What is Caitlin reading? June 15 2018

It's been six months since I did one of these (I'm the WORST) so I'm gonna try to keep this short and sweet to motivate myself to get back into the habit.  Also, I do manage to consistently post pictures of what I'm reading on Instagram, so feel free to follow me there, too.

There's a couple things that I really enjoyed lately that I want to highlight, though:

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  • The Girl from the Other Side: Siúil, A Rún Vol 1-4 by Nagabe.  This is a manga that's a bit hard to describe.  It's not horror, really.  It feels very small and intimate, and it's got some of the best creature designs I've ever seen in my life.  I need someone to make me a mask so I can cosplay as Teacher.
  • Animus by Antoine Revoy.  This one is another one of those not-quite-horror stories about kids and fear and trauma.  It's really interesting and one of those books that's really beautiful even though (perhaps because) the characters are drawn...ugly?  Not monstrous, but features are pinched and exaggerated in odd ways.  I feel a way about the fact that a non-Japanese person wrote a horror story about Japanese children.
  • Spectacle by Megan Rose Gedris.  Mystery! Circus folk!  Murder!  Gedris is really good at what she does, and a lot of themes from her previous work in terms of outsider status and belonging translate really well in Spectacle, her first YA effort.  It's charming and emotional and gentle without being coy or cloying.
  • The Highest House by Mike Carey and Peter Gross.  I love Mike Carey's work, that's not new.  But The Highest House reminds me so much of the YA high fantasy I read when I was a kid and it makes me so happy.  It's Tamora Pierce and Mercedes Lackey, unflinching but kind and the worldbuiding is really rich.  I hate the size of the book, it's dumb and weird.
  • Manfried the Man by Caitlin Major and Kelly Bastow.  FUCKING CUTE.  The basic idea is that cats are people sized and do people things, but humans are cat sized and do cat things! It's adorable.  But it's also really emotional and sweet and introspective in a way I didn't expect, because I assumed it was just going to be a gag comic.  Perfect read for people with pets.
  • My Boyfriend is a Bear by Pamela Ribon and Cat Farris.  Another ridiculously cute book, and one of my best of 2018 so far books.  It's just so sweet, both to the protagonist and to people who've ever felt like she does, sick of dating (and men), sick of other people's expectations, and just wanting to be in a relationship that makes her happy.  Came for the gag, stayed for the emotional intimacy.
  • Rice Boy by Evan Dahm.  It's a little meandering, but this book is sort of the definition of "it's about the journey."  The characters and world building are fascinating, the art feels deceptively simple, and Dahm is honestly just a fucking master at what he does.  One of my best of 2018 so far books.

I love comics, everybody.  I'm also reading I Was Born For This, which is a sweet YA book from the same creator behind the Heartstopper webcomic I love, and it's making me very happy.

What is Caitlin reading? Jan 19 2018

Something new I've learned about myself (or more likely, something that I knew but have finally accepted):

  Generation Gone , art by André Lima Araújo  (Also a good representation of how I felt with the flu last week.)

Generation Gone, art by André Lima Araújo

(Also a good representation of how I felt with the flu last week.)

I am not good at writing things on a consistent schedule unless I'm getting paid to do it.  I used to write thousands of words of fiction every week in college and grad school, on top of my actual schoolwork.  I also used to read thousands of pages a week on top of my actual schoolwork, but something about having a day job and being a grown up makes this a lot harder.  One of my big goals (I'm not super into "resolutions" as such) is to start pulling back from some things that keep me busy in order to dive back into things I really enjoy but haven't been able to dedicate time to.  Writing and reading more for myself is a big part of that.

So here's what I've been reading lately:

