I remember taking this book out of the library at my elementary school, Queensland Downs Elementary School, when I was in Mrs. Sanders' class for grad...moreI remember taking this book out of the library at my elementary school, Queensland Downs Elementary School, when I was in Mrs. Sanders' class for grade three. We were in the library for a library period, and I asked Mrs. Dalgliesh, our groovy librarian, for a book. I can't remember if I was the one who suggested Greek Mythology or if it was she, but I do remember her aiding me at the card catalogues, then she sent me off to the shelves to track down "292 DAU [JUV]."
That little journey changed me irrevocably.
I devoured D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths in what was then record time, and within days I was debating my father on theology. I demanded to know why I couldn't worship Zeus instead of his God; I wanted to know why, if the Greek Gods came first, they had a flood, Heracles was resurrected, and Phrixus was saved from being sacrificed by his father by the presence of a golden ram, amongst other things. I wanted to know how Christianity could have such similar myths.
It was the beginning of the end of my religiosity and the penultimate blow to my catholicism. It was the end of my acquiescence to unjust authority. It was the end of acceptance without questions. It catalysed my constant search for understanding. It was the beginning of my father's disdain for me, and his fear of my mind (the latter, I've always suspected, was close to the root of much of the abuse I suffered at his hands). It was the moment of my enlightenment. And I've loved this book deeply from the second I first closed its cover until today.
I finished reading it to our twins last night. To hear them talk today, they are in love with the book themselves, though I doubt it can be felt as deeply as my love for the book. We encourage them to think for themselves, to question, to seek, to demand that authority earns respect, so their experience with the book isn't as revelatory as mine. They have parents who've been answering their questions -- about gods, life, death, where babies come from, about anything -- since they were asking questions. They haven't needed to find that power for themselves, we've pointed the way to that power from the start. Still, they love this book, and I hope they share it with their kids (if they choose to have kids) in turn.
Half way through reading The Tombs of Atuan, I was sitting downstairs playing my xBox late at night when I heard voices drifting down from upstairs. I...moreHalf way through reading The Tombs of Atuan, I was sitting downstairs playing my xBox late at night when I heard voices drifting down from upstairs. I sat and listened to the door muffled murmurs of Miloš & Brontë, but I couldn't make out what they were saying.
Usually I'd just call up to them and tell them it was time to shoosh and go to sleep, but I was curious to figure out what they were talking about. Even obscured I could tell it wasn't the usual joke fest or scary story, there was something different about this talk.
What was different, it turned out, was that Miloš was Ged and Brontë was Tenar, and they were in the dark room of the Great Treasure, playing the Tombs of Atuan. They're still seven, only just, and there they were, late in the night, in their bunkbeds, improvising a discussion between the Eaten One and Sparrowhawk. I decided to let them play, so I left them undisturbed and went back to my game.
A few days later, I was working in my office and I heard Miloš outside my door talking to Vetch from A Wizard of Earthsea. He was playing Ged again.
Weird as this may sound, it makes me incredibly proud of them. There is no big Hollywood movie with toys and a marketing campaign to nudge my kids in this direction. There is no cultural weight to lead them into playing at Ged and Tenar. There is only the words of one of our greatest authors, Ursula K. Le Guin and the voice I added to the books. That's it, but it was enough. Great literature has that power.
Please read this to your kids whomever you may be. It will be with them always.(less)
When she is imagining her fantasy world beyond the confines of Hogwarts – building wizarding history, culture, sport, biology, and hierarchies – her voice becomes incandescent, lighting up the lives of anyone who takes joy in her creations with a simulacrum of life that feels more like a tangible reality than our collective fantasy.
The fables in The Tales of Beedle the Bard are a gorgeous part of Rowling’s conjuring act, and some of her most original work in the Potter world. All five of the tales are strong, maintaining the tradition of brutality and bloodiness that Muggle fairy tales are so steeped in, staunchly refusing to write from a position of political correctness and delivering morals that are as universal as anything Aesop ever spoke.
My two favourites have to be The Warlock’s Hairy Heart & The Fountain of Fair Fortune. The former is a nasty tale of a Warlock who vows never to fall in love, so he removes his own heart and encases it in a crystal casket where it becomes hairy and twisted and black. The latter is a beautiful tale of three witches and a Muggle Knight who discover that they already have what they thought they lacked. They are simple, lovely, compelling little tales that are better than most everything written by the Brothers Grimm, and are just as good as the beautiful writing of Hans Christian Anderson.
But the real triumph of The Tales of Beedle the Bard isn’t the stories themselves but the commentary by one Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore. It is Rowling’s world building at its very best. Dumbledore reveals the cultural significance of the tales, offers little drops of Wizarding history that connect us back to the proper Harry Potter books, and sheds some more light on the Deathly Hallows – all with a gentle touch that is the hallmark of the world’s greatest wizard.
