Tag Archives: Graphic Novel

Dude Review: Drama

As might have become more than a little obvious by now if you’ve been reading this site for a while, I’m a bit of a geek. A nerd. A comic-book lover before there was any such thing as “The Avengers,” back when admitting to the fact that you read comic books was tantamount to a social death sentence.

It was my social secret, something I didn’t want the other kids in high school to find out about. I understand about being a bit of a misfit; being in honors classes with the smart kids, who were despised by the jocks. Being on all the athletic teams, who were looked down upon by the smart kids. It seems wherever I went, I tended to end up on both sides of a social dividing line.

All of which makes me even more of a sucker, a sure bet to like wonderful coming-of-age-as-a-young-girl comic-book drams such as the instant classic, “Drama” by Raina Telgemeier.

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This is some good stuff. Telgemeier, the author of another instant-classic called “Smile,” once again knocks the ball out of the park with a touching, comic story of a young middle-school girl trying desperately to find a place to fit in.

Instead of the clearly autobiographical story told in “Smile” of how a young girl had to deal with a serious dental oddity while trying desperately to find a place to fit in (sensing a trend here, but, since these are some great reads, I don’t really care), this story is set in the school’s drama department.

Callie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school’s production of Moon Over Mississippi, she’s a terrible singer. Instead she’s the set designer for the stage crew, and this year she’s determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn’t know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage AND offstage drama that occurs once the actors are chosen, and when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier! Following the success of SMILE, Raina Telgemeier brings us another graphic novel featuring a diverse set of characters that humorously explores friendship, crushes, and all-around drama!

I met Telgemeier at a recent HeroesCon in Charlotte a couple of years back after the release of “Smile.” She’s just as wonderfully nice and funny as she is on the printed page. It’s really a great thing to find a work you love, done by a person who you actually want to support.

Telgemeier has a wonderfully simple drawing style that showcases her expressive characters, while not throwing you out of the story with strange pictograms in place of people. This really is a wonderful book, even if you’re not a young girl coming of age.

If you are, however, it’s amazingly good. Don’t take my word for it. After seeing how good “Smile” was when I sent it to her, my niece, Boo, became an instant Telgemeier fan. I sent her this book and she adored it almost as much as she liked “Smile.” That’s saying something.

If you’ve got a young dude or dudette who’s into theater, or one who’s growing up, or one who still hasn’t found his or her place, you need to get these wonderful graphic novels. Go ahead. Really. This is the good stuff.


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Dude Review: The Lost Hero

by Richard

The ancient gods of Western civilization have withdrawn from the world following the epic events detailed in the Camp Half-Blood books, starring Percy Jackson (son of Poseidon), by author Rick Riordan.

Of course, just because the gods say they’ve withdrawn from their interactions with mortals, well, that doesn’t make it true. Knowing those gods as we do, through myth, legend and a great series of books, we can be pretty sure there’s still some godly meddling going on.

And there is.

In The Lost Hero, the first book of a new series called The Heroes of Olympus, we’re introduced to a whole bunch of new main characters, most notably Jason, a half-blood demi-god with little to no memory of his past, a strange tattoo on his arm, and a metaphorical target plastered on his back.

For now, let’s all get down on our knees and thank those self-same gods that Rick Riordan is back with another book set in the same universe as the magnificently wonderful Percy Jackson and the Olympians books. This truly is a cause for celebration. To me, the Percy Jackson books are what Harry Potter would have liked to have been if he had any ambition at all. They’re full of fantastically complex characters, fast plotting, tight action scenes and genuine emotional heft. These are books that all young dudes would love to read or have read to them.

Both my oldest (Sarcasmo) and youngest (Hyper Lad) young dudes loved these books. Zippy the Monkey Boy, who’s of the opinion that a book without pictures is a waste of paper, preferred to read the graphic novel version and leave it at that. His loss.

Anyway. Back to the book.

