the girl and the grouchy woman--are named Outi Janis and Reiska Lilavati. Outi at least is cool; Reiska's self-loathing worries me.

Despite the weirdness, it's a fascinating story. It draws heavily on Finnish folklore--in fact, the author provides a page explaining the some of the things in the comic for people who are not of Finnish descent. Finnish folklore is why the elves in this comic are freaky little murderbeasts instead of rosy-cheeked helpers or ethereal othertypes.

The art is interesting. Hopeasaari is actually a really good artist, but I will warn you that she does not draw pretty. The story of Otter Soldiers is creepy and weird, and the art for it is just as creepy and weird. But sometimes it is also beautiful.

The weird English takes some getting used to, and the story might scare you. If anything, you'll never look at raisins in the same way again. Despite the freakiness, though, there's a lot of humor, so while it certainly isn't continuously funny, there are things to laugh at. Like Grayling, this is a comic that should be read from the beginning, and it updates irregularly. However, it's still more regular than Grayling--I've found that there will normally be at least one new page a week, often more. So it might be a little bizarre, but it's totally worth reading, and the story isn't too hard to follow, especially given the pleasant frequentness of updates.

Give it a shot. If you get freaked out, it's probably my fault. But if you like it, that's my fault too.

Read This Book

American Born Chinese
Gene Luen Yang

Right. So I just posted about how little I felt I could really say about ABC. Well, then, I am forsworn. Or something. Anyway, here's something I can say.

This is why you should read American Born Chinese, and why it should be taught in schools:
  • First off, it's just a good story. It's well-written and interesting, and in a student context would be an excellent example of "this is one person's writing style which works."
  • It uses an unorthodox (for Western culture) story structure which is interesting to the casual reader and would lead very well in a classroom setting into a discussion of plot structure and how it can vary creatively.
  • It's a good, easy-to-read example of a comic as literature. I think it'd be an excellent way to introduce graphic novels as a literary form--not too complicated or weird, but still an interesting story told in such a manner that the combination of art and words is really necessary.
  • It's got a good message. I always like a be-yourself story that isn't heavy handed.
  • As I said in my earlier post, it'd be a great intro to a study of Eastern myths and legends.
  • It's a good set-up for, school-wise, an in-class discussion of racism and the implications of such.
So there. Six reasons why American Born Chinese is something worth reading. I think I'm going to print up a sheet of these now and start mailing it to schools around the country.

A Baffling Lack Of Commentary

American Born Chinese
Gene Luen Yang

I'm surprised to find that, having said what I have to say about education, I can't really think of much else to talk about for ABC, and honestly, I feel a little guilty. It's a wonderful book.

However, it's hard to discuss something in which the symbolism is so clearly explained. There are three plotlines, they all have the same moral, and they get tied up into a neat little bundle by the Monkey King at the end. That's oversimplified, I know. But still, it doesn't leave much room for commentary.

We spent the past week in class talking about this, so I know I've got things to say. But a lot of what we talked about involved things like racism in the book and Jin's own self-perception problems, and I don't think I could do those justice here without other people to talk with, bringing up their opinions and their interpretations. Besides that, I'm not terribly sure what I'd say. My opinions are not concrete. They're not even liquid.

The best way to discuss this, I think, is to tell anyone who might be out there that hey, they should read American Born Chinese. It's really good, and it'll give you things to think about, even if you can't articulate them.

15 March 2008

Monkey Kings

American Born Chinese
Gene Luen Yang

I'm not an education major. I like teaching, and I'm fairly fond of children, but if I'm going to teach, I'd rather it was at the college level. Primarily this is due to the restrictions that tend to come up when choosing books for a literature course; the books I like and think are worth teaching are frequently frightening, violent, sometimes sexual, and generally considered inappropriate for children.

However, I do have some ideas about what I think kids should be learning. Some of this I hope to rectify myself via the production of awesome young adult fiction; it's something I enjoy doing, and it's a way of reaching lots of children that means I don't have to talk to lots of them all at the same time. Other things, though, I will simply tender as suggestions.

