These are the people in your neighborhood

Made in India: Recipes from an Indian Family Kitchen by Meera Sodha, photography by David Loftus, design by Fig Tree. Flatiron Books, 2015. 9781250071019.
Vegetarian India: A Journey Through the Best of Indian Home Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey, photography by Jonathan Gregson and Sanford Allen. Alfred A. Knopf, 2015. 9781101874868.

Sarah: A couple of years ago, I decided to try to eat better and one of the ways I did that was to follow the USDA food plan. You know the thing you learned in elementary school, the food pyramid? They still have that, but now it’s called My Plate. You can look up by your age and height and weight and see how much of what kind of foods you should be eating. And I liked it because the plan is revised every ten years by a panel of people who look at current research on diet and health. The website had some cool free tools to track your food intake and exercise. I liked that it was based on scientific consensus and only changed every decade. It wasn’t based on whatever was on Oprah or whatever diet fad book is a bestseller.
Gene: I feel like everybody disbelieves science now, including educated folks, especially about what to eat.
S: Yeah, it’s really frustrating. And if you’re a total nerd, they have the scientific basis available in a long report where you can look up what the research says, all the citations, this is why we recommended this. And then you get to tease people on high protein diets. “Look how much bread I get to eat! Mmmm, yummy!” But if you’re on the 2000 calorie a day plan, you eat two and a half cups of vegetables a day, plus two cups of fruit.
G: That’s a lot.
S: It is. Compared to the usual American diet, that is a crap-ton of vegetables. I was having a hard time finding ways to eat enough vegetables. (Because salad is not very dense, so you have to eat twice as much as other vegetables.) It was becoming hard for me to do this.
G: But kale counts three times as much, right?
S: (laughs) Nope, kale counts the same as anything else, because this is not a fad diet. So I started looking at vegetarian cookbooks at the library, because I thought “Who eats a lot of vegetables? Vegetarians!” No, turns out the books were full of recipes for grains and other things. I had a hard time finding vegetable dishes in vegetarian cookbooks. So then I wondered where else I could try. I figured: India. I ended up reading through a lot of Indian cookbooks and, after discarding many, I ended up with two that I really like to use to cook. One is Vegetarian India by Madhur Jaffrey, who has been writing awesome cookbooks for 30 or 40 years. The other one is Made in India by Meera Sodha, I think this is her first cookbook.
G: It looks old, but it isn’t.
S: The cover is kinda cool, because it looks like a label you’d get on a bag of rice or something.
G: Because the cover has a matte finish, without a dust jacket — I assume it was issued like that? — it feels like a classic cookbook. The other is more glossy.
S: Part of why I chose India, besides it having a really established vegetarian culture, I felt like a lot of the other vegetarian books were approaching it like, “You grew up eating meat, so here’s something like meat that you can eat instead.” These recipes assumed you grew up eating vegetables, so here’s some tasty vegetables. Though Made in India has meat dishes as well as vegetable dishes.
G: I like it already, because I flipped to “A Simple Goat Curry” which sounds great.
S: The other reason I chose India is because my neighborhood has at least four different Indian grocery stores, so if I’m looking at an Indian recipe book, I have no excuse to not buy all the ingredients on the list.
G: Cool.
S: So I went out and bought a bunch of spices, bought a bunch of dry legumes, bought a bunch of vegetables and gave it a shot. I tried it for a year, and it was really good. The authors bring their own stories into the books.