The Mack books have had mixed success with me, and this is my least favourite for one big reason -- a total lack of charm.
The first book, The Giggler...moreThe Mack books have had mixed success with me, and this is my least favourite for one big reason -- a total lack of charm.
The first book, The Giggler Treatment, was packed full of charm. Little Gigglers, pissed off that adults would be mean to children, drop burning poo bombs at the feet of the mean adults. So Rover, the genius dog of the Macks, capitalizes on the Treatment and becomes rich. It's funny, silly, and full of geniune giggles for kids and their parents. Like I said, "Charming."
Rover Saves Christmas was even better. Rover does just that, and it is one of the most charming spins off the Santa legend I've ever read. Of course I read it to the kids during the run-up to Christmas, so the timing might have had some role to play, but it was really an excellent book.
But The Meanwhile Adventures doesn't have that charm anymore, and I think it had to do with the "meanwhile" concept. Most of the tale is fractured as the Mack family are each off doing their own thing, "meanwhile ..." we bounce around from thread to thread and are continually told how boring everything is by the narrator (which it is, but the declaration that it is does nothing to mitigate the issue), and just when things start to pick up we're off on another tangent.
It feels like we never really linger long enough for some charm to appear. Even my little Scoutie, who's usually the least critical audience for my aloud performances, was thoroughly bored. She spent more time playing with her dollies than listening to the tale. That's an indictment in Scoutie's world.
Oh well, it wasn't total crap. It did have Mrs. Mack's world record run. (less)
I take whatever book I am reading with me wherever I go, so it was inevitable that someone was going to catch me reading Promoted to Wife? in public....moreI take whatever book I am reading with me wherever I go, so it was inevitable that someone was going to catch me reading Promoted to Wife? in public. It just happened to be at our local grocery store. I am well known there because I cook for our family every night, and I love fresh produce and ingredients. I am at the store daily. So when Diane, one of the cashiers, saw me reading Promoted to Wife?, she was quite happy to tease me, and I took it with good grace. But as I walked away, she said, “You could learn some things from reading books like that [sic]!” I thought, “Really?!” So here’s what I learned:
I've not been the biggest fan of Mark Millar's Ultimates. My boyhood favourite, Captain America, became an unrecognizable bully with questionable ethi...moreI've not been the biggest fan of Mark Millar's Ultimates. My boyhood favourite, Captain America, became an unrecognizable bully with questionable ethics; S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury turned into ultra-violent goon boys for Homeland Security; the Hulk cover-up betrayed most of what I knew about the individuals who made up the group formerly known as the Avengers; the political criticism that I loved as a kid -- the Marvel Universe that helped to shape who I am -- seemed gone, never to return. It was all starting to feel like Glenn Beck had usurped Stan Lee's throne and was writing the Ultimates for Trig Palin in a particularly nationalistic mood.
Three volumes later, though, and I finally see that Mark Millar's just been taking his time, building the story with care and attention and intention. This series doesn't adhere to the usual 4-6 issue story arcs. All three volumes (those I've read so far), encompassing the first nineteen issues, make up one giant story arc.
And there are finally some elements I love.
Thor, my son's new favourite super-hero, is about the coolest cat in the Ultimates. I love his "hippy" politics. I love the way Loki has messed with him so badly that even he doesn't know if he's a god or just some insane Swede. The incestuous flirtations of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are a nice peripheral dalliance to tear the tone away from the building of an army full of Persons of Mass Destruction. The necessary escape of Bruce Banner/The Hulk made fun use of Hannibal Lecter -- from foreshadowing to dénouement. And the decay of Hank Pym's confidence, his burgeoning hatred, the slow engendering of a super-villain, is a beautiful bit of writing. Now that is more like it!
But I'm still not fully sold. Unless Steve Rogers is the big turncoat, the one leaking all the dirt on the Ultimates to the press and causing all the problems (which I can't see, but don’t tell me if you know. I want to find out for myself), Captain America won't achieve redemption, and I won’t be able to forgive Millar. And I remain, moreover, unclear as to what Millar is trying to say. There is every chance that his message will be in diametric opposition to my beliefs, and that will make me terribly sad.
If things don’t go my way, it doesn’t mean I won't continue to enjoy the series. It does mean, though, that I won't be able to love it, and I may very well like it while hating it. I’ll just have to press on and see. (less)
Have you ever seen Slapshot? Have you ever heard Paul Newman say "fuck"? It is amazing. No one, and I mean no one anywhere -- ever -- could say "fuck"...moreHave you ever seen Slapshot? Have you ever heard Paul Newman say "fuck"? It is amazing. No one, and I mean no one anywhere -- ever -- could say "fuck" like Paul Newman.
