Stack Overflow: 6 Comics – GeekDad
I mentioned last week that I had a lot of comics to share with you, and now that I’m looking at the pile, there might be too many for me in a single week! I have a mix of stuff for kids and adults, a few new releases and a few older titles too.
I imagine that at some point Mat or Sam invented the portmanteau word “Lumberjackula” and found it funny… then decided to create a whole universe around this half-lumberjack, half-vampire character. The town of Hollow Tree is populated entirely by lumberjacks and vampires, co-existing peacefully (somehow? I don’t know what those vampires eat). The loggers wear checks and jeans and even the children have beards; vampires have pointy ears and can transform into bats and can be outdoors during the day, thanks to special sunscreen.
Lumberjackula – Jack for short – is a bit of both, as his mother is a lumberjack and his father a vampire, and he’s about to make a big decision: which high school to attend. Will he learn to be a lumberjack or a vampire? He feels a lot of pressure from both sides of his family and hides a secret: what he really wants to do is dance, but that’s something neither lumberjacks nor vampires do. He is lucky enough to attend the Tip Tap Twinkle Toes Dance Academy in a nearby town, but he is afraid of how his family will react.
The story is about being true to yourself. Although Jack’s parents are both very supportive of Jack, there are a series of misunderstandings that lead Jack to believe that they are each very committed to where he will go to school, which leads him then to lie about his own feelings. It’s a cute story that ultimately has a happy ending, even if the premise is extremely weird.
Dan and Jason are the team behind the Blue, Barry & Pancakes comic series that I have already covered, and this is another comic series for children. These are a bit longer than the BBP series and a bit darker tone, though there’s still a bit of their trademark silliness throughout. Barb’s parents are part of a heroic team known as the Berzerkers (most of which seem to be named after the weapons they wield), though her mother has gone off to fight in the Monster Wars and is never came back. When the team follows a tip to retrieve the legendary Shadow Blade, they are trapped by the evil Witch Head, and young Barb is the only one who manages to escape, but not before swiping the Shadow Blade.
Now she is looking for help and has many adventures herself. Despite the traditional enmity between Berzerkers and monsters, she ends up teaming up with a Yeti named Porkchop (after resolving an initial misunderstanding). The Shadow Blade gives her great power, but each time she uses it, it knocks her out for a while and sometimes gives her visions.
The second book continues the story – Barb got information about seeking help from wise wizards, and she also has to face the ancient Berzerkers, who are under an enchantment and now work for Witch Head. In the meantime, Barb has also forged alliances with other monsters, after discovering that everything she’s been told about them may not be true.
The books are quite action-packed and keep the pace going, jumping back and forth between the present and flashbacks. Humor is a lot like BBP series – a bit random, with a bit of slapstick and weird non-sequences. I didn’t really care about this series myself, but my third grader really enjoyed it. The story isn’t over – there’s definitely more to come after this.
Tad the Frog grew up hearing tales of the legendary Star Knights, animals that took on human form when answered by falling stars. But when he tries to play Star Knights with the other animals, they avoid him because he’s one of the mud dwellers, a servant of the Swamp Witch in the stories. When several stars fall, Tad catches one and his wish is granted: he becomes a Star Knight! He meets Stello, the Star King, and agrees to escort him to his home in space. But Tad is afraid someone will find out his secret, that he isn’t really a Star Knight after all.
This story has some fun twists, largely centered around the question of who are really the heroes of the story. I feel like I’ve come across enough stories myself where the heroes turn out not so great, the supposed enemies aren’t actually so bad, that the plot twists haven’t bothered me so surprised, but it’s a story that’s even enjoyable if you can figure out what’s coming, and the artwork is really lovely.
I have written extensively in the past on First Second’s Science comics series. They have that too History comics series, which covers a wide range of topics ranging from Challenger disaster from Roanoake Colony to National Parks, though I hadn’t read most of them yet. I picked this one up to read at the end of Pride month – although I knew about the Stonewall riots and their significance, I had never read much in depth about the events.
