As 2016 comes to a close, we take time to remember those from the comic book world we lost during the year.

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This brief video doesn’t do justice to properly recognize all these creative talented people, however this tribute is a small effort to at least say they will not be forgotten. We thank them sincerely for their contributions.

 

I didn’t want to review this graphic novel. When I originally looked at this book, I read the first page, knew it wasn’t for me and left it on the shelf.RB_cover.jpg

However, after many of the ‘Best of 2016’ lists named Rolling Blackouts as one of the best graphic novels of the year, I decided to give the book another chance.

First of all, this isn’t the type of graphic novel that I usually read. My choices usually range from superheroes to fantasy and beyond. Originally proposed as a web comic, Rolling Blackouts is essentially a travel journal with a very strong focus on the wars (and their results) that took place in Turkey, Syria and Iraq in the very recent past.

Sarah Glidden is a journalist at heart and used the graphic novel medium as a means to make the situations and dialogue accessible to an audience that wouldn’t necessarily seek out this information from traditional non-fiction novels. Her previous graphic novel, How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less, was met with critical acclaim using a similar style of artistry and storytelling. Even with a total of almost 300 pages, Rolling Blackouts moves along at a brisk pace through vignettes that describe, through word balloons and water-color paintings, the stories and interviews with a select group of people in the Middle Eastern countries. The underlying premise focuses on the questions about truth and journalism while using the backdrop of the Middle East as the catalyst.

The artistic style reminded me of Herge’s Tintin series – simple but detailed enough to convey landmarks and surroundings. But that’s where the similarities end. There’s no funny stuff in this graphic novel — no dog sidekick, no bumbling Thompson Twin detectives and definitely no ‘blustering barnacle’ Captain Haddock.

The story is told through the author’s vantage point as her travel party interviews the inhabitants of the Middle East. Their stories are conveyed in a straight forward matter-of-fact manner.

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There’s no major revelation at the end of the graphic novel. The only message the author tries to convey is that through better communication and understanding of different countries and people, we may truly appreciate what others experience. Whether it’s the tragic results of war, the persecution of others or the raw feelings that actions have on survivors — this is the meaning of Rolling Blackouts. In this particular instance, Marshall McLuhan’s statement is very true — the medium is the message.

For additional information and how to buy Rolling Blackouts, visit http://drawnandquarterly.com/rolling-blackouts

For additional information about Sarah Glidden, visit
http://sarahglidden.com/

If you were to ask me if I’m a fan of ‘The Gilmore Girls’, I’d have to say ‘no’. I’m a die-hard fan of Star Trek, Star Wars and all things geeky. But when you dig at the surface of ‘The Gilmore Girls’ it’s a bit geeky too.

I’ve been a sometimes willing or non-willing participate to ‘The Gilmore Girls’ as the show has been a staple in our household. We have all the DVDs and of course the Netflix revival is constantly being played on the main TV.

As part of a family vacation to California last year, I booked a movie studio tour. I choose the Warner Bros. studio tour because it featured a Batman exhibit. But during our tour, we discovered ourselves in Stars Hollow.

 

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On the Warner Bros. lot where ‘The Gilmore Girls’ was filmed

 

The Warner  Bros. lot has been used for many shows including ‘The Waltons’. During the tour we even got to go on the set of ‘The Fosters’ and drove by the ‘Supergirl’ set (both favorite shows of my youngest daughter) before production moved to Vancouver.

But my family was amazed to be on the location where ‘The Gilmore Girls’ was filmed and was about to be filmed again. It was a treat for everyone to walk on the hallowed ground of Stars Hollow.

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Exterior of Luke’s diner

 

So that was our brush with a bit of Hollywood and site of Stars Hollow.

I read an article recently that reminded me about all the guest stars who appeared on the show that I never really noticed. Jon Hamm, Sherilyn Fenn, Brandon Routh, Traci Lords, Michael York, Sebastian Bach, Jane Lynch, Marion Ross, Masi Oka, Rami Malek, Kathy Baker and many many more surprised me by their appearances.

And I suppose the dialog is another endearing thing about the show that I like. It’s engaging to hear the characters talk to each other with so many pop culture references without stopping to ask “What?” There’s even a site devoted to every pop culture reference in every episode. And I’m sure they’ll be more references with the addition of the revival.

It should be noted that I’m still of the opinion that Dean from ‘The Gilmore Girls’ and Sam from ‘Supernatural’ are the same character. Others share my opinion too. Watch this clip from ‘Supernatural’ for a hint of that possibility.