But there's this awesome cat named Samuel L. Jackson who can say "fuck" amazingly well, and since Newman is dead, Jackson is the perfect choice to read Adam Mansbach's brilliant Go the Fuck to Sleep.
I haven't laughed so hard since George Costanza visited his Mom in the hospital to watch a sponge bath in silohuette. My baby, little Scoutie, was more interested in my insane laughter than the book, but she was sitting on my lap at 12:10 am, so it was all rather fitting.
I love this book. I wish I'd thought of it. And boy do I want more. Just be aware that this is more of an adult spoof of a kid's book than a straight up kid's book. but when SLJ reads it ... hell, it's fun for the whole family.
I wonder how it would read if Cartman were the narrator?(less)
I tried, D. I fully committed to the animals, man. I was like Robert deNiro shooting heroin for Raging Bull. I gained weight to play the purple walrus (how the hell am I going to lose it?). I painted myself with gentian violet, grew a handlebar mustache, jammed a couple of carrots under my lip and flopped around grunting.
I poured honey all over myself and rolled in flour to play the titular Polar Bear. I cracked out my old Don Johnson duds to be the flamingo. I slithered around on my belly with a fork duct taped to my tongue. I was freaking serious about doing it right. I wanted TO BE the animals.
But it didn't make a damn bit of difference. Where the first book's rhythm succeeds, the second book eschews rhythm and disrupts my reading. Every word is dissonant to me, and I just can't stand it, despite the beautiful art. Sorry, D. I wish I could come and watch you read it, though, because I bet you could convince me I am wrong. Any chance you'll post a reading on You Tube? (less)
Your decade long run of Calvin and Hobbes was the greatest run of any comic strip in the history of comic strips, and you mad...moreAugust 7, 2011
Your decade long run of Calvin and Hobbes was the greatest run of any comic strip in the history of comic strips, and you made the right choice putting an end to it when you did. I can't believe it's been gone for 16 years now. Your precocious Calvin was what every kid with an overactive imagination is in their own heads, but you also gave us the view of what the rest of the world sees in these kids and does to try and beat the imagination out of them. There's implied sadness in the explicit joy you gave us, and it makes Calvin and Hobbes a true masterpiece.
I was fourteen when you started your opus, and I was close enough to my own hyper-imaginative childhood to connect at a visceral level. My youthful imaginary friends were still fresh in my mind, and my current imaginary friends were just taking hold, and your strip gave me something to relate to, someone to cheer for, a place where it was okay to turn dreary realties of the world into exciting fantasies and be proud of that ability all at the same time. It was also a fabulous way to relax my brain (though not too much) amidst all the literature I was devouring at a frightening rate.
But I have a request. Now that I am forty, and I have a precocious little Calvin of my own making explosive sounds with his mouth as he blows up his LEGO creations (as I write this, in fact), and my little Calvin’s twin sister, who happens to be a lot like Susie, I would love it if you came out of retirement and gave us just one year of Calvin and Hobbes and Son (or Daughter). I want to see where Calvin is now. I want to see Calvin as a Dad, and I want his son (or daughter) with a beaten up, super ratty, devilish-as-ever Hobbes. But I don't want this comic to be about the kids, I want it to be about Calvin. I want to see how well Calvin was able to fight off his indoctrination; I imagine he’s one of those rare folks who didn’t join the mainstream, who somehow continued to live on his own terms, but my imagination aside, I am dying to see what he became for you. Please, please, please come back, Bill. We could all use a bit of Calvin again.
I know that my request will never reach you, and that, if it did, you'd probably never even consider the possibility, but I know you could do the "parenting thing" better than all your peers, just as you did the "kid thing" better than anyone else.
So I'll just leave you with the firmest, most heartfelt thank you that I have in me: thank you for that little corner of joy you carved into my world. I’ll never forget it, and late at night, when I am dipping my peanut butter and jelly into my hot chocolate, I’ll have one of my Calvin and Hobbes books open so that I can stain the pages with the purple of some yummy Welch’s grape jelly. Just as Calvin would.
This is the first time I've read this book. Hard to believe, isn't it? It's especially hard to believe when I consider my mother -- this is just the s...moreThis is the first time I've read this book. Hard to believe, isn't it? It's especially hard to believe when I consider my mother -- this is just the sort of schmaltzy crap she loved. I probably missed this book because it falls in that range between picture books and chapter books that I skipped in my reading progression.
