The Emperor of All Things

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Author: Paul Witcover
Publisher: Random House UK, Transworld Publishers
Bantam Press

Book Description from the publisher:
Tempus Rerum Imperator: Time, Emperor of All Things

1758. England is embroiled in a globe-spanning conflict that stretches from her North American colonies to Europe and beyond. Across the Channel, the French prepare for an invasion ? an invasion rumored to be led by none other than Bonnie Prince Charlie. It seems the map of Europe is about to be redrawn. Yet behind these dramatic scenes, another war is raging – a war that will determine not just the fate of nations but of humanity itself…

Daniel Quare is a journeyman in an ancient guild, The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers. He is also a Regulator, part of an elite network within the guild devoted to searching out and claiming for England’s exclusive use any horological innovation that could give them an upperhand, whether in business or in war.

Just such a mission has brought Quare to the London townhouse of eccentric collector, Lord Wichcote. He seeks a pocket watch rumoured to possess seemingly impossible properties that are more to do with magic than with any science familiar to Quare or to his superiors. And the strange
timepiece has attracted the attention of others as well: the mysterious masked thief known only as Grimalkin, and a deadly French spy who stop at nothing to bring the prize back to his masters. Soon Quare finds himself on a dangerous trail of intrigue and murder that leads far from the world he knows into an otherwhere of dragons and demigods, in which nothing is as it seems . . . time least of all.

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Be prepared for lush, evocative language that makes you want to linger on the page, hesitant to turn to the next just so you can savor it. Paul Witcover’s prose is poetic and beautiful. I fell so deeply in love with the language, with the construction of his sentences that I almost forgot to read the story. Almost. There is a STORY here. A great one really. One that has you as riveted and extraordinarily fascinated with the workings of clocks.

“The ticking of so many timepieces, no two synchronized, filled the space with a facsimile of whispered conversation, as if some ghostly parliament were meeting in the dead of night.”

The fantastical England Wicote writes of is completely wonderful, an 18th century England that you completely believe in. You could swear you read about the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers in a long-forgotten history book and you’ll be scratching your head wondering just where. It is the kind of book that grabs you and makes you a part of its world. It’s clever, intricate and maddening in its twists and turns, as mazelike as the tunnels Quare is led through under the streets. Continue reading

AUTHORS AND BOOKS ARE ANNOUNCED FOR BEA’S EDITORS’ BUZZ FORUMS

AUTHORS AND BOOKS ARE ANNOUNCED FOR BEA’S
EDITORS’ BUZZ FORUMS

Three Separate Buzz Panels for Adult, Young Adult, and
Middle Grade Titles

Norwalk, CT, March 5, 2013: BEA has just revealed the authors and books that have been selected for this year’s BEA Editors’ Buzz Forums. Three separate committees of booksellers, librarians and other industry professionals have reviewed the numerous submissions in each category and voted for this year’s final selections. The highly anticipated Buzz Forums are among the most notable and significant platforms for launching new books and creating awareness for noteworthy titles and authors at BEA. Insightful and passionate, the forums typically attract a large audience of booksellers and media who are eager to hear about, and then talk about, the new titles which have been singled out for discussion and presentation.

As has been the custom for the past several years, BEA will present three separate panels, including Adult Editors’ Buzz, Young Adult (YA) Editors’ Buzz, and Middle Grade Editors’ Buzz. The Buzz panel presentations, which feature book editors discussing the individual selections, will be supplemented with an Author Stage appearance for the chosen authors.

The BEA Editor’s Buzz Forums and book selections are as follows:

ADULT EDITORS’ BUZZ

BEA Adult Editors’ Buzz
Wednesday, May 29
4:15pm – 5:30pm
Room 1E14/1E15/1E16

BEA Editors’ Buzz Adult Books – Author Stage
Thursday, May 30
10:00am – 10:30am
Downtown Stage

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior
Publisher: Ecco
Publication Date: January 2013

Knocking on Heavens Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death by Katy Butler
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: September 2013

Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink
Publisher: Crown
Publication Date: August 2013

The Affairs of Others: A Novel by Amy Grace Lloyd
Publisher: Picador
Publication Date: August 2013

Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields by Wendy Lower
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Date: October 2013

The Facades by Eric Lundgren
Publisher: The Overlook Press
Publication Date: September 2013