Madhur Jaffrey has travelled widely and tells stories about the people she met and the food she ate. So let’s take a look at her book, Vegetarian India. She doesn’t assume you have a background in this sort of cooking. (Both cookbook’s authors are British, and they know their audience members come from a wide variety of cultures.) But they don’t cut corners or compromise — I ran across a recipe in another book for Saag Paneer that said if you can’t get paneer, substitute feta or tofu. Gross!
G: I love paneer. But every time I can, I eat too much and get a stomachache.
S: Paneer is so good. If you live where I live, it’s easy to buy, and if you don’t it’s actually easy to make. Jaffrey’s assuming you want to taste the real deal. She’ll have stories about how she got a recipe, or how best to serve it, and tons of great vegetable-heavy recipes. I feel like if you picked this up and cooked a bunch of these recipes and served it to people who eat meat, they wouldn’t even notice.
G: I agree.
S: They wouldn’t feel deprived, like if you were serving them a plate of raw kale.
G: The flavor’s great in all of these, right?
S: Yeah, and that made a huge difference for me in helping me stick to my plan to eat a lot of vegetables. It all tastes delicious. There are several recipes that are otherwise very simple, but spiced in a way that you enjoy it more, you look forward to it.
G: In the other book, there’s a recipe for how to make paneer!
S: It requires milk and lemon juice.
G: That’s it?
S: That’s it.
G: I don’t have to put in that stuff from a calf’s stomach, what’s it called, rennet?
S: Exactly, because it’s from India. (laughs)
G: Wait, this only takes three hours?
S: That’s time it’s draining. You hang it up over your sink.
G: You could make it in the morning and eat it for dinner.
S: Yeah. I felt like I ate a lot better using these books. At first, I was looking for recipes that I liked in restaurants, but it turns out those taste good because they’re full of cream and butter. So because I didn’t want to feel like a ball of grease, I liked that these call for peanut oil or olive oil, and aren’t heavy and oily. The dishes are more homestyle. The recipes are drawn from all over India, which is nice, because like the US the food isn’t the same everywhere in the country.
G: I like the look of Made in India, it’s a mix of old style designs and cool poster art looking illustrations.
S: I think they’re all original graphic designs, but based on bright product labels.
G: Good photos, too.
S: I think that’s important, because you can have a book of the best recipes in the world, but if you’re flipping through it and you don’t see something that makes you say, “Yum!,” then you’re not going to make it. You’re not going to take that extra time.
G: Everything in here looks like something I would eat in a heartbeat.
S: There are cookbooks where I get partway into them and realize they require more equipment and expertise than I have — these were not like that.
G: These look great, and I’m not even a cookbook guy.

Stuffed Animals

Walter Potter’s Curious World of Taxidermy by Dr. Pat Morris with Joanna Ebenstein. Blue Rider Press, 2014. 9780399169441.

