Joshables! The Bite Size Mini Columnettes!

Just some quick bits from me today, but to be honest, I’ve run out of things to say about comics. It’s true. I’ve said it all, and there’s nothing left in me. It’s been a lot of fun, but I’ve decided to move on to iFanHorse, a site devoted to all things equestrian. Hi ho Silver!

You might have heard that Nate Powell’s Swallow Me Whole from Top Shelf was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, in the Young Adult Fiction category. This is not a graphic novel category, but books in general. Swallow Me Whole is the first graphic novel to be nominated for such an award since Maus won the Fiction category in 1992.

I read the book recently, and if I’m being completely honest, I’m not sure I really got it. It’s the story of a brother and a sister in high school who are both having mental health problems. There’s hallucination and obsessive compulsive disorder, and a lot of general difficulties that go along with a troubled teenage life. While I wasn’t entirely clear on the actual narrative all the way through, I never had a problem understanding what I was meant to feel like. Like a song where you don’t actually know the lyrics, but you know exactly what it’s saying, Swallow Me Whole leads you through the emotions of the characters with utter clarity. Powell does simply through the power of his cartooning, which seems quite rough at first glance, but eventually proves his skill in communicating emotion. It’s a tough book to explain, but if the foibles of the mind have any interest for you, this is obviously worth checking out.

If you’re in the area of Michigan State University on March 27-28, you should definitely be checking out the MSU Comics Forum. David Peterson is the keynote speaker, and the show will feature guests Jason Howard (The Astounding Wolf-Man) and Ryan Claytor. It should also be noted that the MSU Library houses a giant comic collection, and the school is also the alma mater of Geoff Johns (who won’t actually be there). I believe iFanbase member Captain Primate has a little something to do with the event. We have agents everywhere!



I received a copy of Apocalypse Suite, the first trade of The Umbrella Academy for Christmas, and I don’t believe I’ve mentioned it. I don’t think at any point I thought it was going to be bad, or said so, but suffice to say, I’m glad I didn’t miss it, because I loved the shit out of it. I’m sorry if that sounds crass, but it’s the simple truth. I don’t know anything about My Chemical Romance other than people make a lot of jokes about them. What I do know is the Gerard Way is no joke. The guy is writing real comics. Good comics. It was imaginative without being convoluted, and I was thoroughly impressed in every way. It was as if Grant Morrison is being filtered to his best form, in combination with being young and hungry. Way doesn’t have a thing to prove to anyone, other than himself and his love for comics, and we’re the better for it. I didn’t enjoy Casanova at all, but Gabriel Ba ripped it up on these issues, and continues to do so in the the second mini-series Dallas, the 4 issues of which I’ve just managed to find. There’s been a lot written about this series, but in case anyone was wondering, The Umbrella Academy gets my giant seal of approval.


Did you ever wonder what sort of story would involve the classic movie monsters if they were actually real actors, and they were still trying to make it in the entertainment industry today? Yeah, it’s funny, I didn’t either. But it turns out Harold Sipe did, and we’re all the better for it.

What is Screamland? Imagine the famous monsters of the old black and white movies — Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman, and The Mummy — struggling in a world of digital gore and modern movie making. Where would these guys find work? Will younger audiences accept these guys? Will the Wolfman curtail his drinking and murderous rages? Will the media out the gay member of the group? And what about that foreign terrorist, The Mummy? All these questions and more are explored in this totally unique tale. It’s a funny and topical comment on the film industry, and the way entertainment has changed over the decades since the monsters ruled the screens.

Casanova’s art has an incredibly unique look, and goes a long way in describing the characters in the story, and where they are today. The slump of the the Wolfman and his paunch tells us exactly how he’s feeling about himself. There are also some very nice stylistic changes when we see “clips” from the various movies in the film.

Screamland is fun, imaginative, and incredibly original. I was surprised how much I liked it. The book opens the possibility for many further stories in this world of movies and real monsters. Were I into such things, I might even give it two thumbs up.



  1. thanks much for mentioning the event Josh – its really appreciated.  Maybe we’ll see you here next year. 

  2. I’ve heard good and bad things about Umbrella.  I have a friend who raves about it, but he like that shitty band.  Oh well.  I’m gonna check it out.

  3. its also worth noting to potential creators in the iFanbase that we’re also accepting submissions for the 2009 Original Comics Collection in conjunction with the MSU Comics Forum.  We’re soliciting original 10 page stories.  The 10 finalists will be collected and archived in the Michigan State University Comic Art Collection (as Josh mentioned, the largest public collection of comics in the United States).  One winner will be chosen from the 10 finalist – and will receive a prize of $150 (and the awe and admiration of their peers for being awesome).

     Details can be found here:

  4. Screamland was one the best reads I have had in the past year.  For it cuts to the core of what is kinda wrong with the whole movie making situation.  We now want to see the bigger better things . . . ahem George Lucas ahem Steven Spielberg.  Just thinking about what those two guys did when CGI was available changing E.T. and Star Wars to fit their "imagination of the story."  Filmmakers forget that to be a great movie you don’t need CGI, you need to just have a great story, that is what sells movies.  To tell a story about the people who are losing work because of this movie in such a great way really struck a chord with me and I would love to see more Screamland!

  5. I think that Screamland cover is kind of stark and amazing.

  6. I’m glad you liked Umbrella Academy. And Screamland sounds really interesting. I’ll have to look for that.

  7. Its a shame that Umbrella Academy and Locke & Key never get a look-in for pick of the week on the podcast – presumably none of you are reading the floppies ? ‘Umbrella Academy – Dallas’ is all kinds of awesome.

  8. I actually just started reading that Umbrella Academy trade today, happy to hear it’s good! I plan on recommending it to all the friends I have who actually listen to My Chemical Romance.

