Tag Archives: graphic novels

The Legacy of Wonder Woman

The new Wonder Woman movie comes out this weekend, and I have very high hopes that a female superhero movie will finally be up to snuff with the movies from the Marvel cinematic universe as well as some of the DC movies. The film features some fantastic and strong actors such as Robin Wright, Gal Gadot, and Connie Nielsen, just to name a few, and was directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins; therefore it should hopefully pass the Bechdel test.

In the past, studios seemed to be reluctant to create action films with strong female leads and about female superheroes, whether due to the fact that  Catwoman with Halle Barry did not do well (which I don’t believe was Halle Barry’s fault) or their belief that female superheroes don’t attract a large audience. It does seem that Hollywood is hearing the outcry of fans who want a strong female lead in action movies, with the most recent two Star Wars films featuring such heroines, Supergirl on the small screen and now Wonder Woman. This gives me hope that they might finally make a Black Widow movie, or that the Captain Marvel movie which was recently announced will be just as good as many of the Marvel films.

The library has plenty of graphic novels that cover all your favourite female superheroes, as well as some heroines who may not be categorized as superheroes but still possess some pretty awesome powers and abilities.

Catwoman

catwoman

Depicted sometimes as a villain, sometimes an ally and sometimes a love interest for Batman, Catwoman wears many different suits. A woman who goes by her own moral code and one protects those closest to her, she makes for an interesting female character and, naturally, has her own set of graphic novels and is featured in Batman graphic novels as well. Check them out at the library, they’re purrfect!

Supergirl

supergirl

Superman’s “super” cousin has come to the small screen with great success. You can read more of her adventures in these graphic novels where, unlike Superman, she came to earth as a teenager and must navigate *gulp* high school and all the difficulties that go along with it while learning how to use and control her powers.

The X-Men with Jean Grey and Storm

jeangrey    storm

We may not have many stand-alone volumes of Jean Grey and Storm, both members of the X-Men, but we do have some great graphic novels with both of these characters who possess some pretty incredible abilities such as reading minds and telekinesis or controlling the weather. The X-Men series features many more strong female characters and superheroes that I couldn’t possibly list all of here.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

buffy

Though Buffy may not be your typical superhero, she was created by Joss Whedon, director of two of the amazing Avengers films. She fights off demons, vampires and any other crazy supernatural beings that come to Sunnydale and endanger the citizens of her town. The series also includes other strong female characters such as Willow, Buffy’s best friend and Tara, Willow’s friend and eventual love interest. The TV series was absolutely fantastic, and the graphic novels offer a nice fix for those of you missing Buffy Summers on your TV screen.

Anita Blake

anitablake

Originally written as a novel, the first few books in Laurell K. Hamilton’s series have been made into graphic novels and feature, similar to Buffy, a vampire hunter who is also a hired detective and an animator, one who raises the dead to help families say goodbye. The characters are wonderful and the world-building excellent, check out the graphic novel and/or the novels, both available through the library.

 

Wonder Woman

wonderwoman

I can’t do a Wonder Woman movie blog without also talking about the Wonder Woman comics, of which the library has tons! Diana Prince’s adventures on her own as well as with other Justice League members make for fantastic reading and excellent preparation and background research before the movie comes out!

 

 

And check out this new release:

wonderwoman2

Wonder Woman: The Ultimate Guide to the Amazon Warrior by Landry Q. Walker contains all the facts, history and information on the long-lived legacy of Diana Prince.

This list is certainly not exhaustive! There are plenty of other great female heroes out there; let me know your favourites in the comments below.

Fingers crossed Wonder Woman lives up to the hype. I’m seeing it in AVX this weekend and I sure hope it’s good–if not, I’ll just keep hoping for a Black Widow movie…

Aileen

GO WILD Week 5: Voices Week

This summer, the Library is challenging you to expand your reading horizons! Hunt down titles to meet the challenge of your choice, chat with staff for help, browse our displays, or check out the picks below.

For every week you try something new, enter our prize draws at any WPL branch!

Week 5 is Voices Week, so prepare to hear from a new point of view.

  • Challenge 13: A book written for teens
  • Challenge 14: A graphic novel
  • Challenge 15: A book on LGBTTQ* issues

*All of the picks below can be requested for pickup at your closest branch! Search and place holds with our catalog.

Staff picks for Challenge 13: A book written for teens

CRANK by Ellen Hopkins

Kristina Snow is the perfect daughter, but she meets a boy who introduces her to drugs and becomes a very different person, struggling to control her life and her mind.

THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS by Marieke Nijkamp

The principal of Opportunity High School in Alabama has just finished her speech welcoming the students to a new semester, when they discover that the auditorium doors will not open. Someone starts shooting, and four teens, each with a personal reason to fear the shooter, tell the tale from separate perspectives.

