Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Spacegirl and the Scarlet Sparrow

Decorah, with sudden burst of sun ©Michael Chevy Castranova 2016

 The day after attending a wedding last weekend in Decorah, in northeast Iowa — a town known internationally for the drama of its internet-cam eagles — I happened upon Dragonfly, a small bookstore downtown. On display inside were the three volumes of the “Zita the Spacegirl” graphic novel series.
These adventures, written and drawn by Ben Hatke from 2010 to 2014, mix a little Star Wars, some Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, more than a dash of Alice in Wonderland and sizable doses of charm and whimsy. Lots of running, lucky narrow escapes and myriad weird-looking creatures and robots.
The protagonist is a feisty young girl who looks a lot like a 21st-century version of Ed Vedier’s “Little Annie Rooney” newspaper strip and acts with the verve of plucky young adventuress throughout time.
It’s a fun story of Zita as she grows into her hero status over the course the tale. But the drawing itself is what I really lured me — deceptively simple, the characters move easily, and their emotions quick to decipher.
And there’s a great pun when hearts attack a planet, in book two, “Legends of Zita theSpacegirl.”
You should take a look.
Which brings us to another plucky adventurer, though in her early 20s I’d be reluctant to call her still a girl. Tyler appears to have seen off the Chancellor — again — but now she has to fulfill her part of the bargain she made with Dargelos.
That will entail heading directly into Rongeur-occupied Europe, in 1927. It’s an altered history — again — and one in which her enemy knows her well and likely has the table set — ahem — for her coming.
Check out the adventure of “Slipped” at
Come on, it’ll be fun.
© Michael Chevy Castranova 2016

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Heroes and villains

Mendacity Wilson and Pip the dog — Images and text © Michael Chevy Castranova 2016
I’m just finishing IDW’s “The Adventures of Dieter Lumpen,” on its Euro Comics imprint, written by Jorge Zentner and illustrated by Rubén Pellejero. The stories — collected from 1985 to 1994 — are unpredictable, sometimes-wistful tales of a protagonist who isn’t always the good guy.
But the art is breath-taking. Sweeping vistas and intimate detail, on a mood-shifting palette. I wasn’t surprised when I read that Pellejero now draws the revived CortoMaltese series (though a little perplexed that I hadn’t known the series had been revived).
Which is interesting in that Corto, as created by the great Hugo Pratt, was always noble — a defender of the defenseless and who fought on the side of lost causes. I’m not sure how I feel about his being resurrected as one of Pratt’s other characters told us Maltese was “lost” during the Spanish Civil War.
Meanwhile, in “Slipped,” the Scarlet Sparrow now has to fulfill her agreement with Dargelos. He arranged to save her — or so he says — and now she needs to do her bit.
Take a look at chapter 386.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Shadows and inspirations

© Michael Chevy Castranova 2016

-->I’m now at the part in “Everybody Behaves Badly,” Lesley M.M. Blume’s book about the writing of “The Sunday Also Rises,” in which she details how much Hemingway altered his fictional characters from their real counterparts. In some cases, not very much at all, and not very politely.
I’m clearly going to have to read the novel again. (That would make it the seventh or eighth time — I’ve lost count over the years.)
But I’ve long been fascinated about using real people as models for fictional characters. Writers and cartoonists often adapt the looks and sometimes aspects of the personalities of movie and sports celebrities — alive or dead — and of friends and enemies.
And sometimes they borrow both the looks and the personalities. Are these people ever flattered by the attention?
Hemingway revealed very little to his friends about how he’d taken their looks and lives and remarks and reshaped them into his version of events. Probably because they wouldn’t have liked the unkind way he portrayed them.
They had to read the book for themselves.
Have I done that in “Slipped”? Well, in the eight-plus years I’ve definitely modeled some characters real people.
For one, Dargelos is meant to look like — in a very cartoony way, of course — Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni. He died in 1996, and I’m sure he was in no way demonic. But I figured if the devil — or something like the devil — desired to tempt and trick a young woman, he’d want to look like Mastroianni — charming, smooth and handsome in “8 ½” and “La Dolce Vita,” among other movies.
You can pick up the trail of the Scarlet Sparrow — right now joined by her sister, Mendacity, and, as always, Pip — in chapter 383. Take a look.
© Michael Chevy Castranova 2016

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Behaving badly in Paris

Pip image © Michael Chevy Castranova 2016

It occurs to me, as I’m reading Lesley M.M. Blume’s new book, “Everybody Behaves Badly,” about how Ernest Hemingway came to write “The Sun Also Rises” — which I’ve read at least a half-dozen times — that in the mid-1920s Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, JohnDos Passos and others would have been in Paris. That is, around pretty much the same time when the Scarlet Sparrow lives there.
So my thought is, as Tyler, Pip and friends, as about to return to Paris, maybe they’ll drop in at la Closerie des Lilas or le Dingo and spend some time with these famous expats.
She will, after all, need all the allies she can get. Remember, as this storyline moves forward from chapter 381 onward, this will be her second time through Paris in 1926. The first time saw the already-in-place occupation of western Europe by les Rongeurs. But now, after Tyler altered history — in hopes of stopping the giant rats — she’s actually made things worse. This time, the rats are in even more control, and have even larger rats with them — all due to Tyler injecting two of them with the genetic serum and giving them the idea to perfect the formula.
So, yeah, she is going to need help. Take a look right here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The adventures of the Silver Sparrow?

