Looking for Calvin and Hobbes (Audiobook) by Nevin Martell, Jeremy Arthur: A close-up look at the Cartoonist and His Creation

I’ve spent 20 minutes trying to get this header to look decent — and I give up. It’s just going to look awkward given the length of the title.

Looking for Calvin and Hobbes (Audiobook)Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and His Revolutionary Comic Strip

by Nevin Martell, Jeremy Arthur (Narrator)
Unabridged Audiobook, 7 hrs., 9 min.
ListenUp Production, 2014
Read: September 25 – 27, 2018
Nevin Martell, like just about everyone who ever read him, is a Calvin and Hobbes fan — what’s more, he discovered the strip at the right age and was able to appreciate it as only a child can — without being self-conscious about reading a comic strip and with devotion. Years later, when trying to write something more meaningful to him than another book about a pop star, he decides to write about that strip and its reclusive creator.

The reclusive part of that sentence is the key — Watterson had (and has) pretty much dropped off the face of the earth as far as your typical person is concerned. A few select friends, business acquaintances and family members can get in touch with him, but no one else can. This isn’t crippling to a book about his comic strips or himself, but it sure hampers it (especially because those people who can get in touch with him are just about as reticent as he is to talk about him or his work). Unencumbered by access to Watterson himself, and his perspective on his life and career was like, what his influences were, what made him make the creative decisions, etc. Martell dove into research — things written about and by Watterson, archives of his previous work (when and where available) and interviews with colleagues, editors and the like.

In the kind of detail only a scholar or a fan can appreciate, Martell describes Watteron’s childhood, college, and pre-Calvin and Hobbes career; then he discusses that comic strip — major themes — and its publishing history; Watterson’s battle to keep control of the strip, its merchandising/licensing; then he describes Watterson’s retirement. As much of that as he can, which isn’t much. Following that, Martell focuses on things like the impact of Watterson on the industry, his relationships with other cartoonists and is influence on those who followed.

I wish he’d given us more (and maybe he gave us all he could, but I don’t think so) from Watterson’s contemporaries/those he influenced in the field of comics (or related fields — he spoke with a novelist and Dave Barry, too). Martell spoke to many and gave us a lot of what he was told — but I’d have appreciated more coming from professionals about Watterson’s strengths, technique, stories — whatever. Sure, it might have gotten a little redundant, but something tells me that it wouldn’t have been too bad. These were my favorite parts of the book, and I could’ve listened to another hour of them easily.

I’m not convinced that I was ever as invested in Martell’s journey as he seemed to think his readers would (should?) be — and I’m okay with that. I know I tend to overshare here a tad myself — so I understand the impulse. Or maybe I’m just callous, and everyone else got into it.

As far as Arthur’s work narrating — there’s not a lot to say. This isn’t a work of fiction where he can play with characters, pacing, and whatnot. It’s a straightforward text and he does a capable job of reading it in a straightforward manner. I did have to remind myself a couple of times that I was listening to someone Martell’s words rather than listening to him — which I guess is a good thing.

It was a pleasant book, nothing too challenging — and it reinvigorated an impulse to go read a collection or two of Watterson again on my part (and some of Larson’s The Far Side, too — I’m sure there’s an interesting book to be written there, too). It’s not a must-read, but it’ll scratch an itch for those who have an interest in the subject.

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3 Stars

2018 Library Love Challenge

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Wires and Nerve, Volume 2 by Marissa Meyer, Stephen Gilpin

Wires and Nerve, Volume 2Wires and Nerve, Volume 2: Gone Rogue

by Marissa Meyer, Stephen Gilpin (Illustrations)
Series: Wires and Nerve, #2

Hardover, 324pg.
Feiwel & Friends, 2018
Read: March 30, 2018

I’m really not sure what to say about this one. It’s part two of the story begun in Wires and Nerve where Iko is tasked with hunting down rogue Lunar wolf warriors scattered over the Earth. We also see what reforms Cinder is bringing to the Lunar government and what happens to the rest of the main characters from The Lunar Chronicles following Winter.

Honestly, I think I’m going to just copy and paste from the last book, because this is really just part 2 of that same story and my comments stay the same:

The Lunar wolf warriors are not just going to roll over, there are some that are preparing to strike back against Iko — and Cinder.

Throw in a love story, an examination of Iko’s true nature, and some nice catch-up with our old friends, and you’ve got yourself a fun story. It’s fun, but it’s light. If it were prose instead of a graphic novel, it might take 40 pages to tell this story. Which doesn’t make it bad, just slight.

I was shocked to see a different artist credited with this one — maybe my memory is shakier than I realized, but man…I thought it was the same stuff. Gilpin did a great job keeping the look the same. Yeah, cartoonish — but it fits the story. It’s dynamic, eye catching and fun — just what Iko’s story should be.

