Saturday, 15 October 2016

A wretched hive of scum and villainy

Following on from my previous blog post 'I need a (Super) hero!', I'm feeling the need to add some balance to the force by sharing some of my all time favourite villains with you. I'm sure you'll agree there is nothing like a good villain, and several of the ones on this list are super good indeed. Or is that bad? So bad they are good anyway! So in no particular order I bring you:

Kingpin. I might not have put Kingpin on this list, if it wasn't for the fact that I am currently working my way through Daredevil on Netflix. Kingpin is the ultimate scheming crimelord, and apparently first appeared in the pages of Spider-man. But he really made his mark as Daredevil's archenemy. Vincent D'Onofrio is a revelation, playing Kingpin (also known as Wilson Fisk) in a superb manner. Fisk is a brute of a character in the comics, and while he still is in the series, there is so much more depth to his character. Even as you (really really) want to see his downfall, you still can't help being sucked into his burgeoning relationship with Vanessa, and feel a little sorry for him after THAT backstory. For a bit more post Netflix Kingpin, check out Daredevil: The man without fear or Daredevil: Born again.

Next up is Spike from Buffy the Vampire slayer. The bleach blond vamp was most definitely a highlight of the series for me. Watching him transform from the earlier days where he was one of Buffy's greatest foes, to becoming a sometimes unofficial member of the Scooby Gang, to finally becoming Angel's competition for Buffy's affections, he always entertained and was never boring! I was always Team Spike I have to say, sorry Team Angel fans. I think it may have been the accent, I'm always a sucker for an accent ;). For anyone wanting some more Spike in their life, you can either start watching the series from the very beginning here, or check out his very own comic Spike: The complete series.

My next villainous bad boy is Loki, as in the Marvel version of. Loki is the adopted Asgardian brother of Thor, Son of Odin. He wants the throne his brother will inherit for his own, and is constantly scheming up ways to take it. Tom Hiddleston brought Loki to life rather deliciously in the Marvel cinematic universe, and made the villain everyone's favourite (sorry Thor!). You can see just how deliciously for yourself in the movies Thor, The Avengers, and Thor: The dark world. I just love it when he pops up for cameos in other comics, such as the third volume of Ms Marvel: Crushed, and even better, he has his own series you can check out called Loki: agent of Asgard. I almost think he wrote the blurb for it himself, "The God of Mischief is stronger, smarter, sexier and just plain sneakier than ever before".

On my list next is Moriarty. While I'd like to pretend I was being all literary here, and a fan of Arthur Conan Doyle, in reality this is all about Sherlock, the TV series. Sherlock is AMAZING, and so his nemesis Moriarty as played by Andrew Scott. I'm not sure if it is that fabulous accent (I think I mentioned my weakness for accents earlier), or the slightly unhinged yet hilarious way that Moriarty plays games with Holmes that makes the series for me, but it definitely would not be the same without him!

Last up is Darth Vader, who is quite literally the Daddy of all villain hood *giggle* (On discussion with some of my fellow librarians, they felt that joke was a little misleading, as he's really the Daddy of a hero, but I'm going with poetic licence here). When I researched all time great villains, Darth Vader came in at the top of many lists, and I 100% have to agree. Lets not talk about his less than stellar days as Anakin (I try to pretend the prequel trilogy doesn't exist), but his height of glory in the original trilogy which you can check out here. This is the villain that launched thousands of cool toys (just look at that photo above) and has been cosplayed in so many awesome ways (that pink Vader princess is a huge favourite of mine!). Don't just take my word on it, I hear Kylo Ren agrees big time ;) If you want more of a Vader fix, check out his newest comic series Star Wars: Darth Vader.