So I guess you could call me an ‘occasional fan’ of ‘The Gilmore Girls’. Sure I’ve been caught on camera lurking about the recent pop-up Luke’s diner.

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A selfie in front of the pop-up Luke’s diner

 

So there you have it. In a round about way, that’s why I like ‘The Gilmore Girls’. I suppose it boils down to the fact that there’s a little something for everyone — memorable characters, witty dialog, charming scenes and a slice of home. What more could you ask for?

‘Lest we forget’ That phrase is used time and time again in association with the various events that take place to honour Canada’s fallen soldiers of wars from long ago and not-so-long ago. We also take this time to remember everyone who has sacrificed so much for our freedoms.

Now more than ever, we need to remember those brave men and women who sacrificed their lives in order to provide us the freedoms and liberties we casually take for granted today.

Over the past few years, I’ve been discovering how Newfoundland (my birthplace) contributed in many ways to the war efforts of both the First and Second World Wars.

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Gary Brown’s To Serve and Protect outlines how the Newfoundland Constabulary fought World World Two on the home front.  ‘To Serve And Protect’ is available from Tidespoint.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bill Rompkey’s St. John’s and the Battle of the Atlantic details the critical role that the St. John’s harbour and Newfoundland coastline played in the sea battles of World War II. Available from Flanker Press.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

img_0129Prolific writer Jack Fitzgerald’s Battlefront Newfoundland provides a record of individual uncovered stories of Newfoundland’s part in World War II.   Available from Creative Book Publishing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Anthony McAllister’s The Greatest Gallantry honours the nine gallant soldiers from the Newfoundland Regiment who on April 14, 1917, who stood directly between the Germans and the Village of Monchy-le-Preux, one of the most vital positions on the battlefield.   Available from Tidespoint.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Frank Gogos’ The Royal Newfound Regiment in the Great War is part field guide and part history guide  to the battlefields and memorials of France, Belgium, and Gallipoli  Available from Flanker Press.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sydney Frost’s A Blue Puttee At War is a personal account of the First World War from a member of the Newfoundland Regiment’s Blue Puttees. Available from Flanker Press.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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G.W.L. Nicholson’s The Fighting Newfoundlander is a very detailed history of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and their heroic efforts in the First World War. Available from McGill-Queen’s University Press.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This week is also significant for the recognition noting the efforts of Newfoundland Regiment chaplain Lt.-Col. Thomas Nangle. The St. John’s-born man was honoured with a plaque at the Canadian Forces Station in his home town to bring attention to his personal sacrifice to provide recognition for the soldiers from Newfoundland and Labrador plus nearby Atlantic Provinces. Nangle went to great lengths to ensure the legacy of the First World War included the creation of the Caribou Trail, marked with  a bronze sculpture of that animal as a monument in the five battlefields in France and Belgium where the Newfoundland Regiment fought.

This year marked the 100th anniversary of the battle of Beaumont Hamel.  Newfoundland’s Mark Critch and Allan Hawco hosted a special documentary about what happened those many years ago. A Sea And Be Scene – Trail of the Caribou on Sea And Be Scene details the documentary ‘Trail of the Caribou’.

No matter where we are and what we’re doing, we need to remember the past to secure our future. Lest we forget…

imgcap1DK Books published by Penguin Random House are without a doubt created with excellence in mind. Captain America – The Ultimate Guide To The First Avenger is yet another wonderfully created effort. Written by New York Times-bestselling author Matthew Forbeck along with Alan Cowsill and Daniel Wallace, this guide is a great addition to the library of any fan of Captain America or his comic book legacy.

However, it should be noted that this guide is limited only to the comic books that feature Captain America. There is no direct mention of the more recent Marvel movies such as Captain America: Civil War and the other related films. That may be a let down for some because it could be said that the rise in the popularity of Captain America is directly related to the cinematic blockbusters.

But this criticism shouldn’t dissuade anyone from purchasing this guide.

Each page is literally chock-a-block with eye-catching illustrations of Cap and his roster of friends (both good and evil). The guide takes a deep dive into the history of Captain America from his humble beginnings as a scrawny soldier to the Avenger he is today. For the record, even though the guide was published in 2016, it concludes with the 2015 Secret Wars series.

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As a comic book fan, I was especially pleased to see the various artists and writers recognized for their contributions to the Captain America mythos. This includes the original creators  Joe Simon and Jack Kirby and continues with John Cassaday, Ed Brubaker,  Steve Epting,  Steve Englehart and many, many more. And the pièce de résistance is an introduction written by Stan Lee, who also had a hand in the history of the famous Marvel Comics character.