In class this week, we discussed American Born Chinese, a graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang. It's considered young adult fiction, and the subject of how one might use it as a teaching aid in, say, middle or high school, came up once or twice. Mainly the consensus was that it wouldn't be great for elementary schoolers, as it contains a lot of stuff about racism--including a deliberate racist caricature, used to make a point--that might be difficult to explain to a class of eight-year-olds and even harder to explain to their parents.

However, despite the difficult subjects it covers, I don't think ABC should be completely eliminated as a possibility for elementary schools. Throughout the book there are three plot threads, and one would be excellent for elementary school students. It is the story of the Monkey King, an important figure in Chinese mythology, and I think it'd be a fantastic way to introduce children to the mythology of other cultures.

Here's the thing: kids get to hear a lot of Western mythology. There are many child-friendly books of Greek myths; there are King Arthur stories and the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen and the Grimm Brothers. There are even some cool books of Norse mythology, and if you stray a bit from Europe there are loads of things about Egypt.

The further east you go, though, the harder it is to find a lot of information geared toward children about the mythologies of the cultures you're encountering. I think, for example, that it'd be fantastic if there were more sources for traditional Middle Eastern stories than, say, the intensely Westernized Disney Aladdin. Or more sources for the legends and history of China than the cool but not terribly representative Mulan. Don't get me wrong; I love me some Disney, and these are some of my favorites. But it's fairly slim pickings. I work in a bookstore that actually has a bookshelf for children's mythology, and the lack of variety there makes me rather sad.

Yang's story of the Monkey King has beautiful art, and the reading level isn't anything prohibitively difficult for, say, a third-grader. Even without the backup of the other two storylines, it's still got a good be-yourself message and enough information to lead into a decent discussion of racism if the teacher wanted to do something like that. But what's most important is that this is the Monkey King. He's a big guy in Chinese mythology, and reading the Monkey King portions of ABC would be a good start to a small unit on Eastern mythology. One would start with China, of course, but it's not hard to go from there. There are connections to Hanuman, the Hindu King of the Monkeys, which leads naturally to a discussion of Hindu mythology. The Monkey King is pretty popular in the Japanese media, so that leads into the legends of Japan. The possibilities are pretty much endless.

I'm a big fan of cultural diversity in education, and I think the best way to get started early is through mythology. It was one of my big focuses when I was little; admittedly I did focus on the Greeks, but I've expanded since then. It's exciting for kids. There's action, adventure, occasional romances, rude jokes, introduction to other cultures--what's not to like?

I don't know if I'll ever get to apply this personally. But it's something to consider.

08 March 2008

Things You Might Enjoy, If You Enjoy This Sort Of Thing--Episode Four


It occurred to me this morning that I've done three reviews already and haven't once talked about webcomics. It's sort of a different medium from print comics, but not so far removed that I shouldn't be able to talk about it. I read a lot of webcomics, too, so it's probably a good idea to review one or two.

I only recently started reading Grayling again. I read it a few years ago, but due to the irregular update schedule I eventually fell out of the habit of checking the website. Because it had been a couple of years, of course I had to start from the beginning and read all the way through the archives until I reached the present day.

This isn't just because I wanted a refresher, and it's something I'll warn you about now. Grayling isn't a comic you can just pick up and start reading at the present day. Reading through the archives is required, because the story is deep and complicated and spans a few thousand years. But I can give you a quick explanation, so you'll know what you're getting into.

Briefly, Grayling follows the lives, trials, and tribulations of the elementals of the world of Faidia, including their interactions with certain mortals and their attempts to save the world. It focuses primarily on Moranerial, or Fern, the elemental of fire, Callanerial, the elemental of death, and Morse, a human girl whose life these elementals basically destroy.

Before you ask, yes. It gets a bit depressing.

That is, I must emphasize, only the briefest of summaries. It's not nearly enough to go on if you want to start reading the comic; like I said, you really have to read the archives, and it's worth it. If you start at the beginning, for one, you get to see the art slowly improve and become more and more strange and individual, as well as getting to experience all the glorious character growth in full surround angst. It's bizarre and original, and the characters are for the most part very likable--even Lemanerial, and he's kind of a jackass. Also, the author includes on the site a full cast list, as well as several essays on various aspects of Faidian life, culture, and ecology.