YOUNG ADULT (YA) EDITORS’ BUZZ

BEA YA Editors’ Buzz
Thursday, May 30
10:00am – 10:50am
Room 1E14/1E15

BEA Editors’ Buzz YA Books – Author Stage
Friday, May 31
10:00am – 10:30am
Uptown Stage

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: September 2013

Tandem by Anna Jarzab
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: October, 2013

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
Publisher: Hyperion
Publication Date: September 2013

Entangled byAmy Rose Capetta
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Publication Date: October 2013

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan
Publisher: Algonquin Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 2013

MIDDLE GRADE EDITORS’ BUZZ

BEA Middle Grade Editors’ Buzz
Friday, May 31
11:00am – 11:50am
Room 1E12/1E13

BEA Editors’ Buzz Middle Grade Books – Author Stage
Friday, May 31
1:00pm – 1:30pm
Uptown Stage

A Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: September 2013

Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Publisher: Dial
Publication Date: September 2013

The Fantastic Family Whipple by Matthew Ward
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: August 2013

Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab by Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith
Publisher: Quirk
Publication Date: November 2013

The Time Fetch by Amy Herrick
Publisher: Algonquin Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 2013

For more information about BEA please visit the website at www.bookexpoamerica.com. You can also connect with BEA on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.

ABOUT BOOKEXPO AMERICA:
BookExpo America (BEA) is North America’s largest gathering of book trade professionals attracting an international audience. It is organized with the support of association partners including the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and the American Booksellers Association (ABA). BEA is recognized for the media attention it brings to upcoming books as well as for the notable authors it attracts to the convention itself.

BEA (Book Expo America) Author Breakfast Lineup

BEA has announced their line-up for author breakfast and I’m uber excited!

Thursday, May 30
Adult Book & Author Breakfast | 8:00 am – 9:30 am | Special Events Hall
Chelsea Handler
Ishmael Beah
Doris Kearns Goodwin
Wally Lamb

Friday, May 31
Children’s Book & Author Breakfast | 8:00 am – 9:30 am | Special Events Hall
Octavia Spencer
Mary Pope Osborne
Rick Riordan
Veronica Roth

Saturday, June 1
Adult Book & Author Breakfast | 8:00 am – 9:30 am | Special Events Hall
Chris Matthews
Helen Fielding
John Lewis
Diana Gabaldon

Open Road’s Oscar Trivia Challenge and a Challenge to Readers

The glitz, the glamour, the gowns: no other celebrity-studded event captivates our attention quite like the Oscars®. This year’s Academy Awards ceremony airs on February 24 and Open Road is counting down to Oscar with a special Oscar Trivia series, leading up to the big show (and a big prize for one lucky winner!)

 

Open Road is sharing two Oscar-related trivia questions a day up until the ceremony on February 24. Watch our Facebook page (facebook.com/OpenRoadMedia) at 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM daily (EST) for the questions. Anyone who comments with the correct answer will be entered to win the grand prize: a digital copy of each of the 30 Oscar-related ebooks featured in the trivia questions. So far, the list includes such iconic classics as From Here to Eternity, Kramer vs. Kramer, Born on the Fourth of July, The Color Purple, and more. (You can see some of the trivia we’ve already covered here, on our blog.)

How many of these books have you read?  Tell me about it in the comments.  Make sure you Retweet or share Open Road’s Facebook post about the upcoming trivia campaign, or link back to their blog post about it.

Here’s a hint of what Open Road is offering as a prize:

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Fred Patten Reviews Illustrating Modern Life

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Illustrating Modern Life: the Golden Age of American Illustration from the Kelly Collection
Authors: Michael Zakian – Richard Kelly – David Apatoff
Publisher: Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art, Pepperdine University
ISBN-10: 1-882705-10-
ISBN-13: 978-1-882705-10-8

Illustrating Modern Life is the 112-page hardbound full color catalogue of the exhibit, “Illustrating Modern Life: the Golden Age of American Illustration from the Kelly Collection” at the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art located on the Pepperdine University campus in Malibu, California, from January 15 through March 31, 2013. Michael Zakian, the Museum’s art director, says that the exhibit is also a double commemoration: of Pepperdine University’s 75th anniversary, and of the Weisman Museum of Art’s 20th anniversary.

