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Friday, May 30, 2014

The Daleks of Chuck E Cheese

Rex: Here we are: your first visit to the world famous Chuck E Cheese.
Rusty: Thanks for bringing me. I can't wait to play games and win prizes!

Rusty: While Rex is getting my tokens, I'll add Chuck E Cheese to my Twitter feed.

Rex: I've never seen anyone so anxious to play the machines! Ah well, the first time is always special.

Rusty: Raptor's Revenge is hard. No wonder they went extinct.

Rex: I wonder if that machine analyzed me correctly. I don't feel like a princess today.

Rusty: Calculating thrust, momentum, inclination. 
Maybe I'll just throw it.

 Rusty: Hey Chuck E, over here! I want to play too!

Rex: You played well for your first visit.
Rusty: Can we trade these in now, please?

Rusty: This is my favorite prize of all.
Rex: You will not get sentimental! Sentimental!! Sentimental!!!

Rusty & Rex Daleks

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Pride And Prejudice And Propriety

An early 19th Century fan made of horn and metal,
courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, England

There’s more to evoking the spirit of Jane Austen than using favorite character names, such as Jane and Elizabeth, or creating similar names like Mr. Dunkirk (to Austen’s Mr. Darcy). Such an effort demands more than to merely include a few Austen-like words, such as teaze, chuze, or nuncheon. So in preparing her novel Shades of Milk and Honey, Mary Robinette Kowal meticulously studied favorite novels like Persuasion, Sense And Sensibility, and Pride And Prejudice. She drew up rules of grammar, and made her own Austen dictionary. Then she embarked on her goal of returning us to Regency Era England, and populated it with characters, situations, and story structures that evoke Jane Austen's classic stories.

Regency Era English society followed strict rules, and any who ignored them tarnished or ruined their reputations. Thus, we read a plentitude of “Forgive me’s” and “Thank you’s” in Kowal's novel. Characters dress, act, and talk in proscribed ways for various types of social events. No one willingly says or does the wrong thing in a particular social setting, at least not if he or she possesses a modicum of common sense. 

Jane Austen often touched on myriad aspects of society, and populated her novels with a large cast of characters. Kowal's novel is shorter, and her focus rarely wavers from her central character of Ms. Jane Ellsworth. Thus, while we meet a few rogues and officious matriarchs, we don't encounter anyone as completely lacking in common sense as William Collins in Pride And Prejudice. He simply doesn’t seem to have a clue as to how others see him. He may be a Church of England priest, but when he talks, others hide their smiles or frowns. Not even his patroness Lady Catherine de Borough, or his wife Charlotte Lucas, truly respects him.

In Shades of Milk and Honey, Jane Ellsworth scrupulously follows the rules of etiquette. Still, misunderstandings are inevitable. Remember when Mr. Dunkirk surprises Jane playing the piano in the drawing room? Melody inadvertently enters and finds them together. She holds strong feelings for Mr. Dunkirk, and sees Jane's quiet conversation with him as something of a betrayal. This prompts her go to increasingly greater attempts to attract and win the complete attention of all worthy suitors. After watching Mr. Vincent’s shadow play of “The Broken Bridge” with Captain Livingstone, Melody hears unexpected laughter and applause. She turns to see Jane lingering in the stairwell, and complement Mr. Vincent with a sophisticated assessment of his work. What, another betrayal from her sister?

“La! Jane, you would strip enjoyment from everything with your endless examinations.” Melody picked her fan up from the side table and flicked it open; the sharp rattle as the fan opened expressed her irritation far beyond the sweet tone of her voice.

While promoting Shades of Milk and Honey, Mary Robinette Kowal handed out modern day laser-cut wooden replicas of this staple of a woman’s Regency Era apparel. It sits on our nightstand now, a reminder of when my wife and I met her.

When my wife occasionally uses the fan, I wonder if she's attempting to tell me something. Would it be impolite to ask her? Or should I just ignore it, even if I appear insensitive? One thing's for sure. Regardless of the state of familiarity we enjoy, I don’t want to be a modern day Mr. Collins.