The art is extraordinary. Most of the comic is done in a style that's sort of half-anime, half abstract art. The lettering is mostly done by computer, though, which makes it easier to read, and Arborwin uses gorgeous, intense colors. You really need to read this comic.

However, I will provide one last warning, just to make sure nobody gets really alarmed. Arborwin herself has put this warning at the beginning of the archives. Grayling, for those of you who might be bothered by this, is filled with gay. Lots of gay. A number of the main characters are...well, elementals don't really go by human sexuality, but there are a lot of same-sex relationships. It doesn't bother me, but if that's something that'll bug you, don't read this comic.

Other than that, though, it's totally worth it. It's a beautiful story.

L Is Denny Colt's Illegitimate Grandson

Death Note Volume 1
Tsugumi Ohba

We were meant to talk about The Spirit and Death Note in class this Wednesday. Unfortunately we had our fourth Wednesday snow day, thus cutting that out. But I figured I'd have something to say about it here. This can serve as my second post of the day about a specific Death Note character.

So far, having only read volume one of Death Note, I haven't gotten to see much of L the detective. I've heard a few spoilers and seen an episode of the anime, but I still don't know too much. Guessing about his identity is as much of a hobby in the actual comic as it is in the real world, too, so I think I can put in my two cents. I believe that L the detective is actually the grandson of Denny Colt, the Spirit, via an illegitimate child Denny Colt had with Silk Satin. Said child moved to Britain or wherever L's from, got married to one of the few descendants of Sherlock Holmes, and voila. L has arrived.

This may sound far-fetched, and don't get me wrong. It totally is. But at the same time, I'm talking about a comic, and it's something I think would be cool.

Anyway, my evidence for this is mainly L's general modus operandi. He acts a lot like a more circumspect version of Denny Colt--where Denny Colt just hides his identity from the public, L hides his identity from everyone. Both have a close relationship with the police and tend to get put on unusual, high profile cases. L has no sidekicks, but this is because he knows his grandfather's illustrious history, including all the incidents of inopportune betrayal.

It also explains why L can pull reckless tricks like the one with the fake news broadcast and then dare Kira to come get him. He's got just as much of a superiority complex as Light has, but his is backed up by a glorious lineage and a great deal of actual skill. He's the world's best detective and he knows it, and he's descended from another great crime fighter.

Despite this, I doubt Denny Colt would quite approve of L's methods. Even with his own desire for secrecy, he's very much about the trust. L, with his hidden lair and super-concealing ways, is not exactly one to inspire trust, even if he is brilliant. Also, besides the trust issue, L solves crimes, but he isn't active--he doesn't actually go out and collar the crook, he just tells the police how to. I doubt Denny Colt would be able to stand it if all he could do was watch and give directions.

I wonder if Tsugumi Ohba's ever read The Spirit. It'd be awesome if he has.

Shinigami Have Feelings Too

Death Note Volume 1
Tsugumi Ohba

This is the first time I've really read Death Note, after hearing about it for ages and ages. For the most part, I have to say, I'm impressed. It's an interesting story, the art is pretty, and it contains characters who, even if I don't like them, are still fascinating. I'll probably talk about a few of said characters, but the first I'd like to look at is Ryuk, the shinigami.

First off, I think he's really quite cool. I don't know if I trust him, but he's at least interesting. His character design is creepy and original, and I like people who are amused by everything.

Anyway, I'm curious about why he keeps talking to Light. I know he has to hang around until Light dies, and that he's amused by the things Light does. But besides the entertainment value, Light's not a particularly enjoyable guy to be around, especially not acting how he does in private. He's arrogant and manipulative and generally unpleased. Does Ryuk enjoy this sort of thing, or what?

Also, Light has, on at least one occasion, used Ryuk to further his own ends--there may be more, but I've only read volume one. Remember the drug addict on the bus? Light's instructions for the death included the man seeing a "horrifying phantom," which with Light's help ended up being Ryuk. I know Ryuk has a totally different perspective on life than any human, but I'm still curious as to whether that bothered him. He does spend a great deal of time musing on Light's cleverness.

I'd like to read more of this manga. It's weird and interesting, and I want to see how the characters develop, particularly Ryuk.