The exhibit presents 75 original paintings by 31 artists, including both well-known names like J. C. Leydendecker, Maxfield Parrish, and Norman Rockwell, and now-obscure popular painters like Harvey Dunn, Coles Phillips, and Sarah Stillwell Weber. Most of the paintings were intended as covers for the most popular magazines of this period such as Collier’s Weekly, Ladies’ Home Journal, Life, and The Saturday Evening Post, although some are fine-art paintings, novel dust jacket paintings or plates, full color advertising art such as J C. Leydendecker’s portrait of a well-dressed man wearing a Kuppenheimer Suit for The Saturday Evening Post issue of October 11, 1930, and a few black-&-white story interior illustrations. There are also several full paintings paired with an enlarged portion to better display its detail.

Zakian says in his Introduction, “American Illustration and the Adventure of Modern Life”, that the four decades from the 1890s through the 1930s, encompassing the Second Industrial Revolution through the Gilded Age, were the Golden Age of American Illustration. The rapid rise of popular magazines during this period of enthusiasm for the future, created a new audience for art—the American public—and a new demand for illustrations. This exhibit, chosen from the original art collection of Richard Kelly, showcases this thesis.

“The best of these artists captured the spirit of the era with infectious enthusiasm, as seen in J. C. Leydendecker’s ‘First Airplane Ride’. This painting, which appeared on the cover of the August 28, 1909, issue of Collier’s, portrays the visceral ecstasy of the bold new experience of flight. A young man and woman engage in the timeless activity of courting while flying in a startlingly new invention: an airplane. Although it was painted just six years after the Wright Brothers’ first successful manned flight, Leydendecker does not convey any fear or trepidation in his painting. Instead he emphasizes the pair’s appealing self-confidence, casting this quintessentially American couple as sophisticated and worldly bon vivants. […]” (p. 8)

Zakian notes that this period also saw the introduction of new artistic and printing techniques, and that the most popular artists adopted to these easily. Whether depicting the latest social styles (Harrison Fisher’s “Graduation, 1903”), modern labor (Edmund F. Ward’s “The Miracle: Men in the Quarry”, showing 1924 stonecutters), historical adventure (Howard Pyle’s “Dead Men Tell No Tales” and N. C. Wyeth’s “The Boy’s King Arthur), or romantic fantasy (Sarah Stilwell Weber’s “Lady With Leopards”), these pictures are dynamic and gaudy, standing out dramatically from the style of popular illustrations before the 1890s.

Zakian’s Introduction is followed by a long interview of Richard Kelly by “illustration scholar” David Apatoff on “Building a Collection”. Kelly started out as a science-fiction fan, and it was many of his favorite s-f artists like Michael Whelan, Tom Kidd, and James Gurney telling him that their inspirations were the popular artists of this “Golden Age of American Illustration” that got him collecting their art.

The Introduction and “Building a Collection” take up pages 7 to 25. The exhibition art fills pages 26 to 106. Brief biographies of the 31 artists plus Zakian, Kelly and Apatoff close the catalogue.

This $40.00 catalogue is bound in hard covers as a sturdy book. John Fleskes, the catalogue’s printer, says in a separate blog that, “All of the works hung in the museum are inside, plus a handful of extra pieces.” The exhibit will end on March 31, but the catalogue “is forever”; an excellent addition to any collection of American fine art or commercial art of the 1890-1940 period.

Fred Patten Reviews Modern Cartooning: Essential Techniques for Drawing Today’s Popular Cartoons

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Modern Cartooning: Essential Techniques for Drawing Today’s Popular Cartoons
Author: Christopher Hart
Publisher: Watson-Guptill Publications
ISBN-10: 0-8230-0714-6
ISBN-13: 978-0-8230-0714-1

Christopher Hart has been writing best-selling “how to draw” books since the 1980s. Wikipedia says, “His [2001] book, ‘Manga Mania: How to Draw Japanese Comics,’ was the number one art book in the country for an entire year, according to Nielsen Bookscan.” During that time, drawing styles have been getting further and further from the classic Disney style of “cute” cartoons. Consider the popular looks of John Kricfalusi (“Ren & Stimpy”), Genndy Tartakovsky (“Dexter’s Laboratory”, “Samurai Jack”), and Butch Hartman (“The Fairly OddParents”).

Hart’s Modern Cartooning: Essential Techniques for Drawing Today’s Popular Cartoons (160 pages) emphasizes how to draw in the exaggeratedly individualistic styles that are “in” at the moment. Like most of Hart’s books, he starts with a classic how-to-draw tutorial in ‘Basic Head Shape’ and ‘Facial Features’. It is an old maxim for humorous cartoonists that you have to know the basic art rules to know how to break them effectively.