TINY PRETTY THINGS by Sona Charaipotra

Three students at an exclusive Manhattan ballet academy compete for the status of prima ballerina, each willing to sacrifice, manipulate, and backstab their way to the top.

thief.jpgTHE BOOK THIEF Markus Zusak

Trying to make sense of the horrors of World War II, Death relates the story of Liesel–a young German girl whose book-stealing and story-telling talents help sustain her family and the Jewish man they are hiding, as well as their neighbors.

AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by Sabaa Tahir

Laia is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution

UGLIES by Scott Westerfeld

In a world where mandatory cosmetic surgery is performed on everyone when they turn sixteen, Shay escapes to join a band of outsiders avoiding surgery, and Tally is forced to find her and turn her in.

Staff picks for Challenge 14: A graphic novel

THE EXILE: An Outlander Graphic Novel by Diana Gabaldon

Retells in graphic novel format the first Outlander novel from Jamie Fraser’s point of view, revealing events never seen in the original story.

beardTHE GIGANTIC BEARD THAT WAS EVIL by Stephen Collins

The fastidious life of clean-shaven Dave is upended on a fateful day when he grows an unstoppable, impressive beard, in a darkly comic, award-winning meditation on life, death and what it means to be different.

BLACK HOLE by Charles Burns

Seattle teenagers of the 1970s are suddenly faced with a devastating, disfiguring, and incurable plague that spreads only through sexual contact.

CAN’T WE TALK ABOUT SOMETHING MORE PLEASANT? by Roz Chast

A loving celebration of the final years of the author’s aging (and quirky) parents through cartoons, family photos, and documents.

MARCH by John Lewis

A first-hand account of the author’s lifelong struggle for civil and human rights spans his youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., and the birth of the Nashville Student Movement.

HABIBI by Craig Thompson

Follows the relationship between two refugee child slaves, Dodola and Zam, who are thrown together by circumstance and who struggle to make a place for themselves in a world fueled by fear and vice.

Staff picks for Challenge 15: A book on LGBTTQ* issues

BECOMING NICOLE: The Transformation of an American Family by Amy Ellis Nutt

The inspiring true story of a transgender girl, her identical twin brother, and an ordinary American family’s extraordinary journey to understand, nurture, and celebrate the right to be different.

missMISSISSIPPI SISSY by Kevin Sessums

A celebrity journalist chronicles his bullying behaviors throughout his Southern youth, his friendships with such figures as Eudora Welty, and the impact of journalist Frank Hain’s murder on his career.

I’M SPECIAL: AND OTHER LIES WE TELL OURSELVES by Ryan O’Connell

Part-memoir, part-manifesto from a super popular web writer chronicles the coming of age story of a gay man with cerebral palsy in an all-wired, overeducated, and underemployed world.

ANNABEL by Kathleen Winter

Born a boy and a girl but raised as a boy, Wayne or “Annabel” struggles with his identity growing up in a small Canadian town and seeks freedom by moving to the city.

FUN HOME: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

An unusual memoir done in graphic novel format offers a darkly funny family portrait of her relationship with her father, a historic preservation expert dedicated to restoring the family’s Victorian home, funeral home director, high-school English teacher, and closeted homosexual.

BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR

One night, when Clementine goes with her friend to a gay bar, she becomes captivated by Emma, a punkish girl with blue hair. This event leads Clementine to discover and explore new aspects of herself.

 

 

Only one week left to jump in. What challenges have you tried?

 

 

 

 

Beyond Anne’s Diary

Diary Young GirlI have a vivid memory of being in my local library as a kid and picking up The Diary of a Young Girl (also known as The Diary of Anne Frank). My Mom said to me: “I’m not sure if you should read that. It’s very sad!” She thought it best to shield me from the heartbreak of Anne’s story for just a little bit longer. Fast-forward about 15 years and I was asked to be one of the tour guides for the travelling exhibit currently at Millennium Library – Anne Frank: A History for Today. At this point, I had seen the play multiple times and even visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, but I still hadn’t done the diary justice.

So, I just recently read the famed book and of course my Mom was right, it is a heartbreaking story! Most people know what happened to Anne, her family, and the six million other Jewish people the Nazis systematically murdered (not to mention the other groups Hitler persecuted based on ethnicity, ability, sexuality, etc.). It’s a devastating piece of history, but when reading the diary there are moments where you somehow forget how the story ends. Anne’s writing is eloquent and you can’t help but be sucked in by the unexpected humour, glimpses of teenage romance, and Anne’s perpetual charm.

As Anne’s diary is a cultural phenomenon, I was not entirely surprised to find a variety of other books about her life. The following titles take the diary in new directions and cross into different genres. No matter what your age, there is a version of Anne’s story for you. Each of these books can be found at the Winnipeg Public Library, but be sure to keep searching as this is just a fraction of our collection on Anne Frank, the Holocaust, and World War II.

