Grease Monkey: a tale of growing up in orbit

On those days when you’re trying to figure out how the adult world works wouldn’t it be great to have an 800-pound gorilla on your side? Cadet Robin Plotnik, is about to get just that. He is assigned to work with mechanic Mac Gimbensky, for whom fixing space fighters is a passion and an art. Mac’s “creative” work style has chased off many a cadet but Robin manages to survive his first day as Mac’s grease monkey. In no time the two become good friends.

Together, this unlikely duo maintains the fighter craft for the all-women Barbarian Squadron, which constantly competes against other fighter jocks. Full of adventure, romance, and humor Grease Monkey will engage you to the last page.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Groening!

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Matt Groening, cartoonist and creator of The Simpsons, turns 53 today.

He began drawing and self-publishing the comic strip Life in Hell in 1977. This got the attention of Producer James L. Brooks, and led to the creation of the television series The Simpsons, which debuted as shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show in 1987. Futurama began airing in 1999 (and was co-created by Groening and David X. Cohen).

The Simpsons Movie is due out this July.

Moomin!

Join Moomin, the beautiful Snorkmaiden, and their friends as they send bad language (with legs) to Aunt Jane, encounter exploding pancakes, and introduce pirates to gardening. Tove Jansson has created a rare treasure that speaks to all generations and all ages. Moomin sums up Jansson's philosophy best when he tells his friend Sniff:

"I only want to live in peace, plant potatoes, and dream!"

Jansson first introduced the Moomins (Scandinavian troll-creatures that resemble white hippopotami) in books that she wrote and illustrated, beginning in 1945 with the book The Moomins and the Great Flood. More Moomintroll books followed, including Comet in Moominland, Finn Family Moomintroll, and Moominpappa's memoirs. These were so popular that she was approached by the London Evening News to do a daily comic strip featuring the Moomin characters. Drawn and Quarterly has released (for the first time in North America) a collection of these strips. This first volume includes four adventures: Brigands, Family Life, Moomin on the Riviera and Moomin's Desert Island.

1001 Nights of Snowfall

For those of you already familiar with Bill Willingham’s Fables, you probably don’t need my recommendation to check out this anthology. For those of you not familiar with the Vertigo/ DC Comics series, 1001 Nights of Snowfall is a great introduction to the characters that make up Fabletown.

Snow White is sent as an envoy to solicit the help of King Shahryar, an Arabian Sultan, against the Adversary, enemy to all of Fablekind. She soon finds herself entrapped by the Sultan and must fill the nights with stories to beguile him and save her own life. Backstories of some familiar characters are told, which Willingham approaches with more detail than was given in the original tales. Find out what happened to the witch after Hansel and Gretel pushed her into the oven; the unexpected twist in the tale of Snow White after she marries her prince (she’s more independent than Disney portrayed); and why the Big Bad Wolf is so big, bad, and bitter. This book is also a splendid showcase for the talents of the many artists who contributed.

Please remember, though this book does retell the tales of beloved fairy tale characters, this book is not intended for children.

Time's 2006 Book of the Year

This year, a comic book holds the number one place on Time Magazine’s 10 Best Books of the year—Alison Bechdel’s memoir in comics form, Fun Home.
Bechdel beautifully tells the story of her life, and her father’s life. After her father’s death (believed to be suicide), Bechdel retraces her formative years by contemplating the similarities and distance between two people living in the same house.

Grisly Grimm

If you are tired of the “Disneyfied” versions of your favorite fairy tales, but short on time, then Jonathan Vankin’s condensed versions are for you. Based on the original tales of the brothers Grimm, they have been converted to comic form by fifty-two artists for the book The Big Book of Grimm (released by Paradox Press, an imprint of DC Comics). You will find some familiar names among them—Keith Giffen (of Ambush Bug and Justice League fame), Sergio Argones (creater of Groo the Wanderer and marginals for MAD Magazine since 1963), Joe Staton (numerous DC titles including Justice Society of America, Green Lantern, and Scooby Doo), and James Kochalka (American Elf). My personal favorite was Kochalka’s “Dog and Sparrow”, which was as cute as it was gruesome.

Bone (in color!)

If you missed out on the first run of this great comic series (originally released from 1994-2004 by Cartoon Books) you won’t want to miss Scholastic’s re-release. The writer/illustrator, Jeff Smith, is currently working with colorist Steve Hamaker to color all nine volumes, which were previously released in black and white.