It is with ‘Moving Beyond the Basic Head Shape’ (page 41) that Hart starts to concentrate on what the modern public, and the modern art editors and animation directors, are looking for. Samples of Hart’s cheery advice: “Give her a ridiculously thin neck.” “Leaving the circle [the basic head shape] behind, take this same character and fit her with an oval-shaped head. Immediately she becomes quirkier – and funnier, too.” “Make the hair defy gravity.” “Place the ears below the eye line, as if somehow they never grew as the teen grew. I think this is often funnier.” “Do the earrings attach to the earlobes? Nope! They defy physics. Antigravity earrings are great for day wear.” “Notice how the arms of the eyeglass frames don’t even touch the ears. Why even use them? BECAUSE they’re useless – which is funny!” “This [head] shape is based on a modified square. Or maybe a rectangle. Although, it could be a rhomboid. But I don’t know what a rhomboid is. The point is – it doesn’t have to be an established geometric form. Any funny shape will work!”

Contrariwise, Hart warns to avoid excess complexity. “I used to think that you could only create cool cartoons if you used a lot of different angles for the head. […] Actually, I soon found out that […] too many angles detract from the look of a cartoon.” “With eight planes to his head, this version of the same guy is unnecessarily complicated without adding much ban to your buck.”

Hart presents head shots alone from pages 41 to 63. Then he moves on to “Medium Shots: The Best, Most Overlooked Angle”. Other chapters cover “The Universal Body Type”, “Putting Your Characters Together”, “Different Body Types”, “Adding Important Details”, and “Saving the Best for Last: Stuff You Won’t Learn in Art School”. Whimsical examples include the “Dorky Dad”, “1950s Mom”, “Trailer Mom”, “Funny Senior”, and “Mr. Bench Press”.

Each final example is preceded by several increasingly detailed outlines showing how to start with a simple sketch and gradually add to it without making missteps. Hart does not omit appropriate backgrounds. “A finished dresser: very symmetrical, very correct, very boring. […] Here, the drawers are uneven sizes and, yes, they’re also somewhat slanted. Plus, the vertical lines of the bureau expand as they rise. Even the verticals of the drawers are slanted.” A handy Index completes the book.

Hart has written dozens of these how-to-draw books over more than three decades. There is a lot of overlap. But with some exceptions, each of them is aimed at beginning cartoonists who have become fixated on a particular popular cartoon style of the moment – maybe in newspaper comic strips, maybe in increasingly detailed comic books, maybe in TV or theatrical animation, maybe in Japanese cartoon styles – and say, “Wow! I want to draw like that!” Modern Cartooning: Essential Techniques for Drawing Today’s Popular Cartoons is a relatively inexpensive ($21.99) basic primer on how to draw in THIS particular style; a first step for the aspiring cartoonist.

Disclosure:  A free copy of this book was furnished by the publisher for review, but providing a copy did not guarantee a review. This information is provided per the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.

Fred Patten Reviews Men Into Space

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Men Into Space
Author: John C. Fredriksen
Publisher: BearManor Media
ISBN-10: 1-5939-3231-6
ISBN-13: 978-1-5939-3231-2

The 1950s were, practically speaking, the first decade of television. Popular “everybody knows” knowledge is that the first serious science fiction TV program was Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, from October 1959 to June 1964. Earlier TV science fiction programs like Captain Video, Space Patrol, and Tom Corbett: Space Cadet were for children. Fredriksen, the author of thirty other reference books such as The United States Air Force: A Chronology, points out that earlier TV s-f for adults did exist, such as Science Fiction Theatre (1955-1957). One important but now-forgotten program was Men Into Space, 38 episodes, September 1959 to September 1960.

A major factor that sets Men Into Space apart from all other TV science fiction, then or later, was that it was “hard science” science fiction. Presenting the fictional adventures of astronaut Col. Edward McCauley (played by William Lundigan) in the near future (the 1970s were implied), the program closely forecast the real U.S. space program of the 1960s. Men Into Space built upon the popularization of Lunar and Martian space exploration in the 1950s through books and magazine articles by such experts as Wernher von Braun and Willy Ley, and the “Tomorrowland” episodes of Walt Disney’s TV series. The program consulted closely with the U.S. Air Force as an advisor, and “The Air Force retained supervisory control of scripting and insisted that all episodes depict the American space effort in a strictly realistic vein. No bug-eyed monsters or mad scientists were permissible, so story lines invariably turned on conflict arising from faulty equipment or personality clashes among crewmen.” (pgs. 7-8) Chesley Bonestell, the noted astronautical and astronomical artist who illustrated many popular 1950s articles on space exploration for magazines like Collier’s, designed the space and Lunar sets and the spacecraft for Men Into Space. Guest stars in the 38 episodes, appearing in one episode each, included Robert Vaughn, James Coburn, Werner Klemperer, Whit Bissell, James Drury, Gavin MacLeod, and many others who became better-known actors during the 1960s and 1970s.