 

Anne Frank MullerAnne Frank: The Biography

In this first biography of Anne Frank, Melissa Müller’s thorough research creates a compelling portrait of Anne’s life. Originally printed in 1998, this book contains interviews with family and friends, as well as previously unpublished letters and documents. A new edition of this biography was released in 2014, full of even more information that has since emerged. These documents, along with the Frank’s family tree and an epilogue by one of the family’s helpers, Miep Gies, shine light on this incredible girl.

 

Anne Frank House BioThe Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography

This biography in graphic novel form is an illustrated account of Anne’s life. New York Times bestselling authors, Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón, seamlessly work Anne’s story into the history of World War II and the Holocaust. The book contains a concise chronology of events in the history of the Frank family – an extremely helpful tool for any reader.

 

Anne Frank Hudson-GoffAnne Frank

This graphic novel by Elizabeth Hudson-Goff focuses on both sides of the attic – life before going into hiding and a glimpse at what her final days in a concentration camp may have looked like. A quick read that can easily be finished in one sitting, illustrations bring a new dimension to this famous story of survival.

 

Anne Frank Poems AgosinDear Anne Frank: Poems

A poetry collection that is a tribute to Anne’s life. In most pieces, Marjorie Agosín holds a conversation with Anne, addressing her courage and curiosity. Poetry, and the dialogue Agosín creates, brings Anne’s narrative to life in a unique way.

 

 

Anne Frank PooleAnne Frank

A beautifully illustrated picture book that relays Anne’s story – from birth to death – to a younger audience. By explaining how the Franks end up in hiding, Josephine Poole provides an introduction to the Holocaust for children that is easy to understand. The story ends on a positive note, with Otto, Anne’s father, receiving her diary after the war. The diary ensures that the rest of the Frank family will live on after their senseless deaths.

 

Anne Frank WorldAnne Frank in the World, 1929-1945

This book is a history in pictures published by the Anne Frank House. While the focus is primarily on the Holocaust, the book is framed by Anne’s story. By continually returning to photos of the Franks, the reader is reminded that the victims of the Holocaust are not just a statistic but are real people.

 

“ANNE FRANK: A HISTORY FOR TODAY” Exhibit and Tours

 

Anne Frank Exhibit

The travelling exhibit has come all the way from the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam! It officially launched on Monday, July 11, at the Millennium Library, where it will run until September 3rd. We encourage everyone to spend some time looking at the beautifully crafted panels.

There are also a number of guided tours available, in English or French, that you can register for by calling 204-986-6489. Each tour will begin in the Carol Shields Auditorium (second floor) and will last up to 90 minutes. Those who want to book group tours for more than 10 people can register by calling 204-986-6458.

  • Stephanie

Celebrate comics with us

If you’re a comics/manga/graphica fan, you’ve probably heard of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, or TCAF. This annual two-day exhibition and vendor fair features hundreds of comics creators from around the world. Other TCAF events include readings, interviews, panels, workshops, gallery shows, and much more.

PCFposterOne of the things that makes TCAF unique is that since 2009 it’s been co-sponsored by Toronto Public Library and held at the Toronto Reference Library. While TCAF is now one of the largest and best-known international comic festivals, it started as a much smaller event.

This is what we’re hoping to emulate here in Winnipeg with the first ever Prairie Comics Festival, a free one-day festival celebrating the best in comics creation on the prairies! Join us at the Millennium Library on Saturday, July 30 from 10:30 am – 5 pm.

The brain child of local comics publisher Hope Nicholson, the PCF is your opportunity to meet local comics creators, purchase their books and artwork (many of which will be premiered at this event), and learn from them in a full day of panel presentations. More than just a space to promote the creation of comics and discover new stories, it will also be a community experience where we can share our love of the comics medium.

For a complete list of exhibitors and panels, check out the Festival website.

The PCF is also curating a gallery exhibit of sensational artwork from comic book artists with ties to Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. Both honouring the legacy and promoting the present and future of comic book storytelling on the prairies, it includes Winnipeg-based comic book creators from the past such as Hal Foster (Prince Valiant), John Simpkins (Jasper), and John Stables (Brok Windsor); artwork from modern names in comics including Richard Comely (Captain Canuck), Todd McFarlane (Spawn), Tom Grummett (Superman); and a bevy of independent and webcomic artists such as Meags Fitzgerald, Nicholas Burns, and Elaine Will.

I’ll be there looking to discover new comic loves, and I hope you will be too!

Danielle

Lives in Images: Graphic Novel Biographies

 

The graphic novel format is not only about telling fantasies with superheroes, zombies and dark anti-heroes.  It can also be used to effectively portray the lives of real people and make their stories accessible and quite entertaining, which is why I chose this theme as the topic of this post.