I’m glad I read these two, but I hope Meyer walks away from this world now to focus on whatever’s next. Read this if you read the first. If you’re curious about what happens after Winter, these two are a fun way to scratch that itch, but totally unessential.

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3 Stars
2018 Library Love Challenge

Faith: California Scheming by Jody Houser, Pere Pérez, Marguerite Sauvage, Colleen Doran

Faith: Hollywood & VineFaith: Hollywood & Vine

by Jody Houser, Pere Pérez (Artist), Marguerite Sauvage (Artist), Colleen Doran (Artist)
Series: Faith Vol. 2

Paperback, 112 pg.
Valient Entertainment, 2016

Read: January 20, 2018


This picks up right after the stories in Volume 1 — Zephyr establishes herself more strongly as a presence in LA, her alter ego Summer makes some more friends, and Faith goes out on a date to a comic con.

I’ve already had to return this to the library, so I can’t remember character names — sorry. Faith’s a major fan (has had recurring romantic dreams about) this super-hero/action film star who’s some sort of amalgamation of Chris Evans/Chris Pine/Chris Hemsworth. I don’t know if Faith’s obsession with goes back before the limited series, but it’s well established. Faith does meet him in this collection, and . . . I was disappointed. That story felt too rushed, too hurried — at the same time, I’m not sure what else could’ve been done with it — and the brevity of the interaction between the two served the story. Still, I felt cheated after all the build-up.

That’s actually a recurring theme for me when it comes to this collection — I thought the story telling was a bit more shallow in this collection than the previous, but somehow I enjoyed these stories more. Unlike the limited run, there are a variety of stories being told — some about Faith, some about her super-heroing, some about her social life as Summer — so given the width and breadth of the scope, they couldn’t get down too deep. Still, I want more depth; I want richer, more developed characters — but I want them to be as fun as this collection.

Is that asking too much? Yeah, probably. Still this was fun. It made me like the characters more and want to spend more time with them — which sounds pretty good to me.

I don’t think I have anything to say about the art here that I didn’t already say about the previous collection — there’s some good stuff here.

Fun characters; shallow, but entertaining stories; spiffy and attractive art — this collection has everything you’d want. This is a series to get into.

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3 Stars

2018 Library Love Challenge

Faith: Hollywood & Vine by Jody Houser, Francis Portela, Marguerite Sauvage

Faith: Hollywood & VineFaith: Hollywood & Vine

by Jody Houser, Francis Portela (Artist), Marguerite Sauvage (Artist)
Series: Faith Vol. 1

Paperback, 112 pg.
Valient Entertainment, 2016

Read: January 12 – 13, 2018


I knew practically nothing about Faith/Zephyr before picking this up. I knew that Valient had put out a comic starring a full-figured female super-hero — which seems as unlikely as Superman developing a tolerance for Kryptonite. So when I saw it this collection on the Library shelf, I had to grab it. I had a little bit of a learning curve about this hero/her powers/backstory — but Houser’s script made it easy to catch up (or at least feel caught up).

The characterization — of Faith as well as her coworkers, allies and foes alike — worked well. I dug her secret identity — which is not the same as her real name, which apparently everyone knows (as well as her super-hero identity, Zephyr). Yeah, the fangirl nature of Summer Smith is a bit shallow, but I like the intent and in time, I can see Summer being the kind of character I can really get into. This collection focuses on Faith getting used to her new life in LA and establishing Zephyr as the city’s hero. This brings her into contact with web journalism, a reality show, and SF TV show starring actual aliens (not that anyone knows that).

The only false note, for me, is that while Faith is a clearly overweight person, the book ignores it. As someone who shops for varieties of XL, I appreciate that — and her size makes no difference to her powers or ability to be a hero. But she lives in L.A., Faith is featured on a Pop Culture Listicle site, etc. I cannot believe that it doesn’t get more mention. The idea that in image-conscious LA a large woman can go about her business boldly without having to deal with that commentary is harder for me to swallow than the idea that a large woman can fly using the power of her mind while taking on extraterrestrials and other baddies.

I dug the art — it served the story, was attractive, and was very dynamic. The dream/fantasy sequences by Sauvage were great, too. Both Portela and Sauvage captured the feel of the story and characters well.

All in all, this is a comic as charming as the protagonist — light, fun, and just what the doctor ordered.

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3 Stars

2018 Library Love Challenge

Wires and Nerve, Volume 1 by Marissa Meyer, Douglas Holgate

Wires and Nerve, Volume 1Wires and Nerve, Volume 1

by Marissa Meyer, Douglas Holgate (Art)
Series: Wires and Nerve, #1

Hardcover, 238 pg.
Feiwel & Friends, 2017

Read: March 1, 2017


So, in the months following Winter, life has progressed as one would expect — Cinder has strengthened her position on the Moon, Scarlet’s returned to the farm with Ze’ev Kesley, and Cress and the Captain are touring Earth. One of the loose strings that Meyer left hanging was the fate of the Lunar military troops all over Earth. They’re still out there, causing trouble.