Sarah: This is one of several books that Joanna Ebenstein has done through a couple of art imprints on strange historical things, often related to the odd and morbid. She runs the Morbid Anatomy Museum that I think lost its space recently, so now it’s a pop-up. Her co-author Dr. Pat Morris has written a lot of books on the history of taxidermy. Walter Potter was a guy working in the late 1800s in Britain, a taxidermist in a small country town.
Gene: This reminds of something I saw online.
S: Potter did normal taxidermy stuff for hire.
G: “Normal stuff?”
S: Then he started a hobby…
G: (looking at the book) What the hell is that?
S: This is someone else’s work that inspired him. It was Hermann Ploucquet’s work shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Potter may have seen it as a kid. It’s a retelling of the Reynard the Fox stories using actual stuffed foxes put in storybook poses.
G: He saw that and thought, “I could do that!”
S: The thing is, if you live in a farm town, there are animals…
G: I don’t like sentences that start like that.
S: …and life is cheap…
G: How many dead kittens are in this photo?
S: This is The Kittens’ Wedding. There were generally cats on the farm and they weren’t fixed. So when they had kittens, the farm would keep one of them and the rest would… not be kept. So Potter had access to a large number of dead kittens, and he made them into a wedding party.
G: (curses)
S: Similarly, he had a lot of dead rabbits.
G: Where did he get the eyes for the kittens, Sarah?
S: They’re taxidermy eyes.
G: There’s a thriving market in fake animal eyes?
S: You just buy those as a part of your taxidermy supplies.
G: This is in the late 1800s?
S: Yes. He created a series of tableaux. His most famous was the Death & Burial of Cock Robin.
G: A large and creepy scene.
S: And The Kittens’ Tea and Croquet Party. He started exhibiting them in a museum that had some other stuff, but in which his work was the main focus.
G: This is so wrong. But that’s the fun of the book, I guess.
S: Yeah. The thing is, when he made these, they were just a curiosity, that he told a story in this way, a tourist attraction. (Rabbits’ Village School really upsets Gene.) Over the course of generations, these exhibits got more and more disturbing to the general viewer.
G: It’s not just me?
S: No, it’s not just you. This is interesting to me, how we feel about animals has changed so much. Maybe because our lives are further from the farm? Maybe because we’ve changed culturally?
G: How did he get access to these squirrels?
S: They were a pest, the farm dogs would kill them. They’re also a different type than are now common in the UK, because they got out-competed by grey squirrels.
G: There’s a squirrel smoking a cigar. Did he make those squirrel-sized playing cards?
S: Some of the stuff he made, some stuff he found or re-purposed. Eventually these little roadside curiosity museums couldn’t make enough money to support the people who ran them. The pieces ended up being crammed into smaller and smaller spaces, they got bought by different people. Eventually, in an auction in the early 2000s, this collection was broken up and sold off piece by piece. They are now all over the world.
G: I don’t want to look at these pictures anymore.
S: The reasons people pick this book up today are completely different than why people would have visited the museum. I kind of like that aspect of it, it’s this weird function of history that we can feel differently about he same object over time.
G: I’ll be honest with you, if you described this book to me I would think, “I would love to one one of those creepy little scenes.” After looking at this, I don’t want one at all. Would you want one?
S: No! If you ended up with it in your house, you’d walk by it every day and shudder.

Just leave it.

Abandoned Wrecks by Chris McNab. Amber Books Ltd, 2017. 9781782745204. 224pp.

Gene: This is a book that [our friend] Dawn had at the last WASHYARG meeting, and I asked her not to tell you about it. I had to get it from the library system where you work because Seattle didn’t have a copy.
Sarah: Abandoned Wrecks!
G: Already, it’s the book for you.
S: Yeah!
G: Ships first. I don’t care much about the boats that are underwater, that are becoming reefs. It’s the boats that are at least 1/3 gone —
S: Half in, half out of the water.
G: This is one of my favorites. It’s in Montenegro, it’s a small fishing boat that’s lost it’s entire back end. What’s that called? The stern?
S: Stern!
G: It’s a fishing boat wreck that’s been abandoned there on the shore. There are a few details about each one. Look at this.
S: That’s great! Like a tall ship.
G: It’s moving to look at — a tall sailboat with three masts on ice. It’s on Lake Ontario in Canada.
S: From 1914. That’s later than I thought they would be building that kind of boat.
G: This is a replica of a ship used by Jacques Cartier in the 16th century. This was repurposed — there was a restaurant on it at one point — but now it’s abandoned. It was even a Halloween party ship at one point. I’d have gone to one of those parties in a heartbeat.
S: Yes.
G: I bet there are still unsanctioned parties there.
S: Get your tetanus shot and come to my party.
G: These wrecks are reminders about how temporary we are — there are some bits about that in the book. What do you call them? Words.
(flipping the page) But nothing is more of a reminder of how temporary we are than a ship in a desert. This is a rusted hulk in Uzbekistan where there used to be a sea. But thanks to the USSR rerouting some rivers, there’s no sea there now. How great is that?

Like the worst 1/16th of an amazing photo from the book.