We love you too Spike

Monday, 26 September 2016

A musical education

Music has always been a big part of my life. Well, actually, that’s a lie. Music became a big part of my life when I hit my teenage years, when like any young person, I looked to music to help forge my identity. Up until then, I basically listened to what my parents listened to; the local ‘classic hits’ station, and their records of Elton John, Abba, The Bee Gees and Celine Dion. (A bit daggy, but it influenced my taste: I still love that classic-with-an-edge sound) I have vivid memories of a young me climbing on top of furniture and ripping off my t-shirt to spin above my head to the sounds of Tina Turner, which might have been a sign of my taste to come.

In my early teens, wanting to know what all the fuss was about, I got into music magazines. I eventually discovered a love for folk, blues, indie and rock n’ roll music, which persists, and hosted a rockabilly-themed 21st. Along the way of my musical education though, I ended up listening to almost every type of radio known to Auckland; classic hits, pop, more poppy, student radio, all rock, all kiwi, and even all Christian.

I am more settled in my tastes now, but this brings me to two of my favourite loves: music and books. Ohh, there are some good musical autobiographies out there, and no shortage of people wanting to spill the beans about their fifteen minutes. However, what separates pure, delicious, gossip fodder from a great autobiography, to me, is the level of self-awareness an author brings to their story, to an art form which has attracted and repulsed, mythologised and angered, or just been plain tolerated for as long as humans have consumed art. Here are some great examples of musical biographies I have discovered over the years.

All cards on the table, Love is a Mixtape by Rob Sheffield, is one of my all-time favourite books. It tells the story of the rock journalist Rob, and two of his greatest loves in the world; music, and first wife Renee Krist, who passed away suddenly after five years of marriage. What could easily be a depressing read instead becomes a vehicle for a celebration of life.  Music was a huge part of their life, and a backdrop to the momentous and mundane moments of their lives; developing their writing careers, adjusting to married life and doing small-time America. You will marvel at the way a connection between two people grows, mostly based on a shared appreciation for some groups who happen to make noise with their mouths. There is also, for extra music geek credit, a mixtape relating to certain periods of the author’s life featured at the start of each chapter, which makes for some fun googling.

The more I’ve read, the more I’ve seen that partners of (the mostly male) famous musicians tend to be relegated to the background, even when they were perfectly influential people themselves. You might have heard of the name of Pattie Boyd. Famous for marriages to George Harrison and Eric Clapton, she was a well-known model in the 1960’s, who withstood years of intense public scrutiny, witnessed Beatlemania up-close, interested The Beatles in spiritual matters, survived two neglectful marriages, and later in life, became a respected photographer. Her autobiography ‘Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton and me’, tells all of this with gusto, and gives an un-blemished view of the behind-the-scenes life of living with worldwide fame. Especially inspiring for the casual reader is her late-in-life resurgence to re-claim her sense of identity, after years of being in the shadow of her partners. Although it is not a literary masterpiece, it is an interesting cultural snapshot of the 1960’s.

For anyone who enjoyed the movie ‘Walk the Line’, like me, which lead to my obsession with Johnny Cash, ‘I Walked the Line’, will be an interesting read. I’m currently reading an excellent biography of the man himself, but I became curious to read Johnny’s first wife’s memoir, which was released in 2008, after it was revealed that it would publish of scores of letters from Johnny, and tell Vivian’s side of the story of the most famous love triangle in country music history.

Modest and wary of fame her whole life, Vivian wanted to redefine what she called the ‘Nashville view’, of her presence just being a roadblock to Johnny Cash’s and June Carter’s storybook romance. More than half of it is taken up by Johnny’s letters to Vivian in the early days of their courtship, when he was posted in Germany during WWII. While a bit long and tedious, they provide some interesting tidbits into the psyche of Johnny Cash, and his early dalliances with alcohol and women. The second half mainly focuses on Vivian’s story of being on the receiving end of June Carter’s determination to get Johnny Cash. Not as much a technical history, it is more of an emotional history, and shows how the truth tends to get twisted into rock n’ roll mythology over the years.

Please let me know of any great music autobiographies you love!

