Out in the wide Arizona desert, near a top-secret military research facility, there lived a young kitten with the unusual name of Three. Then one day, there was a terrible accident at at the facility… That’s the story behind Sonora, a new full-color comic book series written by Mike Kessler and illustrated by Erin Taylor. After a terrible explosion, the surviving animals of this desert region awaken to find they have gained amazing powers… Some of them will use those powers for good, and others… will not. Published by Bleating Goat Comics, whose web site has information about this and other independent comic books.
Boston & NYC, Little, Brown & Co., March 2013 Hardcover $17.99 ([6 +] 285 [+ 7] pages)
Kindle $8.89. Illustrated by Charles Vess.
The age rating on this is “8 and up”. This is one of those “all ages” books like The Wind in the Willows that you will not want to miss just because it may be in the children’s section of your bookshop or public library. Seek it out! It is worth it.
Lillian Kindred is a little girl whose parents are dead and who lives with her Aunt on a farm at the edge of Tanglewood Forest. The book doesn’t say how old she is, so that’s probably not important. What is important is that she’s established as old enough to be allowed by other people to play in the forest alone, and young enough to look for fairies. One of the things that she sees is lots of cats wandering freely – feral cats and farm cats. She does not bother them, but she does put out dishes of fresh milk for them.
One day she falls asleep in the forest, and is bitten by a venomous snake. Vess’ illustration shows a coral snake; the worst kind. Wikipedia says that, “Coral snakes have a powerful neurotoxin that paralyzes the breathing muscles; mechanical or artificial respiration, along with large doses of antivenom, are often required to save a victim's life.” Lillian does not have any of that. She is alone at the foot of a tree, dying.
Furry Feline Creatives (cool name!) is the creation of Cheri Ong and Alvin Ong. Part-time musicians themselves, the Ongs have started an on-line store for their original posters, plushies, and 3D works of rock ‘n’ roll cats and other cartoony animal characters. They even do custom illustrated shoes! Check out their web site at www.furry-feline.com.
What do university professors do after they retire? If they are like Dr. Roger C. Schlobin, Ph.D., they write a fantasy novel based upon Chinese mythology, self-publish it (in an unusual size; 9” x 6”), and try to get it sold to be made into an animated feature film.
Good luck. It seems too far outside the mainstream of animated fantasy cinema to obtain the backing necessary to become an animated movie. Those have production budgets averaging $50 million dollars and up today. As a fantasy novel, however …
'Why, what's the matter?' said his wife, 'and why do you want to know who Tommy Tildrum is?'
'Oh, I've had such an adventure. I was digging away at old Mr Fordyce's grave when I suppose I must have dropped asleep, and only woke up by hearing a cat's Miaou.'
'Miaou!' said Old Tom in answer.
'Yes, just like that! So I looked over the edge of the grave, and what do you think I saw?'
'Now, how can I tell?' said the sexton's wife.
'Why, nine black cats all like our friend Tom here, all with a white spot on their chestesses. And what do you think they were carrying? Why, a small coffin covered with a black velvet pall, and on the pall was a small coronet all of gold, and at every third step they took they cried all together, Miaou -- '
'Miaou!' said Old Tom again.
'Yes, just like that!' said the sexton; 'and as they came nearer and nearer to me I could see them more distinctly; because their eyes shone out with a sort of green light. Well, they all came towards me, eight of them carrying the coffin, and the biggest cat of all walking in front for all the world like -- but look at our Tom, how he's looking at me. You'd think he knew all I was saying.'
Jenny Parks is a traditional artist working in the realms of natural history and animal art. Lately though, she’s come to specialize in fantasy-anthropomorphic illustrations of cat characters. Cats like Doctor Mew, Hairy Pawter, and Purrlock Holmes. Of course she sells prints of her cat-work, and you can see examples of that and other illustrations at her web site, www.jennyparks.com.
Hank the Cowdog and the Case of the Dinosaur Birds is number 54 in John R. Erickson’s long running series of short novels for children featuring the misadventures of Hank the Cowdog, Head of Ranch Security.
The books are published by Erickson’s own Maverick Books, based out of his hometown of Perryton, Texas. The books are not unknown outside the area; but in the surrounding region, very few children grow up without encountering Hank and his humorous stories. The realistic depiction of life on a Texas cattle ranch as seen through the eyes of a vainglorious but not particularly bright ranch dog has also garnered many adult fans in the region.
The books feature illustrations by Gerald R. Holmes. However, this review is based on the audiobook version of the story, featuring Erickson’s reading. Erickson is a talented voice actor; the story is presented more like a radio play than a straight recitation, with Erickson playing all parts: human and animal, male and female, each distinctive and memorable. Quite a few fans, and this reviewer, feel that you haven’t experienced Hank the Cowdog until you have heard one of the audiobooks.
“Hank the Cowdog and the Case of the Dinosaur Birds”, by John R. Erickson. Illustrated by Gerald R. Holmes. Maverick Books Inc., 2009, paperback $4.99, CD audio book $17.99, paperback/CD combo pack $19.99, online audio $9.95.
It starts light-heartedly enough. Take your basic haunted house story, only do it with dogs investigating a haunted doghouse. And slowly, gradually, the stories get darker.
Burden Hill would appear to be your everyday, quiet suburb, except... things... are starting to happen, and while the local humans haven't noticed anything yet, the local dogs certainly have.
Beasts of Burden is basically a series of comic books about canine paranormal investigation. (Plus a couple of cats.) The writing by Evan Dorkin manages to be fun and ominous at the same time, and he gives the dogs distinct personalities in a way that feels very believable. The artwork by Jill Thompson is rendered in excellent watercolors, and generates just the right atmosphere.
