Category Archives: Books

A Retrospective Look at Jane Austen’s Brain-eating Habits

Can you believe it’s been 5 years since the release of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies?  And just over 200 from the release of the original novel? Well, to celebrate, the folks at Quirk Books (who published …and Zombies and its followups, as well as many other fine collections of pulped trees) asked me to do some digging and explore the past, present, and future of their massive mashup mega-hit — where it started, how it worked, and what it did for the company over the last 5 years. The short answer is that it basically launched their entire fiction line, which is now tremendously successful — and also served as an accidental omen to our current pop-culture status of zombie overload (seriously! They beat the trend! But barely).

For the long answer? Check out my 3-piece retrospective on Pride & Prejudice & Zombies on the Quirk website.

 

 

REVIEW: Polarity by Max Bemis and Jorge Coelho

Polarity

As much as I enjoy Say Anything (the band fronted by writer Max Bemis), I was hesitant to pick up this comic because, well, the premise sounds exactly like the pseudo-autobiographical premise of their first album “…Is A Real Boy,” which kindofsortamaybe chronicled Bemis’s descent into super-powered bi-polar disorder — except that, while recording said album, Max Bemis was actually diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and locked himself up for a while. But, the book was on sale for $4 on ComiXology, so I figured hey, why not.

While I tend to be the kind of person who connects with comic books more the writing than the art (although I do love a good collaboration), I’d first look to say that the artwork on this book is PHENOMENAL. It’s slightly cartoonish, but not a childish way, and accurately portrays hyperviolence, superhero action, internal mindscape struggles, and hipster culture. As for the story itself, it didn’t shy away from the fact that it was a slight variation on the story that Bemis has told several times already. The basic premise is that Tim is an artist and self-loathing hipster who suffers from bi-polar disorder, and after he’s institutionalized and begins taking pills, he can’t create his art. So he goes off his medication, and soon discovers that his untreated condition literally gives him superpowers. But maybe he’s too dangerous, and maybe there’s a Shadowy Government Organization trying to create an army of Bi-Polar Super Soldiers? Meanwhile, his art is getting better, and he meets a girl.

Overall, it’s a pretty enjoyable story, and while applying science fictional concepts to mental illness is nothing new, I actually think that Bemis does it in a pretty fresh way — by essentially saying that yes, mental illness IS a superpower, but the same way that traditional superheroes suffer from their extra-human abilities, maybe it’s still better if you take your pills and try to function like a normal person. That being said, I’m not sure how this book would read to someone who was unfamiliar with “hipster” culture. The main character spends a lot of the book criticizing everyone around him for being hypocrites and poseurs, and ultimately realizes that he’s just the same as the rest of them. If you’re familiar with Say Anything’s music, Tim’s rants are all basically pulled straight out of the song “Admit it!” As far as cultural critique is concerned, it is an interesting analysis of hipsterdom that I mostly agree with, even if it is a bit misanthropic (which works well in a loud rock song, but feels different as internal monologue).

That being said, I wonder how someone who was outside of or unfamiliar with “hipster culture” would feel about this book. It’s very insular, and some might even say that hipsters criticizing hipsters for being hipsters is THE most hipster thing possible, and while the story does acknowledge that irony (while also criticizing irony as the cheapest form of hipster self-defense), it never quite transcends it. I suspect that if you weren’t already aware of and/or immersed in that post-art-school-Williamsburg-landscape, you’d think, “Okay, so these are a bunch of Urban Outfitters asshole who are too cool for Urban Outfitters and this main character is kind of an unlikeable dick who judges everyone around him for being fake judgmental assholes — why should I care?” And if that’s you, I might suggest that you’re better served by listening to “Woe” and “Admit it!” by Say Anything, which pretty much sum up the book.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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REVIEW: The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty

The Shambling Guide to New York City

This was enjoyable, but it took me longer to get through than it should have, because I didn’t care enough. It’s a fun concept, I like the world, but I wish it had either been funnier, or darker (for example, and this is a slight spoiler: if you have a co-worker who’s a succubus and feeds on sexual energy, and he tries to seduce your character at a nightclub because he’s hungry, and you DON’T find a way to make that a metaphor either for date rape, or a regrettable but consensual one night stand with a co-worker? C’mon! It’s right there!). Instead, it was kind of a mediocre middle ground between monsters and tourism that was certainly fun, but nothing remarkable. I loved the idea of Public Works, and the zombies, and some of the characters were still fun (despite the fact that I have literally no idea what the protagonist looked like). By the time the epic ending came around, which I guess was kind of cool, I was more interested in finishing the book than I was in what actually happened to any of the characters (spoilers: they all live happily ever after. lame).

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

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In Which I Talk A Lot About Nerdy Things And Everybody Listens

I’ve had a busy few weeks of pontificating on geeky pop culture things — I mean, professionally, as opposed to the normal all-of-my-free-time that I spend doing precisely that — and so I’ve got a few new articles / essays / thinkpieces / posts / whatever-you-wanna-call-’ems up on Tor.com:

So check ’em out, leave your comments, and then eagerly await the next installment of “Thom Talks Nerdy.”

Now On Sale – “In A Single Bound: Superheroes For Greater Boston…And Beyond!”

Covers-12-150-small(wow I can’t believe I totally forgot to post about this back in April) (yes I realize I’ve been neglecting this site) (I could have sworn I posted about this when it happened…)

I recently published another comic book story, this one with Boston Comics Roundtable / Ninth Art Press and featuring artwork by my friend Jim Gallagher. Our story is part of an anthology series about Boston-centric superheroes, and what’s even cooler is that our superhero “Louie the Lone Dervish” (inspired by Louie With The Tricycle, a popular homeless guy around these parts) is featured right there on the cover on the anthology as well. Not bad for a story about a crazy superhobo on a refurbished three-wheeler!

The comic was originally set to have its debut at Boston Comic-Con back in April, but, well, that kind of got postponed because, you know, all kinds of craziness. So it’s now available online following the re-scheduled Boston Comic-Con from last weekend. You can pick up a copy of “In A Single Bound” #2 over at the Ninth Art Press website, a scant $6 for 36 glorious black-and-white pages done entirely by Boston-based writers & artists.

UPDATE: this blog post managed to make the rounds today, thanks to the magical powers of the Internet, and I was interviewed by Boston Magazine about it. You know, ’cause I’m awesome n’shizz. Check out the interview over on their website!