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#SaveWinston Ends On a Happy Note

winston_on_comics_carol_and_johns_comic_book_shopI was quite dismayed early on Monday to learn that Winston, a Cleveland-area comic shop’s shop-cat, was missing.

I’ve been to this shop (Carol & John’s) a handful of times, and even if I’ve only caught a glimpse of the kitty, that’s made me smile, and justified the visit. (And I once drove out there specifically hoping to see Winston…something I’m contemplating doing this weekend again).

For me, there’s just something to there being a “shop cat” around…particularly given the way I’m such a “cat person.” I’d encountered a shop cat at a comic store in Pennsylvania about 6 years ago that I’ll always remember–he followed me around, stuck his paws down between issues while I flipped through a longbox, and even decided my head was a plaything while I knelt to flip through a box on the floor and he was stretching down as far as he could reach over the edge to swipe at me, trying to get me to play with him. I had also once “discovered” a book/comic/something shop when I moved for grad school back in 2004…the cat curled up in the window caught my attention, or I wouldn’t have even noticed the store.

There’s also the story of Dewey, chronicled in the book Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World that gets to me.

I ‘discovered’ Dewey barely a week after I lost my first cat, Christy…and reading the book had a huge impact on me, was truly cathartic and really helped me, in its own way, to deal with that loss.

And aside from that, it’s just fascinated me ever since, to consider there being a library or a shop or such with a resident cat that I might see every time I went there.

Even as I type this, a memory’s just surfaced that when I first “discovered” Carol & John’s, I researched the place online, their web page, before I went out, and it was the notion of Winston, their shop cat, that “sold” me on driving out immediately, and the inward thrill of actually seeing him briefly (it was late and he’d probably had enough for the day–I recall him going behind the counter away from the main part of the shop).

So when I saw the top edge of a “Missing Cat” poster in my Facebook newsfeed early Monday afternoon, I had that immediate thought I always have–feeling bad for whoever has lost a cat, but was shocked and then dismayed to realize it wasn’t “just” Carol & John’s page sharing a local missing kitty, but it was their own kitty–a kitty I’ve met, that I “know,” and it was a gut-punch I don’t usually get from such postings.

I’d shared a couple of the posts on social media myself, doing what I could to get the word out so anyone local-ish would know and could keep an eye out, all the while dreading what seems to be the “usual” horrible news.

winston_found_screenshotSo when a friend shared a post to my newsfeed last night, I was first curious about the post…but my heart truly leapt with a beat of joy when I saw what the post actually was:

Great news!

He’d been found, he was safe, the story had a happy ending.

And I’ve thrilled tonight looking at the Carol & John’s facebook page, reading all the comments, seeing several recently-posted photos, and generally seeing just how well-loved this cat is, by so many in the community.

I’d commented to a couple friends last night that I’m sure Winston’s gonna have extra visitors this week, and as mentioned above, I myself am really thinking I want to take a trip out there to see him (regardless of a Not-At-Comic-Con sale the store is holding this week).

And obviously the situation touched me in such a way that it’s what I chose to write about tonight, superseding any other posts I might’ve written.

If you’re in the Cleveland area, it’s well worth paying Carol & John’s a visit. Great service, amazing stock, plenty of bargain-bin ($1) comics, lots of new stuff, a kids’ play area…and of course, Winston the cat.


winston_on_comics_carol_and_johns_comic_book_shop

Photo (above): Winston laying on some comics, back home again after going missing for a couple days. This particular photo was posted as the profile picture of the Carol & John’s Facebook page Tuesday evening 7/7/2015. Please visit their page, check them out (enjoy photos of Winston at least!), and all that.


You can find them at 17462 Lorain Ave / Cleveland, Ohio in Kamms Plaza.

Superman Mug, Because…Clark Kent

For me, Clark Kent is the core character when it comes to Superman. Particularly as depicted in the late 1980s and throughout most of the 1990s, the character could be summed up as “Clark Kent is who he IS, Superman is something he DOES.”

With recent developments–as I understand as an outside party no longer finding the comics worth following at the moment–DC has decided to pretty much do away with Clark Kent officially, at least for now..

While I recall stories such as The Death of Clark Kent where it was a short-term status quo shift and story-driven, the bits I’ve picked up on the current stuff suggest it will be a much longer thing and far less story-driven, at least in any way that I would enjoy offhand.

And it’s to the point that as much as it drives me nuts to consider Clark Kent “merely” some disguise or mask…I saw this mug.

superman_mug_front

And even this “classic” depiction of Superman with the bumbling mask/disguise version of Clark Kent was something I opted to buy, in a moment’s notion of “support” for something involving CLARK KENT.

superman_mug_back

Plus, it’s a nifty coffee mug, Superman-themed.

Not only pre-52, but pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths. Sure, it’s not my favorite, but it’s still preferable to the contemporary version.

