{Graphic Novel Week} If I Were a Superhero …

Graphic Novel Week

the adventures of superhero girlIt’s Graphic Novel Week! When I started the week, I didn’t know that I would start it off reading a song that immediately called for a song, but when I started reading The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks, this song I wrote about 5 years ago came to mind … it just fits in so perfect!

Go ahead and take a listen. I’ll wait.


Have you read the book? Did you listen to the song? They kinda work together, right?

First of all, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to read this one since I hadn’t heard anything about it, so I didn’t know what it was about. I also had a HUGE list of books to read so I didn’t know if I should bump this up to the top of my list BUT I also felt like I should read it since I hadn’t heard of it, which made it a good pick to read first.

Does any of that make sense?

ANYWAY. This book was pretty freaking awesome. I assumed it would be just a normal superhero book (think Batman, or something of the like), and in a way it was, but it was also crazy hilarious and completely different from anything I was expecting. I kind of thought it was just a book for kids, but it works for kids and adults (though, at some point a few of the characters go to a club and get drunk, so maybe it’s not totally for kids) … basically, if you’re looking for something awesome and funny, something you’ll want to recommend to beginner graphic novel readers, this is the book to go to.

If you’re like me and the first thought of graphic novels and comics means superheroes, then this book is perfect because it pokes fun at books like that. It pokes fun at superheroes in general, but in such a fun and lighthearted way — I couldn’t put it down! And the illustrations were perfect, too. I loved how detailed they were, the colours, and they basically fit this genre perfectly.

Highly, highly recommended if you’re looking for some fun stories, if you want to laugh, and if you have a short amount of time to read and just want to read something good. Plus, the author is Canadian, so you’ll be exposing yourself to even more amazing Canadian talent! I’m very interested to read more of what Erin Faith Hicks has to offer … by the looks of it she has quite a few books available, so I’m excited to check them out!

Have you read this book? What’s a graphic novel that surprised you? 


{Graphic Novel Week} Interview with Canadian author Ashley Spires, and a conversation with myself about Binky the Space Cat

Graphic Novel Week

What is with all of the AMAZING Canadian authors out there? Seriously, Canada, you deserve a pat on the back — you’ve got some good ones in you!

Anyway, when I’m looking for a new book at the library, I’m usually surfing through the new books on the online catalog. Since I knew I wanted to read some more graphic novels, I searched through the newest graphic novels and Binky the Space Cat was one of them.

Major, major love for this cat. But more on that later in this post. First off, I have an interview with Ashley, the creator of this loveable cat. I’m excited to have her on the blog today!

ashley bires1. Why did you become a writer and illustrator? What (or who) inspired you to do what you do?

I grew up wanting to be an animator for Disney but after my drawing confidence took some hits in my late teens I went to art school for photography. It was there that I took a book making course with a teacher who encouraged me to make silly drawings and stories. It was like being struck by lightning. Suddenly I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life!

2. What is the atmosphere like when you write – completely silent, or do you listen to music? What helps you create?

When I’m writing I need complete silence. I write best in the morning and if I get stuck on something I will lay down and close my eyes and shut out the world. I find the mind is the most open the moments before and after sleep. When it comes to the drawing part, I love devouring TV shows while I paint! I draw best when I’m doing two things at once (drawing and watching TV, or drawing and talking, etc.)

3. Do you find that your illustrations are evolving over time? Or do you try to stick to certain themes and styles when you’re creating?

I sure hope I’m evolving! I think most illustrators would say that they hope each book gets better than the last. Playing with different media will always help one’s style evolve as well. That said, certain things will remain the same with all my drawings I’m sure. That’s the thing about having a visual style- it’s a part of you, like fingerprints, and it will always be present in some way.

4. What book are you reading right now?

I’ve just finished The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (which I cried through, it was so beautiful) and I’ve just started The Table of Less Valued Knights by Marie Phillips (which I’m laughing through so it’s all balancing out.)

