Tag Archives: graphic novels

Review: ‘Incognegro’ by Mat Johnson

After hearing a very interesting NPR interview with Mat Johnson, I decided I simply had to read Incognegro.  Mr. Johnson’s lives and experiences are clearly an inspiration for the superhero known as Incognegro as well as inspiration for his other writings. He describes himself as “mulatto”, being the son of an African-American mother and an Irish-American father.  The struggles of growing up being seen differently by different people is a struggle which I personally often thought about, even though I’m as Western European-American as you can get. As you may know, I’m an Adult Reference Librarian who maintains the adult graphic novel collection at a large urban public library.  You may also know that I’m a self-described geek and anti-racist and a family historian.

I’d seen the graphic novel come and go off the shelves.  My reading list was so long, I told myself I’d get there eventually.  After hearing that interview (linked above), I moved it up the list.

This graphic novel places us in the 1930s where a light-skinned journalist, Zane, goes undercover as a white man in the American South to investigate lynchings for a newspaper based in Harlem.  His newspaper publishes his work under the name ‘Incognegro’.  This means he goes without recognition outside of the office, which is something he grapples with.  He wants people to know that he’s the writer known as Incognegro.

Throughout the graphic novel, we are faced with uncomfortable realities about race in America, past and present. I find the straight forward unapologetically honest tone of this graphic novel refreshing.  The writing is grounded and the black and white artwork, done by illustrator Warren Pleece, doesn’t try to blunt the honest tone.

“Race doesn’t really exist,” Zane says.  “Race is just a bunch of rules meant to keep us on the bottom.  Race is a strategy.  The rest is just people acting.  Playing roles.  That’s what white folks never get. They don’t think they have accents.  They don’t think they eat ethnic foods.  Their music is classical. They think they’re just normal.  That they are the universal and that everyone else is an odd deviation from form. That’s what makes them so easy to infiltrate.”

Grade: 4.5/5

Other works by Mat Johnson:

  • Drop
  • Hunting in the Harlem
  • Hellblazer: Papa Midnite
  • The Great Negro Plot
  • Dark Rain: A New Orleans Story
  • Pym
  • Right State
  • Loving Day

-The McNabbist

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Reading “Preacher” by Garth Ennis

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Last month, I received an email in my inbox from AMC promoting their new television series Preacher.  As a graphic novels librarian and a major fan of AMC’s The Walking Dead, I knew that the new AMC series was based on a graphic novel series by Garth Ennis.  So, despite it not being my genre of interest, I decided to read the first volume of the series before watching the television series*.

Like when looking forward to seeing upcoming films, I went in completely blind.  I didn’t read any reviews, I didn’t flip through the pages to decide whether to read it.  I didn’t even read a synopsis.  I just jumped right in!

*MILD SPOILER WARNING*

After reading the first few pages, I’m sure I looked something like this: o_O

The premise started off interesting – A preacher, Jesse Custer, in Texas who lost his cool with his flawed and unchanging flock whose hypocrisy made him question everything he believed.  An unknown being, called Genesis, travels towards Earth and enters the body of Custer and in the process, kills Custer’s whole flock.  On the journey ahead, he meets up with an Irish Vampire (Cassidy) and an ex-lover (Tulip) as they search for God who, we learn, has abandoned his post and is somewhere on Earth.

As I said, interesting premise.  Despite being raised Agnostic, even I cringed at some of the blasphemy in this graphic novel.  Add to that, the crude and profane language, and I was immediately sure Mother Theresa wouldn’t have approved.  I personally found it a bit too dark and profane for my personal taste and I was a bit shocked to find not a single character that wasn’t a bit…too disturbing for me.  Having said that, I realize that no human is perfect and that we are all battling inner demons, and maybe that’s one of Ennis’s points.  While I believe that Ennis is clearly a good writer and it making interesting social commentary, I think he relies a little too much on shock value.  My personal grade: B-

However, don’t make your final decision based on my review alone.  As I said, not exactly my genre.  There were numerous positive reviews, including those who were offended by so interested to see what happened next, they simply couldn’t put it down.  Which is definitely the mark of a well-written graphic novel.  It also made Rolling Stone’s 50 best non-superhero graphic novels!