Cover Gallery: X-Calibre

Amidst all the reviews and such, for me (at least) sometimes it’s just really fun to look at a bunch of comics’ covers together, whether it’s admiring a run of a series, or seeing a full story, or some other ‘theme’. Here are the covers to the X-Calibre issues from the original Age of Apocalypse event in 1995 (and as a shameless plug, click on the cover and that should take you to my Age of Apocalypse Revisited coverage of the issue).

 

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Cover Gallery: Amazing X-Men

Amidst all the reviews and such, for me (at least) sometimes it’s just really fun to look at a bunch of comics’ covers together, whether it’s admiring a run of a series, or seeing a full story, or some other ‘theme’. Here are the covers to the Amazing X-Men issues from the original Age of Apocalypse event in 1995 (and as a shameless plug, click on the cover and that should take you to my Age of Apocalypse Revisited coverage of the issue).

 

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Amulet vol. 1 [Review]

amuletvol01thestonekeeperBy: Kazu Kibuishi
Published by: Graphix (Scholastic)
First Edition: January 2008
Cover Price: $12.99

This book caught my attention recently when I was visiting with a friend, and visited a comic shop I don’t often get to. It was shelved next to Bone, which proved fortuitous as I like what I’ve read of that series (the Scholastic Graphix imprint editions), and this is also a Graphix edition…but NOT Bone. I left it there, but the thing sat on my mind for the next couple days until I finally bought it at a local Barnes & Noble.

I read the back cover, but not being at all familiar with the characters or creator, nothing really stood out to me from that. Having acquired the volume and thus having it to get to at my leisure, it sat another couple weeks before I took it with me to read at a park…where I sped through the first 140 pages in one sitting.

When weighed against something like The Hunger Games or Divergent, this is rather tame; I’d normally be a bit “concerned” about the traumatic nature of what the main character and her brother face otherwise, as kids’ fare. But then, these days, said concern just goes to show my first instincts based on a hyper-sensitive culture that tries to “protect” children from ever being “exposed to” stuff, despite the fact that they get it all over from tv, movies, games, classmates, school, etc.

Amulet begins with Emily and her parents driving somewhere to pick up her brother Navin, when tragedy strikes–and the family is devastated. We see this in a prologue rather than flashback, and that works well for me as we’re not left to “wonder” what happened…we see it unfold before us, on-panel, and it gives us a definite sense of where Emily and her mother are when the main story opens.

Emily and Navin’s mom moves them to an old house that’s been in the family for generations, to get a fresh start away from the painful memories. Unfortunately for the family, the house is a mess, and possibly haunted. They attack the place with mops, buckets, brooms, and other cleaning, working to make the place livable. While cleaning, Emily finds a mysterious amulet on a chain. That night, the kids’ mom is kidnapped by a tentacled creature and they pursue, and soon find themselves in a parallel world. The amulet draws them to their great-grandfather, his home, and a “family” of automatons he’s created that have been imbued with individuality/sentience.

With the grandfather’s passing, the kids and their newfound friends are left with the task of rescuing their mother…a mission that shows hints of a larger, wider world and a destiny the kids may not be able to avoid.

While I know that Bone was originally published as a serialized comic series, I’m not familiar with Amulet except in this book format, and did not notice any significant internal breaks–so I’m assuming it was created for this format, and at the least it seems very well suited for it. This first book works well as a “pilot” to the larger series, functioning both as its own arc as well as setting up a world for further exploration.

I appreciate that we get a full “arc” for the characters for the most part resolve the main premise, while having things seeded for later stories. The book does end with some new questions and possibilities, as well as an ongoing thread from this first adventure…a motivation TO continue adventuring and exploring the world Emily and Navin have found themselves in.

Story-wise this is enjoyable, with a lot of potential, interesting characters whose voices I could “hear” pretty easily, and has me curious how things develop.

I like the art for this. While it looks like manga, something about it doesn’t entirely FEEL like manga. Essentially, it just has its own feel and look. There’s a welcome consistency throughout with the character designs between the human and non-human characters and creatures. I was put very much in mind of the castle occupants from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and as I write this, I’m supposing that may be part of what made the characters work for me.

Amulet is new to me, but there are at least 6 volumes in print that I’m aware of and the copyright date on this first one is 2008, so I’m obviously late to the party. If–like me–you’ve never checked it out, but have enjoyed the likes of Bone or stuff like Disney‘s Beauty and the Beast, I’d definitely encourage giving this a look.