Dragon Dave

Related Internet Links
Regency Era Fans
Language of the Fan

Monday, May 26, 2014

Pride And Prejudice And Puppets

In an era before television and cinema, shadow plays offered an inexpensive form of entertainment. They were performed simply, using little cut out shapes that children could reproduce at home. One such play was “The Broken Bridge,” which may have originated in France in the 18th Century. One puppeteer, Francois Dominique Seraphin, so captivated audiences that he drew the attention of the French aristocracy. Marie Antoinette reportedly attended his shows.

Author Mary Robinette Kowal pays homage to this once-popular form of entertainment in her Jane Austen-like novel Shades of Milk and Honey. One afternoon Melody Ellsworth receives visitors in the family drawing room. Her old sister Jane is upstairs, reading to her mother from William Meinhold's gothic romance novel Sidonia The Sorceress. After awhile, her mother asks Jane to see what’s occurring in the drawing room. She creeps downstairs, where she watches Mr. Vincent performing “The Broken Bridge” for her sister Melody and the dashing Captain Henry Livingston. Weaving folds of glamour from the ether, Mr. Vincent creates small dark silhouettes on the tea table.

“A traveler, after a number of obstacles, approached a bridge, which was in the process of being destroyed by a workman with a pickax. The traveler tried to get the workman to tell him how to cross the river, and after receiving a series of increasing rude answers, he found a boat and crossed the river.”

Mary Robinette Kowal is a professional puppeteer, and she performed “The Broken Bridge” at last year’s World Fantasy Convention in Brighton, England. Afterward, she turned her stage around to show us how she constructed it. Apparently, she found a better use for cereal boxes than consigning them to the landfill.

Isn’t it amazing the way an author or a puppeteer can make a story come alive for us, can draw us into their characters, plot, and drama, can make us laugh and cry and care about what happens, and without spending hundreds of thousands, or hundreds of millions of dollars, to make a “realistic” TV episode or movie? That’s a special kind of magic, a feat that such talented people should take great pride in. 

At least, that’s what I think. But then, maybe I’m just prejudiced…

Dragon Dave

Friday, May 23, 2014

Captain America on Bravery

Captain Skaro: Is my namesake cool or what?

Iron Dalek: Yeah, he's nearly as great as my own.

Fury: You boys need to stop reading Secret Warriors Volume 1 now. 
Captain Skaro: But I want to catch up on my namesake before I see "Captain America: The Winter Soldier."
Iron Dalek: Give him a break, Fury. He loves following Cap's exploits.
Fury: Secrets serve a purpose, kid.

Captain Skaro: Look, there's a statue of Cap, with his name, and dates, and…oh.
Iron Dalek: What happened to Steve Rogers?
Fury: We all die sometime. What's important is how we live.

Iron Dalek: I'm proud of you for going to the movie, after what we read.
Captain Skaro: It's all for Bucky Barnes. If he's destined to take over the mantle of Captain America, I need to support him any way I can.

Captain Skaro: Steve Rogers, thanks for reminding me how I need to live.

Fury, Iron Dalek Captain Skaro 

Marvel Comics' Secret Warriors Volume 1: Nick Fury, Agent of Nothing was written by Brian Michael Bendis and Jonathan Hickman. It features the artwork of Stefano Caselli, was colored by Danielle Rudoni, and lettered by Dave Lanphear.

Need more Dalek action? Then click the link to Pocket Dalek's blog, located at the top right of this page. He and his friends usually have something to share with you.

Related Dragon Cache entries
Captain America's Philosophy

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Pride And Prejudice And Magic

A Burne-Jones grand piano at the Victoria & Albert Museum

With her novel, Shades of Milk and Honey, Mary Robinette Kowal whisks us off to a time and place familiar to readers of Jane Austen’s 19th Century stories. There she introduces us to Jane Ellsworth, whose father Charles manages the family estate of Long Parkmead in Dorchester, England. While he scrupulously sets aside a portion of each year’s income to attract future son-in-laws, he knows that after paying the estate’s bills, and maintaining a standard of living acceptable to his wife (and suitable for someone of his class), he can never assemble a sizable dowry. Already his eldest daughter Jane is twenty-eight, far beyond the age at which most women marry. Sadly, while she adores Long Parkmead, she cannot count on living there forever. For the estate is entailed, and upon his death, ownership of the property will pass on to Charles' elder brother and family.