Special recognition needs to go to author Matthew Forbeck for making sense of all of Captain America’s various incarnations and timelines. As a comic book reader, keeping track of Captain America’s various incarnations throughout history can literally boggle the mind. He’s been through death (spoilers), frozen in ice and then thawed, demoted, promoted, replaced and rebooted — yet this guide manages to make sense of it all. So hats off to Matthew Forbeck for keeping everything in order.

Available from most bookstores and online stores, Captain America: The Ultimate Guide To The First Avenger definitely deserves a place on your bookshelf next to your Captain America Marvel Masterworks or any of the your Captain America trade collections. Highly recommended.

 

 

 

 

COVERLAYOUT.inddIf you love art or at least have an interest in learning about art, Guardians of the Louvrepublished by NBM Publishing, is a treasure trove waiting to be discovered.

Created by acclaimed award-winning Japanese artist, Jirô Taniguchi, Guardians of the Louvre is a graphic novel that tells the tale a Japanese artist who, after attending an international comics festival in Barcelona, Spain, gets ill (probably from what’s traditionally known as ‘con crud’), and spends time in his Paris hotel room convalescing. Or does he? Once, he feels well enough, he ventures out of his room to visit the sites and wonders of the Louvre.

Without giving away the story, he tours the venue and experiences the famous pieces of art in unique and deeply personal ways. For example, when he sees the art of Vincent van Gogh, he is so intent on examining the paintings that he ‘meets’ with van Gogh and travels to his home town to experience the sites and sounds that inspired the painter.

The artwork in this graphic novel is inspiring. With lush water color mixed with detailed drawings, the graphic novel is like a dream itself. On many occasions I thought I was looking at Studio Ghibli film.

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Scene from Tales From Earthsea from Studio Ghibli. Image owned by Studio Ghibli

At first I was confused by the graphic novel. The panels were out of order – or at least that’s what I thought — until I understood that this book was written by a Japanese author. Created in the style of Manga, the Japanese form of comic book publishing [which Scott McCloud so entertainingly educates in Understanding Comics],  the panels read from right to left as opposed to the western way of comic books that read from left to right.

The book is written as if it’s an lecture on art. I just wish all my university lectures were like this book — I would have stayed in school forever.

I’ve never been to the Louvre in France. My only knowledge of the museum comes from television and movies. Most recently The Da Vinci Code movie featuring Tom Hanks has been my association with the art of the site.

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Tom Hanks stars in Columbia Pictures suspense thriller featuring the Louvre — The Da Vinci Code. Photo Credit: Simon Mein

But the graphic novel takes the reader inside the Louvre and brings you closer to the works of art than you could ever experience.

Another memorable moment in the book comes about when the Japanese artist is informed about the history of the museum. He learns about the painstaking efforts the French museum staff went through to secure the artwork during the upheaval of World War II. It’s heart wrenching to learn how these brave men and women went to great lengths to ensure the timeless art pieces were secure from the clutches of the Nazi regime. This story provides further background to the most recent book The Monuments Men by Robert Edsel that became a movie featuring George Clooney.

 

Guardians of the Louvre is a love letter to the Louvre and those who keep its artwork alive for visitors to experience. Furthermore, the graphic novel is a discourse on how to appreciate art and understand the reasons that inspired the artists in the first place. Definitely recommended. The book is available for purchase from the following sites: Amazon Canada, IPG, and iTunes

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I first heard about The Eternaut when I attended the 2016 Eisner Awards during the San Diego Comic-Con. Considered the Oscars of the comic books industry, the Eisner Awards recognized The Eternaut for Best Archival Collection/Project—Strips. The competition was fierce being up against other nominees such as Beyond Mars, Cartoons for Victory, The Complete Funky Winkerbean, vol. 4, Kremos: The Lost Art of Niso Ramponi, vols. 1 and 2, and White Boy in Skull Valley.

It wasn’t until I happened to come across the graphic novel at my local library that I decided to give it a gander and offer my thoughts.

‘Daunting’ is the word I’d chose to best sum up this graphic novel. From the outset, just looking at the black and white graphic novel, it’s definitely oversized. The tale is set in Argentina and even though the author Hector German Oesterheld provides a local flavour throughout the tale — overly detailed descriptions of neighbourhoods, sporting teams specifics and pointed references to political figures — the English translation assures readers of a story that anyone could appreciate today. The artwork by Francisco Solano Lopez expertly conveys the feelings of characters, the landscape of the towns, and the adventure of the story.