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  • The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin.  I've actually been listening to the audiobook of this, because I've discovered I'm a lot more likely to "read" fiction if I can do it while doing something else (washing the dishes, cleaning, and for the month of December and into January definitely while packing up Ladies' Night Anthology Kickstarter packages).  My friends have been telling me to read this for a long time, they've all (appropriately) raved about how great it is.  I honestly just waited until all three books in the trilogy were done because I know me and I know that I wanted to read it all at once.  Not only has The Fifth Season lived up to the hype, Robin Miles, the narrator, is one of the best audiobook narrators I've heard in a long, long time.  She does a great job with different voices and makes it very clear which character's perspective she's occupying at any given time.  The book itself is just astonishingly well done.  The chapters not only switch perspectives, but also between points of view (second versus third person).  The story unfolds naturally, and the world that Jemisin has built is rich and textured and nuanced and everything I want in my speculative fiction.  I honestly put off listening to the last hour of the book for almost two weeks because I wasn't ready to let it go, and then I remembered I could go get the second book right away and blasted through it.  (Audible subscriptions are GREAT.)
  • Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire (narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal). I finished this sometime in December and somehow forgot to write it up.  Maybe because I have this weird comics =/= reading thing in my head?  That's dumb, I'm gonna stop doing that.  Anyway, I've met Mary a couple of times as we have mutual friends and it's very charming to listen to an audiobook narrated by someone you know personally.  It's like having a friend that's especially good at telling stories tell you a great story that lasts for hours.  I love it.  The book is charming and dark in really great ways, and it evoked a lot of the same emotions in me as I felt when I was first diving into really great fantasy when I was 10-13.  Lots of rich characters and crazy adventures, and urban fantasy that looks like the kind of city I live in, instead of a bunch of white folks being inexplicably rich and magic.
  • Everything is Awful and Other Observations by Matt Bellassai (narrated by the author).  I started following Bellassai when he was making "Whine About It" videos while working at Buzzfeed.  He would get super drunk on wine and rant about random things and it was hilarious and fun.  So I followed him to his equally fun podcast, and purchased the audiobook version of his collection of essays/memoir type thing as soon as it came out.  I'm not sure I would enjoy reading the book as much as I enjoyed listening to Matt read it, if I'm honest.  But he talks a lot like my friends and I do when we're ranting, and it felt a little like a love letter from one weird fat Chicagoland kid to another.  
  • Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch (narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith).  This is technically a re-read, as Chicago Nerd Social Club's monthly book club is discussing the title in February.  I love the Rivers of London books (and the comic books!) so much.  Aaronovitch has a really conversational writing style and the main character Peter Grant has one of the most realistic and fascinating arc of character growth over the books that I've ever read.  It's another urban fantasy title, complete with a reserved, skinny, older British man (my jam) and a dog (named Toby!).  I love the idea that there are gods and goddesses for every single body of water, down to little creeks and offshoots of bigger rivers, and I really appreciate the way Aaronovitch incorporates modernity, immigration, and refugees into the "gods exist where people believe in them" idea.  I'm stoked for book club.
  • Generation Gone by Ales Kot and André Lima Araújo.  I read all of the individual issues as they came out, but my colleague Oliver let me know that my review of the first issue was a blurb on the back of the trade, and I couldn't resist buying and rereading it.  I wasn't familiar with Araújo at all, but I like Kot's work a lot, and if anyone else had written a book pitched as "what if millenials had super powers" I would've noped out real fast.  But this book explores issues with technology, endless war, the cost of protest, police brutality, medical debt, student loan debt, and BOTH ends of toxic masculinity (the macho asshole and the Nice Guy).  It's great.  I like this book so much.
  • Black Hammer Volume 1: Secret Origins by Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston.  Black Hammer is one of those alt-universe superhero books kind of like Supreme Power that takes a lot of recognizable superhero tropes and "flips them on their head" partly by making them more human and nuanced, which so far has necessitated making them darker and more difficult to swallow.  Lemire's work is good and I'd heard a lot of great stuff about this series, but I'm still a little torn.  For what it is, I really like Black Hammer.  But in the context of Lemire's other work and the industry writ large, it feels...repetitive?  Too familiar?  Though the characters aren't exactly big name heroes, it's really clear who they're based on.  And SO many of these types of story mirror DC characters more than Marvel, and in doing so kind of shit all over them?  I need to check out the second volume for sure, because the execution is really great, I'm just not sold on the core idea I guess...mostly because I've read it before, and a lot of the time it ends up feeling like whoever made it doesn't like superhero comics all that much but feels totally justified ripping into them.  I like stuff like Superman: Red Son or Justice League: Gods and Monsters because it re-imagines the characters as someone different without rejecting cannon; it's an attempt to dive deeper into what makes them who they are, instead of mocking who they've always been.
 Jack Kirby and his famous quote, by Dylan Horrocks

Jack Kirby and his famous quote, by Dylan Horrocks

  • Hicksville by Dylan Horrocks.  I haven't read Hicksville in a couple of years, and it was before I got so involved in the industry as both an editor/publisher and a reviewer.  Rereading it now, when I'm part of the very machine that the book portrays, was a different, more personal and intimate experience.  But it also reminded me of how much I love about this medium, and why I want it to be as good as it possibly can be.  I might need to start a regularly scheduled reread, just to reinvigorate myself and take stock of if I'm really doing what I want to be doing.  Everyone should read this book, but especially people who make comics, and extra especially people who are frustrated by the way the industry has been shaped by business instead of art.  I honestly can't even start to describe what it's about without getting into really personal stuff about my feelings on capitalism and "selling out" and what art means to people who make it.  (Horrocks is also an incredible artist and really genuinely kind person, which only makes me love this book all the more.)

So there's a truncated version of what I've been reading.  I also started reading a couple new Webtoons*, and a bunch of fanfiction that's more self care than anything else.

*Super Secret (a werewolf is in love with his human neighbor but won't admit it, hijinks ensue), Sweet Home (horror comic that's just started and feels very internal and meta), I Love Yoo and Green & Gold (random romance comics that are full of shenanigans and familiar but satisfying tropes).

What is Caitlin reading? Dec 15 2017

It's been awhile since I did one of these (holidays! family! work!) but as 2017 comes to an end I want to make sure I'm at least writing down what I've been digging lately.  In a few weeks here I've got a big chunk of time off and a huge to-read pile to get through, so there's gonna be a bunch more of these soon.  But! In the meantime, here's some of what I've been reading lately:

  Mister Miracle , art by Mitch Gerads and writing by Tom King

Mister Miracle, art by Mitch Gerads and writing by Tom King

If you haven't already, check out the A.V. Club's Best of 2017 List, which I contributed to along with Oliver Sava and Shea Hennum.  (If you're interested, we also have a Best of 2017 So Far from June, too.)  My picks, in no particular order, are below.  You should definitely go check out Oliver and Shea's recommendations, too.  We all have very different taste, but that's part of what I love about working with them.