This fact might reduce some to worry. It certainly bothers her mother, who suffers from a nervous disposition and imagined illnesses. This puts added pressure on Jane, who must keep a careful watch over her younger sister Melody. Unlike her, Melody has a beautiful face and a girlish disposition that attracts available bachelors for miles around. And then there are the womanly arts, which Jane constantly practices, such as her painting, her music, and her glamour. She may not have looks or money, but might her accomplishments enable her to find a respectable man who will love and appreciate her?

Like most men, Melody's youthful smile captivates Mr. Dunkirk of nearby Robinsford Abbey. Still, he usually compliments Jane on her abilities. During his visits, he can’t help but notice how she’s enhanced the family’s drawing room. Through weaving strands of glamour out of the ether, she enhances the furniture with images of palm trees that sway to illusory breezes. Egrets alight to drink from a pond, and the setting sun casts a warm glow across the room. Once, while waiting for him to call, Jane sits down to practice the piano. Mr. Dunkirk enters then, and sees colors swirling around her, responding to the tempo and mood of her music. When she notices him and stops playing, he insists that her music and glamour offer far more than mere idle amusement. “Other men might seek a lovely face,” he tells her, “but I should think that they would consider exquisite taste the higher treasure. Beauty will fade, but not a gift such as this.”

Her younger sister Melody often grows petulant when Jane receives such compliments. She plays for men’s attention with her smiles, or feigns illness or injury to arouse their concern. From time to time, she makes attempts to better her music and glamour skills. But she lacks Jane’s patience and determination. I suppose those qualities are needed to master anything worthwhile in life: the patience to work through our mistakes, and the determination to succeed no matter how many times we fail. And I imagine that remains true regardless of what region or era we live in, and however the people who live there define the magic that enhances their lives.

Dragon Dave

Monday, May 19, 2014

Pride And Prejudice And Pictures

In Jane Austen's classic novel, Pride And Prejudice, we meet two sisters, Jane and Elizabeth. One evening, they meet two friends, Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy, at a ball.

While Mr. Bingley immediately falls for Jane, it takes Mr. Darcy a while to fully appreciate Elizabeth.

Remember, Manga reads from right to left.

Pride And Prejudice overflows with all the color and majesty of English society in the early 19th Century. While Jane and Mr. Bingley sweep each other off their feet, by just being who they are, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy's romance follows a different path. Each undergoes a transformation, through which they understand aspects of themselves, their families, and their place in society in radically new ways.  It's the ultimate example of how two people can transform each other for the better.

Like TV adaptations and films, graphic novels may only convey a portion of the original story's riches. While I watched Jane Austen TV adaptations for over fifteen years, I never felt inclined to read her books. Then came the film version in 2005 starring Kiera Knightly, which cut significant characters, restructured major events, and transformed key scenes. My wife, who knew Pride And Prejudice backwards and forwards, hated it. But something in the film grasped hold of me, and finally forced me to read the novel. That positive experience led me to read two more of Jane Austen's novels. 

If you've enjoyed various adaptations but never read Austen's novels, you might want to check out UDON's Manga Classics adaptation of Pride And Prejudice. Perhaps the graphic novel will lead you to see her story in a new way. Perhaps it will even convince you that you're missing out on a rich experience by not reading Jane Austen's original prose. But hey, if you just come away having experienced a beautifully told and drawn story…well, what's so terrible about that? 

Dragon Dave

Friday, May 16, 2014

Daleks vs the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog

Pocket: Help me carve this up for Master and Mistress.
Denim: Um…if you insist.

Pocket: What's wrong?
Denim: It's that movie we saw last night. What if a Killer Rabbit seeks revenge on us?
Pocket: The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog is only Arthurian legend. 
Denim: Are you sure? The way it decimated his troops...
Pocket: Even if it was based on reality, the events in the film occurred in 932 A.D. There's no such thing as Killer Rabbits these days.

Pocket: See, doesn't that look nice? Mistress will enjoy that. 
Denim: Yes, I suppose so.

Pocket: Would you forget about the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog and carve off a piece for Master's dessert? By Davros, you're worried about something you saw in Monty Python and the Holy Grail! There are no such things as Killer Rabbits!