However it came about, I only just read this book. I shared it with my little Scoutie Kat as our bedtime book. It took a couple of nights, and she loved it, especially the part about the fairy and the painting it was accompanied by. It became, "My own Rabbit," in Scoutie talk. And it wasn't so bad. I certainly enjoyed the experience, although I think most of my enjoyment sprang out of cuddling with my two year old and enjoying her enjoyment.
I was surprised to discover that this book is sort of the Toy Story Pinnochio. Crappy Bunny is made. Crappy Bunny is loved by its boy. Crappy Bunny is tossed out to be burned when the boy has Scarlet Fever. Crappy Bunny becomes mottled real bunny because he was so loving. Real Crappy Bunny and its boy see each other one more time. Tears or giggles or sighs of "...um, yeah," depending on your age and reason for reading.
I can see why it was loved back when it was written. I can see why little kids dig it, especially if they're cuddled up with their Moms and Dads, but for me, for me now, it was nothing special. (less)
So I think Manny and Beth-Ann have it spot on. Peter Rabbit dies in this book, and his escape is a moment-of-death fantasy. Peter is the Peyton Farquh...moreSo I think Manny and Beth-Ann have it spot on. Peter Rabbit dies in this book, and his escape is a moment-of-death fantasy. Peter is the Peyton Farquhar of kids books.
Farquhar, for those who don't remember, is the Alabama Confederate (gentleman farmer / non-combatant) from Ambrose Bierce's An Occurence on Owl Creek Bridge. He's strung up to a railroad bridge to be hanged by the Union soldiers, but his rope breaks and he pulls of a miraculous escape, only to have his escape end with him still on the rope as he chokes to death.
Well, little Peter doesn't have Union soldiers to string him up, but he has old Mr. McGregor to chase him around the garden, and in Peter's attempt to escape he dives into a watering can -- and I say he drowns. How's that for a cautionary tale? I figure that Peter's death in the watering can is also a euphemism for rabbit stew, and Peter becomes a yummy dinner for Mr. and Mrs. McGregor. Lucky farmers that they are.
But Peter, at least, is able to enjoy a moment-of-death fantasy where he goes home and declares to Mother Rabbit that he's learned his lesson. But even at home, even in his fantasy, death begins to close in, and while his siblings play and the smells of cooking rise up to greet him (Mrs. McGregor's kitchen as she skins his corpse, perhaps?), Peter ends his day (and his life) wrapped in the blankets of his little bed. Shivering from the cold he caught in the Mr. McGregor's water bottle.
Death comes to us all, little bunny, especially when we ignore our parents! Remember that.
Culinarily, I think I need to get my own little rabbit for a stew. It's been a while, and rabbit is de-lish. (less)
Many of the kids books I've been revisiting are filled with specific, vivid memories of my childhood that are almost narratives unto themselves. Readi...moreMany of the kids books I've been revisiting are filled with specific, vivid memories of my childhood that are almost narratives unto themselves. Reading them transports me back to those (probably apocryphal) moments in my brain, leaving me full of a sort of joyful melancholy for things past and a hunger for more of those memories, a desire to relive all those locked up personal stories, so I grab another book I have always loved and devour it looking for more.
I found that this story, with its beautiful illustrations and its little bull turned big bull who just wants to live peacefully and smell his flowers, made me think about people I care about rather than remembering some synapsy tale of them.
It made me think of my mother, Chris. I always called her "Chris," which drove my father crazy because of how "disrespectful" it was. I thought of Chris and guessed that she probably read this book to me first. And I thought of how every book I touch and word I write is her gift to me, for teaching me too read, then teaching me to challenge myself with books that were "inappropriate," then sharing our reading when we were older.
It made me think of my cousin, Fred, who I called Ferdinand behind his back. I thought of his moustache and 80s hair. I thought of how we both had brutally abusive fathers, but have never talked about it, even now, so many years after escaping their fists.
It made me think of K.I. Hope, and how the anger of her writing -- that wonderful, necessary, emotional, ethical rage -- would cringe at the other bulls, Ferdinand's friends and family, showing off in the hopes of travelling to Madrid to be slaughtered in the bullfights. I thought of what a true friend she is and how unlikely it is to find a genuine friend on something like this social media platform, and how I have found so many.
It made me think of Brontë and Miloš and Scoutie, and how much they love The Story of Ferdinand, and how Miloš is always trying to mimic the light Spanish accent I use to read them the book aloud, and how Brontë loves the art, and how Scoutie babbles the story back to me with her incomprehensible toddler language, punctuated by a "Ferdie-and" or "cow."
And it made me think of Munroe Leaf. She and all the other authors I've had a relationship over my life. They have been my best friends. And each book that I love ... it's a gift written by them just for me. Thanks, Munroe. I love you too. (less)
Why has so much children's literature been about mice? Why Mickey and Jerry and Fievel and their animated brethren? How in the world did such...moreWhy mice?