  • All Star Batman (Scott Snyder, Raphael Albuquerque)
  • Batman/The Shadow (Steve Orlando, Scott Snyder, Riley Rossmo)
  • "The War of Jokes and Riddles" Batman arc (Tom King, Mikel Janin)
  • Mister Miracle (Tom King, Mitch Gerads)
  • Shipwreck (Warren Ellis, Phil Hester)
  • Redlands (Jordie Bellaire, Vanesa Del Rey)
  • Not Drunk Enough (Tess Stone)
  • Wilde Life (Pascalle Lepas)
  • Letters for Lucardo (Noora Heikkilä)
  • Dinosaur Empire: Earth Before Us (Abby Howard)
 I always do it alphabetically, like a nerd.

I always do it alphabetically, like a nerd.

About once a year at Ladies' Night at my LCS (Graham Crackers Comics in the Loop), we do something we call the Attack the Stack challenge.  It's aimed at getting people to really try to get through their to-read pile.  Whenever you catch up on a series or finish a graphic novel, you post a picture on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter and tag it with the #AttackTheStack hashtag, which means we all act as eachother's accountability buddies (and we try to have a prize for someone to win in a random drawing of folks who posted).  I knew I wasn't going to completely finish my stack, but you can see what I read over on my Instagram.  I did make a pretty big dent, and then immediately turned around and bought some more, because that's how book addiction works.  Some standouts:

  • I Hear the Sunspot by Yuki Fumino was a serious highlight for me.  It's a beautiful, arty romance manga about two young men slowly falling for each other.  One of them is hard of hearing, and the characterization is really wonderful.  It scratches all the same itches that really well written fanfiction does, a little angsty with a lot of fluff and genuine emotional depth.  I'm also bummed that books like that aren't really supported in western comics, while they're relatively easy to find in manga.
  • The Influencing Machine by Brooke Gladstone and Josh Neufeld.  This was a rough, slow-going read, mostly because there was so much information to get through.  Gladstone (of NPR fame, she's one of the hosts of WNYC's On the Media) lays out the historical ways that media has been manipulated and done the manipulating since the beginning of the United States.  It's a really info-heavy book, but excellently done, and Neufeld's art is great.  The thing is, I'm not sure I'd call it a graphic novel so much as an illustrated novel.  It's laid out like a comic, but it's incredibly text heavy and it feels like the illustrations were done after the prose was written.  In fact, Neufeld is credited as an illustrator instead of the artist, so while I whole heartedly recommend the book, I'm not sure I'd call it a comic.
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  • Land of the Lustrous 1 by Haruko Ichikawa is sort of like Steven Universe, but leaning a bit harder into the magical girl tropes and a lot darker.  Maybe Steven Universe meets Magical Girl Madoka/Puella Magi Madoka Magica.  I'll admit that while I really liked the story, I found the art difficult to parse sometimes.  One of the hardest things about reading manga is that it is almost always in grayscale, and because of the scope and ambition of the action sequences in particular, it was hard to tell exactly what was going on , particularly because it really does plop you right down in the middle without a lot of explanation.  As a cartoon, or a full color comic, I think it would look absolutely stunning (and thankfully there is an anime that aired just a few months ago).  It does leave me with the impression that this was always planned to be a show instead of a comic, and I'm not really a fan of that.  As it is, it's pretty but I probably won't be picking it up as much and as often as I do stuff like Princess Jellyfish or Ōoku.
  • My Brother's Husband Vol 1 by Gengoroh Tagame (translated by Anne Ishii).  Tears.  Tears streaming down my face the whole time.  It's about a Japanese man struggling with meeting his dead brother's husband, and trying to understand how someone can love someone the same gender they are.  It's sweet and beautiful and really heartbreaking and happy-making all at the same time.
  Ōoku  by Fumi Yoshinaga

Ōoku by Fumi Yoshinaga

  • Ōoku: The Inner Chambers Vol 1 by Fumi Yoshinaga is one of the most beautiful mangas I've ever read, and it's all down to the fabric.  Set in a universe where men are a commodity thanks to an illness that kills many of them, the (female) ruler of Japan has created what amounts to a harem for herself.  Ōoku is largely set inside the confines of this space, telling the story of the shogun and her dozens of male companions, and it's lush with detail and fascinating characters.  Plus, there's the added benefit of essentially getting a history lesson while you read, because besides the gender reversal it's fairly accurate to the period, as far as I can tell.  It's basically clothing porn set in feudal Japan, it's super subversive and pretty queer and I love it.
  • Taproot by Keezy Young.  If there's one theme you can take from this list, it's that I needed some awesome LGBTQ+ love stories and boy did comics deliver.  Taproot is, a lot like I Hear the Sunspot, the love story of two gay young men that gives me all of the same emotional investment as the best fanfiction does.  Young's art is colorful and sweet and soft, just like the story, and it's one of the few times I thought I was going to get a sad ending for a gay couple and didn't.  This book warmed my cold dead heart in the best ways.