This book uses a sort of time travel framing story, so although it’s based on historical facts, it takes some liberties with its own quirky characters. A group of young adults move Mrs. Carmen into her senior citizens’ apartment when they come across an old photo of her with her girlfriend – surprising news for Mrs. Carmen’s granddaughter, Natalia. Ms. Carmen explains how outrageous her relationship was at the time and why it was kept a secret, but the others don’t entirely believe her. As she explains some of the struggles faced by the LGBTQ community in the 1960s, they all find themselves transported back in time to experience it for themselves and, coincidentally, find themselves at the Stonewall Inn the night the riots started.
The book shows how these three young adults — all members of the LGBTQ community themselves — see events unfold through their own eyes, and then some of the conversations they have with other people as they process what happens the next day. Most of them had at least a little doubted Ms Carmen’s claims and struggle to understand how attitudes – and laws – have changed since the 1960s, and this experience helps them grasp the difficulties of time and motivates them to act. Nowadays.
While I appreciated having a broader understanding of the Stonewall riots and the effect they had in bringing more public attention to LGBTQ people, I felt that young adults of today seemed a little too naive – it wasn’t just that they did ‘I don’t know how difficult things were in the past, but they also seemed blissfully unaware of any anti-queer sentiment in the present. I know for sure that the gay and trans people I know today, young and old, see the need to stand up for their rights, and while things are easier now than they were, I don’t haven’t met many people who deny that things were always tough either. It’s odd that these attitudes strike me as more implausible than time travel itself (which is never really explained, it just happens), but I guess these characters may have been written to be more sympathetic to the straight cis readers, who would have the most to learn from this book.
This book is a collection of comics featuring an unlikely protagonist: the Holy Spirit (yes, that one), depicted as a small teardrop-shaped blue ghost, usually conversing with a squirrel and a badger. These are little philosophical questions, which remind me a bit of the conversations Calvin had with Hobbes in his most contemplative moments, but in this case one of the participants is an aspect of an omniscient God. It’s funny but not mean, religious but not totally orthodox in its interpretations. As Hendrix explains in the author’s note, these comics are not meant to be “informative tracts”, but rather “expressions of a spirit grappling with the alternating seasons of faith and doubt that are familiar to every person of faith”.
I really enjoyed reading them – they are thought provoking and fun, and although they describe the Holy Spirit (and therefore a purported understanding of what God is thinking), it is done in a humble rather than ‘authoritarian.
This is a collection of cartoons that never made the new yorker from a long list of designers. Diffée is himself a New Yorker cartoonist, and after explaining some of the possible reasons why a cartoon would be rejected – too crude, too political, too weird, too hard to get – he introduces each cartoonist with a little Q&A, then shows a handful of their rejections.
I haven’t always liked New Yorker cartoons, and I can’t even quite explain when they started clicking for me, but now I’m a fan of the single-panel format, weird references, and kind of offbeat humor they usually contain. These cartoons are, for the most part, quite similar, but push a bit further one way or the other. You may find yourself agreeing to the rejection, or you may finally see the humor in some of these cartoonists who don’t usually make you laugh.
The only thing that didn’t really interest me was the question and answer sections. I think it’s good to have an introduction to each designer, but the FAQs were too mundane to be interesting (“Where do you get your ideas from?”) and the FAQs said more about Diffee than about artists (“Have you mooned or been mooned more often in your life?”). The number of people who answered “How did you start?” with something about their parents, or answered “If you used a pseudonym, what would it be?” with the name of a pen type, just shows you that there’s an art to asking questions that elicit interesting answers.
So if you want a collection of almost New Yorker cartoons that are just a little dirtier, more political, or weirder than what you find in the magazine, this one is worth reading. But maybe skip those Q&A pages.
My current stack
I have more comics in my stack, but that’s all I can do today! In the meantime, I’m done Upgrade by Blake Crouch and I’ll try to write about it next week. I just started reading This place this place by Nandita Danesh, a novel about an occupied nation and a relationship between one of the occupiers and the other of the occupied. It feels like a really relevant story right now, with how the characters deal with big political differences.
Disclosure: I have received review copies of the books in this column. Affiliate links to Bookshop.org help me support my writing and independent bookstores!