If you don’t mind more than mild spoilers, visit these sites for reviews or more info:

CG Magazine

EE Times

Goodreads

Wikipedia

*You can watch the first season of Preacher here.

If you’re already read it, or you read it after reading this review, respond to this blog post and let me know your thoughts!

-TheMcNabbist

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Star Trek Mission Chicago – 50th Anniversary Report, Part 1 (Thursday and Friday)

From Thursday evening through Sunday late afternoon, I was in Chicago to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of my favorite franchise – Star Trek.  To see the full lineup, visit here.  This report isn’t meant to challenge anyone else’s views of the franchise, the actors, or politics; it is simply an honest report of my experience and the things that I enjoyed.

I bought my Silver Weekend Package months in advance.  I shouldn’t have gone as I had a trip planned to Peru for May-June 2016 and really couldn’t afford both.  But, after viewing the list of special guests, I had to go!

I arrived in Chicago at 7:30pm on Thursday evening.  I organized my hotel room and rested for a bit before I visited convention registration to got my badges.  The vendors that had arrived were open for a preview and purchasing.  I went ahead and purchased images for those whose my Silver Weekend Package gave me for free, as I didn’t have images of them already to sign (except William Shatner).  Those are Nana Visitor (Kira, DS9), Casey Biggs, Vaughn Armstrong (Admiral Forrest, Enterprise), and Jeffrey Combs (Shran of Enterprise and Wayoun and Brunt of DS9).  I also picked up an event schedule.  I returned to my hotel room and planned out my coming days at the convention; which panels to see, when to get my photo ops, and when to eat meals.  While doing so, I watched Star Trek: First Contact, a TNG movie I’d not seen in quite some time.  And, to celebrate International Literacy Day, I began reading The Entropy Effect by McIntyre*.

Friday is when the convention action really got underway.  It is no surprise to those that know me that I slept in too late.  I arrived just in time to see the Armin Shimerman (Quark, DS9) panel.  A live band opened for Armin Shimerman, playing a Tears for Fears song, which was really unexpected.  This was the first Star Trek convention that opened for all of their major guests with a live band performing.  Most of his discussion was crowd-led since he took questions from almost the beginning.  Among the things I learned during his talk were that he was a fan of Star Trek: The Original Series so landing a role on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was like a dream for him; he felt he’d won the lottery.

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He recounted when he and his and his DS9 cast mates went to the theater together to see the Star Trek parody film Galaxy Quest.  Many of the other people in the theater recognized the cast and he and other cast mates noticed regularly that many people looked at them throughout the movie to see their reactions.   He says this is one of his most favorite films!

The most interesting tidbits I learned in his discussion, are that the Ferengi were meant to replace the Klingons for the TNG universe as the evil, warrior-like foes.  He starred in an episode of TNG that first introduced us to this alien race.  He blames a low budget and his own representation of the Ferengi for the redefining of the Ferengi culture as we knew it in Deep Space Nine.  The second interesting tidbit was that Deep Space Nine was based on the contemporary Serbian/Bosnian conflict, which is why it has a darker tone than the previous Star Trek series.

He spoke at length about his love of Shakespeare and his stage work.  These comments  sparked my favorite audience question throughout the whole weekend: “As a theater actor would you agree that Shakespeare is better in the original Klingon?”  This got a really big laugh from everyone in the audience.  He admits, he’s never read Shakespeare in Klingon.

After Shimerman left the stage, Casey Biggs and Vaughn Armstrong took the stage.  They clearly are on stage together quite often as they had a natural rapport and played off each other’s jokes quite well.  There was a little less content to this particular panel; however, they did play some parody Star Trek songs they’d created together.  Photos below!

After their panel, I walked around and did a bit of browsing in the vendors’ area trying to determine which items to purchase.  Always a tough task as almost everything was awesome.  I came prepared and had brought with me an organized list of all of the collectibles and comic books that I already owned so I’d not accidentally buy dupes.

Afterwards, I went to on Friday was the Yes/No Trivia Game.  I was too scared to go up knowing that there were people here that knew way more about Star Trek than me.  While I am quite a Trekkie, I don’t bother to memorize episode names and minute details.  However, while there, I found my favorite cosplayer of the weekend – Nautical Data from Star Trek Generations.