Why has so much children's literature been about mice? Why Mickey and Jerry and Fievel and their animated brethren? How in the world did such vermin ridden filth become cute?
It's not like they are endangered and we need to generate our usual, oops-too-late-false-sense-of-urgency. It's not like Coca Cola is going to be pony-ing up their tax write off money to "Save the Mouse." It's not like they mice make good pets: they can't fetch your slippers or roll over; they don't have a charmingly arrogant aloofness; they are skitterish and too fast and bite without provocation. Moreover, it's not like mice help us humans out like the over-villified spider or the creppy crawly lizards and snakes that control our rodent population. I suppose they are good in labs, though, as subjects to inject cancer into.
Mice do bring us plenty of fun diseases: bubonic plague, salmonella, typhus, leptospirosis, tapeworms, rat bite fever, hantavirus, and lyme disease. So I suppose they are good for something.
Can we all just agree that mice are nasty little beasts? Cause if we can, I think it is time to go back to my question: why mice?
I don't want to read about little heroic mice who somehow defeat their nasty predators. I want those noble predators to eat the mice, or kill them with their broomstick, or poison them in the night, or scare them witless in the deep prairie grass. I want mice to become the villains of a piece, not the poor, misunderstood, protagonists that we should just leave in peace.
And I don't want any more mice -- like that Norman the Doorman -- spreading their poop and mouse dander all over the artwork my super rich friends have gone to great lengths to collect and preserve in the local museum. Get out of the suit of armour, Norman. Stop giving museum tours to your dirty little, Victorian accoutred friends. Stop pretending that paintings of Swiss cheese are a valid form of artistic expression, even ironically (was Andy Warhol a mouse? Hmmm.) Stop dazzling pretentious art critics with your mouse trap sculptures. Just stop trying to be human, for the love of Zeus. Be a mouse and die in the mouth of a cat already.
Okay, enough. Can we just have a moratorium on Mouse lit and move on to some other beast. Some beast that is actually misunderstood. Like the glorious Sloth -- the perfect metaphor for the computer generation. Or how about the Armadillo? Is there a cooler looking beast that it? No more mice, I say!
What an infuriating book. I don't know what infuriates me more: that Kipling was a racist imperialist colonizer who believed firmly in white superiori...moreWhat an infuriating book. I don't know what infuriates me more: that Kipling was a racist imperialist colonizer who believed firmly in white superiority and conveyed that in every word of these stories; or that Kipling is such a marvelous writer of the English language.
Kipling the colonizer, imperialist, racist, supremicist, had no trouble at all mugging the oral traditions of the peoples his people colonized to tell his "Just So Stories" to his Best Beloved. No trouble at all mimicking their voices with disgusting condescension, rewriting origin tales, creating new origin tales, playfully interweaving the inevitability of England's rise as though fated (as he does so deftly in How the First Letter Was Written & How the Alphabet Was Made by making his generative tale appear to be something it isn't). Kipling's Just So Stories are propaganda at its most magical. They're friendly propaganda. They're propaganda of subtlety. And Kipling was a master.
And it works so well because Kipling was so talented. Love him or hate him, I think it would be difficult to make a case that he was an untalented writer. What Kipling could do and did do repeatedly with the English language was astounding. He was a master. And his gifts were such that even today countless people I know personally, who consider themselves enlightened folk, make excuses for Kipling. The most common excuse I hear is, "He's a product of his time." But in Kipling's lifetime were men like Richard Francis Burton, Mark Twain, Roger Casement, George Orwell, and countless others, who didn't see the world, or the "white man's" place in the world the way Kipling did. Many were anti-Colonial, anti-Imperial, and not racist at all. Many of Kipling's contemporaries saw colonized peoples as victims, human beings deserving of dignity, not "sullen peoples" to be brought "toward the light." So this main excuse really doesn't hold up, though it's easy to voice because Kipling's stuff is so well written and likeable in its nastiness.
I read this to my youngest daughter, my two year old, and she seemed to be dazzled by the sound Kipling's words made coming out of my mouth. I am hoping she's too young for any of his meaning to take seed in that fertile ground. Because the seeds of Kipling bear only ugly fruit.
One last scary thought: what would the world be like if someone like Hitler had had the literary talent of Kipling. It makes me shudder. (less)
A -- Alfheim: It's the place where the elves live. There's lots of elves there with bows, and they have long blonde hair and pointy years. The wear archer clothes and stuff.
