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« August, 2005 »
Mad Art : A Visual Celebration of the Art of Mad Magazine and the Idiots Who Create It

When I was a kid, I had a subscription to Mad Magazine. Its weird, gross, and wacky humor made me believe that there was a place in the world for freaks like me, even if it may not have been the rural/suburban Massachusetts town where I grew up. I bought the Mad books. I learned a lot of the Mad songs satirizing ads for products that were already decades old by the time I’d heard of them. I enjoyed the slightly racy retellings of popular movies like Star Wars and Jaws.

At some point, I stopped reading Mad as much. I sold my Mad books and kind of forgot about it for a while. I saw this book in the library and remembered how much I had enjoyed it. This book is a history of the illustrators of Mad and the story is told in the same irreverent slightly crazy tone that the magazine always had. It tracks the magazine from its very beginnings to the present day where I noticed many illustrators I know from other places are also contributors. Even though the history of Mad is far from sanguine, the tone of the book is upbeat and positive with every artist -- even the nutso ones -- being praised for whatever it was they did well. The book is heavily illustrated with black and white and color illustrations and a few photographs. It was fun to page through it and remember some of the covers of issues that I had personally owned and later to see covers by artists I knew from elsewhere.

The Nautical Chart

Perez-Reverte is the best kind of euthor, one who can write books that capture your attention, but make you feel like you’ve accomplished something when you’re done with them. This treasure hunting story delves into the complicated love triangle between men, women and the sea. A down on his luck sailor meets a woman with a secret plan. He joins forces with her to try to help her solve a mystery. Until the very last pages, you’re never quite sure what is going on, but you learn a lot in the process and you get to enjoy Perez-Reverte’s wonderful writing.

A Right to Be Hostile

I read the other Boondocks compilations and I swear this had most of the same material, but some new stuff. I enjoy the comic very much, but this was perplexing for me and made me sort of confused going in to the book. McGruder’s angry kids and their biting wit and youthful hotheadedness are a good frame for viewing the current madness in the administration. I enjoyed the post-9/11 comics even more than the ones in the beginning.

McGruder’s introduction at the beginngin came off sort of odd though. He talks about missing deadlines, trimming characters and not reading email from people. I wasn’t particularly impressed with his attitude in the two pages of personal commentary he added to a treasury that otherwise spoke for itself. I’m sure it’s a difficult issue being both rebellious and popular, but I would have liked to hear more about how he addresses that conflict personally, not how blase he’s become now that he’s super popular.

Anvil of Stars

This is the only Greg Bear book that I haven’t thought was just awesome. It’s the follow-up to the “end of the world” novel Forge of God which was really pretty interesting. This entire book takes place in spaceships after the destruction of the earth and a team of children are assigned by unknown beings to destroy the beings who destroyed their planet. It’s convoluted and weird and bear has a real task set out for himself to describe a whole bunch of places that are completely foreign, with no familiar hooks to hang descriptions off of.

That said, it’s flat. There is a lot of description and very little human interaction that is familiar. The kids are precocious, bisexual, and directed in almost all of their daily routines by these silver robots. It reads a lot like the child packs in some of Orson Scott Card’s novels but with less of an emphasis on social aspects. In short, I didn’t like any of the characters and there was a lot about how their society was organized that just needed to be taken at face value. Many of the rules seemed odd or forced. When the kids have to interact with other alien life forms, Bear has obviously gone through a lot of trouble to think out how a completely alien life form would appear and interact. However, it seems like a sci fi exercise more than a coherent story that someone else would want to read. As a sequel it just barely gives a nod to the previous book and shares none of its compelling parts.

The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs

Another in the Portuguese Irregual Verbs series. This one was funnier than the last. Our hero the linguist gets to travel to distant cities, including some in America, does horrible things to a daschund, and meets the pope.


This 1200 page graphic novel was staggeringly amazing. Smith takes a few pogo-looking characters who have been kicked out of their homes and tosses them right into the middle of an epic adventure of dragons and princesses and talking locusts. Except, and this is a bit except, the book doesn’t suck. It’s funny. The characters are amazing: a blase dragon, a shit-talking grandma, some rat creatures that go on and on about quiches. Each one has some sort of referent in more traditional comic tales and manages to use that historical sense at the same time as taking it someplace new. The illustrations are great, fluid and very familiar at the same time. My only complaint at all is that at 1200 pages this book was harder to carry and a bit diifcult to read except in the traditional opened-on-bed lying-on-stomach way. Small quibble, I know. I’ve known about Bone for some time and I’m sad I didn’t discover it sooner.