Cinder can’t send any troops down — in the aftermath of a failed invasion, the optics alone would be bad. But . . . she can send a single operative, and Iko nominates herself for that. She spends weeks taking out pack after pack, helping local authorities take them into custody.

But they’re not just going to roll over, there are some that are preparing to strike back against Iko — and Cinder.

Throw in a love story, an examination of Iko’s true nature, and some nice catch-up with our old friends, and you’ve got yourself a fun story. It’s fun, but it’s light. If it were prose instead of a graphic novel, it might take 40 pages to tell this story. Which doesn’t make it bad, just slight.

The art was . . . oh, I don’t know — cartoonish? Not in a bad way, but I see why some people I know weren’t impressed. Once I got used to it (after about 30-40 pages), I even kind of liked it.

Basically, I’m saying that the book was okay — I enjoyed it, but man, I wanted more. At the same time, I think it delivered everything that Meyer and Holgate were looking for, so I can’t complain. Fans of the series may enjoy it, but it’s not a must read. People who haven’t read the books had best avoid it — but should probably go back and read the novels.

—–

3 Stars
2017 Library Love Challenge

Snotgirl, Vol. 1: Green Hair Don’t Care by Bryan Lee O’Malley, Leslie Hung

Snotgirl, Vol 1Snotgirl, Vol. 1: Green Hair Don’t Care

by Bryan Lee O’Malley (Script), Leslie Hung (Art)
Series: Snotgirl, #1

Trade Paperback, 144 pg.
Image Comics, 2017

Read: March 7, 2016


I don’t know what Bryan Lee O’Malley was doing here, really. Lottie Person is a fashion blogger, trend setter, and all around would-be Kardashian. She’s a little vapid, a little shallow, but pretty likable (don’t ask me how). Her actual life is a mess — she has horrible allergies — crazy horrible (hence the name), has been recently dumped, and maybe, just mayyyyybe killed somebody. She’s not sure — neither is the reader.

What follows (for about 80% of the book), is Lottie bouncing around between social engagements, possible hallucinations, and run-ins with her ex and his new girlfriend. Throw in a fashion-conscious cop and things get pretty interesting (and confusing).

I loved the art — it was a little strange to see this kind of art attached to O’Malley’s writing, but I really liked Hung’s work. Yeah, her white guys tend to look too much alike to easily tell the difference (that might be intentional) — but otherwise, I really liked it — everything jumped off the page, the drawings were filled with energy and life. Every time I thought about bailing because the story just wasn’t working, the art kept me in.

I just don’t know what to make of this — I enjoyed it, but man . . . I really wish I knew what was going on. I can handle it for a little bit longer — but not much. Volume 2 had better be a little clearer (or a little something else). I’m not going to wave potential readers off, but I’m not going to encourage anyone either.

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3 Stars

Rivers of London: Night Witch by Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel, Lee Sullivan

Rivers of London: Night WitchRivers of London: Night Witch

by Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel, Lee Sullivan (Artist)
Series: Rivers of London Comics, #2

Trade Paperback, 128 pg.
Titan Comics, 2016
Read: January 21, 2017


I enjoyed the first collection of Rivers of London comics, Body Work, but it felt like something was missing — I’m not sure what. Night Witch, on the other hand, built on that good foundation and topped it. This one felt whole, complete — there wasn’t anything lacking here.

Some Russian bigwig’s child has been taken — his wife is certain it’s by someone/something supernatural. They try to take care of it on their own, recruiting Varvara Sidorovna — well, trying to. She tells them to get the police involved, specifying they request Nightingale’s involvement. It’s not that easy to sell official police involvement on this couple. The way they go about doing so isn’t really that typical, either.

Still, Peter and Nightingale get into things and start turning up all sorts of interesting magical things — including The Faceless Man and Lesley. Speaking of which — comics-Lesley? Perfectly creepy.

The story feels a little scattered, but when it’s all told, you can reflect on things and get all the pieces to fit into place nicely — moreso than you can when reading from front-to-back. But it’s easy to forgive that because the story is so strong — and the little character beats are great.

The art is good — it’s great to see the magic –as well as the characters — in these stories brought to life.

Bev’s way of dealing with a home invasion crew of Russian mobsters made me laugh out loud — I don’t know if Aaronovitch could’ve pulled it off in a novel, or if that’s something he only could’ve accomplished with the help of an art team. Either way, I’m glad I got to read it.

There’s not much more to say, a good story with some real enjoyable moments with these characters we want to spend time with. Sure, more novels would be nicer, but these do a good enough job helping to fill the time between them.

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3 Stars