Pocket, Denim, & ...

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Victor Hugo Conquers Japan

Victor Hugo’s classic novel, Les Misérables, seems in little danger of being forgotten. Published in 1862, it is considered one of the finest novels of the 19th Century.  Weighing in at over 2,700 pages, it must also be one of the longest novels ever written. Even The Naked God--the third installment in Peter Hamilton’s 1990s epic Science Fiction trilogy, The Night’s Dawn--weighs in at less than half that. My copy of Hugo's novel, which I inherited from my grandparents’ library, comes in two hardbound volumes. To read such a long novel seems a daunting task. To read a historical novel, without any Science Fictional or Fantasy aspects, and one set in France, a country whose history and culture I’m unfamiliar with, seems overwhelming. Nor do I salivate over the prospect of reading a novel closely associated with a musical. So it was with some bemusement that I picked up this manga adaptation of Hugo’s classic story.

In 19th Century France, social and political unrest have made life difficult for everyone. Fantine’s husband (or boyfriend?) abandons her, and with jobs scarce, no one wants to employ anyone of questionable appearance or background. Fantine is forced to leave her hometown, and decides to pay a couple to raise her daughter Cosette, while she finds employment in another town. 

Remember, Manga reads from right to left.

After she finds a job, people grow suspicious by all the letters she receives. Eventually they learn she has a child. So, even though she has been there for an entire year, and proven an exemplary worker, her employer fires her. 

Fantine's letters come from the couple, who continually demand more money for her daughter's care, or they will throw young Cosette onto the streets. Fantine must take increasingly desperate measures to pay for child support. After selling her hair and her teeth, she is forced to take up prostitution. Then a man humiliates her in public, and when she responds, the police arrest her. How will she support her daughter, she wonders, if she is locked up in prison?

Fantine’s story has its basis in truth, as Hugo once saved a prostitute from arrest for assault. Another interesting fact is that this graphic novel adaptation comes from Japan, where comics are called Manga. The magazine Monthly Shōnen Sunday started printing this adaptation last September, after it finished its run of the Irish author Darren Shan's Cirque du Freak novels. Evidently the Japanese feel that Hugo’s stories about 19th Century France form a natural follow-up to tales about Vampires and otherworldly creatures. 

Les Misérables has already been adapted in Anime in Japan, a form of animation that has a strong cult following in the United States. Hugo's earlier novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, is wildly popular in the states, not only as a book, but also for its numerous film, TV, and stage versions. So does this new manga version of his later novel has all the story elements readers here demand? Having conquered Japan, will Victor Hugo capture the hearts of comics’ readers in the United States? I wouldn’t bet against him.

Now, to ignore the plaintive pleas from those two hardbound volumes in my bookcase, at least until I finish reading the Bronte sisters' novels…

Dragon Dave

This Manga adaptation of Les Misérables was written by Crystal Silvermoon and Stacy King, and drawn by SunNeko Lee, and is published by UDON Entertainment.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Grimm Book of Knowledge

Nick and his young protege Teresa Rubel
Recently, my friend Nick met a young woman who sees the world like he does. She grew up in foster homes, and any time she told someone she had seen a person who looked like a monster, they threw her into a mental institution. Thus she earned the nickname Trubel (pronounced "Trouble"). As she never had anyone like Nick's aunt Marie to explain why some people look and act differently from others, she assumed they really were monsters, or that she was going crazy. So Nick brought Teresa to his trailer, and showed her some of his aunt's books.

These books are filled with the history of Nick's ancestors, who traveled all over the world, and battled all types of mythological creatures. Every time one of them discovered a new type of "wesen," he or she would write about the creature, and the circumstances surrounding that encounter. Their entries encompass a multitude of languages, handwriting, and artwork, and are as unique as every individuals who recorded them.

The pages in these books explain the history of the Grimms, and the ways in which people of all types have interacted throughout time. They help Teresa understand that she's not going crazy, and that she really can see the world in a special way. Now, it falls to Nick to help her understand that not all wesen are monsters. Some, like his friends Monroe and Rosalee, are far nicer than many of the "normal" people Teresa has met in her short, troubled life.