I Was the Cat [Review]

iwasthecatognWritten by: Paul Tobin
Illustrated and Colored by: Benjamin Dewey
Lettererd by: Jared Jones
Edited by: Jill Beaton and Robin Herrera
Designed by: Jason Storey
Published by: Oni Press
Format: Hardcover (6" x 9")
First Edition: August 2014
Cover Price: $24.95

These days, almost exclusively, my reading is ongoing super-hero stuff…primarily Valiant, Ninja Turtles, and starting the summer, Marvel‘s Secret Wars (2015) stuff. Even the occasional collected volume is generally something whose content was originally serialized, such as trying one of Image‘s vol. 1s or some other $9.99 first volume. I only have so much budget and don’t often care to take a chance on unknowns when I’m perfectly happy with and have a huge backlog of other stuff I’m already reading/trying to keep up on.

So last summer when I saw ads for this book, I Was the Cat grabbed my attention. Full-page ad; full back-cover ad, actually, and I’m a cat-person. So the prominent cat on the cover and the title gave me cause to look and consider. The book turning out to be a hardback was a bit of a surprise and the price seemed a bit steep "on paper." Then I saw the book and its presentation was attractive, it was pleasantly thick, and looked to be well worth its price. But I was buying other stuff, and tacking an additional $25 onto the purchase was not something I was prepared for, so I passed on it.

But where often passing on "the immediacy" of something, letting it slide past that initial "gotta get it" moment, and time moving ever forward tends to show me I’m not nearly as interested in something as I might have thought, or that any perceived interest was merely hype and I "forget" about a book…this one stayed on my mind. The title, and the image, and sheer curiosity.

Thus when I came across the book again…I picked it up, deciding anything else I might find to buy could wait–I was not passing on this again. Though I had some slight worry about it living up to my months’ worth of expectation, I’m glad to say I needn’t have worried.

In simplest terms, I Was the Cat is about a talking cat–Burma–who is nearing the end of his ninth life. As such, he hires Allison Breaking–a blogger–to write his memoir, so that he doesn’t simply pass away unnoticed. In execution, we meet said blogger and her friend and gain insight into where she’s coming from and her reaction to learn that her employer isn’t some eccentric rich guy but actually a real-life talking cat. Amidst Burma’s telling tales of his past lives through history we begin to see that there may be something else going on. Burma isn’t just a cat that can talk…he’s been part of significant historical events, sharing time with many famous, influential individuals…and he’d had his sights set on ruling the world. Unlike most cats that people say must want to do so, Burma was able to do something to attain the goal…and it turns out that on more than one occasion the world had actually been in his grasp. But those times behind him, it remains simply to chronicle those times and pass his knowledge to the world at large after all this time. There’s a subtle dynamic sprinkled throughout with a bit of mystery, and I found myself piecing things together along with Allison, and quite enjoying the experience in general.

As said, I am a cat person, which is largely what drew me to this. And Burma is an interesting character; the whole premise of the book is interesting. We get some of the typical cat-stuff here; but more than just some novelty of "a talking cat" we get a fully-realized character in the cat; someone who has learned and grown from his experiences, had dreams, pursued long-term goals, has a life…and just "happens to be" a cat. That the character has been such a part of history comes from the notion of a cat having nine lives. This plays out as a sort of reincarnation–Burma has had a number of different appearances…it’s his soul that’s remained consistent. Despite the many human attributes, he remains a cat–in appearance, mannerisms, poses, and interactions. It’s an authenticity that I really appreciated and made this believable in its own way, without requiring extra suspension of disbelief.

Typically I expect comic book cats to be cartooney, but Dewey maintains a realistic visual style, and Burma and other cats never come off as being anything but ordinary cats. And as much as the story is engaging, the whole thing is sold by this realism and avoidance of visual tropes for cats in comics. Transitioning through multiple lives means multiple deaths…and while not gratuitous, the simple notion of seeing a cat that’s dead or injured cuts to my heart, and there were several panels that pained me, feeling for Burma in a way that human/superhero deaths in comics do not. While cat lovers may find the scant handful of such panels disturbing, they should not be enough to put one off from reading this…I myself kept peace with the narrative thread that it’s Burma in the present talking about his own past, and that though his bodies experienced deaths, we weren’t seeing his finality.

To be reserved in my phrasing: I was suitably impressed with this entire book. The story, the art, and the physical package as a whole. I Was the Cat is well worth its cover price, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys cats…or conversely, anyone who is highly suspicious that their cat or a cat they know might have more going on than merely existing in a life of luxury, their every need catered to by their humans. I wish I had bought and read this immediately when it came out, but having read it nearly a year later, instead of being one of my favorite reads of 2014, it gets that candidacy for 2015.

Cover Gallery: Astonishing X-Men

Amidst all the reviews and such, for me (at least) sometimes it’s just really fun to look at a bunch of comics’ covers together, whether it’s admiring a run of a series, or seeing a full story, or some other ‘theme’. Here are the covers to the Astonishing X-Men issues from the original Age of Apocalypse event in 1995 (and as a shameless plug, click on the cover and that should take you to my Age of Apocalypse Revisited coverage of the issue).

 

astonishingxmen001 astonishingxmen002
astonishingxmen003 astonishingxmen004
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