Fredriksen first presents a general history and overview of the program and its production company, ZIV (Ziv Productions), followed by profiles of the “Cast and Crew”: a lengthy biography of Lundigan, shorter biographies of the actors who played his wife and son, the program’s producer, set designer (Bonestell), and composer, and the real Convair Atlas rocket that was the model for the program’s fictional spaceships. Each profile includes one or more publicity photographs and its own bibliography.

All the foregoing are on pages 1 to 36 of this 314-page book. “Episodes” are the main feature, from page 39 to 291. Each of the 38 episodes is given a usually-seven page profile that includes a still, the episode title, air date, list of actors and their characters, script author, director, technical advisor (a U.S.A.F. officer), and a long (usually five pages) plot synopsis. There are two appendices; a July 2012 interview by Fredriksen of William Lundigan’s daughter, and a photogallery of the program’s few children’s merchandising items. There are six pages of Endnotes and a Name Index.

This is one of those “all you want to know” books about its subject. Men Into Space was a minor program on the list of all the TV science fiction programs there have ever been. But it will always be known for its presentation of “real” or “hard” science astronautics, as distinct from the other programs that featured robots, Earth-conquering aliens, fanciful views of the far future and other planets, cinematic adaptations of prominent literary s-f stories, and the like; including today’s TV s-f which mixes s-f elements with werewolves, vampires, and zombies. Buy wherever there is any interest in Men Into Space itself, in TV science fiction, in TV productions of the late 1950s-early 1960s, or in American history of the 1950s Space Race period.

Fred Patten Reviews Thomas Nast: The Father of Modern Political Cartoons

Thomas Nast: The Father of Modern Political Cartoons
Author: Fiona Deans Halloran
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
ISBN-10: 0-8078-3587-0
ISBN-13: 978-0-8078-3587-6

Today Thomas Nast is known vaguely as the 19th century political cartoonist who created the Democratic donkey and the Republican elephant; whose cartoons brought down a notoriously corrupt New York politician; and who updated the many ages-old symbols of Father Christmas into our modern Santa Claus. Fiona Deans Halloran’s lively and excellently illustrated 366-page biography shows in detail that Nast did – or has been credited – for all of these. This first modern in-depth biography of a major American historical figure will be an important addition to libraries of American history.

Up to now, libraries have depended on Thomas Nast: His Period and His Pictures, a lengthy biography by Albert Bigelow Paine first published in 1904, shortly after Nast’s death in 1902; or on other biographies largely dependent upon it. Paine was a close friend of Nast for many years, and Nast had not only authorized him to write his biography but had supplied much of the information in it. Yet Halloran argues that both Nast and Paine were interested in presenting a whitewashed biography that ignored or misrepresented the true details of Nast’s life. Her new biography claims convincingly to be not only in-depth, but the first accurate biography of 19th century America’s most popular political cartoonist.

Nast was born on September 27, 1840 in Bavaria. His father took part in the revolutionary unrest that shook Europe in 1848, and as a result fled with his family to America, setting into the great immigrant melting pot of New York City. Halloran says, “Virtually the only information available regarding Nast’s first fifteen years appears in the 1904 biography. Nast’s voice emerges through Paine’s text, and the Paine book represents Nast’s life story as Nast chose to tell it.” (pgs. 1-2) Halloran supports some of Paine’s stories of Nast’s childhood and early adolescence and disputes others. Ultimately, however, what is important in Nast’s career is in his adult life, and Halloran has no trouble distinguishing between fact and fiction there.

Nast’s first public notice came when he was hired in early 1856, when he was only 15, as an artist by Frank Leslie, who was just starting Frank Leslie’s Illustrated News (within a mile of Nast’s home). Frank Leslie’s Illustrated News was one of the most popular newspapers from the late 1850s to the 1880s, both for its profuse illustrations and for its sensationalistic reporting, often campaigning against unsafe business practices by wealthy magnates or political corruption on the civic, statewide, and national level. Nast migrated from one newspaper to another, but “He remained employed full time from 1856 until he left Harper’s Weekly in 1887.” (p. 5) During this period he both learned and became a master of newspaper and newsmagazine muckraking through political cartooning.