Cover image for Marzi : a memoir

I came upon this first example totally by chance but it inspired me to research the whole genre of graphic novel memoirs.  Marzi: A Memoir is the true story of Marzena Sowa’s childhood growing up during Poland’s last decade under Communism.  Born in 1979, we see her, her family, and the rest of the adult world’s daily struggles (shortages of everything, political censorship and repression) under a stifling dictatorship and the rise of the Solidarity movement that would eventually topple it.  But at the same time we also experience the self-discovery of an ordinary girl, going through experiences that almost all of us can relate to at school and at home.  The balance between a human story and the bigger “History” is what makes this entertaining and enriching.  Readers who enjoyed Persepolis will want to check this title out as it shares common themes, and the artwork is excellent.

Cover image for Feynman
Despite being an avid history reader, I suprisingly had never heard of Richard Feynman (the Noble Prize winner and one of the great geniuses of the 20th century) until I discovered the graphic memoir about his life.  This is a great format to learn about his fascinating life, as Feynman was involved in the Manhattan project, wrote books and lectures still being used today, uncovered the cause of the Challenger shuttle explosion and had a knack for cracking safes.  It effectively explains many of the concepts in the fields of mathematics and physics he created. For someone like me who does not have a background in quantum physics, this book was more accessible than a “classical” biography and I learned why he really is kind of a big deal.

Cover image for The imitation game : Alan Turing decoded

After decades in obscurity, the vital work made by mathematician Alan Turing has finally been receiving it’s due in recent years. Benedict Cumberbach gave a good performance in the starring role in the movie Imitation Game, but the movie ended up suffering from many historical and factual inaccuracies. In addition to telling us about his life, the graphic novel The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded corrects many misconceptions from the movie about Turing (one notable example is that his homosexuality was not a secret to his co-workers at Bletchley Park and he was never blackmailed by a Communist spy) .  The novel also describes in detail the monumental task he and others faced in trying to break the German Enigma Code, which lead to the creation of Turing machines, ancestors to our computers.

Cover image for The adventures of Hergé
It seems fitting that writers and illustrators of graphic novels would end up having memoirs made about them in that format as well. Giants of the comic industry like Stan Lee and Will Eisner are obvious examples but I would like to mention two less-well known but worthy candidates. I was pleasantly surprised to find during my research the graphic memoir of Georges Prosper Remi, better known to generations of avid readers as Herge, author of the Adventures of Tintin series. In  The Adventures of Hergé , illustrated to resemble a Tintin comic, we learn of the life and career of one of the great European comic illustrators, from his humble beginnings in Belgium, to worldwide fame. It’s a fun quick read where we learn about the inspirations behind many of his ideas, famous characters as well as his personal life.

Cover image for Showa : a history of Japan, 1926-1939

For fans of comics, Shigeru Mizuki may not be a household name in North America like Jack Kirby, but in Japan he is still one the greats. Shigeru wrote an excellent memoir about his life which roughly spans the Showa period, named after the reign of Japan’s emperor Hirohito from 1924 to 1989. The 4-volume Showa: a History of Japan is a much denser read than the titles above, and it weaves the personal experiences of the author during this tumultuous period in his country’s history. Before he made his fame and fortune writing numerous mangas and  books, Shigeru experienced the rise of militarism in his country and fought in the Second World War (he was wounded and lost an arm while stationed in the Pacific though he never met an enemy soldier face to face). Like his defeated country, he had to redefine himself and lived in poverty for many years before he found his calling as an illustrator in times of peace. Again we see a mix of the personal and national history skillfully weaved and beautifully illustrated. It should be noted that the volumes are read from right to left, just like the original Japanese prints.

This is but a small sample of personalities, both famous and less-famous that have had their life stories told in the graphic novel format, and we have plenty more titles to discover.
Louis-Philippe

Time Enough At Last

If all is well, by the time you read this blogpost I’ll be hunkered down in my living room taking a much needed vacation, and playing the highly anticipated post-apocalyptic video game Fallout 4 — hopefully, with my glasses intact. As I bide my time waiting for the (nuclear?) launch of this game, I thought I’d take a walk with you, dear reader, through the irradiated wasteland that is post-apocalyptic fiction.

Under the umbrella of science fiction and fantasy, post-apocalyptic fiction exists as a sub-genre.   But whereas fantasy is often used as an escape from reality and science fiction uses allegory to explore possible futures, post-apocalyptic fiction often strips us to the bone and forces us to look at ourselves separated from society.

Within the post-apocalyptic sub-genre there are a variety of sub-sub-genres which are usually identified by the way in which the world ends.