© Michael Chevy Castranova 2016
 A few days ago I read on the internet — so it must be true, right? — that “production” has begun on Netflix’s “The Defenders,” to be followed immediately by season 2 of “Jessica Jones.”
I’m not completely certain what “in production” means, but it sounds positive. Filming already? Writing scripts? Thinking about writing scripts?
I’ve seen no indication as to when either show might be available for viewing, but clearly not soon enough. Which in a perfect, fair and just world would be tomorrow.
Jessica Jones,” by episode 3 or 4, became one of my top five TV shows of all time.
In the meantime, we have the non-super-powered female hero of “Slipped,” Tyler Wilson, sometimes aka the Scarlet Sparrow. Her not-always-well-meaning sister Mendacity has returned.
I am toying with the notion of following Mendacity — the Silver Sparrow? — in her own adventures when she returns to Paris to fight off the invading legions of giant Rongeurs at least for a little while. (Remember: Rongeur are really big rats to begin with. And now some have been injected with a formula that makes them even bigger.)
But Tyler tends to get upset when she’s left out of the storyline for too long. And she and Pip have their own escapdes.
So we’ll see. As they used to say on Doctor Who, back when it was worth watching: Time will tell. It always does.
Follow this link to catch up on “Slipped.” It’ll be fun.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Who is that other woman?

Image and text © Michael Chevy Castranova
So a recap, then, at chapter 379 of “Slipped”:
Tyler Wilson — whose father was the infamous cat burglar, the Scarlet Sparrow, and who has been following in his footsteps (or paw prints, if you prefer) — and her dog, Pip, have been captured by the Rongeur officer, the Chancellor, whom Tyler believed to be dead but, clearly, is not. Instead, the serum that made him grow — and, she thought, to have made him mad — has made him even larger. And madder.
In fact, the Chancellor used that same serum to create an army of giant rats, and they’ve been dispatched to lead an invasion of western Europe.
Meanwhile, during a lightening-quick out-of-body experience, Tyler was contacted by Dargelos, another long-standing enemy, who struck a deal — he will send her help to escape if she, in turn, does something to be named later to aid him in his ongoing mission to bring chaos into the world. (And who better to do that than our hero?)
And now, arriving to their rescue at the brink of time, is Tyler’s younger sister, Mendacity Wilson. They don’t get along.
Moreover, Mendacity’s anger management issues are even less under control than Tyler’s.
Is Mendacity the “rescue” Dargelos promised? Or did she circle back to help Tyler on her own? Is this another trick orchestrated by the devil?
One thing, though — Mendacity has with her the Time Sword.
So the situation, if nothing else, is about to spin wildly out of control. As it generally does with one Wilson sibling. Imagine two, plus a weapon neither understands … and the Chancellor covets above all else.
Follow the action here!

Friday, June 10, 2016

The devil’s due

Text and image © Michael Chevy Castranova 2016

This past Saturday, I came by a back issue of “The Wake” part one, a collection of issues 1 through 5, from 2014. I’d run across some issues when the title was current, but I didn’t want to start mid-run.
Published by Vertigo, the time-shifting storyline by Scott Snyder tells of world in which — somehow — a race of underwater … oh, wait, maybe I shouldn’t give away the plot.
Let me start over: The story of a group of scientists, spies and mythologists moves at great pace, and the cinematic art by Sean Murphy is thrilling. I loved the flow of the action, and the characters’ expressions seemed true to their  personalities and the emotions they were experiencing. The pages are packed with action as well as angst and remorse.
It is true when I buy a comic book or graphic novel, the decision is based on the art far more than the story. (So if I don’t like the cover, I’m generally not going to like what’s inside, right?) In the case of “The Wake,” the clever story was a bonus.
Meanwhile, in the world of “Slipped,” the Scarlet Sparrow appears to have a made a deal with the devil himself — even if she’s not completely certain of its terms.
But anything seems better than the alternative: Tyler Wilson and her dog, Philip Pirrip, are about to become a quick snack for the augmented (i.e., giant) rat, the Chancellor.
Dargelos promised to send help. But he didn’t say who or what that help would entail. Nor what Tyler would need to do to pay off that debt.
So take a look at chapter 378 of “Slipped” to see what becomes of our hero’s deal with the devil …