S: And some guy named Kevin went there and wrote his name on the hull.
G: I don’t think that’s an Uzbek name. I hope that guy never sees this photo.
And then it goes to trains. And I have to tell you, I don’t care about abandoned trains. I like old timey trains that move, but not these.
S: They’re interesting, but they’re not a destination.
G: I’ve seen so many trains just sitting next to highways my entire life, when we’ve driven east of the Cascade Mountains.
S: We’re familiar with it.
G: But this super old steam engine in Zimbabwe —
S: Looks like a tractor.
G: It’s from the late 19th or early 20th century. That thing rode the rails! And it’s not really decaying.
Then on to military vehicles — this is Kuwait in 1991, burned-out Iraqi military vehicles. And the next page are civilian vehicles on a different highway in Kuwait, same time frame, which I think is more striking because you saw the image on the previous page.
Here’s a Russian tank buried in some rubble, in front of a building, in Syria.
Then abandoned cars. Road vehicles. I’ve seen a lot of these in my life, whole neighborhoods near where I grew up could have had their front yards photographed for this book, so meh. Even cars rotting in the desert —
S: — RVs, busses —
G: Not my thing.

In case you don’t live in the Pacific Northwest and have never seen moss on a car.

But this, four moss covered cars in a forest in Sweden, wow. Even in the Pacific Northwest I haven’t seen a lot of cars covered with moss.
S: If you park too long, you’ll get some, but not covered.
G: I see this and think, oh, yeah, we’re all doomed.
And then my favorite section because of my fear of flying, Aircraft. A B-25 that looks very whole, that crashed in New Guinea. Military graveyards where they scrap old planes. An amazing crashed P-38 Lightning in Wales, half out of the water — the sand that’s burying the back end kind of looks like smoke coming out of the back.
Then here’s the freakiest and closest to us, the engine of a B-26 bomber that crashed in British Columbia in 1950, a bit buried in the landscape. They had to jettison their nuclear bomb after three of the engines caught fire. February 13, 1950.
S: Woah. There’s got to be a book about that. (There is: Lost Nuke: The Last Flight of Bomber 075. There’s also a movie.)

All Of Tillie Walden’s Comics Are Worth Reading

Gene: These are small press comics or graphic novels or I’m not quite sure what to call thems by Tillie Walden, who wrote Spinning last year, which I totally loved.
Sarah: I still haven’t read it.
G: For shame!
S: It’s on my list!
G: Spinning was my favorite book of 2017, and I can’t believe it wasn’t in the Top Ten of ALA’s graphic novel list, it didn’t get a Stonewall Award, it didn’t win the Printz. I can’t believe it didn’t win anything. Maybe it was that book committee members thought, well, everyone else is going to give it an award so let’s not worry about it. But I’m pissed on behalf of Tillie Walden. I think it deserved to be featured on all of those lists and more. As soon as I read it I ordered everything else she’d ever written. These were published by a press in the UK I’d never heard of called Avery Hill Publishing.
S: Is Walden British?
G: No, she’s American. And she’s quite young, in her early 20s I think, and I was told that she works so fast she did all the preliminary drawings for Spinning in like 3 months. Apparently she doesn’t pencil anything — she just draws it in ink. So she works incredibly fast. I think this is the order in which these were created. And you’re going to love them so much you’re going to go read Spinning.

I Love This Part by Tillie Walden.  Avery Hill, 2015. 9781910395172. 68pp.

This has one drawing per page, with word balloons, and it’s the story of two young teenage girls in love. The first image is them, and they’re giants in the landscape, totally out of proportion, because, I think, that’s how their love for each other makes them feel. And one of the girls is already talking about way back when she was dumb kid and used to rate everything five stars. They’re already looking at the world like they’re older, smarter, bigger.
S: They’re leaning over buildings, towering over the Grand Canyon…
G: It could be that they’re not that big. Sometimes they just look close, like they’re in the foreground. And they’re figuring out their relationship. It’s just moments in a basic layout. And it’s heartbreaking. “Can we ever tell anybody?” “Probably not.”
S: It’s gorgeous and sad.
G: Purples and blacks. Outstanding.
S: It looks great.

The End of Summer by Tillie Walden.  Avery Hill, 2016 edition. 9781910395264. 108pp.