 

The Zombie Apocalypse

I’ve never really been a huge fan of zombies. As antagonists in fiction I find them lacking in intelligence. Luckily, in post-apocalyptic fiction, why the world ends is often much less important than the story of the survivors, so I find when the zombie apocalypse is written well I can often ignore the zombies themselves and focus instead on those left intact.  Among the best in this sub-sub-genre is the The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman.  Both the graphic novel  and the television series have excellent characters who struggle to retain their humanity as they survive a world overrun by zombies.

 

wd

The Pandemic

Pandemic post-apocalyptic fiction is the realm where my favourite book of all time resides:  Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake.  It follows the story of Snowman, the last surviving man in the wake of a global pandemic, and his begrudging role as caretaker to a group of primitive sentient beings known as Crakers.  Orxy and Crake is the first in a trilogy that includes The Year of the Flood  and MaddAddam, and was nominated for the Man Booker Prize in 2004.

 

The Nuclear Apocalypse

My favourite post-apocalyptic sub-sub-genre, the nuclear apocalypse is often the most terrifying. It highlights man’s capacity for supreme self-destruction; not only of humankind, but of all life on earth. Most of the classic post-nuclear works were written in the shadow of the Cold War, when it seemed that nuclear annihilation was a real possibility.

My first experience with post-nuclear, post-apocalyptic fiction was when I pulled Alas, Babylon off my mom’s bookshelf.  The title had always intrigued me, as did the cover, which shows a group of survivors wandering a wasteland under a hot sun.  The story also had an impact on me and I will never forget the goldfish. Yes, the goldfish.

 

One Last Selection

If you’ve never seen the classic television show The Twilight Zone, I urge you to check out the first season of the original series.  I lifted the title of this blogpost from one of the episodes.

tz

If I’ve missed any of your favourite post-apocalyptic stories, please share them in the comments below.

– Alan

Alan can be found at the Transcona Library where he may or may not have grown a third arm after his vacation.

Your 3rd Helping of Brains

Shaun of the Dead

[Shaun leads the zombies away from the pub to create a diversion]
Shaun: Come and get it! It’s a running buffet!
[shouts]
Shaun: All you can eat!
Shaun of the Dead, 2004

Hallowe’en is fast approaching. Whether you’ll be out with your kids trick-or-treating, or enjoying yourself at a party or social, ask yourself this: “Am I prepared for the zombie apocalypse?” If not, no need to worry. We’ve got you covered. Study these books and movies, and you’ll be fine. Probably.

PlaugePlague World, by Dana Fredsti, is the 3rd and final book of the Ashley Parker series that began with Plague Town and continued in Plague Nation. The zombie plague has gone airborne, and the conspiracy that began it all reaches the boiling point. Having been ambushed in San Francisco, which is now fully engulfed in the zombie plague, Ashley and the wild cards must pursue the enemy to San Diego. There they will discover a splinter of their own organization, the Dolofónoi tou Zontanoús Nekroús, which seeks to weaponize the plague. But that isn’t the worst news. The plague has gone airborne, making it transferable without physical contract. It cannot be controlled by anyone, so reports of the zombie swarm are coming in from across the United States – and across the world.

GraveIn book one of Joan Frances Turner’s The Resurgam Trilogy, Dust, the world is tenuously shared by man and zombie until an artificial plague rids the world of zombies but kills most of the human population as well. Survivors riddled with mutations caused by the plague (called ‘exes’) terrorize the world in book two, Frail, where we meet one of the last surviving humans as she discovers the secrets of the laboratory where the plague originated. Grave is the culmination of this epic tale—the characters must set their differences aside for the survival of their world; Grave promises to end with a bang.

Fall of NIghtFall of Night, by Jonathan Maberry, is the sequel to Dead of Night, bringing back beloved characters Desdamona Fox and Billy Trout as they race against time to quarantine a zombie epidemic while caught in a military strike. Continuing right where the first novel left off, Officers Fox and Hammond, along with journalist Billy Trout, are calling it the beginning of the end. This is the zombie apocalypse. An insane escaped serial killer is infecting Stebbins County with a deadly virus, and now the whole world is watching while Fox, Trout, and the remaining inhabitants of Stebbins fight for their life against…what? The undead?

Girl with all the giftsMelanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her “our little genius.” Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh. Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children’s cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she’ll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn’t know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad. You’ll learn in M.R. Carey’s The Girl With All the Gifts that not every gift is a blessing.

Death Warmed OverIf mysteries and bad puns are more you style, check out Kevin J. Anderson’s Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. series. It all starts with Death Warmed Over, where we meet zombie P.I. Dan Chambeau, who works with a human lawyer as his partner. Ever since the Big Uneasy unleashed vampires, werewolves and other undead denizens on the world, it’s been hell for him. His cases now include a resurrected mummy that is suing the museum that put him on display, two witches that were victims of a curse gone terribly wrong seek restitution from a publisher for not using “spell check” on its magical tomes. And Dan must also find out who caused his own death. The 4th book in the series, Slimy Underbelly, was released earlier this year.