03 March 2008

An Awesome Thing To Do With Leftover Rice

First off, a warning: this post has nothing to do with comics. Nothing at all. I just got excited and felt like posting it.

Second, another warning: this is a post about food, and cookery, and specifically a sort-of recipe. However, the most dangerous thing it requires you do to is cook bacon, so you're probably safe.

I had rice for breakfast this morning. I was all out of English muffins and other quick-cooking breakfast foods, and I have lots of rice around, and since I've got a rice cooker, if I want rice I can set it up to cook and just ignore it while I'm brushing my teeth. Made about a cup, which provided more than enough food for me--enough that I had a substantial amount of leftovers.

My mother's told me that her favorite thing to do with leftover rice is fry it up, probably with some veggies. It sounds nice, and I was considering it while at my internship thinking about my stomach, but then had another idea and got really excited and tried it out instead. It turned out pretty well. So I wanted to provide the recipe to the world. Although I feel I have to note that it's not really a recipe. It's more of a template. Nothing is an absolute. I don't even have specific measurements. But anyway, without further ado:

Delicious Leftover Rice

You'll need:
steamed rice--I used cold leftovers, of course, but you can make it fresh if you like
a type of cheese you like, preferably hard--I used the Cabot Hunter cheese, which is a super-sharp cheddar cheese that comes in a plaid wrapper
bacon--or another easily cooked and crumbled meat
a microwave-safe bowl

1. Dump out your leftover rice into the bowl; if it comes out in a solid block or cylinder or something, break it up with your fingers.

2. Grate your cheese onto it, as much or as little as you'd like, and mix it in with the rice so that there's a fairly even distribution.

3. Cut three or four slices of bacon in half and fry them up whatever texture you like. Chewy or crispy, it doesn't matter. Actually, you don't even have to cut them in half, but I just found that it made breaking up the pieces easier. When the bacon's done cooking, drain it on a paper towel or something for a minute--excess bacon grease would just make this gross.

4. Break up your cooked bacon into smaller pieces and mix them in with the rice and cheese, again so you've got a fairly even distribution. If you finish mixing and think you need more bacon, make more. It'll be fine to sit for a couple of minutes.

5. Pop the whole thing in the microwave for about a minute and a half. When it's done you should be able to hear the cheese making little bubbly noises. That means it's melted.

6. Eat with a sense of satisfaction and glory in its deliciousness.

It's like having a bowl full of bacon-flavored nachos. It's lovely. And next time I may try pouring in a bit of tomato sauce before I heat it. That's the nice thing; this is highly customizable. You can mix in whatever you like, and it'll use up your leftovers and make you happy.

02 March 2008

Things You Might Enjoy, If You Enjoy This Sort Of Thing--Episode Three

X-Men: Apocalypse vs. Dracula
Written by Frank Tieri
Pencils by Clayton Henry, inks by Mark Morales (with Livesay), colors by Wil Quintana

I borrowed this from my boyfriend about a week ago, but I only got around to reading it today, and it seemed like a good thing to do a review of. It's a good change of pace from my previous all-Gaiman all the time review format, and for once it's something I'm not going to rave about.

That isn't to say I didn't like the book. I did. It was fun, the writing was pretty good, and the art was nice. It's worth reading if you come across it. Nothing special, though.

The basics of the plot may be gleaned from the title. That great X-Men villain, En Sabah Nur, known as Apocalypse, fights Dracula. The story takes place in Victorian England, in 1897. It is told partially from the point of view of Ozymandias, a creepy ancient Egyptian guy in a robe who watches over Apocalypse in his rejuvenation chamber, and partially from the point of view of Jack Starsmore, a member of Clan Akkaba--a clan of descendants of Apocalypse who guard him and do his bidding and spend a lot of time killing each other. Once Apocalypse killed Vlad Tepes. Vlad objected. Now he is busy killing Clan Akkaba members.

So there it is. A non-spoileriffic plot summary. And like I said, it's nothing special. It's got some cool ideas. If anything, I'd say flip through for the art, if you find it. Read a few pages. Nothing glowing and beautiful, but it might be your thing.

Also? Apocalypse. He is scary but sometimes cool.

01 March 2008

Do The Dance Of Squee

So this is not related to any specific comic, but to an opportunity I have encountered recently.