This page tells of an outbreak of Fluvus Pestilentia,
also referred to as the Yellow Plague.
Nick's English translation (see the white sidebar)
explains that the disease manifests as yellow boils.
In its final stage, those infected are overcome by deadly rage.

This illustration shows how Fluvus Pestilentia
devistated Medieval villages.
Nick's friend Rosalee once contracted this disease,
and driven by rage, nearly killed Nick.
Thankfully, Rosalee had told Monroe how to prepare
an antidote, which he administered before she died.

One of Nick's ancestors encountered this Cracher-Mortel
in Haiti back in 1791. His spit induced a death-like trance.
Once awakened, his victims lacked any willpower,
and obeyed his commands without hesitation.
Nick was attacked by one of these last year.
While he seems to have recovered,
he still exhibits some worrying aftereffects.

Knowing I was interested in his work, Nick was kind enough to copy some of the pages from his books and bind them together for me. The knowledge they contain may not prove as vital to me as for Teresa, but I appreciate his gesture. They help me see the world as he does, and it's always nice to understand what our friends do with their lives. As a gesture of respect to his aunt, Nick labeled his little collection Grimm: Aunt Marie's Book of Lore.

Given the way he protects all of us from malicious wesen, and his constant willingness to help those in need, I happen to think my friend Nick is a special guy. But he must think I'm a little special too. Otherwise, why would he have given me this book to read, to enjoy, and to help me understand him better?

Dragon Dave

Related Drago Cache entries
A Grimm Family Portrait

Related Internet Links
Fluvus Pestilentia

Monday, May 12, 2014

Do Adult Novels Need Illustrations?

This year I saw more official "Free Comic Book Day" offerings than last year (and that's in addition to all the old comics our shop was giving away). Roughly half the titles were geared toward children, and one was aimed at helping parents and educators use comics and graphic novels to help children read.  We plan on reading them all, then handing off the children's titles to parents with kids. 

Reading comic books seems a good way to facilitate reading at all age levels. After all, children's books are crammed-full with illustrations. Yet, as we get older, pictures give way to words in our fiction books. Increasingly, many of us turn to magazines, TV, and the internet for information and stories. This seems a shame to me, as reading an extended story can prove a moving and transforming experience. 

You don't just read a novel, you inhabit it. You accompany the characters on their journeys, see the world through their eyes, and often emerge with a fuller understanding of the human experience. Rather than cutting into my overall reading time, rediscovering comics two years ago has spurred my interest in literature. I wonder: if publishers included more illustrations to help draw us into their authors' worlds, might we buy more novels?

What do you think?

Dragon Dave

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Twitter Choir

"Yes we love, the joys of Spring, and of those we will sing."

"We lift our song, into the air, and let our voices ring."

"Have no fear, Spring is here, tis the Season of Love."

Pinky: Hey you birds, get out of here! I mean it: scram! Didn't you see my sign? No Twitter Choirs Allowed!

K-9: Depart immediately! March! March! March! March!
Pinky: If your Master is always looking for an excuse not to practice, eradicate all such piano bench infestations. Remember, you have to be cruel to be kind. Especially in Spring.

Pinky Dalek, K-9, & The Twitter Choir

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Anne Bronte on Spousal Loyalty

A View of Haworth, Anne Bronte's hometown

In the opening chapters of Anne Bronte’s novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Gilbert Markham meets the reclusive Mrs. Helen Graham. Although she does nothing to encourage him, his regard for her grows as the months pass. When he confronts Helen with the rumor swirling around her, and insists on knowing her past, she rips a section from her diary and presses it into his hands. He flies home, locks himself in his room, and spends the entire night reading.

From those pages, he learns how she met and fell in love with Arthur Huntington. When he proposed marriage to her, she refuted all her aunt’s allegations regarding his character. Frustrated, her aunt insists that Mr. Huntington's bad reputation is thoroughly deserved, and asks how she’ll feel throughout eternity if he is consigned to the fires of Hell. Helen insists that Mr. Huntington is not so evil or incorrigible as to remain in Hell forever. Rather, she’s found enough scripture to believe that, after a period of suffering in Purgatory, he will be reunited with her in Heaven.