FatimaFrom Love and Rockets co-creator Gilbert Hernandez comes Fatima: The blood spinners. A drug called “spin” offers the wildest trip imaginable, followed by its users’ inevitable, rapid deterioration into undead flesh eaters. Despite the side effect, the drug is so popular that the human population is dying out. With no cure to be found, the beautiful, lovesick Fatima may be the only thing standing between the survivors and the apocalypse. Get ready for zombies, mutants, drug lords, and gorgeous women!

Toe tagsCult movie writer/director George Romero, best known for his work on the horror classic Night of the Living Dead,  writes an original horror tale in Toe Tags. Overnight, the world has been turned upside down, and zombies rule the day! It’s up to a college professor named Hoffman, his assistant Damien Cross and his girlfriend to find out  how and why the undead have taken over. But even if they do get to the bottom of the plague, is it too late to save the world?

Looking for a good zombie movie when you’re on the go (from the shambling horde)? Stream something from our hoopla digital service. Choose from many titles, including Cowboys vs. zombies, A zombie invasion, Battle of the undead, Zombies: When the dead walk, and Zombie girl.

— Barbara

2014 Hugo Awards, or How I Found My Next Read

 

The 2014 Hugo Awards were presented in London on Sunday, August 17th. This year’s winner for Best Novel went to Ann Leckie for Ancillary Justice, which tells the story of One Esk – an electronic artificial intelligence – who once commanded an entire starship, the formidable Justice of Tore. Now confined to a mortal body cobbled together from interchangeable human parts as the entity called “Breq,” the AI must survive as a multi-segmented, ancillary humanoid being in a galactic empire ruled by an oppressive government — without disobeying the law that forbids AIs from harming their creators. I will definitely put this down on my reading list!

In fact, I’ve always strived to read as many Hugo-winning books as possible. When you’re as avid a reader as I am, it’s always exciting to discover a new author, along with her or his body of work. I thought I would share some of my favourite Hugo winners, in the hopes that you might also find someone new!

RedshirtsRedshirts, by John Scalzi, won the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel and Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. While familiar with the author, I’d never read any of his works previously. Redshirts was a great introduction – definitely recommended for any classic Star Trek fan! Follow Ensign Andrew Dahl, newly assigned to the Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union, as he works in the xenobiology lab. He and the other new ensigns notice something weird about life aboard the Intrepid — on any away mission, at least one crew member dies. And each away mission seems to follow a bizarre set of rules. The crew of the Intrepid has become very superstitious and fearful about getting involved in the bridge crew’s missions. After meeting with a lost crewmember, the ensigns learn that they are characters in a TV show. As the new ensigns understand their lot, the story is similar to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, where the story tells what happens when its characters find out they are not in the “real” storyline. In what I see as inspired genius, Wil Wheaton narrates the audiobook version.

SagaSaga, Volume 1, written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples, won the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story. Not only that, but the series also won the three Eisner Awards it was nominated for in 2013 (Best Continuing Series, Best New Series and Best Writer), and won six 2013 Harvey Awards (Best Writer, Best Artist, Best Color, Best New Series, Best Continuing or Limited Series, and Best Single Issue or Story). Brian K. Vaughan is one of my favourite comic writers – Pride of Baghdad holding a special place in my heart – so I was quite excited when this new series was announced. Not familiar with Fiona Staples’ work, I found myself blown away! In this first volume (collecting issues of Saga #1-6) bits of sf space opera and classic fantasy mesh in setting a sprawling stage for an intensely personal story of two lovers, cleverly narrated by their newborn daughter. Though recently soldiers from opposite sides of a massive intergalactic war, moth-winged Alana and ram-horned Marko simply want peace and anonymity to raise their daughter (an abomination to the powers that be) away from conflict and hatred. Action, adventure, love, sex, grief, and joy combine in one amazing book!

Among OthersAmong Others, by Jo Walton, won the 2012 Nebula Award for Best Novel, the Hugo Award for Best Novel and the British Fantasy Award, and was a nominee for the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. Set in 1979 and 1980, this book tells the story of 15-year-old Morwenna. After engaging in a classic good-magic-versus-bad-magic battle with her mother that fatally wounds her twin sister, Morwenna leaves Wales and attempts to reconnect with her estranged father. Sent to a boarding school in England, her riveting backstory unfolds gradually as she records her thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a series of journal entries. An ominous sense of disquiet permeates the nonlinear plot as Morwenna attempts to avoid a final clash with her mother. In addition to casting an irresistible narrative spell, Walton also pays tribute to a host of science-fiction masters as she peppers Morwenna’s journal with the titles of the novels she devours in her book-fueled quest for self-discovery.

