Neil Gaiman, Eternals

(2016-04-28 001)Title: Eternals

Author: created by Jack Kirby; Neil Gaiman, writer; John Romita, Jr., pencils

Publication Information: New York, NY: Published by Marvel Publishing, Inc., a subsidiary of of Marvel Entertainment, Inc., 2007

ISBN: 0-7851-2541-8 (978-0-785-12541-9)

Library of Congress Classification: PN6727.G35

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Fantasy comic books, strips, etc.
Young adult fiction, English

Having collected all of Jack Kirby’s original Eternals title and just about every Eternals mini-series that Marvel Comics ever published, I am wary of where this graphic novel is going. It seems that Marvel, in the best imitation of DC Comics, wants to reconstitute the Eternals.

Originally, the Eternals were one of the races created by the Celestials, an omnipotent race that visited Earth thousands of years ago. The other two races were the Deviants, those whose physical forms varied because their DNA was completely unstable, and Humans, namely us. The Eternals were the beautiful ones, living for thousands of years, each with differing powers and the ability to fly. They came to live on the mountaintops; Humanity occupied Earth; the Deviants lived under the earth. Kirby intended the Eternals to having been mistaken by Humans as the ancient Greek gods. However, when Marvel originally folded the Eternals into the regular Marvel Universe, where the Greek gods–like the Norse–already existed, it was explained that Humans sometimes mistook the Eternals for their gods, but this was okay with Zeus; he had reached an agreement with Zuras, the head of the Eternals. The most prominent Eternals, besides Zuras, were Thena, Ikarus, Sersi, and Makkari.

Now Marvel wants to redefine who the Eternals are. Thena has had affairs with Ikarus, Makkari and other Eternals; she has a child which she bore to a Human male who was killed. She refuses to give up the child, and Zuras allows her to keep it, although he warns her about the trouble the child will cause. The affairs of Humans are of no concern to the Eternals; the previous relationships Ikarus and others had with them are gone. The Deviants, always a threat to the Eternals and, by extension, Humanity, are plotting another attempt to takeover the planet.

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(2018-05-11 002) DELETETitle: Heir to the Empire

Author: Timothy Zahn

Publication Information: New York: Del Rey, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-553-29612-9

Library of Congress Classification: PS3576.A33

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Skywalker, Luke (Fictitious character)–Fiction
Organa, Leia (Fictitious character)–Fiction
Solo, Han (Fictitious character)–Fiction
Interplanetary voyages–Fiction

This book was one of a trilogy that was originally released in hardback in 1991-1992. I owned all three books but never read them. Since I’m finished with my thesis and my M.A., I decided to give it a try.

It is four years after the fall of the Empire. The New Republic is struggling along as it gets larger and larger, pushing back the remnants of Imperial forces. However, there’s a dark force that the Republic does not know about, and he is slowly gathering ships and men. He is Grand Admiral Thrawn, one of the Emperor’s warlords, who was commanding a sector of the Empire on the outer fringes. He has now come back, and is slowly calculating how to bring about the New Republic’s demise.

Meanwhile, Princess Leia and Han are overworked as they put out the diplomatic brush fires that happen constantly in the New Republic. Married, they are expecting twins. Leia has also begun her training in using the Force from her brother, Luke. Luke has not yet begun to build a new Jedi Order. Even though Admiral Ackbar is supreme commander of the Republic’s forces, he finds that his authority is constantly being challenged by Fey’lya, one of the councilors who seeks more power.

Thrawn finds someone strong in the Dark Side of the Force to begin calling to Luke. For Leia, he has the Noghri out to kidnap her. He raids Lando’s city and steals equipment that he uses against the Republic shipyards. The attack on the shipyards is the first step, Thrawn tells the captain of his ship, in the final defeat of the Rebel Alliance.

I remember when these books were released. These were the first Star Wars novels ever to be released in hardback. They were so successful that they were re-released in paperback, with 2016 being the most recent. This trilogy is now branded Legends, as it does not fit into the official Star Wars canon. It was a fun, fast read. I do understand why so many fans were upset with Disney when they chose to ignore the “established” sequel that the novels created to the movies. In many cases, the novels had well-written plots that were very good.

In any case, I have to recommend this book to any Star Wars fan who hasn’t yet read it.