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After lunch, I went to the Nana Visitor (Kira, DS9) and Rene Auberjonois (Odo, DS9) panel. A favorite questions by the audience were questions about the relationship between their characters.  They began discussing romantic scenes between the two of them and she was commenting on how talented Rene was and ended with this following comment:

(To Rene Auberjonois) “You had this romance scene where you were a mist and we made love. You were great.”

One of my favorite comments by Nana was that she felt it was very important to show non-romantic relationships between men and women on television.  As a tomboy, I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment!

Rene reminisced about being cast in The Patriot along with Mel Gibson and spoke briefly about Heath Ledger and how his death was such a loss.  He also talked about his support of Doctors Without Borders after a question from the audience, saying he thinks they do great work and a lot of the convention money he gets goes to them.

Is it just me or is Nana still stunning?

The last discussion that I attended was the Leonard Nimoy Presentation by Richard Arnold, a personal assistant to Gene Roddenberry and who starred in minor roles in various movies and series.  It was a photographic history of Leonard throughout his life with brief commentary.  I’m including what I feel are the best photos from that presentation for your enjoyment.

Among the information that I learned about Leonard Nimoy in this presentation is that he received numerous death threats while filming TOS because he was Jewish and it was for this reason, that he delayed so long in going to Germany for conventions.  He eventually overcame this fear and had a great time at Star Trek conventions in Germany.  Also, in the first season, he only made 1/4 the salary that William Shatner did and he refused to return for the second season unless his salary was increased.

After getting autographs from Vaughn Armstrong, Casey Biggs, Jeffrey Combs, and Nana Visitor, I returned to my room and watched 50 Years of Star Trek, a special on the History Channel, and read Planet of the Apes (Boom Studios), Volume 1.

– The McNabbist

Coming soon, Part 2 of this report (covering Saturday of the convention).

*See a previous post on this blog’s celebration of the 50th Anniversary, which includes an online reading club!

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Women, Graphic Novels, and Gaming

Hey, chicas! Are you tired of hearing the (old and lame) stereotype that comic books, graphic novels, and games are for men? I know that I am. While I certainly believe that some comic book/game creators, writers, and artists need  a lesson in why sexism and homophobia suck, not all games or comic books alienate women. And, it needs to be recognized in the industry, and among male fans, that we are here, we are fans, and we would like to be respected as consumers. I invite you to write about your favorite comic books, graphic novels, and games in the comments section. I would love to hear what you love, what you’re reading, and what you think about the treatment of women in those same titles. Personally, that matters a great deal to me. I don’t like supporting writers/creators/companies economically that demean women. But, let me hear your opinions. Let’s prove that stereotype wrong!!!

Here are a few of my faves:

Comic Books/Graphic Novels (all-time faves)

  1. Earth 2 – I like the diversity in this alternate universe!
  2. Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who Crossover – This has Captain Picard in it. Enough said.
  3. The Walking Dead – While there are females that try to enforce gender roles in this graphic novel, there are also a few female characters that knowingly and regularly defy those roles. Does anyone remember the conversation between Lori and Andrea? BOOM.
  4. Umbrella Academy
  5. The Guild – About a geeky, introverted woman who loves gaming. What isn’t there to like?! Did I mention that Felicia Day is the mind behind it! (You should also check out the webseries!)

Games (all-time faves)

  1. Dragon Age: Origins
  2. Dragon Age: Awakenings (DLC)
  3. World of Warcraft – While there are plenty of sexist assholes playing on the WoW servers, there are also a lot of females running around who don’t mind (myself included) calling those assholes out.
  4. Plants vs. Zombies – For when I’m looking for easy entertainment.
  5. Mortal Kombat – This has been one of my favorite since I was a teen. I remember the thrill I would get at kicking dudes butts while playing a female character in the game. BEST.
  6. FTL – You can get a Star Trek mod for this game. What isn’t to love? You never know what to expect in this game, which is an interesting and delightful change from most games I’ve played.

I’m about to start The Walking Dead games via Steam soon. Has anyone played? Thoughts?

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