After a successful Kickstarter campaign, DMP Digital Manga will be releasing a translated version of Osamu Tezuka’s A-Tomcat this April. Tezuka, as if you didn’t know, was the creator of Kimba the White Lion — and many many other world-famous titles, including of course Astro-Boy. This one-shot black & white paperback is an off-shoot of the Astro-Boy Series. Try to follow this: ” Tsugio is a young Japanese boy who is very fond of reading the Astro-Boy manga series. One day he finds a stray kitten and persuades his family to keep it. But then, after an encounter with two aliens honeymooning on Earth (!), suddenly the little cat not only looks like Astro-Boy, but has Astro-Boy’s Powers! Check out more at DMP’s order site.
Sofawolf Press have announced that Caterwall, a new full-color young adult graphic novel by Spain Fischer, will be arriving this summer. Originally announced last spring, this sword & sorcery tale follows the adventures of Pax, a feline would-be adventurer. Pax is “ the orphaned son of the kingdom of Katia’s greatest knights. His family name and reputation has been tarnished, however, and Pax is to blame. When the young cat intercepts troubling news from the neighboring kingdom of the dogs, Dewshire, his warnings fall on deaf ears. Banished from Caterwall after insulting the Dewshire diplomat, Pax must decide if he will try to stop the dangerous tide approaching Caterwal l– or turn his back on the home which cast him out.” The story will be told in a series of three 100-page graphic novels. We’ll admit to some confusion regarding the web site for this project. Some promotional posters released at Further Confusion and elsewhere give the web site as www.caterwall.net, which leads you to a “Coming Soon” page with an illustration. More actual information, however, can be found at www.caterwall.com, which includes artwork and background write-ups.
We recently stumbled across the works of Celeste M. Bath and Rael Bayellis. They’ve both worked on several stories of adult fantasy adventure (emphasis on adult), several of which fall into the “furry” category, and now they’ve begun to collaborate as well. One of there most recent works is Randi: A Shadowcats Story. Here’s the plot: “Randall was a very ambitious and powerful combat mage. When he found out about the Shadowcats he hatched a plan to make himself more powerful. Unfortunately for him it didn’t work. After having his brains scrambled and then his body changed after almost being killed, Randall is now Randi and owned by one of the more powerful Shadowcats in the Kingdom. Randi finds she enjoys life mated to the big sexy beast, and while she is now the most powerful mage in the Kingdom and both her and her mate are involved in Royal politics and intrigue, she finds her ambitions have changed…” The novel is available as an e-book, both at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
In 1990 Tatsunoko Studios of Japan released the “science-fiction historical gag battle anime” known as Kyattou Ninden Teyandee. It was fan-subbed in the U.S. as Ninja Pizza Cats, and eventually Saban Entertainment released it to television in a dubbed version called Samurai Pizza Cats. For many years, the rights to the show have been up in the air, but now Discotek Media have announced they will soon be releasing the entire series to DVD. According the review at Anime News Network, the series “revolves arouund Nyankii, a secret ninja team that protects the robotic animal inhabitants of Edoropolis (Little Tokyo) from the evil ninja organization Karakara.” That hardly begins to describe just how crazy this thing is. Discotek will be releasing two different DVD box sets: A 52-episode dubbed version and a 54-episode subtitled version.
Fortunately for those who cannot get to London, the Wired article contains 27 of the pieces, and the link to the Framers Gallery’s website shows 39 of them. Click on the Exhibitors’ names to see their websites which contain many more works, some anthropomorphic.
From January 18 to 25, the GKids (Guerrilla Kids International Distribution Syndicate) distributor gave the 98-minute French animated feature The Rabbi’s Cat (Le Chat du Rabbin), directed by Joann Sfar and Antoine Delesvaux, produced by Autochenille Production (a studio set up in 2007 by Sfar and Delesvaux to make this movie), and based on Sfar’s French five-volume graphic novel of the same name (volumes 1, 2, and 5 of it, to be exact), a one-week American limited “general” distribution, in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego on the West Coast. It will have an East Coast release in mid-March.
The original French release, on June 1, 2011, won the Annecy Crystal for Best Feature at the 2011 Annecy International Animated Film Festival, and the 2012 César Award (“the French Oscar”) for Best Animated Film. It had a one-week release in one theater in America on December 7-13 to qualify for 2012 American film awards, and was nominated for the Annie in two categories, Best Animated Feature and Outstanding Achievement, Directing in an Animated Feature Production.
On January 20, my sister and I went to the Laemmle Town Center 5 in Encino to see The Rabbi's Cat, in French with English subtitles. It was playing for a week, and has gotten a mixed but generally favorable illustrated review in LA Weekly, January 18-24, 2013, the major citywide free alternative newspaper. Rotten Tomatoes gave it 93%.
Well-known fantasy author Charles De Lint has teamed up with well-known illustrator Charles Vess to bring us The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, a new hardcover full-color graphic novel coming this March from Little Brown Books For Young Readers. “Lillian Kindred spends her days exploring the Tanglewood Forest, a magical, rolling wilderness that she imagines to be full of fairies. The trouble is, Lillian has never seen a wisp of magic in her hills–until the day the cats of the forest save her life by transforming her into a kitten. Now Lillian must set out on a perilous adventure that will lead her through untamed lands of fabled creatures–from Old Mother Possum to the fearsome Bear People–to find a way to make things right.” From the review at Amazon, of course.
And with that, we’ll say TTFN (ta ta for now!) until after Further Confusion in San Jose, California. Take care!