Following their honeymoon in Europe, they spend several months together on his Grassdale estate. Then the newlyweds visit London. Helen objects to his visits to his club, and how he conducts himself amongst his friends. So Arthur sends her back to Grassdale, insisting he will follow shortly. Instead, months pass until he returns home.

While she wants to believe the best in him, and that he still loves her as fervently as ever, she finds the physical separation from him difficult to endure. As the years pass, she gives birth to a son, whom she also names Arthur, and his presence helps her endure the months apart when her husband lives in London, and spends their money extravagantly. It doesn’t help when Walter Hargrave, who runs a neighboring estate, stops by to tell her of Arthur’s objectionable behavior. She does not feel it right that he should visit her in Arthur’s absence, and refuses to hear anything he wishes to say about her husband’s conduct. When Arthur returns to Grassdale, bringing all his friends with him to continue their carefree London lifestyle, Helen orders her maid Rachel to not share with her any observations that might give her a negative opinion regarding her husband.

Eventually, Helen witnesses actions she cannot condone, and realizes that Arthur is totally and hopelessly corrupt. Yet she believes it her duty to remain at Grassdale, and manage the estate. Only after he demonstrates a commitment to corrupting their son does she flee, seeking the isolation of Wildfell Hall and the anonymity of an assumed name. 

As rays of sunlight illumine his dark room, Gilbert sets down the torn-out pages. He now knows the story surrounding her and Mr. Lawrence was untrue. He hurries back to Wildfell Hall and declares his love for her. Helen admits that, despite her best efforts, she has come to love him too. But she refuses to listen to his arguments and rationalizations, and insists they must never see each other again.

A few weeks later, Gilbert learns that she has abandoned Wildfell Hall.

All through her marriage, Helen remains loyal to her husband, and seeks to safeguard his reputation, if nowhere else than in her mind. She repeatedly ignores the urging of others, whether they be Walter Hargrave, Rachel, or Gilbert Markham, when they argue that, as Arthur has wronged her, she should declare herself free of him. Instead, she remains wed to him in her heart, and conducts herself accordingly. For his part, Gilbert is shocked to learn where she travels after she leaves Wildfell Hall. To him, her actions prove that her spousal loyalty is even more extreme than he could have believed possible, and that Helen must be more angel than human. 

But then, all the best wives are.

Dragon Dave

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Anne Bronte and the Power of Rumors

Farmland near Haworth,
Anne Bronte's hometown
In Anne Bronte's novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, we meet Gilbert Markham, a farmer in 19th Century England. He’s a responsible man who grows his crops, cares for his animals, and uses income from the farm to purchase additional land. As his father has died, he taken over the role of family provider. With him live his mother, who orchestrates the running of his household, his younger brother Fergus, who seems to take nothing seriously, and his sister Rose, who takes an interest in everything that occurs in their community.

Gilbert may not be a socialite like his sister, but he’s gained the esteem of society. He’s befriended Frederick Lawrence, a man who grew up in nearby Wildfell Hall, but now manages another estate. He frequently visits Rev. Millward, a man of strong beliefs and rigid principles. Not only does he enjoy the priest's company, but he’s also attracted to Eliza, the man’s youngest daughter. While Eliza returns his interest, his mother pleads with Gilbert not to pursue her. He honors her request, but hopes his mother will eventually set aside her disapproval of Eliza, and allow him to ask for her hand in marriage. 

Then a widow and her young son rent Wildfell Hall, a deteriorating manor house on a nearby estate, and everything changes in Gilbert’s world.

As Rose craves the company of others, she needs little convincing to pay her respects to Mrs. Helen Graham and her young son Arthur. Soon Rose is visiting Wildfell Hall regularly, and bringing along Fergus and their mother. After his long workday, Rose regales Gilbert with descriptions of Mrs. Graham: her looks, her actions, and her taste in clothes and furniture. On those rare occasions when, compelled by Rose or Rev. Millward, Mrs. Graham attends civic functions, Gilbert finds the young widow stern, reclusive, and argumentative. Yet he likes young Arthur enormously, and there is something about Helen Graham that intrigues him. After awhile, he accompanies family members on visits to Wildfell Hall, and forges reasons to make solitary journeys there. When he's out managing his farm, he keeps an eye out for Mrs. Graham. If he spots her walking in certain places at regular intervals, he returns to those places, and at those times, so that he can pretend to bump into her.