It was until I finished the 350 page tome that I understood that the graphic novel is a compendium of the comic strip published in serial form between 1957 to 1959. Even though I kept hoping for natural breaks in the story, none were included. So every now and then I had to take a rest from reading just to process all the information. The continuous introductions of new characters, situations and story are too overwhelming to be read in just one sitting.

According to the publisher, Fantagraphics, the tale is a thinly disguised political allegory. But that didn’t stop me from appreciating the story as an unknown 1950s science-fiction page-turner that paid homage to famous silver screen alien invasion movies of the time.

I can imagine how the main character Salvo has become a famous character in Argentina just as Tintin has become Belgium’s hero.

I’d definitely recommend this graphic novel for those who love the medium and for those who want to experience a slice of Argentinian life in the 1950s. The Eternaut is a great addition for anyone who appreciates the nuances of Watchmen, V for Vendetta or other graphic novel best sellers.

Fantagraphics video

 

2015 was a tumultuous year for many. So as we step forward into the bright shiny new year, it’s fitting to remember those from the comic book world we lost in 2015.

Although a short video doesn’t do justice to properly recognize these creative talented people, this tribute is a small effort to at least say they will not be forgotten.

In Memormiam 2015 slide

Alan Kupperberg – artist for DC and Marvel Comics

Andrew Hutton – artist for Beano

Brad Anderson – cartoonist and creator of “Marmaduke”

Brett Ewins – artist for “Judge Dredd” and “Rogue Troopers”

Clint Thomas – owner of Clint’s Comics

Dennis Eichhorn – artist and writer

Father Roy Gasnick – editor and writer for “Mother Theresa” and “Francis”

Fred Fredericks – artist for “Mandrake” and “The Phantom”

George Clayton Johnson – co-creator and writer for “Deepest Dimension”

Gopulu – artist

Henri Arnold – cartoonist for “Jumble” and “Meet Mr. Luckey”

Herb Trimpe – artist and co-creator of ‘Wolverine’

Irwin Hasen – creator and artist of ‘Dondi’ and ‘Wildcat’

John Dangar Dixon – artist for “Captain Strato”, “Crimson Comet” and “Tim Valour”

Ken Feduniewicz – colorist for “Captain America”

Lenny Robinson – Route 29 Batman, philanthropist

Leonard Starr – artist and creator of “Mary Perkins, On Stage”

Malcolm Bennett – writer for “Brute!”

Martin Honeysett – cartoonist

Michael Gelbwasser – blogger of “With One Magic Word” for The Sun Chronicle

Murphy Anderson – artist and inker for DC Comics

Norman Lee – artist for Marvel Comics

Rafael Freyre – cartoonist

Randy Glasbergen – cartoonist for “The Better Half”

Rick Obadiah – co-founder of “First Comics”

Shigeru Mizuki – manga artist

Sir Terry Pratchett – author “Discworld” and “The Colour of Magic”

Tom Moore – artist for “Archie Comics”

Wes Craven – writer for “Coming of Rage”

Yoshihiro Tatsumi – cartoonist

As long as we remember, they will never be forgotten. We thank them all for their contributions to the artistic fabric of our lives.

 

Hidden deep within Terminal 3 at Toronto Pearson Airport is a tunnel showcasing amazing Canadian photographers.

I stumbled across the eye catching display while wandering around the terminal as I waited for my overseas flight for a business trip.

For those planning a trip out of Terminal 3, you can find the unique Canadian artwork on the way to gates B1-B5

YYZ Terminal 1 signs to gates B1-B5

YYZ Terminal 1 signs to gates B1-B5

The newly revitalized tunnel connects to the also newly revitalized gates at B1-B5. I can recall taking my family to Terminal 3 when it first opened years ago to much fanfare. However, over time, the wear and tear on the terminal is showing. So it’s surprising that this tiny section of Terminal 3 has been given the beauty treatment.

By way of escalator, I reached the brightly lit tunnel and was greeted by a moving sidewalk. Because of the late hour of my flight, I had the area to myself so I could study the artwork adorning the walls of the tunnel.

The first offering is from Gaye Jackson (www.gayejacksonphoto.com) who travels in Northern Ontario to photograph unique and memorable sights of the inspiring landscape objects.

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A selection of Northern Ontario landscapes by Gaye Jackson

When you think of Canada, it’s hard not to picture a variety of winter ice rinks. Tobi Asmoucha (www.tobiphoto.com) presents a series of photos capturing the rituals of winter that bring together communities across the nation.