I also stumbled upon a new (to me) webcomic last week: Banquet by A. Szabla.  Like Wilde Life, it's an example of me feeling like a dummy for not recognizing a webcomic creator I already follow.  Szabla also makes Bird Boy, but the styles on these two comics are really quite different so I don't feel too much like an idiot.  Banquet is like if Miyazaki (Studio Ghibli) and Jim Henson (especially Labyrinth) had a love child in Pacific Rim.  Without giving away too much, it is about a toddler that falls into a world populated by massive monsters with a strict hierarchy.  I'm a sucker for big monsters and stolen children stories (thanks, too many stories about changelings as a kid) and I'm an extra sucker for a gay love story, which Banquet also includes.  There's only a couple dozen pages up so far and it's really fun.

  Banquet  by A. Szabla

Banquet by A. Szabla

What is Caitlin reading? Oct 13 2017

I've been listening to Seanan McGuire's Rosemary and Rue once I'm done with my podcasts and really enjoying it.  It's a bit weird because I've met Mary Robinette Kowal, the voice talent narrating the book, before, but the voices and accents she does are just spot on and really elevate the experience.

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  • Wilde Life by Pascalle Lepas.  I just this second realized that Lepas made one of my favorite webcomics that I started reading in college (Zap!) and I'm really embarrassed I didn't recognize her art, but that's a testament to her skill, I think.  Wilde Life is VERY different than Zap! in a lot of ways, and I can appreciate that.  It's very kind, but without being soft, and I know that's not super helpful.  I find myself lately really needing to read (and watch) things that are full of people who care about each other, even if they can't always show it in productive, gentle ways.  There's a lot of crazy stuff and danger in Wilde Life, but the overwhelming sense is that the main characters are kind to one another, even when they're teasing.  It's a classic fish out of water story, a writer moves to a small town and gets caught up in a bunch of supernatural shenanigans, including the most wonderful petulant teenage werewolf in the world (the ginger up there).  Three's ghosts and witches and all sorts of fun stuff, and it's funny without being mean.  I love that.  Binged the whole thing in two sittings.
  • Heartstopper by Alice Oseman is just a very sweet webcomic about two boys in school in England playing rugby and struggling with their identities and falling in love.  It's the perfect way to combat all the worst parts of watching the news right now, and Oseman's art is so soft and expressive.
  • Cast No Shadow by Nick Tapalansky and Anissa Espinosa.  I know Anissa and she is not only super skilled but also super sweet, so I was super stoked to check out this book.  Her art has gotten so strong and expressive in the five years (holy shit) since I first met her, so Cast No Shadow is an absolute joy to look at.  But honestly, the story was...a bummer?  For really nuanced reasons that an editor at First Second should have put a stop to right off the bat.  I'm still sorting through my feelings on the book.  I still think people should pick it up and check it out, the central idea is neat and the art is freaking delectable.
  • Batman: White Knight #1 by Sean (Gordon) Murphy).  I liked this book a lot more than other people I think, which isn't a huge surprise given that I'm a sucker for anything about Batman, anything about the GCPD, and anything about social justice.  My full review of the comic is up on the A.V Club this week, but one thing I didn't get a lot of time to dig into was the idea that the Joker isn't actually the best character to tell this story.  The central idea isn't "what if Joker was a good guy" but more "let's talk about the ways Batman (and the GCPD) are the bad guys" and I would be super interested in seeing that story told without the Joker being the protagonist.  What if the residents of the infamous Narrows filed a class action suit against Batman and the GCPD?  There aren't many famous lawyers in the DC universe, but Harvey Dent might still have his license, and it'd be neat to see one of the Manhunters back in the courtroom.  Even MORE compelling to me would be if the law suit coincided with a Justice Department investigation of the GCPD led by Amanda Waller and Jim Corrigan.  Can you imagine what would happen if Batman was confronted by Spectre?  Especially if it was the pants-shittingly terrifying version from Gotham by Midnight, I would pay good money to see that.
 Templesmith and Fawkes just did some really goddamned neat stuff with  Gotham By Midnight .

Templesmith and Fawkes just did some really goddamned neat stuff with Gotham By Midnight.

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I also re-caught up with much of the same list of monthly comics from September, with a couple of additions:

  • American Gods
  • Black Magick
  • Black Monday Murders

I was really doubtful they were going to be able to pull off getting American Gods to work as a comic.  It's way too wordy, but it's a really solid book that I'm enjoying the heck out of.  Black Monday Murders continues to be one of the most thinky comics I'm ready (it's basically Wolf of Wall Street + Cthulhu) and I love the art by Tomm Cocker so much.

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What's really blowing me away this week is Tom King's 'War of Jokes and Riddles' arc in Batman.  I really like King's work generally, but I'm not a fan of Mikel Janin (I know) so I've been waffling a lot about how I feel.  Especially since I hate Bruce and Selina as a couple, and their romantic relationship has been at the center of so much of this story.  But King did an incredible job with this arc, and he really pushed Riddler in particular to entirely new, and super fascinating, limits.  He's digging deep into the psyches of some really messed up characters (Batman included) and showing me things about them that I never even considered.  So even though Janin's art distracts me when it gets weirdly and inopportunely stiff, I loved this arc to pieces.  King somehow made me care about Kite Man, which is just...bonkers.

I'm gonna leave it there and go back to knitting and watching murder mysteries because it's finally fall and I feel like a new creature.