Gilbert’s family and friends notice his rising interest in Mrs. Graham and her son. Equally noticeable are Frederick Lawrence's visits to Wildfell Hall. A story circulates that something improper is going on between Mrs. Graham and Mr. Lawrence. As Gilbert admires Helen for her intelligence and convictions, he refuses to believe it. Over time, he perceives two young women at the center of this story: the impishly beautiful Eliza, and her talented friend Jane Wilson, a young woman who has designs on Frederick Lawrence. Previously he has held both women in high regard. Yet how can he claim that the story they are spreading is a baseless slander? Perhaps Gilbert is too biased in his opinions of Mrs. Helen Graham. Perhaps his initial assessment of her was correct, and he should accept the opinion of others he has known far longer. For nearly everyone in society whom he loves and respects, including Rev. Millward and his family, have accepted this unproven story as the truth.

Such is the power of rumors.

Dragon Dave

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

More Free Comic Book Madness

This last weekend, we arrived early for Free Comic Book Day at our favorite shop. Or at least we thought we had. At 9:30 a.m., the shop had only been open thirty minutes, but already, a long line extended to the free comics table.

The line moved at a glacial pace, not speeded in any way by the morning sun. Although the forecast had called for a cool, overcast day, not a cloud could be seen, and the sun blazed down on our heads. After fifteen minutes, store employees took pity on us, and started walking the line handing out one old comic per person. This offered a welcome distraction, or at least it did for those who removed their sunglasses, slipped on their reading glasses, squinted against the bright sunlight, and ignored the sensation of their burning skin. 

Note for next year: Free Comic Book Day is an SPF 50 Event.

As our comic book shop had teamed with other local businesses, those in line could peruse stalls filled with toys, collectibles, games, videos, food, and of course, comics. If you had someone who would hold your place in line, you could duck under the canopies and explore what the other vendors had to offer. Getting into the shade from time to time proved mandatory. Even those manning the booths, sheltered by the sunshine, sent their helpers out periodically bring them bottles of water. Now, what they needed was someone walking the line, calling out "Soda, lemonade..get your cold drinks here!" You know, like in the sports stadiums.

After thirty minutes, we reached the free comics tables. There we found a wide range of comics, including new "Free Comic Book Day" licensed sampler issues, and myriad older titles. Mindful of those waiting behind me (and all those yet to arrive), I tried to restrain myself, and not take too many. That was hard, as all the titles and covers looked so interesting, and promised rousing adventures. I also tried to choose older titles that were completely foreign to me, in order to widen my understanding of all the wonderful world of comics had to offer. After we made our selections, a gentleman bagged our comics, taped the bags shut, and released us to enter the shop.

Hot, tired, and dripping with sweat, we then faced up against a life-size cardboard cutout of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Avoiding her bewitching gaze, we couldn't help noticing the sign she held: 50% off selected old comics! 

And then there were all those comic book-decorated cupcakes. 


Inside, the store was crammed full with more people than we'd ever seen in there at one time. Many were parents with young children. The children, for the most part, seemed on their best behavior, perhaps because their parents revered comics. As one father told his daughter: "Remember where you are." 

After perusing the shelves and boxes, and constantly moving so that others could navigate around us, the air had grown hot and muggy. We looked at our watches, and realized that an hour had flown by!  So we waded through the crowd to the checkout line, where the staff kindly stacked all our free and purchased comics in an easy-to-carry box. As we left, we noticed the parking lot was more full than when we arrived, and the line just as long. We happily ceded our space to a new arrival, and drove off to an air conditioned restaurant, where we refueled our energies and cooled our overheated bodies with icy soft drinks. Hopefully, everyone else who attended found plenty to amaze and delight them on Free Comic Book Day.

Stories of all types may provide the reader with a unique, vicarious experience, but procuring fun and enjoyable comics can prove immensely hard work. Or at least it did for this year's Free Comic Book Day. Not that we're complaining.

Still, maybe we should have recharged ourselves with some of those cupcakes. They looked as if they were bursting with energy...

Dragon Dave

Related Dragon Cache entries
Free Comic Book Madness