B -- Balder: The God of Light (is he the God of Light? Maybe he's just goodness. No, he's the God of Light too). He was always happy. He was never mad. He just smiled the whole time. I can't remember a time when he was mad. He died because Frigg asked everything not to hurt him except mistletoe, then Loki, disguised as an old woman found out it was unsafe, then made an arrow out of mistletoe, gave it to Balder's blind brother, then Loki helped Hod shoot Balder, and Balder died.
C -- Chess and Chessmen: Almost everybody plays chess, the gods that is, and I didn't know that chess was made back then. The gods probably invented it, the god of gold that is because they were golden chessmen. Or maybe it was the Gnomes. They seem more like the building type.
D -- Draupnir: I think it would be cool to have a bracelet like Draupnir. It was cool that Odin put it with Balder in his funeral pyre.
E -- Embla: Embla is one of the first humans created by the Gods. She was the first woman.
F -- Fenris: He's Loki's son who is the big wolf who grows too big to control. He's not scared of anything, so he's fearless, and he's very big, and he can open his mouth so wide his bottom jaw can touch the Earth (Midgard), and he bites off Tyr's hand. Plus, he's stuck at the bottom of Yggdrassil.
G -- Garm: He's the dog who guards the gate to Hel.
H -- Hel: She's Loki's daughter who rules Hel, which is named after her.
I -- Ida: The green field of Asgard with a whole bunch of buildings that I expect are huge, and it is very busy.
J -- Jotuns: The Jotuns live in a very, very cold world on the tree. Instead of their beards being soft and furry, they're cold and hard like icicles. The Aesir and them don't agree with each other. Thor challenges every Jotun he sees, and kills it and stuff, declares war on it, I'd say.
K -- Kvasir: Wasn't that the drink that made people smart? Odin was wise after drinking it or something.
L -- Lidskjalf: That's the seat where Odin sits and he can see everything.
M -- Midgard's Serpent: It's scary. Very, very scary, and it's always angry, and apparently it's not too heavy for Thor.
N -- Nanna: She is the wife of Balder. She is pretty nice, and she is my favourite of all the ladies in Asgard.
O -- Odin: He is the All Father and the ruler of Asgard. He has a very, very, very fast horse with eight legs named Sleipnir. He only has one functional eye, and he pulls his hair down over his missing eye. In the Norse myths, he's my (Miloš') favourite.
R -- Rungnir: He was a pretty big Jotun, really tall, and he had the second fastest horse on the entire World Tree. He's pretty cool, and fairly strong, and Thor beat him in a duel, but his head isn't fairly strong becaues Thor smashed it, right?
S -- Sif: She is beautiful, and she has the best hair. If she was a Charlie's Angels she'd be Jill. Her hair was blonde but it became gold.
T -- Tyr: He is very brave, and he is pretty strong too. Fenris ate his hand, so he has only one hand. He is also pretty nice. He is one of Odin's sons.
U -- Utgardsloki: He was super smart. It was awesome how he made all the tricks, the illusions, to trick Thor. I thought Thor would win. I loved the fact that Thor didn't win and that Utgardsloki won.
V -- Vanir: The battle between them and the Aesir was pretty interesting. They were pretty cool, and some of them joined the Aesir.
W -- War: The Norse Gods fought too much, definitely. They were really violent. Whenever somebody died nobody even cried, except for Balder, or then their wives die too. It's weird the way they were with death and war.
Y -- Yggdrassil: It's a cool tree. I like how it is holding all the Nine Realms in place and stuff. It is there to keep everything in place. I like that Yggdrassil is so important, and trees are because they give us air and stuff, but this tree is more important because it is holding our worlds together in one space so Midgard, Asgard, Jotunheim and all the rest would probably spin off into space without the tree.
Æ -- Aesir: Whenever they said something they promised, they had to do what they promised, so instead of being fierce they did what they said they would, but when they failed to do what they said they would something bad happened, and eventually it caused Ragnarokk.
*I just finished reading this to my twins last night. We start the Greek Myths tonight. (less)
Thor #360 -- "Into the Valley of Death": If my memory serves, my favourite stretch of Walt Simonson's The Mighty Thor is about to begin, but before we...moreThor #360 -- "Into the Valley of Death": If my memory serves, my favourite stretch of Walt Simonson's The Mighty Thor is about to begin, but before we get there Simonson needs to tie up the loose ends of the Surtur battle and add some new stitches for what's to come. To that end, we get the Asgardians returning from Midgard to begin the rebuilding of the Golden Realm; we get Frigga holding onto Odin's Great Sceptre until a new ruler can be chosen; we get Sif pouting over being punched by Thor, even though she knows he struck her because he was under the spell of Loki (apparently this thread is going to need more time to be tied off); we get the Warriors Three back bearing cheesy gifts; and we get -- oddest of all -- the Einherjar adopting the automatic weapons of the US Army. Now we have gun toting Asgardians. But all of this (well ... most of it) is about to be put aside for Thor's journey to Hel. Sweet.
