#FridayReads: Read A Book Day 2018

Yesterday was National Read A Book Day.

Well, Kelly, you might ask, did you read a book?

Well, I might respond, is the sky blue? Is the grass green? Do humans need oxygen to survive? Are we still trapped in a hell dimension?

Which is to say, of course I read a book.

I’ll say a bit about the book I read, but first I want to draw your attention to two delightful essays on books by two fantastic authors. The first is this Twitter thread by Chuck Wendig (you might remember him from the whole gay Star Wars character thing right before The Force Awakens came out, and also that he gives zero fucks about your bigotry).


It’s a long thread, which you should read, but here is my favorite tweet:

Ah, yes. So true, Chuck. So true.

But on a more serious note, books are magical portals of escape! It’s like having a space ship in your pocket. Or a time machine. Or a jet. Or all of these things, and then some.

And more than that, books are vitally important repositories of knowledge, wisdom, and stories–you know, those things that we’ve been making up since the dawn of time? Those things that form our worldviews, our mythology, our religions? Those foundational elements of our very society and humanity?

Neil Gaiman, whose work I’m 100% confident saying saved my fucking life in high school, wrote an essay on the importance of books, libraries, and librarians. Artist Chris Riddell illustrated it, and you should read the whole thing, but I want to put the following image in a frame. Or get it tattooed on my arm. Something.

Words by Neil Gaiman. Pictures by Chris Riddell. Click through for the full essay.

The text in the image reads: Fiction is the lie that tells the truth. We all have an obligation to daydream. We have an obligation to imagine. It is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that society is huge and the individual is less than nothing. But the truth is, individuals are the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different.

I was a miserable teenager. Depressed. Self-harming. Not *quite* suicidal, but man did I think a lot about suicide. Multiple English teachers took me aside to have conversations because they were worried I was going to hurt myself. They were right to worry. Thankfully, I had books. Books saved me. Those teachers saved me. Libraries saved me.

Books are fucking important, and if anyone tells you otherwise, they probably voted for our dipshit fuck president and you should probably run very far away from them

So back to what I was reading on National Read A Book Day.

Yesterday, I finished a re-read of Batman: Hush, which could easily go on my list of ten most important comics. I don’t remember the exact issue I started buying Batman month-to-month, but it was somewhere in the late 500s, and the Hush storyline started with #608, so it came pretty early in my Batman issue reading life. I’d read lots of Batman trade paperbacks before, but this was the first (Batman) storyline I remember reading piece by piece each month.

Reading Hush now took me right back to being an awkward goth teenager, convinced I was in love with a boy who certainly didn’t feel the same way, writing bad poetry about death, and escaping it all by submersing myself in novels and comic books.* I was prepared for my memory to not live up to the reality, but actually Hush is a pretty damn solid Batman story. It’s got everything a good Batman tale should have: Batman/Catwoman romantic tension, action-packed fights, a mystery that keeps you guessing, and Alfred’s dry humor.

Even back then, my bedroom was set up around my books. I had a bunk bed with a futon on the bottom. I hooked up a clip on desk lamp to the top and had pillows and a blanket to make a proper reading fort. The bookshelves in my room were cheap Ikea things, the actual shelves bowed from the number of books stacked onto them. I kept sturdy bags in my car for the sole purpose of filling them with library books whenever I had an excuse to be near the library

I remember reading Hush on that futon, my latest haul from the comic shop in a paper bag next to me, the issue spread across my lap. Thirty-two pages never took me long to read, but when I finished Batman, I had Ed Brubaker’s Catwoman. And then Fables. And then Star Wars. And after I’d gone through my monthly comics binge, I had David Weber’s Honor Harrington books, and Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan Saga, and Tolkien, and the volumes of Sandman I checked out of the library over and over.

Clearly, the whole book thing stuck, because now I write them, and teach other people how to write them, and work in a bookstore, where I get to talk about books all day.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

#FridayReads: Shirtless Bear-Fighter

I was over at a friend’s house to watch hockey, and on my way out after the game I saw a copy of a comic called Shirtless Bear-Fighter. The cover depicts a shirtless man in raggedy pants with exaggerated masculine features (seriously, his feet are huge). I paged through it and saw that this was, yes indeed, a comic about a man who fights bears while decidedly not wearing any clothes (his junk is pixelated so it remains PG-13, sort of). Curious reader that I am, I checked out Shirtless Bear-Fighter from the library via Hoopla and read it in under an hour.

