The latest episode of the Ladies of Comicazi Podcast is here! This month, we discuss Creepy Teen Books, a staple of our childhood reading. Join us as we talk about some of our favorites, what made the genre so popular, and why it seems to have fallen out of favor.
Want to learn more? Check out some of the books and authors we talked about:
The Dollhouse Murders – Elise’s childhood favorite
I Know What You Did Last Summer – a classic of the genre by Lois Duncan and the basis for the movie
Goosebumps and Fear Street author R.L. Stine
The Encyclopedia Brown series
Once again the Ladies of Comicazi will be joining the talented crew of Bad Kids Press at their table at Boston Comic Con this year. We’ll be helping to sell books prints, and other fun goodies, so be sure to stop by, say hello, and consider picking up a few excellent independent comics. Not sure what to pick up? Well, they’re all great! We’ve reviewed The Adventures of the GWF and Rapid City: Below Zero on the site in the past (hint, click the links to refresh your memories), and today I’ll tell you all about Rotten Roots.
Written by Paul Axel and with art by Renee Majkut, Rotten Roots is the tale of the prominent Wood family of Osprey City, Massachusetts and the tragedy that hangs over them.
Part historical fiction, part police procedural, the story follows Detective Mark Robles, who’s recently transferred to Osprey City from Chicago. He catches a pretty unusual case – Harold Wood, captain of industry and patriarch of one of the founding families of Osprey City, is found dead with rope burns around his neck and the diary of his ancestor, Daniel Wood, open before him. Also found at the scene is a note inscribed “Rotten roots bear rotten fruit.” Robles quickly figures out that someone has it out for the Wood family – and wants to use their shady history to wreak vengeance on the entire extended Wood clan.
The story moves between past and present, weaving the modern mystery deftly into the tales of the Wood family’s historical misdeeds. Along with the main mystery are hints that there are other secrets to uncover in Osprey City: Why did Detective Robles transfer there? What happened to his family? And why does the Lieutenant hate him so much? It’s clear that these other outlying mysteries will come into play as the drama unfolds.
Majkut’s dreamy watercolors suit the story well, particularly in the gorgeous maps of the city found in the backs of each book. The maps progress as the tale does, beginning with the Puritan settlement and presumably moving into the present day. It’s clear that careful thought has been put into the world-building by the creative team. Majkut’s backgrounds and detail work are also top notch, as evidenced by the final shot of book two, a real stunner.
My review is of the first 3 books of a planned 6 issue series, and it ended on a major cliffhanger, so I’m looking forward to seeing where it all leads (I have my suspects, of course, as any true mystery fan does.) Overall, this is a strong start to a series, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.
Recommended for: History buffs, mystery buffs, anyone who wants to see what comics can do outside of superheroes and sci fi
And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for – a chance to win tickets to Boston Comic Con. The lucky winner will get a pair of day passes – we recommend coming on Sunday, for our panel on Food and Fandom at 1 pm! Whatever day you choose, come find us at the Bad Kids Press tables, E1000-1003 in Artists Alley.
Speaking of Bad Kids Press, take a gander at their shop. Tell us which title you’re most interested in checking out or artist you’d like to meet in the comments below, and we’ll pick our lucky winner. Good luck!
Clearly, this blog attracts folks who love a good televised mystery – the enduring popularity of the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries post is a testament to that. Really, it isn’t that surprising. Mystery is a genre, whether in books or tv shows, that seems to appeal to wide range of tastes. We all seem to like uncovering the dark secrets of a tiny seaside town, or the corruption at the heart of our own government – or at least we like watching someone else do it.
Mr. Menace and I watch a lot of these sorts of shows together, and I thought I’d seen just about every variation out there. The Sherlock Holmes retellings, the sassy lady detective, the stuffy fish out of water who solves crimes, the world-weary DCI looking for redemption. What kind of detective was even left?