What is Caitlin reading? Sept 29 2017

 From Abby Howard's  Last Halloween

From Abby Howard's Last Halloween

  • Though it wasn't this week, I also read the first volume of The Last Halloween and Dinosaur Empire! Earth Before Us, both by Abby Howard.  Howard is a really talented artist and she managed to write what to me was the perfect spooky Halloween story, with humor and heart and real risk.  It's actually the printed volume of her webcomic with the same name, which you can check out hereDinosaur Empire! reminded me of the best parts of The Magic School Bus and Connections with James Burke.  (Random aside: my favorite computer game of all time was based on this show, and I wish someone would make it work on my phone because I'd play it constantly.) For an entire weekend I was 7 years old again and super stoked about dinosaurs.  I'll be buying several copies of this to give to kiddos in my life as Christmas presents.
  • Pockets, a bonus comic from Melanie Gillman (creator of the webcomic As the Crow Flies).  I have really complicated feelings about camp, because I didn't always have great camp experiences and I think a lot of that was rooted in the fact that I was a very anxious kid that had a very tough time socializing.  I wanted to read and be with horses, and camp involved a lot of things that weren't hose.  So Melanie Gillman's As the Crow Flies is the first thing about camp that I can read without being really knotted up in my own feelings, and I had the immense pleasure of meeting them (and moderating a panel where they shared their awesomeness) this past May at WisCon.  Pockets is a short bonus comic they made that's in the same vein as As the Crow Flies and it made me have a good cathartic cry this morning.  It's very sweet and very real and very full of love, which is all the words I would use to describe Gillman's work in general.
  • Jane by Crazy Ex-Girlfriend writer/produce Aline Brosh McKenna and Ramon Perez.  It's a terrible book written by someone who I sincerely doubt ever actually read the book it's supposedly based on (Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, which is one of my favorites.  You can read my review for the A.V. Club here and listen to me and the amazing Lauren Burke discuss it on her Bronte/Austin podcast, Bonnets at Dawn.
  • Angelic #1 by Simon Spurrier and Caspar Wijngaard.  It's a super fun looking book with a good visual sense of humor and some fun details, but it's got notes from Animal Farm and A Handmaid's Tale in it.  You can read a full review at the A.V. Club here.
 Gaze upon my shame.

Gaze upon my shame.

Here's where I make a confession that I alluded to previously: I am super behind on print comics.  SUPER behind.  Like...there's stuff from the beginning of Rebirth last summer I haven't gotten to yet behind.  So I'm calling myself out.  This picture?  That's three short boxes of "to read" comics.  To steal a phrase from Ladies' Night at Graham Crackers, It's time for me to attack the stack, so I'm going to show my progress here.  Recently I've caught up (or partially caught up) on a couple of different titles:

  • Batgirl
  • Batgirl and the Birds of Prey
  • Batman
  • All Star Batman
  • Batman and the Shadow
  • Batwoman
  • Bitch Planet
  • Black Cloud
  • Black Panther

When left to my own devices, I tend to tackle things alphabetically.  It keep sme from skipping to only the stuff I'm really excited about, which makes it harder to gauge what I should be dropping off my pull list.  To be honest, I have really freaking enjoyed, and continue to enjoy, all of the titles I just listed.  I'd probably put Batman and the Shadow and Batgirl up at the top; the former because I grew up on radio dramas like The Shadow and absolutely adore Riley Rossmo's art, the latter because Hope Larson is telling a great story that feels appropriate for Babs, her age, and her role in the DC universe.  Batgirl and the Birds of Prey is a bit uneven, but I love seeing Batgirl, Black Canary, and the Huntress working together.

So there's the truth.  I don't read nearly as many comics as I get, and I really should do something about that.  But there's just so much great TV happening.  And knitting.  And friends.  And other books.  So I'll just be perpetually behind, and constanly trying to catch up.

What is Caitlin reading? Ladies' Night Anthology

 The covers for all five volumes of Ladies' Night Anthology:  Chicago ,  Death & Prom ,  How to Magic ,  Eat It Up! , and  Sisters .

The covers for all five volumes of Ladies' Night Anthology: Chicago, Death & Prom, How to Magic, Eat It Up!, and Sisters.

Not everyone who knows I love comics knows that I also help to edit an annually published anthology that grew up out of the Ladies' Night I go to at my local comic shop (shout out to Graham Crackers in the Loop!).  Back in 2012, I realized that I'd missed the deadline to apply to be a writer for the first volume, and volunteered to help edit.  I was, at the time, woefully unprepared to take on the responsibility of being an editor and had basically no clue what I was doing, but both my fellow editors and the creative teams I worked with were patient with me.

Five years later, I'm still one of the editors for LNA, and I also sort of operate as the COO, managing our inventory and finances.  I love this gig, really and truly, and it's  a natural growth from my love for comics.  LNA works mostly with people who've never made comics before, or have never collaborated before, or both.  It's open to women, non-binary, and gender non conforming creators from all over the world, though we do try to keep some folks local to Chicago, where all of the editors are based.

 Enamel pins designed by Elizabeth Perez, a perk for Volume 5.

Enamel pins designed by Elizabeth Perez, a perk for Volume 5.

The thing about LNA is that we are involved in every step of the process as editors.  A lot of anthologies don't teach you how to make a comic, and that's great because you get a lot of really polished, professional people making dozens of incredible comics and collecting them.  But LNA is different, we walk our creators through the process from pitch to character design to script, thumbnails to art to lettering.  We host workshops, help people tackle new skills, and manage most of the promotion and marketing for the book.

