Monday, June 18, 2007

The Plain Janes

I just finished reading Cecil Castellucci's The Plain Janes, the first graphic novel to come out of DC's new MINX imprint.

I am VERY impressed. I mean, I knew I'd like the book if for no other reason than the incredible energy and excitement that Cecil and editor Shelley Bond had for it at the Paradise show. I take it as a VERY good sign when the author and editor show such an amazing passion and verve for the work.

And I have not been disappointed. I won't lie to you, I sat there on the couch and read the whole thing in one go, cover to cover. I've been waiting for the past week to read it, waiting for just the right time. I wanted to like this book so much that I tried to make sure I was in the best head space possible to read it.

I have not been disappointed. Its good. I mean, its really good. One of the purest breathes of fresh air to hit my reading list in a long time. Regular readers know me, you know what I normally read (pretty much anything to do with the occult, espionage, or my small number of favourite superheroes). But Cecil has created something truly wonderful.

The story itself is straightforward and works well in the space given. The focus on the four primary characters with a number of secondary and background characters creates a very slick story that, while written for young adults, is still approachable to older readers (myself, case in point).

The story focuses on "Main" Jane, who has moved from "Metro City" (no State named, but it is easy to read into as Everycity, America, in a post 9/11 War-on-Terror kind of world) to the suburbia of Kent Waters. One of the victims of a terrorist bombing, Jane has ended up on the outside of school society and at Buzz Aldrin High finds her "tribe" among a group of three other outcast girls...all of whom are also named Jane (well, Jayne [Brain Jane], Polly Jane [Sporty Jane], and Jane [Theatre Jane]). The tribe is brought together by their actions as PLAIN "People Loving Art in Neighbourhoods", staging art attacks around the town.

That's a really big simplification of the plot, but its...well, its so the kind of thing I *wish* I had been doing back in high school. The art attacks, I mean. Its the kind of thing I could easily have seen my art teacher at Mac organizing...and I'm sure that Oakville would have had more or less the same response as Kent Waters. But I digress.

What really makes the book special is the level of detail given to the characters. They are VERY distinctive, and not the typical cliches, which is what I find particularly appealing. Each has their own VERY distinct look, and artist Jim Rugg has found a way of drawing the Janes so that they look very...ordinary. Like most of the girls you went to high school with. Main Jane's outfit on the back cover looks almost like something out of late 1960s British TV (in a good way, its simple but very cool looking), while Theatre Jane looks more like many of the arts majors I know (though with an interest in a much broader range of theater than the strictly Shakespearian and classic American thespians you tend to see in literature). Brain Jane...did a frickin science project on "Can Humans Echolocate?" (I will say that, yes, I think we can...just not very well). And Sporty Jane likes Manchester United. These girls are all individuals, and the same goes for the other characters as well.

I really don't want to say too much more, I want people to come into the plot with the wonder of not knowing what's going to happen next. This is a book that really deserves your time, and with a price tag of $9.99US, its a steal for what you get.

In conclusion, giving the book two thumbs up. And seriously considering the art attack idea.


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Paradise Toronto ComicCon 2007 - Sunday (Day 3 [technically day 2])

First off, my Flickr has about 50+ pictures loaded up to it from the past two days, out of a choice of about 200, plus several movies.

Today was great. Not as great as yesterday, but then again yesterday was incredible. I spoke with Gail and Scott quite a bit, got to meet David Peterson (creator of "Mouse Guard"), as well as Stuart Immonen (artist on "Nextwave"). So that was all pretty cool. I also grabbed a few more of Gail's books to get signed (one of which ended up being address to "Patrick" before I corrected her).

But the true amusement of the day was hanging out with three Resident Evil LARPers as they ran around the con chasing the Evil Dead: the Musical zombies/deadites. I have probably about 10-12 minutes of them hunting around the con, and their final show down with the undead menance. Quite a bit of fun, for everyone involved.

Thing is, aside from having a lot of fun hanging out with people and chatting, I didn't DO a lot today. Didn't go to any panels (unlike the two and a half I went to yesterday), and the day itself was a shorter, with no party afterwards. Was still a GOOD day. I met a lot of fun people, but some very fun stuff, and had a lot of good conversations.

Headed out with a girl I went to class with this year and we grabbed something to drink at Second Cup before she went home. I went to a good Nepalese/Indian restaraunt I know, then came home to check email and upload the Evil Dead CD.

Big things from this weekend:
-hung out a lot with Gail and Scott Simon, Nicola Scott, and other pros (Cecil Catelucci, Patricia Mulvihil, Svetlana Chmakova). That was the most fun I had this weekend. Also got to see my previous acquaintances Ty Templeton, Sean Ward, and many others.
-Found a possible new artist for DELIVERY, and harassed Shawn Richter over the status of SUICIDE YAKUZA's pitch artwork.
-Bought...a lot of books. "Villains United" and "The Atom" by Gail (all signed), "Earthquake Weather" by Raina Telegmeir, "The Plain Janes" by Cecil Castelucci, "Miller and Mutt" by...well...Miller and Mutt, "The Mice Templar" by Mike Oeming, and others.
-Bought two CDs, one by Sean Ward and the "Evil Dead: the Musical" CD
-I got free booze last night

I needed this weekend. Feel VERY recharged now. Apologies for not being quite as journalistic as usual about today. I spent the last few hours in a hunger haze, hungry and tired and at times on the edge of falling flat on my face. But afterwards I got food and feel just A-OK now.


Paradise Toronto ComicCon 2007 - Saturday (Day 2 [technically day 1])

Didn't get to go to the con yesterday (Friday) due to work. Chef gave me tonight off to go to the con. I'm GLAD that he did. It was fucking AWESOME.