Friday, 16 September 2016

World's biggest zine!

On July 21st  2016, Zine Library Day, in a public workshop at Auckland Central City library, we created one of the world’s biggest zines.

Our zine, titled Zine doggo yeet crocco yeet nice crocco dile dun deet look nice on feet has a page size of 1240 x 845mm (slightly larger than A0), and has 8 pages, excluding covers. It is a collection of mostly art, with some poetry and prose, made by the general public as well as feature artists Chippy and Holly Paynter.

In preparation for the event we researched other large zines and found two main competitors: one created at the MCA in Australia in June this year, and one at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, USA in 2012.

Both of these zines were fold-out, and when folded, are smaller than ours.

The MCA zine is an A6 concertina, and though it has many pages, its page size is much smaller than our A0+, therefore we win.

The Carnegie Library Zine has 6 separate sections that collective fold out to 6’ x 8’, but folded up it is approximately 13” x 13”.

So yet again it folds down smaller than ours and therefore we are the champions.

But seriously, it’s the biggest zine in the world, or at least in the top 3 depending on how you look at it. Thanks to everyone who came along and helped us make it happen!!

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Disney's Pete's Dragon - movie review

I'm not ashamed to admit that I spent 60 percent of this film trying not to cry into my 3D glasses lenses. It's so sad and it's so sweet! Disney are the kings of pulling at the heart strings. They don't hold back with their orphans (Pete played by Oakes Fegley); their talented actors (Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Karl Urban); their thoughtful music score (note however, that it is not a musical!); their lost dog picture book allegories (꒰๑•̥﹏•̥๑꒱); or their lost dragons!

Elliot the dragon is an especially quality piece of CGI from Weta Digital, and he was clearly perfectly thought out to appeal to kids. I'd certainly buy a stuffed Elliot, and I wouldn't be surprised if I saw him in Disneyland stores on my next visit! Think...enormous, green, fluffy dog, with all the cute doggy mannerisms.

I'm a little too young to remember the original Pete's Dragon (1977) with any clarity, so this charming remake was entirely new to me, and likely will be to most children. Although elements of the animated dragon remain (clumsiness, traditional neck spines, a vivid green shade), new Elliot is the perfect cuddly protector. I haven't seen so many small children so quietly enthralled in a long time.

More than anything, this film evoked nostalgia and memories in me! Every moment of lush New Zealand greenery was a reminder of my own childhood, which consisted on occasion of playing for hours on end, nearly completely alone, in the New Zealand bush.  Although my young dragon years were spent trespassing in private bushland behind Blackpool Beach on Waiheke Island, the lush foliage of the filming locations, particularly the Rotorua Redwoods Forest, will feel familiar to many bushwhacking kids and adults.

As a child it certainly seemed as if a taniwha could rise at any moment from the underground streams that ran through the bush, and in Disney's Pete's Dragon, this thrill finally becomes real!

Disney's Pete's Dragon opens in New Zealand cinemas on Thursday 15 September, 2016.

Our thanks to Disney for providing tickets to an advanced screening for our reviewer.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

I need a (Super) hero!

So I was at the gym earlier this week, and the song Holding out for a hero by Bonnie Tyler came on my workout playlist. As I puffed along, I suddenly thought YES! my next blog post has found me! My previous graphic novel posts (Graphic novels for Grown Ups: Terry Moore and Graphic novels for Grown ups: Part 2) have been for the most part not very superhero focused. Sure, Powers by Brian Michael Bendis is about cops solving crimes that involve capes, but the focus of the series is more of a crime noir one than that of your traditional superhero book.