We don't pay our participants, which can be a struggle sometimes.  We know we've lost out on some really great folks because of that, but for the last five years we've really wanted to focus on the people that have never done this before, and help them get their foot in the door.  We've had a couple of participants in past books go on to professional jobs as story boarders, writers, inkers, artists, and colorists.  It's incredibly gratifying to be able to pick up a comic at Graham Crackers and see the names of people I worked with on LNA on the cover of a comic from a big publisher.

 From "Do you kiss your sister with that mouth?" by Jade Armstrong and Ellen Linzer

From "Do you kiss your sister with that mouth?" by Jade Armstrong and Ellen Linzer

We're almost 3/4 of the way through our Kickstarter for Volume 5, and almost halfway to our goal.  Next week, the other editors (Lauren Burke, Megan Byrd, Kris Mackenzie, and Summer Sparacin) and I will take on the daunting task of putting the pages in order and starting prepress.  So a lot of my free-reading time has been dedicated to LNA lately, doing copyediting and checking things over.

So what I'm reading this week is the work of 24 amazing female and non-binary creators, most of whom have never been published before.  And I want you to be reading it too, so please check out our Kickstarter, get yourself an awesome book.  If you can part with $20, you'll get a book and the matching pins, which to be honest are a huge draw for me.  It's not an addiction if you don't admit it's a problem, right?

Please help us get this book to the printer and into the hands of hundreds of people.  I've read the pages as they come in, and you'd never guess that most of these creators have never made a comic before.  

 LNA Vol 5: Sisters (cover by Elizabeth Perez) and the companion zine (cover by Abby Shaffer)

LNA Vol 5: Sisters (cover by Elizabeth Perez) and the companion zine (cover by Abby Shaffer)

What is Caitlin Reading: Webcomics!

Ok so I caught a nasty cold this week and didn't do the normal "What is Caitlin reading?" because Caitlin just slept and drank NyQuil a lot.  Instead, I compiled info about all of the webcomics I'm currently reading (and two that are finished that I think you should check out).

While webcomics aren't technically the first comics I ever read, they are near and dear to my heart, and for many years the only comics that blessed my eyeballs.  Needless to say, I read a big slew of them.

Webcomics:

At the moment, I read all of the below comics regularly.  with the exception of xkcd, they all have an overarching plot that means I do check them as they come out, using my webcomic system.

 From Der-shing Helmer's   The Meek   (I spent 20 minutes deciding which panel to use and I'm still not sure I made the right choice because her art is THAT GOOD.)

From Der-shing Helmer's The Meek (I spent 20 minutes deciding which panel to use and I'm still not sure I made the right choice because her art is THAT GOOD.)