I may, in fact, be able to attend New York City Comic Con. Thus the title of this post, because that is indeed what I am doing--when my legs are not moving, I am doing the dance of squee in my heart.

For those of you who may not know, New York City Comic Con is probably the biggest East Coast comics industry convention--I'm not sure of this, but given that they've got the entire Javits Convention Center I think I can be safe in making the guess. This is where you go to immerse yourself in intense, up-to-date comics industry news, and you can buy comics and see panels and get your trade of Arkham Asylum signed by Grant Morrison (who is the Guest of Honor and I may hug him). And I am sure, because this is a huge industry convention, that there will be swag. Glorious, glorious swag.

Anyway, I am very excited. Almost unbelievably so, but I won't smack the full "unbelievable" stamp on it because I have no way of knowing what you people can and cannot believe.

Also, I mentioned Grant Morrison. Let me take this moment to rave about him.

You folks may have noticed that I talk about Neil Gaiman a lot. I love Neil Gaiman, it's true, but he is not my favorite comics writer. He is my favorite writer all around, any style of writing. If you want me to stick to strictly comics, though, my two favorites, tied, are Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. They both deserve their own posts, but Grant Morrison is on topic, so I will be brief.

The man is a wonderful writer. Read his work, and you can be sunk into the glories of the bizarre. He wrote Arkham Asylum, previously mentioned, my favorite Batman comic of all and possibly one of my favorite comics all around. He also wrote Sebastian O, which is sexy and about Victorian computer assassins and will probably get the next review I post. And he wrote The Invisibles. Now, those other two I mentioned might be weird, but The Invisibles takes the cake. A short description of the genre: it is a mystery-conspiracy-action-romance-psychedelic-brainsplosion. I love it to death. It makes my brain turn inside out.

Grant Morrison is also known for, among other things, his run on Animal Man, now collected into three trade paperbacks, in which he took a C-list-or-lower superhero and made him something amazing and new.

So he's a man worth seeking out and reading. And he's one of my favorite comics writers.

And I might get to go to New York City Comic Con.

Name Game

The Best of the Spirit
Will Eisner

I think one of my favorite things about reading all these old Spirit stories was learning the names of all the characters. They're wonderfully descriptive, for the most part. Then there's the font of awkward that's Ebony White, but we're not going to get into that.

Anyway, like I said, descriptive. Not really of who the person is--we haven't got any tacky Jack-Chick Lew Siffer characters here--but it says a lot about the culture here. For example, from "The Postage Stamp," we've got two lovely ladies, Dulcet Tone and Skinny Bones. Doesn't tell you much about who they are personally, does it? But given the euphemistic names we can tell that they're probably crooks, and it also hints at what life in their criminal underworld might be like for women. Skinny Bones may be a great name, but complimentary it's not.

Actually, I liked women's names in particular. P'Gell is a wonderful example, because it means nothing, but it sounds sort of sexy and exotic. Lorelei Rox (of Odyssey Road) has sort of a wonderful pun for a last name, and I'm a sucker for anyone who knows what a Lorelei is. There's Miss Cosmek, the visitor from Mars. Autumn Mews sounds lovely and dangerous, and Sand Saref is just really cool. It's a font pun! And then there's Silk Satin, whose name is wonderful particularly because it's so girly and she's so tough.

Men mostly get more...well, name-like names. Like Gerhard Shnobble, the man who could fly. Not much of a name. But doesn't it sound hapless to you? Or Carboy T. Gretch and Cranfranz Quayle, the crook and the henpecked husband who switch places accidentally. Great rhythm, and again. Hapless. I appreciate names with real qualities to them. Then there's the main character of "Fox at Bay," Reynard, which is cool because, like Lorelei, it's another reference to a fairy tale--Reynard the fox was a European trickster figure.

But I particularly like Quadrant J. Stet, the accountant. It makes me think of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, like he should be friends with another accountant named...oh...Fiduciary Blurt, or something. I think that's from there. Or maybe I'm just stealing it from Neil Gaiman.

Say what you like about Will Eisner (and I can't really say anyone saying anything bad), he certainly had an appreciable flair for naming. Even Denny Colt paints a picture. It's short and sensible. And probably secretly awesome.