G: This book has a note in an intro by James Sturm, who is a cartoonist and the Director of the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont. This is a big oversized trade paperback. He says that in the spring of 2015, Walden was a student there. “She produced a stunning and wistful comic, an impressive achievement for anyone let alone someone so young.” And the he learned she was also doing this at the same time. (I wonder if that project was I Love This Part.) Sturm: “Cartooning is a language, and Tillie speaks it beautifully. As long as she cares to talk I’ll be listening.”
S: Nice.
G: It seems like cartooning is her language. She just writes comics, it feels like she doesn’t have to think about it or figure out the word / image balance or the flow. She makes it seem natural. Maybe this is where we are now.
S: Comics natives.
G: Right. You’ve been brought up in the golden age of kids and YA comics, and now you’re going to start making them. This is dedicated to her twin brother. It’s the story of a family. It’s science fiction. Winter is coming, and will last for three years. A family is being sealed up in a giant mansion. The narrator is Lars, who is 11, and he’s dying. He has a weak heart.
S: Look how intricate those pictures are.
G: Amazing, black and white, it looks like the best manga landscapes I’ve ever seen. So detailed.
S: You couldn’t shrink this down. It would look terrible.
G: You could but it would be a crime.
Lars has a giant cat named Nero. Like the size of a truck. And he rides the cat around. He doesn’t want his siblings to know that he’s dying. He knows he won’t see the end of winter.
Here’s a great page where he introduces his siblings. Per, his cruel brother, scrapes his teeth on his fork as he watches Lars. His sister Maja, his twin I think. There’s some abuse going on in the house. I think teens would love this — it has that quality of looking at your life as a teen. There’s so much space in the house. Per is awful. The parents seem conservative, and the family doesn’t talk about their feelings, but the kids kind of rely on each other. Maja is very pissed off. The focus shifts, but it all works.
S: It reminds me of Moebius a bit.
G: In the grand scale a bit, yeah.
This is her third book, which came out in 2016.

A City Inside by Tillie Walden. Avery Hill, 2016. 9781910395202. 56pp.

This one is about a young woman going for some therapy session, and then building a reality inside her head as somebody talks to her about where she grew up in the South and where she grew up and why she left. It’s hallucinatory because she’s living in the sky. And she meets someone, she was beautiful, she comes back to earth.
S: A really different use of space!
G: I Love This Part has more of this, you see these two people together so you love them. In this one, she goes from the narrator’s point of view to show the woman she loves. It’s more skillful than showing images of love at a remove. It’s harder to show the person the narrator loves, through her eyes, and getting readers to feel it. It’s sad, but it ends on a tremendously hopeful note.
S: That’s great. It’s so exciting when you find someone like this, and you know they’re going to get better and better.
G: Read Spinning for goodness sake. And here, borrow these from me. [ed: Gene was right, I loved Spinning.]

Bonus:
On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden. First Second, 2018. 534pp.  
 
This book doesn’t come out until October, but I just read my galley, and Wow! This is a long, quiet science fiction science fiction tale about two girls who fall in love at boarding school. After her love must return to her closed society, the girl tries to find her place in the universe. But she can’t forget the love of her life and so, years later, with the help of a crew that travels space restoring ruins, she undertakes the perilous journey to find her.  
 
Vague, I know. Sorry. It’s a wonderfully slow story full of fish-like spaceships and buildings in the sky featuring the best kind of family, all without a single person who uses masculine pronouns (at least as far as I remember), and it feels like over describing it all would ruin it. Set aside a single afternoon to read it this fall and you won’t be sorry.  
And, hey, this was originally a webcomic, and you can still read it here. Be quick!