Nast’s early assignments were to illustrate fires, disasters, and his newspapers’ sensationalistic stories. In 1860, when he was 19, Nast was assigned to go to England to sketch a major boxing match, one so important that Parliament was adjourned so the members could watch it. The drawings and commentary that Nast sent back to New York filled a special edition, but Nast found himself fired without his back payment so his newspaper could avoid the expense of bringing him home. Nast solved the problem by selling a note for what the newspaper owed him to one of the boxers, who went to New York and had no trouble collecting. Nast, meanwhile, talked the London Illustrated News into sending him to Italy to cover the wars of reunification there. Nast returned to America in February 186l, just in time to become a notable Civil War war artist.

Nast’s first really famous drawing was not a sketch of battlefields or soldiers, but a political cartoon. “Compromise With the South”, published in the issue of Harper’s Weekly for September 3, 1864, showed a crippled Union soldier shaking hands with an arrogant Confederate soldier over a grave labeled “In memory of the Union Heroes who died in a Useless War”. It was a biting attack on the Democratic Party’s platform for the 1864 presidential elections calling for a cessation of the war and a negotiated peace, which everyone knew would mean a Confederate victory since the South refused to negotiate unless its independence was recognized. Nast’s cartoon was officially adopted by the Republican Party and circulated widely by them. He became a prolific portrayer of Republican ideals just after the Civil War, and a political cartoonist for the Republicans in the 1868 election. Nast’s long relationship with Harper’s Weekly’s political editor, George William Curtis, is described. In 1871 the newspaper that Nast worked for opened a campaign to expose the New York City corruption led by the local Democratic social club, Tammany Hall, and its leader, the head of New York’s Board of Supervisors William “Boss” Tweed. Nast’s cartoons of the bloated, diamond-pin-wearing Tweed set the model for cartoons of fat, corrupt politicians. During the 1872 presidential elections, Nast’s cartoons for the Republicans and Grant’s reelection vs. the Democratic candidate, Horace Greely, were so savage that when Greely died just after the election, some believed that Nast’s ridiculing of him had destroyed his will to live.

The cartoons of the 1872 elections marked Nast’s high point in political cartooning. Thomas Nast: The Father of Modern Political Cartoons covers the rest of his life: some notable cartoons through the 1884 national elections; Nast’s declining health and financial problems beginning in 1884; and finally his requesting a consular post from a Republican administration in 1901 and being appointed the U.S. consul to Guayaquil, Ecuador, where he promptly contracted yellow fever and died in 1902.

Halloran shows that “what everyone knows” about Nast’s attacks against the corruption of Tammany Hall and “Boss” Tweed in 1871 is true. Also, Nast did draw pictures of Santa Claus, prominently named, for Harper’s Weekly every Christmastime from 1863 for the next three decades. Popular portraits of Santa Claus during the 20th century, notably the long-running Coca-Cola advertisements since 1931, can be directly traced back to Nast’s seasonal portraits. But as for inventing the Republican elephant and the Democratic donkey, Nast did draw the Republican Party caricatured as an elephant twice, in 1874 and 1884; but he also drew them caricatured as other animals, and he never drew the Democrats as donkeys. (Amusingly, this book’s dust jacket publicity cites Nast’s fame “for his cartoons portraying political parties as the Democratic donkey and the Republican elephant.”) So this honor – which he never claimed – is a posthumous exaggeration. Halloran also analyzes Nast’s apparent anti-Catholic prejudice, and other traits shown in his work.

This book contains dozens of Nast’s political cartoons, sharply reproduced. There are 47 pages of Notes, a 15-page Bibliography, and a 10-page Index. If you have any interest in Thomas Nast, or in late 19th century American politics or political cartoons, Thomas Nast: The Father of Modern Political Cartoons is definitely an important purchase.

Disclosure:  A free copy of this book was furnished by the publisher for review, but providing a copy did not guarantee a review. This information is provided per the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.