Winter ice rinks

Winter brings communities together in photos by Tobi Asmoucha

The Canadian landscape captures the imagination of many visitors. Aislinn Leggett (aislinnleggett.com) used her own family photos from the 1920s and 1940s in combination with scenes of the Canadian landscape based on her own historical research of the country.

Canadian wilderness family photos by Aislinn Leggett

Family photos combine with the Canadian wilderness by Aislinn Leggett

Canada is also the home of many identifiable animals. Photographer Maureen O’Connor (maureenfaithoconnor.com) juxtaposes the natural world with the known domestic world by capturing images of a variety of animals in surroundings familiar to us.

Animals at home by Maureen O'Connor

Animals are photographed in domestic settings by Maureen O’Connor.

The vast expanse of Canada is covered in small towns and this national feature is captured in a series of photographs by Jason Brown (www.jasonmbrown.ca). His tribute to small town life has an edge of mystery.

Small town mysteries photography by Jason Brown

Small town mysteries captured by Jason Brown

Photographer Greg Girard (www.greggirard.com) portrays the changing scenes of the Vancouver waterfront. The most western edge of Canada is exceptionally captured in scenes of the docks, railways and waterways.

Vancouver waterfront photos by Greg Girard

Scenes from the Vancouver waterfront by Greg Girard

And when the tunnel transit ends, travellers ascend to the B1-B5 gates to be greeted by a freshly revitalized section of the terminal. Gleaming and shiny, the new section offers a selection of stores and services for visitors making this one of the newest parts of the Toronto Pearson Airport in years.

Travellers get a treat in Terminal 3

Ascend to the newest section of the Toronto Pearson Airport

Stores and services for Terminal 3 travellers

Stores and services for Terminal 3 travellers

Thirty years? I can’t believe it’s been thirty years since the original “Back To The Future” movie first hit the silver screen. This year marks a huge milestone not only for those who original saw the trailblazing action/comedy. A new Blu-ray box set will hit the market before the end of the year and there’s talk about showing the original films in movie theatres. The anniversary also gives many of us a chance to step back and reminisce about going ‘back to the future’.

To better illustrate my point, the Brampton Peel Art Gallery Museum + Archives recently announced a special exhibit called ‘can You Imagine’. The exhibit runs until September 6 with the intent to encourage visitors to share what they value most today and what they envision for the future of their community. Some of the exhibit’s interactive features include a video booth time machine, an imagination station with an idea waterfall, and a kids’ zone dedicated to creating artifacts from the future.

What really caught my eye was the DeLorean that sent Doc and Marty back and forth in time, causing a multitude of problems along the way.

I've got to get back to the future!

I’ve got to get back to the future!

We also had the distinct pleasure of seeing costume replicas from the ‘Back to the Future’ trilogy including the Flux capacitor and the hoverboard.

Ah, the Flux capacitor. Now to get the car up to 88 miles per hour!

Ah, the Flux capacitor. Now to get the car up to 88 miles per hour!

Biff won't catch me on this hoverboard.

Biff won’t catch me on this hoverboard.

All these movie props stir up the imagination while reminiscing of life 30 years ago. We didn’t have Gmail, Netflix, YouTube, smartphones or a host of innovations that we take for granted today.

Some would say it was a simpler time, just as our parents or grandparents would argue they too also had ‘simpler’ times. I think we choose to remember only the good things from those days.

Thirty years ago we thought we’d have flying cars or at least hoverboards to get us quicker to destinations or at least escape from bullies named Biff. The days of the flying car are still a daydream for most — honestly I don’t want a flying car dropping on my house because it ran out of gas. As for the hoverboard, these are still in the infancy of development requiring huge investments in materials. Or for those instances where it seems a reality, it turns out to be well constructed prank hosted by Tony Hawk.

Taking this ‘can You Imagine’ exhibit on a more serious note, there’s a lot to think about when it comes to the future or least what’s to come in the next 30 years. Perhaps we’ll really have video phone wrist watches like Dick Tracy. Maybe we’ll be eating food concentrates from a pill that captures all the flavour and taste of a well done steak. Maybe our living rooms be completely empty and replaced with virtual reality rooms where we participate in experiences from just about anywhere with anyone in virtual space.

I like to think there’s a great deal we can imagine about what we can do to create positive outcomes, if we all pitch in to make it happen.

And maybe one day we’ll all get our own DeLorean car so we can all go ‘Back To The Future’.

Not really my car.

Not really my car.