Thor #361 -- "The Quick and the Dead": For fans of Norse Mythology, Thor's journey to Hel is one of the best issues written by Simonson. Garm guards the gates of Hel, while Hel(a) rules the lowest reaches of Yggdrasil with her decaying touch. Balder's wife Nan[n]a shows up in a cool cameo, and we even see creepy Modgud who's busy guarding Gjallarbrú, the bridge to Hel. And for fans of the comics we get the horrific scarring of Thor's beautiful face. It's a moment that I remember most fondly from all those years ago, and I've always loved the way Simonson chose to render the horror. It's all left to our imagination. Thor's face, mangled and mauled during his wrestling match with Hel, is all in black shadow. We can't tell how bad the damage is by looking at Thor, but we can tell how bad the damage is by watching the reactions (and reading the thoughts) of those around him. Their reactions ain't pretty, and neither is Thor anymore.
Thor #362 -- "Like a Bat Out of Hell": Thor is entering his grim phase now that his face is destroyed, which is a big plus for the coming issues, but this issue is most interesting because of the Executioner's (Skurge's) redemptive act of sacrifice. He destroys Naglfar (the ship made from the toe and fingernails of the dead) with his axe, then he holds the rear of Thor's column, fighting off the hordes of the dead that Hel sends against the Asgardians. It's pretty cool, actually, though not as emotionally stirring as it sounds. Skurge is a bit of a putz, after all.
Thor #363 -- "This Kursed Earth": If there is anything I hate about comics, it is when Marvel or DC decide to do a multi-issue, multi-title cross over series. Money grab aside, I've never found that style of storytelling coherent enough to be a complete success. Even the Civil War (which I consider the best of the bunch) was too uneven to be called truly exceptional. As far as I know, though, Secret Wars II and all its crossovers, of which this issue of The Mighty Thor is one, is where all this multi-madness began. So we get the Beyonder wandering around Earth, fucking with superheroes to educate himself, and blah blah blah. The issue is pretty poor. It's mostly a slug fest between Thor and Kurse (with cameos from Beta Ray Bill and Power Pack), and it's a huge disappointment after Thor's kick ass journey to hell. At least we get brooding, wounded, scarred up Thor when he's not duking it out with Kurse, and Thor in this state is about as compelling as Thor gets, so the hint of this Thor mitigates the Secret Wars tie in just a touch.
It's not a great issue, but it sets up something very, very cool: the last page sees a Loki spell, channeling the power of Surtur's sword, coming to fruition. A charmed woman walks up to Thor and gives him a smooch. And the next thing you know ... Thor's a frog. Super sweet!
Thor #364 -- "Thor Croaks!": So my friend Manny Rayner is reading Ulysses, and I am reading The Mighty Thor. At least my book has a talking frog, and that frog is Thor himself. As the issue opens, Frigga declares the "Great Althing" to decide on a new ruler of Asgard will take place in a fortnight. Loki shows up with a smile on his face, certain that Thor won't make it because he's become an amphibian. Meanwhile, Thor finds himself embroiled in a Central Park war between the Rats and the Frogs, and giant, ass-kicking Bull Frog that Thor is, he lends his power to the battle and aids the Frogs. A fortnight later, he's engaged in a plan to attack the Rats in their sewer home, when he stumbles upon a Pied Piper. The lilting tones of the Piper's pipe enslave Thor, and we leave him jumping into the mouths of a dozen sewer alligators. While back in Asgard, Loki steps up at the Althing only to find Thor (Thor?) join him on stage (a plan cooked up by Heimdall and Harokin). What the fuck is going on? I'll fill you in tomorrow.
Thor #365 -- "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, or It's Not Easy Being Green.": Turns out the Piper is a Morlock, and when it comes down to it he admires the big bullfrog's determination (even Frog Thor is tenatious), so he recovers his pipe and sets his alligators on the rat armies to aid the Frog of Thunder. It's easy to mock this strange detour in the Thor story, but my fondness has been reiforced during this rereading. I love this story. I love Thor as a frog fighting a war against the rats. Moreover, the spell cast by Loki seems to fit with the sort of mischief Loki was famous for in the real Norse Myths, giving this a touch of old world charm that many of the other Thor stories could use. To finish this disjointed entry: the best part of the issue is when Frog Thor lifts Mjolnir and becomes a 6'6" Frog Thor, standing tall and driving his chariot into the heavens. Thor has never looked better. Really.