The Windup GirlThe Windup Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi, won the 2010 Nebula Award and the 2010 Hugo Award (tied with The City & the City by China Miéville), both for best novel. This book also won the 2010 Compton Crook Award and the 2010 Locus Award for best first novel. This novel is set in a future Thailand where calories are the greatest commodity. Anderson is a calorie-man whose true objective is to discover new food sources that his company can exploit. His secretary, Hock Seng, is a refugee from China seeking to ensure his future. Jaidee is an officer of the Environmental Ministry known for upholding regulations rather than accepting bribes. His partner, Kanya, is torn between respect for Jaidee and hatred for the agency that destroyed her childhood home. Emiko is a windup, an engineered and despised creation, discarded by her master and now subject to brutality by her patron. The actions of these characters set in motion events that could destroy the country. Bacigalupi has created a compelling, if bleak, society in which corruption, betrayal, and despair are commonplace, and more positive behavior and emotions such as hope and love are regarded with great suspicion.

DiggerDigger, Volumes 1-6 by Ursula Vernon, was nominated for the Eisner Award and won the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story in 2012. Originally a webcomic, it has been released in 6 volumes, and features an anthropomorphic, no-nonsense wombat named Digger who finds herself stuck on the wrong end of a one-way tunnel in a strange land where nonsense seems to be the specialty. Now, with the help of a talking statue of a god, an outcast hyena, a shadow-being of indeterminate origin, and an oracular slug she seeks to find out where she is and how to go about getting back to her Warren. Vernon’s black and white illustrations are fantastic, and the story will stay with you for days after reading.

To Say Nothing of the DogTo Say Nothing of the Dog: or, How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump at Last, by Connie Willis, won both the Hugo and Locus Awards in 1999, and was nominated for the Nebula Award in 1998. This funny romp through time from 2057 back to Victorian England, with a few side excursions into World War II and medieval Britain, will have you glued to the pages. Rich dowager Lady Schrapnell has invaded Oxford University’s time travel research project in 2057, promising to endow it if they help her rebuild Coventry Cathedral, destroyed by a Nazi air raid in 1940. In effect, she dragoons almost everyone in the program to make trips back in time to locate items–in particular, the bishop’s bird stump, an especially ghastly example of Victorian decorative excess. Time traveler Ned Henry is suffering from advanced time lag and has been sent, he thinks, for rest and relaxation to 1888, where he connects with fellow time traveler Verity Kindle and discovers that he is actually there to correct an incongruity created when Verity inadvertently brought something forward from the past. Take an excursion through time, add chaos theory, romance, plenty of humor, a dollop of mystery, and a spoof of the Victorian novel, and you end up with what seems like a comedy of errors but is actually a grand scheme “involving the entire course of history and all of time and space that, for some unfathomable reason, chose to work out its designs with cats and croquet mallets and pen wipers, to say nothing of the dog. And a hideous piece of Victorian artwork.”

If you’re looking for more Hugo magic, please visit our catalogue for a listing of past winners.

— Barbara

Heroes, super and otherwise

Action_Comics_1Seventy-six years ago, on April 18, 1938, Superman (created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster) made his debut in Action Comics #1, usually considered the first true superhero comic book. In the decades since, the superhero remained a staple in pop culture. Long before the recent stream of wildly popular Batman and Marvel Universe movies, super-powered people saving the day were everywhere, in every media. And once the archetype became a cliché, of course, creators were eager to subvert it.

Alan Moore started it all with Watchmen. Revolutionary in its time, this behemoth of a series was a deliberate attempt to tear the gilding off superheroic figures and show what having vast power with no oversight might actually do to people and to the society that came to depend on them.

Later, Gotham Central (the inspiration behind a new TV series?) looked at the superhero world from the vantage point of everyday citizens — specifically, the cops whose job it is to clean up after Batman’s battles, or try to catch supervillains like Two Face on their own.

machinaOne of my favourite twists on the superhero myth is Ex Machina, a satisfying read for fans of both comics and backroom politics. After a minor-league vigilante known as the Great Machine performs a high-profile act of heroism, he exploits his new fame to win the race for mayor of New York. The series follows his administration’s political ups and downs, complicated by the return of past enemies. It’s like The West Wing, if President Bartlett had had superpowers.

Superman, of course, fast became an iconic American figure. He’s so closely associated with the USA — from his origin story of a Kansas crash landing to fighting for “truth, justice, and the American way” — that it’s almost impossible to picture him anywhere else. In Red Son, however, Mark Millar did just that – imagining what could have happened if Superman had landed on a Ukrainian collective farm.

mosaicDespite the American emphasis, there have always been Canadian superheroes, from Captain Canuck to Northstar. The book Guardians of the North fleshes out the background to an online exhibit of Canadian superhero art created by Library and Archives Canada. The brand new anthology Masked Mosaic collects short stories of masked vigilantes, superpowered antiheroes, and super scientists written by Canadian authors. And in an exciting development, a new Cree heroine from northern Ontario is joining Justice League Canada, as created by Canadian Jeff Lemire.