5. I love being a Canadian, especially getting to travel and see the beauty of the country. Do you have any favourite Canadian spots?

I had no idea how much travelling is involved with writing and illustrating! I’m always on a plane it seems. I’ve been to almost every province and I’ve had a few favourites: Port Elgin in Ontario has the most amazing sandy beaches, all of PEI was just stunning and, of course, Vancouver Island. I was in Nanaimo jogging one morning and I watched an Otter and a Seal playing. How can you not love that?

6. When you’re not writing or making illustrations, what do you do in your spare time?

I don’t have as much spare time as I’d like! It’s important, with a creative job like this, to let yourself play with drawing now and again to help get new ideas, so when I have a moment free from drawing for a project, I draw for me. Other than that I jog, bike ride, walk and play with my beloved cats and dog.

7. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors or illustrators?

I think the most important things to do when you are trying to get into this business is to practice, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and, when you get feedback, accept it gracefully. I think two skills are vital in this business: being open to criticism and being willing to work like a mad person.

8. Can you share any details on what you might be working on next? Would you ever consider writing a graphic novel for the older generation? (Although, I have to say that Binky the Space Cat is perfect for ALL ages!)

Aw, thanks! Who doesn’t love a farting cat right? I don’t have anything for an older crowd in the works yet but I am working on three books right now (phew!) I’m doing a book related to my latest picture book about an over-scheduled chickadee. I’m illustrating a picture book for another author, Alison Hughes. And I’m working on a spin-off of Binky staring the head space cat himself, Sergeant Fluffy Vandemere. He’s going to be channeling Die Hard’s John McClane. I’m still trying to figure out a way to sneak in the line, “Yippie-ki-yay Motherfuzzer.”

Connect with Ashley: 

binky the space catAnd now … a conversation with myself about Binky the Space Cat.

Me #1: So, you read a new graphic novel, huh?

Me #2: Yup. A novel about a space cat!

Me #1: A space cat?

Me #2: Yup! His name is Binky and he’s protecting his humans from evil bugs!

Me #1: Evil bugs? Really?

Me #2: Yes! Aren’t all bugs evil? I mean, we’re in Alberta. The mosquito is pretty much our mascot. Anyway, he’s a certified space cat and the bugs are aliens.

Me #1: I’m confused. The bugs are aliens?

Me #2: Aliens! Binky can’t leave his space station due to the fact that it’s outer space outside so he protects his humans inside.

Me #1: But it’s obviously not outer space outside, you know that right?

Me #2: Of course, but Binky doesn’t! Once you step out the door, you must be very well protected or else you could float away! Plus, the lack of oxygen and everything.

Me #1: What age is this story written for? I mean, you know that that’s not true, right?

Me #2: Okay, it might be a book for little kids, but I like to believe it’s a book for everyone. And who doesn’t like cats?

Me #1: You. You don’t like cats. Remember?

Me #2: Okay, maybe I don’t like cats, but I like Binky. You know why?

Me #1: Why?

Me #2: Because Binky is AWESOME. I mean, he’s funny, smart, and full of heart. And he farts.

Me #1: He farts?

Me #2: Yup. I mean, you know it’s a classy book when it involves farting.

Me #1: What are you? 5 years old?

Me #2: At heart, maybe. At any rate, I fell in love with Binky and his cuteness. He loves his humans and just wants to protect them. Sure he’s not smart all the time, but he tries. He’s really everything you could want in a cat.

Me #1: So, are you a cat person now?

Me #2: Only with Binky. Baby steps.

(Just writing this, I thought about a book I read a few years back, The Cat From Outer Space. This is really on another level from that one. Binky is so much easier to connect with and I promise, you’ll fall in love with him, too. When it comes to cats from outer space, he really is tops. AND Ashley is Canadian, so it just shows that we have some great Canadian talent.)

Do you read graphic novels meant for smaller people? Are you embarrassed by it? Because I’m totally not. 