Arrived at the con around 1pm or so. A few hours off schedule, but while my bus-streetcar mojo was strong, it was still a bit of in terms of directions (had to take a bus THEN a streetcar, unlike last year which IIRC was JUST a bus). Things went well from the streetcar ride onwards, though. Ran into a few friendly people going to the con, and we hung out on the streetcar for a while, then into the con together (which involved a search for the wild ATM...unfortunately the speed of my bus-streetcar transfers was so fast that I didn't have time to get money out of the bank).

Once I got inside the con, though, it was like things just snapped into place. I immediatly started running into people who remembered me from the year prior, or just friendly folks in general. Ran into Gail Simone and her husband, Scott, pretty early, which was good. They're really cool people, so it was nice getting to talk to them. Gail missigned one of my Birds of Prey trades (don't ask me who she signed it looked perhaps a little suspiciously like "Barbara Gordon"...), so she insisted on Scott getting a new one for me for her to sign (while she kept the missigned one, which *I* then signed, for future reference work). I have an amusing picture of a little doodle she drew in someone's sketchbook (guy likes to get the WRITERS to do sketches for him...I think he just likes the look on their faces when he asks).

Had a short chat (then longer later on) with Patricia Mulvihill after that. Miraculously I managed to get a picture of Trish that she approved of (which means I probably WON'T get the "J'accuse!" glare on Sunday morning), which is always a plus.

After that there was just a lot of wandering. Ran into "Miller and Mutt", the zombie clown and pal who just got their first issue out. I'd actually gone to class with one of them, whose real name temporarily escapes me, back when I was doing the writing class at Max the Mutt studios under Ty Templeton (who was elusive as a frickin' fox today...I did NOT find the man until the Schuster Awards tonight!).

On the way I spent a great deal of time speaking with Sasha Chmakova, the sister of Svetlana Chmakova ("Dramacon"), mostly about small town life vs. big city, what our summers were like in 2006, and fishing. Svet eventually returned from a panel she'd been at, and I got her autograph (and apparently some little doodles) inside my copy of Dramacon 2. Wandering off for there, I had really good talks with Ray Fawkes about his work on Vampire: The Requiem, then Raina Telegmeir and husband, Dave Roman, about THEIR comic work, and how they were enjoying Toronto. Raina and Dave, unfortunately, had to leave to go to a wedding, but I picked up a few interesting looking things form their booths before they headed out.

Pulled a quick circuit of the guests, which ended up with me having a chat with Marv Wolfeman about the "Evil Dead" musical (which he'd been given free tickets to for Saturday night...Gail and Scott had already seen it on Friday), and the advice not to sit in the first three rows. From there I got my copy of "Cross Bronx" autographed by pretty much the entire writing and artistic team (Ivan Brandon, Oeming, Kristyn), and got my copy of "Ares: God of War" autographed by Oeming.

THAT led into me sneaking into the "Minx" panel, about DC's new line of young adult graphic novels. This one featured Cecil Castelucci and editor Shelley Bond talking about "The Plain Janes", Cecil's first (to my knowledge) graphic novel. It was actually a really good, really interesting panel (sorry, its just past 2am, my English is starting to break down)...and I got an amusing little video of Cecil singing a little Spanish song, which was amusing.

Jumped from there over to a writing workshop run by Gail, but jumped on that about 15-20 minutes in to go to a panel about Kiss Machine, a local Toronto zine that also publishes "Violet Miranda: Girl Pirate", of which I have talked about quite a bit previously. After THAT panel I wandered out onto the floor to take up the last bit of time before the show closed for the day. Spoke a bit with the owner of Mr. Comics, then wandered over to keep Trish company until her "native guide" showed up. Which was fun, we just chatted about stuff in general.

Then I headed off with a few friends to take the streetcar up to Bathurst, then took it back DOWN Bathurst to get dinner (finding out in the process that my iPod apparently has deleted all the music on it...very very weird, and pisses me off quite a bit).

Then it was the glamorous Joe Schuster Awards (someone pointed out that this meant that those inducted into the Schuster hall of fame were being inducted into "The JSA"). Last year the Schusters were held in a small, craped room, filled to the brim with people, with me standing in the back with Heidi MacDonald, trying desperately to get good photos on almost zero battery power, and a bad camera. THIS year I got a seat in the third or fourth row with Gail, Scott, artist Nicola Scott, and Marv Wolfeman. Which was very nifty (this also required helping Gail and Nikola learn the pronunciation of some of the Quebecois names for their presentation of awards).

The Schusters were long, but didn't seem quite as long as last year (that may have just been the fact it probably WAS the chair). Got some good photos, and a few amusing videos. Gail and, I won't speak of it. I said I'd save them from the embarrassment. Anyway...the awards weren't too bad. Darwyn Cooke managed to walk away with THREE of them (he couldn't believe it), which kind of amazed everyone. Then afterwards there was cake, then downstairs for the afters party.

The bar was small, the food was pretty bad, and the drinks were expensive as all hell. But it was nice getting to meet and greet so many people, and just generally sit (or in most cases *stand*) around and talk. Had some good conversations with several people, including FINALLY getting to meet Natasha Eloi (of Space: The Imagination Station fame [for those who aren't aware, SPACE is the Canadian version of SCIFI, and Natasha is one of their big people-on-the-street videographers]).

Also met a potential artist for Delivery, which is cool. And met several other very friendly people, which is good. I finally just excused myself when I started getting TOO exhausted (around 1am or so), and headed home.

Photos will be posted to Flickr soon. But now I go to sleep. Then tomorrow I get up and do it again. Should be lots of fun.

Final con post tomorrow. Along with photos.