Cover for the first issue of Shirtless Bear Fighter

I have several takeaways:

  1. WHAT IS THIS COMIC I DON’T EVEN KNOW
  2. BUT IT’S REALLY FUCKING FUNNY
  3. “Bear” is not limited to the large omnivorous mammal
  4. There are a lot of toilet paper and poop jokes (WHICH ARE HILARIOUS)
  5. The whole thing can be read as a fable about environmentalism and toxic masculinity
  6. ALSO IT’S REALLY FUCKING FUNNY
  7. Magic bacon.

First, if you find crude humor beneath you, don’t bother with this book. Second, if you can’t tell the difference between straight tropes and the skewering of said tropes, also probably don’t bother with this book. Still with me? GREAT.

Shirtless Bear-Fighter tells the story of a man named Shirtless, who was raised by bears in a lush mountain forest. The bears betrayed him when they killed his lover, and after that he vowed to fight every bear. Now, enraged bears are attacking major cities across the US, and the FBI calls in Shirtless to handle the problem. In the process he discovers that past events weren’t what they seemed and uncovers a plot by a greedy toilet-paper-company logger to turn the whole forest into TP. On the way Shirtless has to deal with multiple betrayals, bears high on magic bacon, and the fact that he probably definitely has a thing for Silva, the female FBI agent.

The creative team (Jody Leheup, Sebastian GirnerNil Vendrell, and Mike Spicer) do not take anything seriously. Shirtless is a hyperbole of our culture’s idea of what men should be, and that’s exactly what gets him into trouble. The issue of Shirtless’s dead lover reveals the cavalier way men treat women and highlights exactly why that is terrible and we should maybe stop doing that right now. Silva is not hyper sexualized and proves herself to be smart and resourceful–without her, Shirtless would fail his mission to save the forest.

So, here’s a comic that takes the most exaggerated masculine tropes and handles them in a subtle, brilliant, hilarious way. I’m definitely on board for a second volume (though it seems the creators are working on other projects right now, but a girl can hope).

New Year’s resolution: Read a bazillion comic books

I was looking some old posts from an earlier incarnation of this blog and found this New Year’s resolution post from January 23, 2018. This is basically my resolution every year, so? Still relevant. Today is not a great day for me, so instead of writing something new, here’s what I was reading in 2013!

Drawing of Sonic the Hedgehog

Witness my awesome drawing skills circa 1998.

I started 2013 out by reading a comic book every day for the first seven days. After that I dug into some thicker comics and broke my streak, but I’m still pretty much reading comics every day.

And it is freaking awesome.

Not to get all nostalgic, but when I was a kid my brother and I had a ton of Sonic the Hedgehog comics, and we read them over and over again. I still have all of them, but some of them are so well read the covers are falling off. Others are a little stained.

Those marks aren’t a sign of carelessness, but a sign of love. I took issues into school with me and “perfected” my Sonic drawing abilities (as you can well see!). My friend A. and I would play Sonic and Knuckles at recess and during sleepovers (where we also made it our missions to make as big a mess as possible and perhaps get into some minor trouble along the way).

I was never one of those kids who grew out of reading comics, I just switched from Sonic to Star Wars and a few select superhero titles (Batman and Catwoman, mostly), and then eventually to DC Vertigo titles like Sandman and Hellblazer. I read lots of manga as a teenager, too (and yes, I still do read lots of manga).

My current favorite series is far and away Bill Willingham’s Fables. I’m waiting for the next trades to come out, and in the meantime, sinking my eyeballs into Hellboy, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Frank Miller’s the Life and Times of Martha Washington, and more. (Note from 2018: Fables is over now and I AM SO SO SAD, but now D.J. is reading it which is so exciting because I know things that he doesn’t yet! And his guesses are so very wrong! I am a mean partner!)

Despite my nearly paralyzing fear of zombies (seriously, no joke, I am fucking terrified of zombies), I think I’m even going to try reading The Walking Dead. I keep hearing such great things about it, but we’ll see if I can read it. Ugh. Zombies. (Note from 2018: I tried. I lasted ten pages. NOPE NOPE NOPE)

But Hellboy? The Deadenders? Kill Shakespear? The Unwritten? Now those are some titles I can get behind (as in my face behind the book, reading it) without running away screaming or having awful nightmares as a consequence of a single glimpse. (Like, don’t even ask me how I reacted to reading a few pages of Marvel Zombies. Just don’t even.)