Fred Patten Reviews Assassin’s Creed and The Art of Assassin’s Creed III

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Assassin’s Creed.  Volume 1, Desmond.
Authors: Eric Corbeyran and Djilalli Defaux
Publisher: Titan Books
ISBN-10:  1-7811-6340-5
ISBN-13:  978-1-7811-6340-5

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Assassin’s Creed.  Volume 2, Aquilus.
Authors: Eric Corbeyran and Djilalli Defaux
Publisher: Titan Books
ISBN-10: 1-7811-6341-3
ISBN-13: 978-1-7811-6341-2

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Assassin’s Creed.  Volume 3, Accipiter.
Authors: Eric Corbeyran and Djilalli Defaux
Publisher: Titan Books
ISBN-10: 1-7811-6342-1
ISBN-13: 978-1-7811-6342-9

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The Art of Assassin’s Creed III
Author:  Andy McVittie
Publisher:  Titan Books
ISBN-10:  1-7811-6425-8
ISBN-13:  978-1-7811-6425-9

Assassin’s Creed is an extremely popular video game that was created by Ubisoft Montreal in 2007.  According to the publisher’s blurb, “Initially launched in 2007, the first four Assassin’s Creed games have sold more than 38 million units worldwide, and the franchise is now established as one of the best-selling series ever. Recognized for having some of the richest, most-engrossing art and storytelling in the industry, Assassin’s Creed transcends video games, branching out into other entertainment experiences including comic books, Facebook games, novels, short films and more.”

These four books have been published in conjunction with Ubisoft’s release of the Assassin’s Creed III video game in October 2012.  The Assassin’s Creed cartoon-art trilogy written by Eric Corbeyran and painted by Djilalli Defaux was published in France in 2009.  This is its first translation into English.  Titan Books has published it in the original French bandes dessinées format of three large (10.9” x 7”) hardcover 48-page albums of rich painted art on glossy paper.  The Art of Assassin’s Creed III is an original October 2012 larger (11.8” x 9”) 145-page hardcover book by video game veteran Andy McVittie; a compilation of full-color concept art and finished video-game art, also on glossy paper.

The books are for those already familiar with the video games.  The three-album Assassin’s Creed graphic novel begins in the modern laboratories of Abstergo, the powerful corporation controlled by the Templars (the bad guys).  The present-day descendants of the medieval Knights Templar are experimenting on the kidnapped Desmond Miles, whom they have discovered is (unknown to him) a descendant of the Assassins (the good guys).  “A SECRET WAR.  Its origins are rooted in the mystery which surrounds the BIRTH OF HUMANITY.  The prize for the winner is COLOSSAL: world domination!”  (Desmond, p. 44)  Abstergo is trying to learn through Desmond’s ancestral memory the location of an all-powerful artifact lost during the chaotic warfare in Northern Europe between the Romans, the Gauls, and the Alemanni in the third century A.D.  The present-day Assassins (especially Lucy Stillman, the romantic interest) help Desmond to escape from Abstergo and, hopefully, recover the artifact for themselves.  The three-part time-travel novel features lots of secret-agent-type ambushes and firefights in modern Europe, and regressed-memory visions of Desmond’s Assassin ancestors Aquilus in the later third century A.D., and Altair in the Holy Land during the Third Crusade.  The action-packed novel is kept going largely by not telling Desmond anything (“Who are YOU?”  “Knowing who I am will not COMFORT you, Mr. Miles.  Indeed, the less you know about us, the better.”  Ibid., p. 23), and it ends on a cliffhanger.  If the story was originally supposed to continue past Tome 3, it didn’t.

The Art of Assassin’s Creed III is a “making of” art book.  It contains concept and finished art by twenty of Ubisoft Montreal’s creative staff, plus commentary by Art Director The Chinh Ngo and the individual artists.  There is some new art at the beginning to add to Abstergo’s modernistic/futuristic corporate headquarters, but Assassin’s Creed III focuses upon a new ancestor of Desmond Miles:  Connor Kenway, a half-British, half-Mohawk Assassin who fights for the Colonists during the American Revolutionary War.  To quote from Titan Books’ publicity:  “Highlights in the game, and in the book, include new interactive cityscapes, frozen winter landscapes, threats from the natural world, weather systems that affect gameplay, and a wholly new environment for any Assassin so far – all stunningly recreated by the Ubisoft studio.”  Whether you are interested in video games or not, this is a gorgeous collection of art of the battlefields, Boston and New York in the 1770s, the uniforms, the weapons, the politicians (some real and some fictional), and the fighting men of the American Revolution.

Disclosure:  A free copy of these books was furnished by the publisher for review, but providing a copy did not guarantee a review. This information is provided per the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.