T. J. Klune, How to be a Normal Person

(2018-04-30 001) DELETETitle: How to be a Normal Person

Author: T. J. Klune

Publication Information: Tallahassee, FL : Published by Dreamspinner Press, c2015

ISBN: 978-1-63476-579-4 (digital); 978-1-63476-578-7 (print)

Library of Congress Classification:
PS3611.L86

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Gay men–Fiction
Drug utilization–Fiction
Asexual people–Fiction

Gustavo Tiberius is not normal. He knows this and so does everyone in Abby, Oregon. He has a ferret named Harry S. Truman, and he reads encyclopedias before he goes to bed. He talks to as few people as possible, which isn’t too hard since he runs a video rental store. Besides the few customer interactions he has, he talks to Lottie, who owns Lottie’s Lattes, and three elderly women known as the We Three Queens. They ride Vespas.

His life continues in it’s daily rut until he meets asexual stoner and hiptser Casey, a relative of Lottie’s who has come to stay in Abby. The world Gus knows is thrown completely out of order as he cannot resist the attraction to the hip stoner. Therefore Gus decides that he wants to be “normal.” Gus goes to great lengths to discover the “secrets” of being a “normal” person so that Casey would like him.

I’ve never read a book by T.J. Klune, but I fell in love with this one almost immediately. Gus lost his father, Pastor Tommy (he’s not really a cleric, just a title given to him by everyone in Abby), a few years before the story begins; his mother left them when Gus was five. Gus is anti-social and tries to control all interactions he has with people. (My impression was that he might be on the autism spectrum.) He limits the time he talks to them and has no real interest in small talk, but all this begins to change.

The book is quite sweet. Gus wants so badly to be with Casey that he finds an Internet site on how to be normal and then proceeds to use the information with hilarious results. There is a lot of drug use in the book, Pastor Tommy being a pothead and Casey having used the drug off and on. This seemed to offend a few people who gave the book bad reviews on Amazon. Casey, being asexual, really isn’t interested in the act of sex; he prefers hugs, so there are no hot and heavy sex scenes.

I wondered about Gus’ relationship with Pastor Tommy, but it unfolds over the course of the entire book. We learn that there was real love Pastor Tommy had for his son, and that Gus really misses his father. (Pastor Tommy died of cancer.) It’s quite poignant. The book is cleverly written.

The book was thoroughly enjoyable, and I highly recommend it.

 

Darwin Porter, Those Glamorous Gabors: Bombshells from Budapest

2017-01-21-025Title: Those Glamorous Gabors: Bombshells from Budapest

Author: Darwin Porter

Publication Information: [United States?]: Blood Moon Productions, c2013

ISBN: 978-1-936003-35-8

Library of Congress Classification:
PN2285

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Gabor, Zsa Zsa, 1917-2016
Gabor, Eva, 1921-1995
Gabor, Magda, 1915-1997

The caption on the cover is, “Great courtesans of the 20th century,” which should give you an idea of what type of book this is.

Darwin Porter writes tomes, big ones, hundreds of pages long. I’ve read one other book of his, Hollywood’s Silent Closet: a Novel, and this book is as big as the one on the Gabors.

Porter primarily centers on Zsa Zsa, but covers all three Gabor sisters and their mother, Jolie. All three sisters took chances with the men they were allowing to woo them. All three were raped at one point in their lives, Magda by Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi in control of Budapest, even though she was married to the Portuguese attaché at the time.

This is a tell-all book about who slept with who, who was lying about their bedroom partners in their autobiographies, who was passed between the sisters, and who got away. The information about their movies and their interactions with the stars at the time is gossipy, but nonetheless entertaining. Porter primarily spends most of the time in the 40s, 50s, and 60s, when the Gabors were young and vibrant. It is interesting to read about the competitiveness of the Gabor sisters, particularly Zsa Zsa and Eva.

What does emerge is how these sisters were shaped by the desires of their mother, who wanted them to make rich marriages. Zsa Zsa was married more times (9) than her two sisters (Eva, 5; Magda, 6). At the time the book was written (2013), Zsa Zsa was still alive, and Porter dedicated the book to her.

Like I said, it’s a big book at 752 pages (including the index). If you were a Gabor watcher or if you like the gossip of old Hollywood, you might want to read this book.

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(2016-07-08 001)Title: Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow?

Author: Brian Fies

Publication Information: New York: Abrams Comicarts, c2009

ISBN: 978-0-8109-9636-6

Library of Congress Classification: PN6727.F483

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Technological innovations–Comic books, strips, etc.
Fathers and sons–Comic books, strips, etc.
Comic books, strips, etc.–United States

The book centers on a father and son. The timeline of father and son is distorted; the son and father age far slower than in the real world. The son is the narrator, and the book begins with them going to the New York World’s Fair in 1939 at Flushing Meadows in Queens. From here, the book walks through the decades of the 20th century, as we see the son (very slowly) growing up. He is a teenager in the 1950s through the 1970s.