Riordan takes a bit of a chance with this book, consigning as he does, Percy Jackson to, if not limbo, then at least the literary equivalent thereof. That is, Percy Jackson does NOT star in these books. He’s talked about and missed, but he’s not actually on stage. The main player here is Jason, who’s memory begins on the back of a school bus on his way to a class trip with two people who may or may not be his girlfriend and best friend.

The action here is fast and furious, starting early and pausing only to let the reader catch his breath before barreling headlong into another adventure.

Jason, you see, isn’t like the other children of the gods who inhabit Camp Half Blood. In fact, his appearance at the summer camp for the children of the gods causes quite a bit of consternation among the staff there, and not a little bit of fear. But what is it about Jason’s very existence and attendance at the camp that’s causing this level of panic?

That, dudes, is the question. And it’s got a great answer. (Of course I had it figured out, but, then again, this is written with the younger dudes in mind. The fact that I and most other older dudes can enjoy it is just a happy bit of synchronicity.)

The Lost Hero is a fantastic read. If you’ve got a young dude or dudette who is even the tiniest bit interested in Greek and Roman mythology, likes fantastic adventure and well-developed characters, then you must get this book. Without question, this rates five (5) dudes out of five.

Buy it. Read it. Enjoy it. Then suffer along with me until the next book in the series comes out.

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Dude Review: Watchmen

Okay, let’s get one thing up front right away. Yes, this is a super-hero movie and, normally, those are all right for the little dudes. However, Watchmen is rated R and it seriously deserves that rating. I’ll probably take my older little dudes (14 and 15) to see it, but his is not a movie for the little dudes. It is, however, a pretty good movie.

Based on the acclaimed graphic novel of the same name by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Watchmen is, at times, a slavish translation from page to picture and, at other times, a completely new movie, one that rather misses the point of the whole graphic novel. Alan Moore has, famously, (if you move in geek circles, perhaps not so much in the real world) divorced himself from this movie. In fact, he had his name removed from the credits. He’s rather prickly that way, and with good reason. After all, movie adaptations of his previous works (V for Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and From Hell) have seriously missed the point of his original stories. Seriously. And I think he’s probably got good reason to be peeved again.

The graphic novel has long been considered to be unfilmable, seeing as how it weaves complex world building, time shifting sequences, a parallel narrative of a ghostly Black Freighter comic strip, and an amazingly restrictive narrative structure that works as a mirror between the first six chapters and the last six chapters. All of that works in a book. In a movie, even one that runs for almost three hours, there are so many things that need to be cut out that it doesn’t leave room for the theme to breathe.

So, taken as an adaptation, there’s probably a few too many things missing for it to really succeed. On its own merits, however, I think it does a pretty good job.

The story takes place in an alternate 1985 America, one in which Richard Nixon is still president, the Cold War is raging and America has an actual super-human, Dr. Manhattan, who is able to sway the balance of power. It is a world in which costumed adventurers have erupted at least twice, once in the 1940s and again in the 1970s. However, in 1977, the Keene Act outlawed all masked vigilantes (except for Dr. Manhattan and the Comedian, both of whom were working for the government.) For the most part, these costumed vigilantes hung up their capes. Except for Rorschach, a man who had nothing else except his masked face.

The movie opens with the murder of one Edward Blake, who is savagely beaten and thrown from the window of his penthouse. Rorschach investigates and finds that Edward Blake is the civilian identity of the Comedian. Rorschach decides someone is bumping off masked heroes and sets out to warn those retired heroes that someone might be gunning for them. As he investigates, the mentally unbalanced Rorschach might have actually discovered a conspiracy that threatens the world.

With stunning visuals, director Zack Snyder has brought the unfilmable movie to the big screen and done a credible job. (Geek note: I miss the squid. If you’ve read the book, you’ll know what I mean. If not, don’t worry about it.) The one big drawback, for me, was that the percentage of full frontal male nudity far outweighed the amount of full female nudity. And, yes, the full frontal male nudity is big and blue and right up front, so be aware of that upfront.

I give this four dudes out of five.

— Richard

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