  • Agents of the Realm by Mildred Louis - Super queer, college-aged magical girls with real problems and the best fucking facial expressions. Plus magical girl outfits that are cute without being hyper-femme or objectifying.
  • Barbarous by Yuko Ota and Ananth Hirsh - Flawed female protagonist trying to be an adult...with magic.  As someone who's been following both the creators for...15ish years, Barbarous and Lucky Penny are worth every second spent reading them.
  • Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu - Gay hockey boys in love and the most amazing cast of supportive characters ever.  Super active online fandom community. Cute art, plus pie and hilarious hockey lingo.
  • Dumbing of Age by David Willis - Freshmen at major midwestern university deal with love, assault, bigotry, violence, addiction, and dating.  I swear it's cute and funny, but it's also very socially aware.
  • Eth's Skin by Sfé R. Monster (currently on hiatus) - Queer (and gender non conforming) friendly magic journey with lots of neat animals (a selkie!) and gentle, beautiful art (TREES!).
  • Full Circle by Taneka Stotts and Christianne Goudreau, colored by Genue Revuelta - Epic high fantasy story with siblings and actual people of color and all sorts of breathtaking backgrounds.  Some of the characters have wings, and I'm always fascinated by how humanoids with wings work.  (Are their bones hollow?  Is it all magic??)
  • Gunnerkrigg Court by Tom Siddell - Harry Potter but better, about girls and gods, and with technology, too.  Seeing Siddell's art mature and grow is fascinating.
  • Library Comic by Chris Hallbeck - A look behind the curtain of what it's like to work at a library: great jokes, lots of weirdos with a lot of personality.
  • The Lonely Vincent Bellingham by Diana Huh (currently on hiatus?)- This one is really hard to describe, in part because it's pretty short so far.  The posting schedule is a little irregular (creators have lives! they're giving me content for free! I'm blessed!).  So far, think Jane Austen male protagonist runs away and winds up at a witch's house, sorta trapped in the basement.
  • Love Circuits by Taneka Stotts and Genue Revuelta - Adorable love story with ROBOTS.  And cute ROBOT service dog!  Genue's art is just so soft and curvey and I want to touch it all the time. 
  • M.F.K. by Nilah Magruder (currently on hiatus, soon out in print form) - Young woman travels through a sprawling fantasy landscape so she can scatter her mom's ashes. ART SO LUSH. Winner of the 2015 Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity (first winner ever!).
  • Manly Guys Doing Manly Things by Kelly Turnbull - A lot of these comics can be read without the context of the archive, but Turnbull has created a couple beautiful original characters that exist in the middle of a sprawling cast of macho video game protagonists. Beefcake and Mad Max jokes for days. (Turnbull posts the backstory of her main character on her Patreon, which is 100% worth it. Like Ender's Game, but LGBTQ+ friendly and also fuzzy mini velociraptors.)
  • Mare Internum by Der-Shing Helmer - Did you enjoy Moon (that movie with Sam Rockwell that was totally unexpectedly awesome)?  Do you like Alien?  Are you a fan of all sorts of creatures from outer space and also existential dread?  This is 100% the comic for you, plus Der-Shing's art is as fresh and crisp and layered and rich as key lime pie.  I wanna eat it.
  • The Meek by Der-Shing Helmer - So not only does The Meek live up to the art from Mare Internum, it also has a big cast of incredible characters, sprawling political intrigue, amazing world building and a giant freaking tiger god/monster thing?  Just freaking read it so I can shout at you about Soli and Phe.
  • Meaty Yogurt by Rosalarian - I love slice of life comics (and TV shows, and movies) but one of my biggest beefs is when everybody is just nice.  All the time.  And this comic gets me.  The characters aren't cruel to one another for the sake of being cruel, but there is the sort of blind self centeredness that just comes with being human, and a lot of the comic confronts the fallout of that.  Plus a lot of the ladies are drawn thick in a way most artists don't dare.  There's a dry, morbid sense of humor to Meaty Yogurt that I really appreciate.
  • Monster Pulse by Magnolia Porter - All the best parts of Digimon plus some really classic and beautiful YA love stories and evolving art that just continues to get better.  Magnolia's Twitter is also aces and she does fun journal comics sometimes.
  • Not Drunk Enough by Tess Stone - Think Resident Evil meets Parks & Rec, but better.  Tess's art is kinda sketchy, but that makes is super kinetic and really fun to read, because it's all about motion and movement.  These characters are stuck in an office building overrun by evil monsters, and the story of HOW the monsters came to be unfolds slowly and it's unexpectedly emotional and awesome.
  • O Human Star by Blue Delliquanti - I included OHS in my "Best of 2015" list over at the A.V. Club.  It's quite literally some of the best, kindest, most emotional sci fi I've ever read.  There's robots and AI and a love story (that's not always about love) and family affection and it's very queer friendly.  Please read it and come cry with me.
  • Power Nap by Maritza Campos & Bachan - What happens when we stop sleeping?  What if you're one of the few people in the world that can't just stop sleeping when humans push past the need for rest? You get recruited to a team of terrifying weirdos that do amazing (horrible) things in their dreams.
  • Questionable Content by Jeph Jacques - QC is one of the few webcomics that I started reading in college and I'm still sticking with.  It's always been a slice of life story, but as Jeph's talent and interests have shifted, so has the story.  The characters are nuanced and interesting, the stories are at once universal and pretty unique.  It's very bingeable, and it's neat to see how Jeph's art has grown.
  • Saint for Rent by Ru Xu (on prolonged hiatus) - When time travel is possible, there are places that need to be stable, and Saint for Rent is about an inn where time travellers stop to rest before moving on to their next destination.  It's a lot about people, and especially about the people who get left behind.  Plus it's cute.
  • Sinfest by Tatsuya Ishida - Full review here.  This one is really hard to explain, in part because it's got over a decade and a half of backmatter.  But ultimately, it's a sprawling cast of characters that are not always good, and what keeps me coming back is the raw, unflinching social commentary tempered with jokes.
  • Sleepless Domain by Mary Cagle - Mary Cagle did a bunch of journal comics called "Let's Speak English!" while she was teaching English in Japan, and I was so charmed by them that I not only backed the Kickstarter to get a printed copy, I also started reading her webcomic.  There are monsters and magical girls and it's very adorable.  I love the way she draws expressions of shock/disbelief in particular.
  • xkcd by Randall Munroe - I really shouldn't have to explain this one.
 FLUFFY RAPTORS from Kelly Turnbull's   MGDMT

FLUFFY RAPTORS from Kelly Turnbull's MGDMT

Webtoons:

It took me a while to warm up to Webtoons (the mobile app that allows creators to upload strips and create community).  I'm generally really skeptical of any service that's free to creators and readers and hosts other people's IP, and as Tapastic proved, for good reason.  You can read stuff on Webtoons on a desktop, but it's a much better mobile experience.  90% of what I read there is slice of life or one-and-done joke comics, like the newspaper funny pages.  (Gosh I'm old.)

  • Average Adventures of Average Girl
  • As Per Usual
  • Bluechair
  • Girls Have a Blog
  • Live With Yourself by Shen - A man wakes up to find that his future self is now living alongside him, displaying the long term impacts of his current decision making.  It's great slapstick comedy, plus some fascinating philosophy about the power of choice.
  • Lunarbaboon
  • Lore Olympus by Rachel Smyth - Greek mythology meets Real World.  That's really the best way to describe it.  Like the best modernized Shakespeare, it's funny and ridiculous, and the art is quiet pretty.
  • Murrz
  • My Giant Nerd Boyfriend
  • Safely Endangered
  • Saphie: The One-Eyed Cat
  • The Strange Tales of Oscar Zahn by Tri Vuong - An undead supernatural hunter that has to go into what might be purgatory to save souls that are stuck.  And he's a dude with a floating skull.  And it's very Mike Mignola, both in art style and tone.  Kinda steampunky?  It's good, read it.

