The texts and automated calls came at 3 A.M. Something odd and quite alarming was happening. Ethan was jarred awake from a serene dream about waterfalls and a mountain top cabin. The dream was so ornate and so real that it lingered for a bit as he read the words, a bit of water seeming to crest into froth in the corners of his room then away.
Dörfler by Jeremy Baum
96 pages / $22.99 Buy from Fantagraphics
Cable television in the mid-nineties was a cornucopia of bonkers genre faire, and for a nine-year-old with minimal parental intervention it played a huge influence on me growing up. Sci-Fi, USA Network, TNT, and other channels provided me with a fairly reliable stream of schlocky horror, science fiction, and fantasy movies which have since left me with a taste for the bizarre.
I tended to venture way from “age appropriate” programming, like Nickelodeon, and surf these channels only when my mom was busy or out on errands, so I never actually watched all of the majority of the films I caught, but it was this habit of indiscriminately watching snippets of movies that introduced me to such visually evocative films as Terminator 2, The Hidden, Mosquito, Phantasm II, They Live, Iria Zeiram the Animation, Akira, Krull, Roujin Z, and so many more ridiculously wonderful bits of gorgeous SFF.
Jeremy Baum’s debut graphic novel captures this experience of channel surfing amongst genre films better than any other comic I’ve come across. With imagery that evokes Akira by way of a geometrically obsessed David A. Trampier, the book tells the story of three gifted youngsters stolen from their verdant homes and harnessed as weapons for a totalitarian force through a surreal ouroboros of dreams and genre mashups. Nola is an elf-girl seeking to stop the militarized government through magic, or is she an amnesiac niece of one of the project’s head scientists, or is she both?!?
Comics, like film, are a wonderful medium for forcing their audience into new and unfamiliar territory. Jeremy Baum’s art skillfully riffs off of the tropes of adolescent fandom to create a stunning, evocative comic. Dörfler is equal parts fantasy, science fiction, Heavy Metal pin-up erotica, and every trope from all of the above wrapped into a gorgeous hardcover, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.
Every semester I hold preliminary conferences with my writing students. I ask normal teacher questions–what do you hope to work on, what do you feel you’re good at–and take notes to help me comment on their work when it starts coming in. In my first years of teaching, I also asked, “What’s something you read and liked recently?”
“The Great Gatsby,” they’d say, or, “We read As I Lay Dying last year.”
It’s perfectly possible to like either of those books, although I’m more of a Tender Is the Night girl myself. But the way they watched me as they said the titles showed me that I needed to be more precise. “What do you read for fun?” I ask them now. “Like, actual fun. What do you read when you’re sick?”
They murmur something shy about Harry Potter or the Hunger Games, or glance sideways before asking, “Have you ever heard of Naruto?” And once that started happening, I saw the chance to do something more important than learning about their “taste” or their “influences”: I could help them see that no pleasure is guilty. Talking with my students helped me to respond both truthfully and proudly when someone asks, “What’ve you been reading lately?” These posts will imagine that you’re asking me that question about once a week.
Seven Citadels, a four-book series by Geraldine Harris (Prince of the Godborn, Children of the Wind, The Dead Kingdom, The Seventh Gate), is a quest story.