  9. Glad you liked Screamland Paul! 🙂 I still have Umbrella Academy in my stack..

  10. I’ve been wanting pick up Screamland for awhile….guess there is no time like the present


  11. I seem to be the only one who doesn’t love Umbrella Academy. I’ve read the first trade and did enjoy it but, though the art was superb, found the writing solid but nothing too exciting. 

    That said, I am interested in reading the newer series too. 


    And it’s not for disliking My Chemical Romance either, I happily have all their albums.  

  12. Locke & Key I’ve also heard is great.

  13. Screamland sounds really cool.

  14. That ‘Shallow Me Whole’ sounds very interesting. I’m sure it is confusing considering the subject matter, but it’s probably the creator’s intention to do that. Tell me guys if I’m wrong though; isnt there a book about a kid suffering from seizures? Plus it sounds like the exact same plot as ‘Shallow Me Whole’?

  15. @KickAss-Locke & Key is indeed great.  I hands down recommend it to anyone that loves a good mystery/suspense/horror book.

    I seriously have to track down the Umbrella Academy trade.  I have the FCBD issue from a few years back.  And I will be the first to admit that I wrote Way off because I hate hate hate his music.  But I’ve heard enough that makes me believe he is the real deal when it comes to his comics.  Plus I loved the art in Casanova ^__^

  16. thanks for the article.  I will definately be heading to MSU.  Sounds awesome!

  17. Nice format. I read the first issue of UA and wasn’t really intrigued. I may give it a try later.

  18. @ brianmaru – If the first arc didn’t excite you, I’m not sure "Dallas" will do much for you. It is much more of a slow burn. We’re to issue five of six now, and it just now getting to the real point.
    Not that there is anything wrong with that storytelling approach, but I don’t know if I would’ve stuck around if this was the first arc.

  19. Screamland is really great – nice choice for a shout-out, Josh – it’s one of the hidden gems of last year.

  20. Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Really like Umbrella Academy.  He’s great with prose as well.  His intro to Young Liars is awesome.  

  21. Is Screamland in trade now? That seems like something I’d really dig. Need to eventually pick up Umbrella Academy, too. I think I may just be waiting to see if I can find it in the 1/2 off bins at SDCC. But my trade stack IS starting to dwindle…

  22. @TNC – You may be thinking of Epileptic by David B., which is an auto-bio comic about the cartoonist and his brother, who was epileptic. If so, I don’t think there’d be too many similarities. From Josh’s description, this sounds like mental/emotional trauma rather than epilepsy.

  23. @Marbles; You might want to reread what Josh wrote, he just bought all the UMBRELLA ACADEMY: DALLAS single issues that are out.

  24. @daccampo: Thanks for giving me the title, I would’ve never have figured it out.

    I just thought they were the same since both deal with the main characters having hallucinations….but yeah other then that there’s probably no similarity.

  25. @darthduck We look forward to seeing you at the event!

  26. my lcs here in lansing has been helping supply the msu comic collection for years. 

  27. suddenly all these lansing iFanboys are coming out of the woodwork!  how did I miss this tho? this is why i love iFanboy, but why didn’t i find out from a closer source such as our local LCS??

  28. @Darthduck: we’re actually starting a local poster blitz tomorrow.  You’ll see posters in all the local shops (21C, Clems, etc, etc, etc.)

  29. Kick ass, Captain Primate. David Peterson and Jason Howard. MSU Comics Forum sounds great. I wish we had one in CT. 


  30. @danj – its really not *that* far between CT and MI.  We’re going to be stepping up on the event considerably next year – so many you can come then. 

  31. I read a few pages of Screamland on MySpace and I gotta admit, it was pretty damn good.


  32. i love umbrella academy!!

  33. Hurray MSU, my alma mater!  If only I weren’t 2,500 miles away now..

  34. I’ve been thinking of switching from a Western to Australian saddle.  Anyone had any experience with this?  

    (What happens when you respond to a post without reading past the first paragraph.)

    I don’t understand why every opinion on Umbrella Academy involves, at some point, My Chemical Romance.  Different mediums, different messages.  For example, I have not let the fact that Russell Crowe is in a shitty band detract from the enjoyment I’ve gotten from a number of his movies. 

  35. @nindustrial – maybe you can come next year?  while this year is going to be great, next year is going to be a considerably bigger event.

  36. Josh—

    Thanks for drawing some iFanbase attention to Swallow Me Whole. Nate Powell is one of my favorites, and he’s a really great guy, too. I’ve read a lot of his earlier work, and I think he’s really hitting his stride now. His work just gets better and better as he balances the weirdness of things with the truthsome of things he knows very well. 

  37. I dug ‘Umbrella Academy’ and am looking forward to the second trade.  There are times I wanted a little more clarity as far as being able to figure out exactly what was up with the characters and their relationships (I would really really dig some ‘Watchmen’ style prose backup material for this book; seems like it would fit really well — get on that, Gerard Way!)  And Ba’s art is definitely a perfect fit for this book.

    "Screamland" was a lot of fun, too.

  38. Jeff Reid Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    I just read SWALLOW ME WHOLE since it won the Eisner and I do agree with you Josh.  Emotionally, the story makes sense but the plot gets a bit confusing at the end.  I did understand the narrative up until the climax of the story though.  Here are my quick thoughts:

    SPOILERS: It seems to me that the ending of the story seems to be Ruth completely giving into her schizophrenia, which she seems to have inherited from her grandmother.  The final breakdown happens after her parents try to get rid of her bug collection.  At the end, I think that’s her grandmother’s hand opening the frog’s mouth so Ruth could climb inside of it.  I guess that’s her brother going down the same path in the final few panels.