Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Reader's Diary #2174- Various writers and artists: Bob Marley in Comics

Bob Marley in Comics is a biography told with various graphic novelists taking a certain period of his life. Despite being a fan of his music, I didn't know a lot about him and felt I did learn a lot. And also about Rastafarianism and reggae music in general. On this note, I cannot say if diehard fans would have learned much new or not.

He's certainly portrayed as a driven man and maybe in part due to having multiple tellers, a complicated man. I recently complained about a Michael Jackson biography that completed ignored some pretty awful allegations about the man. Despite Bob Marley in Comics coming across as pro-Marley, they did at least include some unsavoury moments. One scene in particular shows him slapping his wife Rita. Whether or not they handled this scene with enough depth or sensitivity is a whole other debate, but at the very least they showed it.

Like most multi-authored collections, I had some favourites and some that I didn't particularly care for, but there was no terrible art. I do wish publishers NBM included little bios, perhaps in a back appendix of the creators though.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Reader's Diary #2173 - Sophie Lovett: Bacon

In case anyone ever wondered how I chose the stories I do for Short Story Monday, there's not much of a rhyme or reason. With Canada Day coming up, I simply Googled "short story" + "bacon" and found Sophie Lovett's short story of the titular meat. It's not really Canada related, nor did I expect it to be, but it is still pretty appropriate for this time of Covid and Trump. It tells of a woman who stockpiles bacon in fear of an impending apocalypse. Eventually her family seeks an intervention.

It's an amusing story with a great voice and imagery. Bonus points for making me recall the bacon scene in Last Man on Earth.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Reader's Diary #2172- Michael V. Smith: Weinmeier

Michael V. Smith's short story "Weinmeier" came to my attention via Twitter when someone remarked their amusement over the length of a penis described. I read the money-shot paragraph at the time, and while I found it amusing, it also seemed like a Penthouse Forum story (or whatever the gay equivalent of that would be). I was surprised that it was in Joyland, a magazine that has a decidedly more literary reputation.

So I gave it a second chance, the whole story this time, and yeah, it's quite good. I think what I like the most about it was the reflective tone of the narrator. He recounts a time in his life when he's able to acknowledge the lessons he's learned in the meantime while still be in awe over the confidence and immortality of youth. He was a young man working in a bookstore finding hook-ups when they presented themselves. And on that note, his youthful attitudes were wildly discordant with the realities for gay men in Toronto at the time who could not publicly seek partners. The result is a nostalgic story of summers and flings but with a hint of sadness and danger underneath.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Reader's Diary #2171- Terry Collins (writer), Michael Byers (artist): King of Pop

King of Pop: The Story of Michael Jackson, by Terry Collins and Michael Byers, is a woefully inadequate look at the life and career of Michael Jackson.

Granted at 32 pages, it was unlikely to be an in-depth look and it's aimed at younger readers, but honestly younger readers would turn in a more thorough school essay than this. It doesn't even mention Janet Jackson, let alone La Toya. And then there's the censorship of certain details of his life. I get that not everyone believes the allegations against him sexually abusing young boys, but to ignore them all together doesn't not paint an accurate picture of his complicated legacy. Instead, the supposed drawback to his fame is demonstrated by outlandish tabloid headlines about sleeping in an oxygen chamber, etc. Like, geez, look at the silly rumours. Then there's his death. It says, "Suffering from chronic insomnia, an exhausted Michael struggled to sleep. The long night was restless and led into the dawn. Once he finally fell asleep, the King of Pop never wakened." So, we're just going to ignore the drugs in his system? He died of... sleep?

At least Michael Byers' art is adequate.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Reader's Diary #2170- Mezzo and J.M. Dupont: Love in Vain

Sex, drugs, and rock and roll is often cited as an unholy trinity and the key here is the unholy part. Perhaps no one better personified this than Robert Johnson, even if his music is usually classified as blues (predating rock and roll by more than a decade). Legend has it, of course, Robert Johnson traded his soul at the "Cross Road" to the devil in exchange for his musical gifts.

Mezzo and J.M. Dupont's graphic novel, Love in Vain captures his wild and short life. Was it tragic? By most accounts yes, but rare were the times he was shown to submit to the pain and tragedy around him. Instead he threw himself into music and debauchery, appearing on the surface at least, to always land on his feet. Until of course, he couldn't.

The story is fast and short, entertaining and sometimes poignant. There's a bit of an unnecessary frame story involving a mysterious narrator whose identity is revealed (to not much surprise) at the end, but it's not distracting.

The art is absolutely gorgeous. Very heavy, black ink gives it a look of woodcuts (helping with the historic vibe) and caricatures have a Charles Burns/ Robert Crumb expressive and fluid feel in keeping with the music. I also appreciated the extra attention to detail in the party scenes.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Reader's Diary #2169 - Various artists and writers: Thor Ragnaroks

I picked up the Thor Ragnaroks book as it contained a run on a Beta Ray Bill story, the horse-faced Thor-ish superhero who is rumored to make an appearance in the next Thor movie. I've not read anything with him in it before.

That story turned out to be the best in the collection. The others, "Thor: Blood Oath" and "Thor: Ragnarok," weren't bad (the former was marred by terribly coloured art, the latter by a confusing story-line), but "Stormbreaker: The Saga of Beta Ray Bill" was better on both accounts.

A quick word on the second story, "Thor: Ragnarok": it is very different than the movie of the same name. Yes, his eyes turn white, he's without his Mjolnir hammer, and Hela's costume is pretty accurate, but the similarities end there.

And also a note to artists: please never draw Beta Ray Bill without his helmet again. That... looked wrong.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Reader's Diary #2168 - Tom Butler: The City Inside

Tom Butler's short story, "The City Inside" started strong enough. A man is getting results back at a doctor's office and it's clear there's something amiss. It set a mood to put me on edge. However, the results are definitely not what I could have expected and the story then takes a quirky turn, a clearly meant to be funny. The humour, however, fell a little flat for me and instead I found myself distracted and Googling epigenetics. So not a complete waste!

Monday, June 08, 2020

Reader's Diary #2167- Curtis Sittenfeld: White Women LOL

This morning Donovan Bailey remarked that Canada had "racism with a smile," explaining that there is less blatant racism and more insidious and subtle racism in Canada, which is often harder to fight.

Similarly Curtis Sittenfeld's short story "White Women LOL" takes on this theme. A white woman asks a group of black people to leave a room after assuming they are party crashers, they record the interaction and post it on social media, and she goes viral as a racist. She's shocked by this assessment. In her head she's appalled by the Klan and that sort. But like many of us white folks, we deny that there are degrees and varieties of racism. It's much easier to be smug in our declarations; that we'd never be like those hood wearing idiots than it is to reflect upon our own actions and attitudes. Vodka Vicky in this story is forced to reflect upon this. At first, I'll admit that I read it thinking she had been judged too harshly for a misunderstanding especially by the social media outrage machine, but in the grand scheme of things, what were these but a few stressful weeks in an otherwise privileged life, especially in comparison. Hopefully she'll emerge a better person.

Wonderful, believable, and provocative story.

Monday, June 01, 2020

Reader's Diary #2166- Cherrie Kandie: Sew My Mouth

Cherrie Kandie's "Sew My Mouth" features a beautiful love under tragic circumstance. It's of a lesbian Kenyan couple, trying their best to keep loving one another, in secret, away from the eyes of unaccepting parents (the mother may know), neighbours, and society at large.

The story is raw with emotion and left this reader saddened that this strong, healthy couple wasn't able to thrive.