What people of the time saw in terms of the advancement of science and technology–flying cars, living on other planets, super cities, etc.–would better life. It all started at the World’s Fair. Father and son, very close at that time, slowly grow apart as the 1950s give way to the 1960s and the distrust of government, which reaches a zenith with Watergate in the 1970s.

The abandonment of exploring space with the end of the Apollo Program was the most glaring error made by the United States. However, even by criticizing the Earth-centered Space Shuttle Program, author Fies reveals the advances in technology that happened from the experiments made on the shuttle missions: computers, cell phones, new appliances, medical advances, etc. So, even though the future did not look like what people in the 1930s envisioned, there have been great technological advances that subtly (or maybe not so subtly) changed our lives. None was as exciting as the flying car or living in houses in the sky a la The Jetsons, but technology nonetheless has had major impacts and has reshaped society–for better or worse.

As each decade is shown with the father-son interaction, there’s the evolution also taking place in a comic book–a comic book within a comic book (graphic novel): Space Age Adventures, starring Commander Cap Crater and Cosmic Boy. Changes in attitudes over time are mirrored here as well. For example, women begin as being visible with little or no power in a minor role and end up in important command positions.

Perhaps the most astounding–and thought-provoking–change in the comic book is the transformation that Cap and Cosmic Boy’s arch-enemy, Xandra, goes through. In the 1930s Xandra is the typical mad scientist out to conquer the world, By the early 21st century, Xandra accepts and becomes part of the status quo. In what was the final issue of Space Age Adventures, Cap confronts Xandra. Xandra tells Cap that he can become a capitalist, sell his inventions legitimately, make billions and take over the world. Infuriated, Cap tries to arrest him only to be stopped by his former allies in authority. Cap is told that Xandra has paid for his crimes and that no one who follows the law can be arrested. Even Cosmic Boy, now finding that he has groupies, decides to stay around on Earth. Demoralized, Cap returns to his Moon base. Food for thought in this world of runaway capitalism.

(2016-05-18 008)The book ends with a young girl being talked to by her grandfather–the former father–and her father–who was the son–about technology and the future. They do this from a city on the Moon.

An enjoyable book.

Bruce Eric Kaplan, Edmund and Rosemary go to Hell

(2016-04-28 001)Title: Edmund and Rosemary go to Hell

Author: Bruce Eric Kaplan

Publication Information: New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007

ISBN: 1-4165-4549-2 (978-1-4165-4549-1)

Library of Congress Classification: PS3561.A5534

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Life–Comic books, strips, etc.
Hell–Comic books, strips, etc.
Life–Humor
Hell–Humor

This is brilliant.

Edmund and Rosemary are a married couple that decide to go for a walk one Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn. They come to the conclusion that the world is truly an ugly, unhappy place. People on cell phones, lousy movies, chain stores offering no health care, evil corporations, traffic everywhere–there was no respite. It is at this point that Edmund and Rosemary conclude that they are living in Hell.

Of course everyone assures them that they are not, in fact, living in Hell. They contact their governmental representatives and end up talking to a spineless, top governmental official in D.C. who confirms that they are, indeed, in Hell. Anyone who discovers that we live is Hell is given a huge lottery win as hush money. And so Edmund and Rosemary start their new lives, but find that they still aren’t happy.

This is a wonderful little book to read on those days when the world seems worse than usual. Edmund and Rosemary are those of us who just get fed up with the world and want a way to escape–but there is no escape, so what do we do to make ourselves feel better?

Read the book. The line drawings only add to the fun.

Dan Piraro, Bizarro Heroes

(2016-04-19 001)Title: Bizarro Heroes

Author: Dan Piraro

Publication Information: San Francisco, CA: Last Gasp, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-867-19756-3

Library of Congress Classification: PN6727.P47

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Superheroes–Comic books, strips, etc.
Superheroes–Humor
American wit and humor, Pictorial

I found this book in P!Q in Grand Central Terminal on the way to work. I laughed my head off.

Cartoonist Dan Piraro draws a comic online called Bizarro. This book must be cartoons culled from the title. I had never heard of Bizarro, but the book has some great cartoons in it. One captioned “Spiderman Walking His Dog” (2016-04-19 002)shows an ordinary street scene with people walking down the street. Up in the right hand corner is a dog on a least who is choking. Apparently Spiderman doesn’t “walk” his dog but zips around on his webs, dragging poor Fido with him. In another, the Joker strikes again at the diner, where Batman and Robin are eating and Batman has discovered that the top of the salt shaker has been loosened.

I liked the book so much that I bought one for a friend of mine. This is just a fun book that will make you laugh.