Occasional comics:

These are a "go and binge a few weeks worth now and then" category, with no real overarching story, but good one-and-done jokes.

  • Our Valued Customers by Tim Chamberlain (currently publishing reruns) - Ridiculous things that comic book customers have said in front of employees.
  • PhD (Piled Higher and Deeper) Comics by Jorge Cham - If you've ever been to grad school, this will make you laugh/cry.  If you haven't, this will convince you that maybe you shouldn't.  Also lots of fascinating science.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal by Zach Weinersmith - Funny and punny pop culture references with sidelong nihilism and philosophy.
  • Three Panel Soul by Matt Boyd and Ian McConville, creators of Mac Hall - I started reading this when Mac Hall ended, and I keep up with it now and then partially out of nostalgia and partially because it's comforting knowing that folks who make stuff I like are going through some of the same adulthood bullshit I am.  Their sense of humor never disappoints.

Patreon or pay-to-read comics:

   Deja Brew   art by Sara DuVall

Deja Brew art by Sara DuVall

  • Avialae by Lucid (available for free on Tumblr, with delay) - Boy grows wings, boy falls in love with next door neighbor, drama ensues.  NSFW bits.
  • Deja Brew by Taneka Stotts and Sara DuVall (available via Stēla, first chapter free at link) - Eisner nominated!  Tea shop with monsters and adorable LGBTQ+ characters and magic!
  • Neighbor by Slashpalooza (available for free on Tumblr, with delay) - This is pretty much Teen Wolf fanfiction with the serial numbers rubbed off, but i don't care because it's cute and I like high school drama.  It's basically a CW show.  NSFW bits, and translated from author's native Spanish.
  • This Vacant Body by Reapersun - Still too early on this one to know more than "mystery with lotsa violence", but Reapersun's character designs and penchant for angst will suck me in every time.

Finished comics to check out:

  • The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ & Amal by EK Weaver (Full review at The A.V. Club here, also included in the "Best of 2015" list here.) - If I try to explain how good this is, I'm just gonna screech like a pterodactyl at you.  I've literally made significant others read this because if they don't understand it (they don't have to enjoy it) I know we're not going to work out.  It's a road trip not-quite-love-story and EK Weaver is a MASTER at the craft.
  • Octopus Pie by Meredith Gran (Included in the "Best of 2015" list on the A.V. Club here.) - Another "please don't make me articulate my thoughts I'll just cry" title.  Like QC, it's a slice of life comic, but it grew past that?  And Gran's art grew so much since she started, and the characters did, too.  It's what I thought Scott Pilgrim was supposed to be, but better.

What is Caitlin reading? Sept 1 2017

It has been A Week for a variety of reasons, so I'm going to keep this short and sweet.

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  1. I finished Princess Jellyfish Volume 5 from last week!  It was good!  It always is.  
  2. I read Mage: The Hero Denied #1 and did a full review over at the A.V. Club.  It was bad, and you should definitely not bother.
  3. Clueless: Senior Year by Amber Benson, Sarah Kuhn, and Siobhan Keenan.  This was freaking cute as hell, in the same way Princess Jellyfish is.  I love books where people are, at the heart of things, supportive and loving, and not afraid to show that.  Having met Amber and Sarah (they're both adorable and kind and charming!) I'm not surprised I loved this book.  But maybe maybe more importantly, this book addresses some of the things that annoyed me in the movie (there are LGBTQ+ couples!) and is beautiful to boot.  It did make me miss Brittany Murphy a bunch, and miss my own innocence when I didn't know anything about Alicia Silverstone and Stacey Dash as people.  Go buy it immediately.  Then go buy Sarah's Heroine Complex and Heroine Worship because they're both awesome.
  4. The Dispatcher by John Scalzi.  Technically I listened to the audiobook (narrated by Zachary Quinto, who does a good job) of this novella this week in an attempt to avoid the news for a little while.  It's a good speculative fiction story set in Chicago, and unlike a lot of books it actually feels like it.  The "what if" is a fascinating one, and I don't feel like I can say much without spoiling it, but it's a solid little mystery with a compelling core idea.
  5. Jonesy Vol 1-3 by Sam Humphries, Caitlin Rose Boyle, and Brittany Peer.  This was actually a re-read because I've been buying the individual issues of Jonesy as they come out but the arrival of the trade paperbacks made me crave it.  Another bright, poppy story about a young woman and female friendship and embracing your weird.  Clearly I was on a roll this week, between this, Clueless, and Princess Jellyfish.  Sam is awesome and knows how to write flawed characters that are still sympathetic.  Caitlin's art is fun and evokes all sorts of zine memories for me.  And Brittany (who participated in Ladies' Night Anthology years ago) makes the whole book pop off the page.  I really love this book and I'm so glad I have extra copies to lend out now.
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Full disclosure, I did get the copies of Clueless and Jonesy from BOOM!, but honestly I was planning on buying them.

Let's talk about how 16 year old me would be horrified by what I read this week, and how 32 year old me really does not give a crap and would tell 16 year old me to lighten up and have fun sometimes.

I started compiling a list of all the webcomics I read regularly and honestly ever 45 minutes I was only about half done.  I wanted to make sure every single one had a working link in it and also 1-2 sentences describing it, and hopefully I'll be able to finish up soon...I read a lot of webcomics, folks.