Fred Patten Reviews Tank Girl: Carioca

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Tank Girl: Carioca
Authors: Alan Martin and Mike McMahon
Publisher: Titan Books
ISBN-10: 0-8576-8743-3
ISBN-13: 978-0-8576-8743-2

The anarchic Tank Girl comic book began in 1988 in the pages of Deadline, a counterculture British magazine. Written by Alan Martin and drawn by Jamie Hewlett (the two had just met while playing in a rock band), Tank Girl became an image for counterculture protest. To quote Wikipedia, “Tank Girl became quite popular in the politicized indie countercuture zeitgeist as a cartoon mirror of the growing empowerment of women in punk rock culture. Posters and t-shirts began springing up everywhere, including one especially made for the Clause 28 march against Margaret Thatcher’s legislation. Clause 28 stated that a local authority ‘shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality’ or ‘promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.’ Deadline publisher Tom Astor said, ‘In London, there are even weekly lesbian gatherings called ‘Tank Girl nights.’’”

The original Tank Girl cartoons were collected and published as regular comic books from 1991 to 1993, in America by Dark Horse Comics. There was a 1995 feature film. Since then, there were several independent Tank Girl comic book miniseries or graphic novels. Around 2001, Hewlett turned over his partnership in Tank Girl to Martin, to concentrate on new projects in rock music, comics, advertising art, and animation centered around his new group, Gorrilaz. Martin has written new Tank Girl adventures illustrated by different artists. In Britain Titan Books has become the authorized publisher of Tank Girl reprints and new works. Tank Girl: Carioca, written by Martin and drawn by Mike McMahon, a popular artist on the Judge Dredd features in the British 2000 AD comic magazine during the 1970s, was originally published by Titan Magazines as a three-issue British comic book from October to December 2011. Now it has been collected into a hardcover, 136-page graphic novel.

Tank Girl is an anarchic teenager who roars about the post-apocalyptic Australian outback in a tank, committing outrageous acts of public indecency. “She is prone to random acts of sex and violence, hair dyeing, flatulence, nose-picking, vomiting, spitting, and more than occasional drunkenness,” according to Wikipedia. She is invariably accompanied by her sexual partner Booga, a chain-smoking mutant red kangaroo, and Team Tank Girl, a half-dozen or so human groupies who follow her orders.

Carioca opens with Tank Girl and Booga deliriously overjoyed because they have gotten tickets to the mega-popular TV show Quizbingo. They are even more thrilled to be selected from the audience as players. But TV host Charlie Happy says that Tank Girl misses her question, when she is sure that she answered correctly. When an electronic-genius friend provides the proof that Charlie Happy cheated her on live TV, Tank Girl decides to take more gruesome vengeance than just suing him. She, Booga, and Team Tank Girl work out a grisly Rube-Goldbergian scheme to publicly hang, draw, and quarter him outside the TV studio.

But the vengeance leaves Tank Girl strangely unfulfilled. “Then a disturbingly eerie feeling came over me. For possibly the first time in my life, I questioned what I had done. I left the party and spent the night in a cave in quiet contemplation.” She decides to start a New Age religion: Carioca. “From now on, my days will be dedicated to awakening my dormant psychic capabilities and to unblocking my congested charkas.” Jet Girl, one of Team Tank Girl, refuses to become a wussie, but everybody else dresses in white and says “Ommmmm.”

But the world will not cooperate. The new pacifists have to put their newfound ways to old-fashioned violence to save the hamlet of Dungtown from “Grape” Skinner and his Arse Bandits. Then they are attacked by a team of costumed assassins hired by U-Leen Happy, the widow of Charlie, who wants revenge against Tank Girl and her team. By the time that our Good Guys have killed everybody else, they have gotten tired of preaching non-violence and go back to boozing it up.

Tank Girl has a long history of popularity, but its foul-mouthed emphasis on a chaotic plot of comedically exaggerated gory violence is an acquired taste. Mike McMahon’s Judge Dredd art (he also drew 2000 AD’s Sláine and ABC Warriors) was reportedly one of the influences on Hewlett’s original Tank Girl art, so it is hard to criticize it, but it is too abstract and surrealistic for the cartoon mayhem to work as well as Hewlett’s art did. If you already have a demand for Tank Girl, then Tank Girl: Carioca will please your readers. Otherwise, start out with The Cream of Tank Girl or one of Titan Books’ other collections of the original comics by Martin and Hewlett.

Disclosure:  A free copy of this book was furnished by the publisher for review, but providing a copy did not guarantee a review. This information is provided per the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.

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