The story follows the adventures of three cousins, Fone Bone, Phoney Bone, and Smiley Bone as they are run out of their hometown of Boneville and find themselves in a mysterious valley. There they encounter giant rat creatures, swarms of locusts, dragons, princesses, and racing cows. It’s a fantasy saga that doesn’t take itself too seriously all the time. Take Smith's humor, throw in a little adventure, romance, and suspense, and you have a comic that appeals to all audiences.

Visit Jeff Smith's website to learn more about Bone.

You will find the new Scholastic color versions through volume four in our collection (volume 5 is due out next February):
1.Out from Boneville
2.The Great Cow Race
3.Eyes of the Storm
4.The Dragonslayer

AADL also has some of the black and white Cartoon Books releases:
1.Out from Boneville
3.Eyes of the Storm
4.The Dragonslayer
6.Old Man’s Cave
8.Treasure Hunters

Depths of Concrete

Paul Chadwick’s 1980s Concrete series has been recently re-released by Dark Horse Comics. The series follow the life of Ronald Lithgow after aliens transplant his brain into a massive body made of rock. Instead of having Concrete seek revenge on the aliens who put him into this predicament, or having him declare his intentions to rid the world of evil-doers, Chadwick explores how Mr. Lithgow (former senatorial speechwriter and average Joe) deals mentally, emotionally, and physically with suddenly having a "nigh invulnerable" body.

In the first book of the series, Depths, we get Concrete’s origin story, complete with aliens and woodland creatures. Also included are some of the early stories, never before collected, in which Concrete attends a birthday party, attempts to swim an ocean, and becomes bodyguard to a rock star. The page layout choices are well thought out and the illustrations are fantastic. Chadwick’s attention to detail throughout adds a lot to the story (especially the 150 panel swim sequence on page 54).

“Well, I’ll be an eight-ball’s uncle!”

Secret Wars #8Secret Wars #8

In Secret Wars #8, released in the mid eighties, an alien machine gave Spider-Man the now infamous black costume. It turned out to be an alien symbiote and soon became one of his greatest foes, Venom.
Since then we have not seen Spider-Man in the black costume. But, in the aftermath of Civil War, Marvel’s summer event, we once again see Spidey don the black threads. Marvel’s Spider-Man: Back in Black! series runs through next February.

Could this be a possible tie-in with the upcoming Spider-Man 3, where we see Toby Maguire also wearing the black costume?
Get reacquainted with your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man with books and movies from aadl’s collection.

November New and Noteworthy

Margherita Dolce Vita* by Stefano Benni.
“An elegant little piece of dark comedy” by a prolific Italian author (FFF in translation). Wise and charismatic 15 yr.-old Margherita and her odd-ball family are transformed by their new neighbors from hell.

Harlem Girl Lost* by Treasure E. Blue.
A bright young woman fights her way out of the mean streets of New York, only to be drawn back in to save her man. A lurid, gripping debut and a self-publishing sensation.

Last Seen Leaving* by Kelly Braffet.
New Age spiritualist searches for her estranged daughter who has not been seen after being picked up by a stranger on a deserted highway, while a serial killer is on the loose. Gripping.

Love in a Fallen City* by Eileen Chang (Ailing Zhang).
Six vibrant stories depict life in post WWII China and bristle with equal parts passion and resentment.

Eifelheim* by Michael Flynn.
Young modern historian obsesses with the mysterious disappearance of a German village from all maps during the Black Death. The story intersects with the heartbreaking saga of stranded aliens from a distant star.

Vince and Joy* by Lisa Jewell.
Tired of all the heavy stuff around? Try this deliciously addictive read filled with London oddballs. First loves reunite after 17 years of miscommunication, disappointments and all the things life throw at you. Romantic.

The Sky People* by S.M. Stirling.
First of a new alternate history series with "broad-brush pulp sensibility". Space colonization and a classic love triangle.

The Orphan's Tales : In the night garden* by Catherynne Valente.
“A beautiful relayed, interlinked fairy tales” of magic, adventure, quests and murder, told by a mysterious young woman with tattoos around her eyelids. Think Sheherezade and the Arabian Nights.

Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall* by Bill Willingham.
Re-imagined new lives and backstories for fairyland citizens , the likes of Snow White and the Big Bad Wolf, now living as secret refugees in New York - probably the “smartest mainstream comics going”.

*= Starred Review(s)

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