But I'm pretty broad in my comic book reading tastes, and love me some superheroes as much as the next fangirl or fanboy. In fact, in the early 90s, it was those cool Fleer Ultra Marvel collectable cards that got me back into comic reading in the first place. My younger brother brought some home from school, and before I knew it, the collector in me took over, and the Card Crazy stores were my favourite place to hang (anyone else remember them?). Those Marvel cards were intriguing, I loved the art, and was fascinated by the characters, and so I got hooked. I'd also always had a soft spot for Batman, so DC was my friend too. There's no DC vs Marvel favouritism here, I love 'em equally, along with Image, Dark Horse and way too many other publishers to name.

This is an exciting time to be a fangirl or boy, with the plethora of movies and TV shows based on all our favourites (and can I tell you HOW MUCH I geeked out about Tyler Hoechlin from Teen Wolf being cast as Superman in Supergirl...YES YES YES...ahem, sorry, sidetracked there). So here are a few of my favourite heroes.

First up is a bit of a newcomer, but I gotta tell you, I adore her! In Ms Marvel, G. Willow Wilson introduces us to Kamala Khan, who takes on the Marvel mantle (as in Captain Marvel) in a spectacular fashion. Kamala is the first Muslim character to headline her own book, which in itself is a wonderful thing. But she is also such a fangirl (she even writes fanfic I would totally read), which makes her in book cameos from characters such as Wolverine, Loki, Carol Danvers and so many others such a joy. This is such a well written book, watching Kamala juggling her new role as a superhero with her role within her family and community and finding her place in both makes for a superb read. I couldn't read this series fast enough, and I can't wait for what's up next for Kamala. (And can I please have my Kamala Pop! figure now Funko, thank you very much).

Talking about Wolverine, he's up next on my list. He has always been the highlight of the X-men books for me. In fact, don't tell anyone, but our youngest son MAY have the middle name Logan for this very reason. He's gruff, slightly antisocial, but is often the best mentor around (just ask Jubilee, Kitty Pryde or even Ms Marvel). For many years, the origin of Wolverine was unknown, even to himself. A mutant with a healing factor, he was a subject of the Weapon X Programme, where Adamantium was fused to his bones turning him into a super soldier.  Wolverine: Weapon X by Barry Windsor-Smith tells this tale, and is considered to be one the best of them all.

And how could I miss Wonder Woman! Oh how I wanted to be Lynda Carter when I was younger, with those cool bracelets and that lasso. I love that Diana more than holds her own in the Justice League (where would those boys be without her!), and yes, I am hanging out for her stand alone movie which can't come soon enough. We have loads of great Wonder Woman titles in our collection, but I'm going to share Wonder Woman: Warkiller mostly because it is written by the brilliant Gail Simone, but also because it features a team up with another favourite of mine, Black Canary.

Next up is Daredevil. I'm proud to say I had read several Daredevil titles before the Netflix series came out, mostly because one of my favourite artists David Mack did some of the art for them (he also did the covers for the Alias books, featuring Jessica Jones). If you are a fan of the Daredevil of Hell's Kitchen, you really want to check out Daredevil: End of days by the sublime Brian M Bendis. This series features the death of Matt Murdock, and has Ben Urich hunting down the meaning of his mysterious last words. A number of Matt's former foes and lovers feature in this compelling story.

And I have to finish with Batman, because I do have a bit of a soft spot for Mr Wayne. It wasn't really the movies (ALL the movies), because none of them really quite get it right for me. I think it may be because he is a self made hero, he isn't from another world, he didn't get bitten by anything radioactive, he just worked at making himself a hero. Sure, a dark broody vigilante orphaned one, but a hero nonetheless. I also think he has such a great gallery of villains to play off against. There are so many fab Batman comic series, but I'm going with Batman: The long Halloween as one of my all time favs. I love the stunning art by Tim Sale, and Jeph Loeb has crafted a must read series about a new serial killer in Gotham called Holiday, who is killing to a monthly schedule. This is a classic Batman, the detective at work title.

So who are your favourites? and do you have a whole new appreciation for the character Aquaman after seeing that latest Justice League trailer?
Jason Mamoa, you are 100% rocking it dude ;)