My Little Browns Fan

Jeff Steinberg: Champion of Earth by by Joshua Hale Fialkov (Author), Tony Fleecs  (Illustrator), Luigi Anderson (Illustrator). One Press, 2017. 9781620104316. 176 pp.
Gene: Fialkov wrote The Life After — the book that takes place in Heaven, but it’s kind of virtual reality. I thought you liked it?
Sarah: I don’t remember it.
G: Well he’s written a bunch of stuff. Tony Fleecs used to draw My Little Pony, and David Luigi Anderson, the colorist, this is from his bio: “Luigi ran away to the heathen metropolis of Atlanta when he heard there was a way to get paid coloring inside the lines for a living. Upon his magical quest to find the cushiest job in the world he met a strange man with a large red beard who spoke to him of a comic book that featured a guy chosen to save the universe because he took a really tremendous dump.”
S: Ha!
G: That’s the pitch.
It opens up, there’s a loser, Jeff Steinberg. There’s some kind of bet that involves him, there’s a pool. We don’t know what it is. He lives with two people. He works at a video store (still). Everyone is waiting for this thing to happen. He goes to work. Then it’s time and he runs home.  He runs into the bathroom which has a sign on it: Reserved Parking Browns Fans Only.
Close on Steinberg: “Alright, asshole, lets do this.”
While he’s in there, aliens invade. Earth is going to be judged by the Intergalactic Council on Planetary Relations. If we pass we enter the brotherhood of planets, if we fail, we all die. And the aliens have a champion picker, a program that runs on WindowsME. Jeff is still in the bathroom. And then the aliens choose our champion based on the most powerful force in the universe, willpower. “Not unlike your excellent Green Lantern movie featuring Ryan Reynolds.”  From all the people all over the world it picks the person with the most willpower who happens to be Jeff, because he’s trying to force out a really difficult poo. He ends up on every TV.  (A flashback then shows why it took him 18 days, 16 hours, and 14 minutes and 30 second to have a bowel movement.)
S: Oh no! (laughing, groaning)
G: And look!
(cue gasping)
And then he’s transported to an alien ship without his pants on.
“That guy with the tiny dick has doomed us all!”
His terrible girlfriend is having an affair. A hot alien is going to teach him how to fight using a giant robot. And there’s a funny Barak Obama cameo.  This one has it all. It’s an adult book teens will love.

Dreamtime

In Between: Poetry Comics (Visual Poetry Series) by Mita Mahalo. Pleaides Press, 2017. 9780807167786. 80pp.

Gene: You know how it’s every librarian’s dream to discover an author no one knows about that’s totally f’ing awesome?
Sarah: My dream is people leaving the library at closing time.
G:  …no masturbating at the computers…
S: …no needles in the bathroom…
G: I share those dreams with you. This is the book dream, the dream where you know about a book that’s so good everyone else needs to know about it. And you get to tell them.
Mita — I started buying her minicomics at Short Run years ago. She makes collage comics out of cut paper, and she’s an associate professor of English at the University of Puget Sound. She’s also the friend of a friend of ours. So I see her at local comics shows, I have two pieces of commissioned original art by her hanging in my house — one of animals that represent my family, one of a scene at the end of the first Highlander movie.  But I digress. This book was put out by the University of Central Missouri Press, and they saw poetry in Mita’s comics. I’d never really considered them poetry, but it’s a label that fits, it seems obvious now.
In addition to the short comics she’s published before, the book contains a story taking place between them, about a girl with antlers growing out of her back. Mita uses newspaper for her skin.
The first comic of hers I ever saw was “Unidentified Feeling Object,” which is about a little spaceship, and it’s here in the book, too.
S: There’s little heart on the end!
G: The spaceship is made of newspaper too.
S: She uses the panel borders, too. That’s great.
G: The paper she cuts out breaks the borders sometimes. And it’s clearly photographs of paper — there are shadows under them because they’re at different heights. I remember seeing this for the first time and just going, “Wow!” I think she looked at me like I was insane because I was so giddy. I’d found something amazing! And I’ve been a fan of her work ever since.
I’m going to show you two other poems in here, to show you Mita’s range. This is called “Patterns.” It’s much more of a classic collage made from magazine images but it has cut paper elements, and it’s on an old clothing pattern. Captain Kirk makes an appearance, and there are lots of animal heads.
S: It’s beautiful.
G: I love how she uses cut paper to create the idea of water.
S: And there are different dress patterns on every page, everyone is wearing a dress.
G: I didn’t notice that because I’m not smart.
Then this is a one page called “Caws,” about crows in a tree.
S: This is the first time I’ve been excited about a poetry book from a university press.
G: Shame!
Look at a little more of the story of the girl between the poems, with the girl with the antlers on her back. I think it was made for this, at at least I’ve never seen it. I’m not sure what it means.
S: Are they antlers? Maybe they’re branches.
G: She’s breaking them.
S: Look at the words that fell here.
G: It’s just a suggestion of what’s happening. And then she gives away the branches.
S: The words on her hands are playing into it as well.
G: Every time I look at anything Mita has created I notice something new. Sometimes it’s just a texture, or the way the space seems to work, or a word.