As anyone who reads comics knows, superheroes never die. They just take on new forms, re-imagined and re-envisioned to fit each new era.

Danielle

Til death do us part…and beyond

Warm BodiesI don’t know about you, but with Valentine’s Day having just passed by for another year, I’ve been watching quite a lot of romantic comedies. But as much as I love watching love stories (which includes the traditional happy ending – or the film equivalent), lately I’ve been craving a story with a bit more grit… or bone… or the sound of brains being consumed by zombies… or how about these and love, as in the case of Warm Bodies. Perhaps it’s the Halloween junkie in me, but I don’t see why can’t we celebrate other forms of human existence with a different perspective on life… and death… and zombies. So with that in mind, and in tribute to the holiday that not everyone wishes to celebrate, here are some gory tales of action, adventure, and, of course, love.

Jane SlayreTake Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Slayre. If mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery, then this novel slays them all. It follows the well-known tale in true fashion with a few important new details: Jane is a slayer, of both vampires and zombies. In due course we learn that Jane’s parents were also slayers, so the tradition runs in her blood. Her uncle’s family, the Reeds, who adopt her, are vampires who don’t feel the need to drink from those with “lesser” blood. Thus Jane is sent away to Lowood School, only to discover that students who die become part of a new kind of zombie servant class. As the tale progresses, her encounters with Rochester, St. John Rivers, and finally the Reeds in their altered forms, give added depth to the tale and, to my mind, a better explanation regarding certain events than in the original text.

Shakespeare UndeadIf your mind is of a more historical bent, then I would suggest Lori Handeland’s Shakespeare Undead. Shakespeare is portrayed as a brilliant playwright whose vast knowledge of human nature derives from his long years as a vampire. Interspersed with his writing, however, is his need to deal with the current zombie outbreak, which is plaguing London society in the form of the Black Death. Full of references both Shakespearean and modern, literary and film, Handeland has woven a fantastic blend of fact and fiction into a marvelous undead tale. (By all means, read the sequel Zombie Island as well, which is set on isle from The Tempest.)

World War ZI hesitate to mention Max Brooks’ World War Z, since such a fuss has been made of the film but, by all means, read the book. Contrary to what many people think, the book and film work quite well together, though they take different points in the same tale. But if you are interested in something along the same vein, take a look at I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. Set in New York, it chronicles one man’s attempts to survive a zombie outbreak. Most people will be familiar with the film version (2007) starring Will Smith, but did you know that the book spawned two other films? The first, Last Man on Earth (1964), starred Vincent Price, and the second, The Omega Man (1971), starred Charlton Heston. Both are excellent films and are well worth watching.

Star WarsIf you’re into sci-fi, then you are in for a treat. Can you guess which popular franchise has a built-in zombie tale? If you didn’t guess Star Wars, don’t worry, not many seem to know of it. Star Wars: Death Troopers, written by Joe Schreiber, is set one year before A New Hope. An Imperial prison barge, which is housing the worst scum and villainy of the galaxy, is suffering engine failure in a deserted part of space, when they stumble across an abandoned Imperial Star Destroyer. Despite concerns of why the ship was abandoned, a boarding party is sent over to scavenge parts… only they bring back more than just equipment. As the fallen crew and prisoners reawaken, so does their hunger… and the fight for survival begins. With elements as gruesome as any I’ve read, and a tinge of horror thrown in for good measure, this novel is a perfect read for sci-fi and zombie fans alike. And, if nothing else, keep your eye out for a cameo by our favorite heroes.

izombieSo after all that slaying, perhaps it’s time for a story that casts zombies in a new light. How about one that involves less moaning and eating, and deals with the daily realities of trying to remain undetected as a zombie, while still consuming the monthly requirement of brains. Enter Gwen Dylan, in Chris Robertson’s graphic novel series iZombie. Gwen is your typical girl, trying to live a normal life with work, family, and love. Only that’s not so easy when you are a recent member of the revenant community. Along with Ellie, a ghost who died in the 60s and Scott, a wereterrier, Gwen deals with her undeath the way she dealt with life: one body at a time. But what if her state as a zombie was more than a coincidence? What if her lack of memories serves a greater purpose, one with a darker goal? This 4-volume set is definitely worth a look (and in my mind, would make an excellent tv series).

But don’t take my word for it. Grab this, or any other zombie novel, and tell me what you think of this ever-growing genre. And don’t forget: happy un-loving!

– Katherine