Thor #366 -- "Sir!": Loki's plans are about to come to fruition. He turns the tables on Heimdall's ruse to buy time, lifting Harokin's fake Mjolnir (Harokin is standing in for the missing Thor), thus proving himself worthy of the power of Thor to the huddled masses of Asgard. So who should rule Asgard? Loki, of course. Not so fast, though. Frog Thor shows up and starts kicking Loki's ass. The God of Mischief is about to end up in Hel, but elsewhere in Asgard, Volstagg bumps into a mountainside and drops an avalanche onto the magic machine that is tapping the mystic energies of Surtur's sword, thus making the Frog spell work. The spell breaks, Thor is restored, Loki is saved, and the "brothers" head back to the Althing where the people of Asgard offer Thor the Asgardian crown. He refuses, though, because his vow to protect Midgard is too important to break. So he declares Balder the true ruler. Cue a drawing of Loki's brain at work. You're in deep doo doo, Balder. The end.
Too bad Frog Thor is gone :( I loved Frog Thor.
Thor #367 -- "The Harvest of the Seasons": I like to think of this as the coming of Thor's beard. Balder is set to be the new Liege Lord of Asgard, and Thor is free to brood over his love for Sif and grow a neatly trimmed blonde beard to cover Hela's devastation to his face. So he does. And while other things happen in this issue, like the return of Beyonder's buddy, Kurse, the return of Malekith, the obligatory scheming of Loki, and Sif's most recent decision to run off with Horse-Face Bill, all that really matters to me is Thor's beard. Nice choice, Walt. It fit Thor so well, he was sporting the beard this past summer.
Thor #368 -- "The Eye of the Beholder": All that Kurse and Malekith stuff is resolved as this issue opens, but Balder still hasn't arrived to be crowned, so Thor drags Fandral, Volstagg and Hogun out of Asgard to search for the Brave one who has fallen prey to yet another bit of Loki scheming (shocking isn't it?).
But that is when things get really good because I was able to twist everything in my mind. I turned Thor #368 into Star Trek - The Original Series, Season 4, Episode 1. Captain Kirk (Balder) is tricked into the lair of some Big Bad Alien (Slaggnbir the Troll), where he is forced to fight the BBA to save three Beautiful Space Women -- Gertha, Unn and Kossi -- who turn out to be the real danger because as soon as Kirk has killed the BBA, the BSW trigger amnesia in Kirk and turn him into their sex slave. Meanwhile, Mr. Spock (Bearded Thor) stumbles upon the Spaceship of the BBA (the castle), and when he walks into the ship, he finds the BSW controlling his Captain. Cue cliffhanger music and the half time commercial. Conclusion of TOS 4.1 tomorrow in my recounting of Thor #369. Bet you're as excited as I am.
Thor #368 -- "For Whom the Belles Troll": Captain's Log, Stardate 6125.6, First Officer Spock reporting: Following Captain Kirk's disappearance while investigating the derelict vessel of the Big Bad Alien, I proceeded to the ship to conduct my own investigation. It was there that I discovered Captain Kirk in thrall to three Alien Women, undoubtedly they would be subjectively beautiful to humans. I was quick to assess the situation and realized that the Alien Women had used a set of Aesirian bobbles containing a Thrall-field and Illusion Projector. Once I destroyed their bobbles, the Alien Women were revealed as Jotnir (Trolls). Captain Kirk and I were forced to terminate them once they attacked us with murderous intent.
Then Captain Balder and Mr. Thor fly off into the sunset to have that drink to honour their dead comrade, Lt. Skurge, which ends the long, long arc of Asgardian tales in Simonson's Thor. Back to Midgard next time, home of more "super-hero" driven tales; it will be a nice change, but I'm going to miss the Asgardian stuff.(less)
I am disgusted by this book. How dare Jeffrey Brown play fast and loose with Star Wars continuity?! Darth Vader was not a "single Dad" just trying t...more;)
I am disgusted by this book. How dare Jeffrey Brown play fast and loose with Star Wars continuity?! Darth Vader was not a "single Dad" just trying to be the best Dad he could be. He was the most vile, most villainous henchman of the Empire. He was responsible for multiple murders, took part in genocides, he was damn near irredeemable, and here Brown is trying to make us think he was somehow kind and playful, just a good Dad in a tough situation.
I'll tell you what this is: it is an insult to all the victims of Alderaan; it is an insult to all those enslaved to the evil, galactic Empire; it is an insult to the heroes of the Rebellion; it is an insult to that great hero of the New Republic herself, Princess Leia. Shame on you, Jeffrey Brown. Shame on you for giving a false, human face to this terrible Sith Lord.
p.s. I'm cheating on media blackout day. Don't tell anyone. (less)