{Graphic Novel Week} Graphic Novel Review Round-Up #1 (This One Summer, Ghost World, and more!)

Graphic Novel Week

Instead of throwing multiple review posts at you each day, I figured I’d do a few review round-up posts with mini reviews! This month I’ve been trying to read a lot more graphic novels, so there are a LOT of reviews to get through!

this one summerThis One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

I loved this story of Rose who travels to the summer house every year with her parents. She hangs out with her friend Windy each year, but this year it’s a little different. Rose is on that cusp between teenager and adulthood, but Windy is younger than her so she seems a little young to Rose at points of the story. Rose is also having different feelings, towards boys, towards Windy, towards her parents … it’s really a book that anyone can relate to if they were a teenage girl at some point (which is basically all women). This story is also great because it’s not just about Rose and Windy, but there’s also a storyline going on with Rose’s parents that is completely heartbreaking. I definitely teared up at one point and that is rare for me when reading a graphic novel. The artwork is beautiful and I found myself really starting to appreciate graphic novels with this one. I think part of me always expects full-blown colour illustrations so I tend to shy away from saying anything good about comics that might have beautiful drawings. This one is also Canadian and the authors have released another book, Skim, which I hope to read soon.

ghost worldGhost World by Daniel Clowes

This book is one of those books that has a major cult following. It’s actually a pretty good story and one that I enjoyed a bit. I wouldn’t say that I loved it since I think there’s a part of me that just didn’t get it. Maybe it’s too short? Or maybe it was just too melodramatic for me? I kind of feel the same way when I read stories about young adults who are full of so much angst and I just never find myself connecting with any of them. Is it because I didn’t have a childhood like them that I just can’t relate? I did really enjoy the friendship between the two girls in the story — that’s one thing I could relate to. Other than that, though, maybe it was the humour I didn’t get … I just don’t understand that cynical, teenage humour that’s represented in books. But yeah, still glad I read it. Maybe I’ll check out the movie one day.

the terrible and wonderful reasons why I run long distancesThe Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances by Matthew Inman

I love Matthew Inman’s work, so when I saw that he had a new book out, I didn’t care what the subject matter was, I knew I had to read it! This one was a bit different from the other books I’ve read. In fact, it’s quite the inspirational read! This one is all about running and while it might not necessarily be considered a graphic novel (a graphic humour book?), I still think it fits in this category. It’s still full of some of the great humour you can find in other Matthew Inman and Oatmeal comics, but it also is a bit of a resource on how to start running. And it’s so funny because running is freaking hard. Yeah, it might be the cheapest way to get exercise, but if you want to run long distances, be prepared to hate it a bit. There is a whole lot of honesty in this book, which is perfect for beginners since Inman pretty much says, yeah it sucks, but it’s amazing. I may not be a runner anymore, but I get it. Parts of this book (the lazier parts) were a little tough to get through since I expect lots of illustrations, so they felt a little dense, but it was still a good book.

the truth is a cave in the black mountainsAnd an honorable mention to The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains by Neil Gaiman

This one was so very different and so very Neil Gaiman. By the end of the book, I knew that it wasn’t quite a graphic novel, even though it has pieces of it that resemble a graphic novel. Really, it’s an illustrated short story. It’s incredibly dark and full of lore and legends. It only has a few characters and as they make their way to the cave in the black mountains the story gets darker and darker until the very end. It’s really a story that made me think and want to go back and reread it after finishing (despite the fact that it was late at night when I finished and I can barely stay up past 9pm as it is). I’m so used to seeing Neil’s stories paired with Dean McKean’s artwork, so it was quite the change to see illustrations by someone else. They were almost rough illustrations (not like your Sandman artwork), but they paired so nicely with the story. My only complaint was the typography from some of the illustrated speaking parts — I felt those were almost a little too childlike and rough. BUT super good story and a gorgeous book — one I’m happy to have in my Neil Gaiman collection!

Have you read any of these graphic novels? What did you think?