And then, Smalerie’s friend Bree was talking to my husband, and mentioned a show I’d never even heard of, and yet another kind of detective was added to my list. The cowboy detective.
In retrospect, this makes total sense. You can insert a mystery into any setting. But Westerns in general have been in a popularity downturn for a while now. They were incredibly popular from the dawn of filmmaking until the 70’s, and it’s easy to understand why – the original Westerns are the ultimate American myth, stories of rugged individualists battling harsh landscapes, shady desperadoes, and of course, “savage” natives. Women in these stories were generally victims or someone to be killed to provide the protagonist with motivation. These stories fit into our self-image as a nation at the time quite well, and their fading popularity is at least partly due to that self-image changing a bit, to something sleeker, more modern and industrial.
Longmire takes what was appealing about those original Western tales – a rough-and-tumble protagonist, stark and beautiful scenery – and updates it for in some badly-needed ways, jettisoning the racist and misogynist tropes. Our protagonist may still be a rugged individualist and tough guy, but he also has a degree in English literature. He’s got layers, you know?
Sure, as the sheriff of the smallest county in the US, he’s a bit of a stereotype. He’s taciturn, blunt, and he’s very willing to solve problems with his fists when the need arises. But he’s quite good with his brain, too, and he solves the (in the way of all mystery series, excessive in number) crimes in his county with skill and sensitivity. Beneath the dour surface lies a complicated man who just wants what’s best for his county and the people he loves.
When the series opens, Walt is grieving the recent death of his wife, Martha. Nearly everyone, including his daughter Cady, believes that Martha died from the cancer that sent her to Denver for chemotherapy treatments. Only Walt and his best friend, Henry Standing Bear, know the truth – that Martha was murdered in an apparent botched mugging. Something about the crime nags at Walt, however, and the show, while having a murder of the week format, also explores a longer story of him solving the mystery of Martha’s death. It makes for a great, intense drama beyond the typical “whodunit.”
The casting in the show is top-notch, with a combination of familiar faces like Gerald McRaney as one of Walt’s antagonists, and lesser-known actors. Robert Taylor is the epitome of an American cowboy lawman as Walt – which is no mean feat when you consider the fact that he’s actually Australian.
Fans of the Battlestar Galactica reboot will recognize Katee Sackhoff, that show’s Starbuck, playing Vic Moretti, one of Walt’s deputies and the only woman working for the Absaroka County Sheriff’s Department (besides Ruby, Walt’s long-suffering secretary). Sackhoff’s character, like Starbuck, is tough and physical, but is a bit more tender-hearted and feels like a progression, rather than a retread.
Since the show is set in Wyoming and the fictional Absaroka County borders a Cheyenne reservation, there are also numerous roles for Native actors, and the show has been widely praised for its mostly authentic portrayal of modern Native American life – both on and off the reservation. Lou Diamond Phillips as Walt’s best friend Henry is a bit quirky – but you get the sense that it has nothing to do with his being Cheyenne – that’s just who he is. (And every time he answers the phone at his bar – “It’s another beautiful day at the Red Pony and continual soiree” I laugh with delight.)
Don’t get me wrong – this series is still, at its heart, a drama – and that’s a good thing. The soapy twists and outlandish mysteries are what make the show fun. If you don’t like a good mystery show this probably won’t change your mind, but if you do and you’re looking for something a little different, give this one a shot – and then tell me what you think in the comments!
As I pondered what topic to write about this month, I toyed with a few different options. Should I write about my weekly bread project? Try another recipe from The DC Super Heroes Super Healthy Cookbook? Nothing seemed quite right. Well, I thought, it’s the heart of summer…maybe I should make some summer reading recommendations…wait, did I do that last year?
As it turns out, not only did I write a summer reading post last year, I did it exactly this week last year. So it seems like the right way to go. I bring you – The Son of Summer Reading! (But hey, if you want me to write about either of those other things, let me know in the comments. I can’t tell if the bread thing is great or hideously dull.)