Lawnbot

Mechaboys by James Kochalka. Top Shelf, 2018. 9781603094238. 188pp.

The key to success on prom night? Wearing the right suit.” (from the back of the book)

Gene: This is about a robot suit made from an old power mower. It’s about two guys in a garage, one is Jamie — a blond-haired, gentle soul — the other likes to be called Zeus — he’s a bag of dicks.
Sarah: He has a wispy little high school mustache.
G: They’re seniors. They build the suit in Jamie’s garage from his dad’s old mower. There’s a lot to love in here and there’s some to hate, which makes me love it a little more. It’s not kid safe.
My favorite Kochalka graphic novel of all time is Peanutbutter & Jeremy, which is about a crow and a cat. And this is black and white and it looks like that. It’s not in color like the Dragon Puncher books or the Glorkian Warrior books, which I did enjoy. (My second favorite Kochalka book is probably Super F*ckers — it’s a hilarious take/send up of Legion of the Super Heroes. So good.)
S: I gave my niece Peanutbutter & Jeremy, and I forgot there’s a scene in it where they find a gun.
G: There’s always something.
S: She was fine with it but I was like, sorry mom & dad…
G: What was the one everybody loved? Monkey vs. Robot. I really liked American Elf. Kochalka is great. He takes chances. His art looks like he draws in a fluid, fun, natural way. But I like this one because it’s an awkward teenage story. It’s very YA with a “don’t grab this if you have a bunch of censors in your town” vibe.
S: I like those stories that combine the kind of thing that boys read with the life they’re actually living.
G: In this book, there are two bullies at school, Truck and Duck. They start making fun of Zeus. “Are you LGBTQ for my ELBOW?” I know that’s terrible, but it’s supposed to be.
S: (laughs)
G: And look at what Zeus does. (laughing) Isn’t that a great response?
Then they have to do the rope climb in gym, when our “heroes” are invited to a party by a girl. They take the robot suit out for a test drive and it ends up in an accident.
Zeus is an a-hole. The girls think Jamie is cute. Here’s three girls talking about how stupid prom is, and they form a group called The Fat Bitches and decide to go to prom together.
The gym teacher is fired for a reason he should be fired for, one that censors are going to love. And he’s on the trail of the boys building the giant robot. Then Kochalka sets Zeus up as the villain — he’s down on the comics Jamie loves, and they burn them in a barrel.
They go to the party. Zeus won’t let Jamie wear the suit, but it has a pull starter like an old gas mower. There’s a giant bear. There’s a speech where Zeus goes full evil. And then a chaotic rumble at the prom.
(both laugh, Gene ruins the end for Sarah)
S: This is exactly my speed.
G: It just cruises along.
S: You think some of that is in response to Shirtless Bear Fighter?
G: Doubtful, despite the bear.
S: I’m putting it on hold right now!