The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger – A Book Review

Not quite a picture book and not quite a graphic novel, The Night Bookmobile, like its plot, is gloriously subversive in terms of both genre and plot.

In this short tale we have Alexandra, a woman who strolls Chicago streets during the early, early morning. She happens across a night  bookmobile in the shape of a Winnebago.  She is invited in, and, upon studying the collection, realizes she’s read every single copy within the vehicle.  What she learns next surprises her and influences her for the rest of her life, a life she spends searching not only for the night bookmobile, but for its elusive home Library.

And just when the reader begins to feel comfortable, the story takes quite a turn and moves in a totally unexpected direction.  I will not even hint at a spoiler, but I did not suspect the last third of the story whatsoever.

So, as you can see, I very much enjoyed the actual story.  At times it reads like prose, at other times it reads similar to a comic strip.  Niffenegger is not only a talented writer, but she’s a gifted artist as well.  The book’s art, like it’s plot, is unorthodox yet quite appealing.  Though the lines are simple, the picture are detailed with pleasant colors and fine perspective.  I particularly enjoy Niffenegger’s faces.  She’s excellent at subtle expressions.

The best of writing and the best of art should always discomfort us, surprise us, and stimulate our thoughts.  The Night Bookmobile is admirable in that it does all three both concisely and poignantly.

Are You An Artist? Let’s Have Fun Together!

I love art and I love artists.  Let’s just get that out of the way.  Though I’m a chronic doodler, my skill never developed much past what I accomplished in high school; however, even though I don’t have much talent, I do always sketch my characters in order to better envision them.

I recently jump-started my :from the Chronicles of Purgatory Station serial. I’ve had a few false starts in the past, but I’m committed to finishing the eighteen-part saga during the coming months.  If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, Purgatory Station is an island off the coast of Boston with a high number of unusual citizens.  Some of them operate for the common good, others are intent upon causing great harm.  Each of them, consequently, holds a deep story that needs to be told.  In essence, these are my version of super heroes and villains.

I’ve created designs for each of these characters, and I toil to develop passable “covers” for each story, but I’d like these characters to shine even more brightly.

That’s where I ask you, the artist, to come play with me.

If you read the story and there’s a particular scene that speaks to you, and if you take it upon yourself to create an image of that scene, please do share it with me and I’ll insert it into the appropriate spot.  I am a lifelong comic book fan, and I would love nothing more than to see artists’ talented takes on my stories.

I’m releasing :from the Chronicles of Purgatory Station for free, so I’m afraid I can’t offer any money to you as I’m not making any.  I want to share these stories for all to enjoy, and I’m not in it to try to make a dollar.  However, I will certainly place your name beneath the picture, and I’ll hotlink your name to any site you have that you’d like promoted.  In short, I’ll send people your way if they like your art.

Of course, I have to like your picture.  There is some level of quality control.  If it is true to the story, and if it looks good, I’ll likely add it in.

Just to be clear, I retain all rights to my characters and my work.  That being said, I will definitely put anyone who likes your work in touch with you and help promote you however possible.  You’ll get shout-outs from me on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, GoodReads, and here at this site.

I love supporting artists and I hope you view this as an opportunity to find a new audience while having some fun.  Selfishly, it’s a chance for me to see my characters brought to life by those with far more talent.

If you want to give it a shot, here’s the fist story:

Freedom’s Resurrection: Part 1

I can’t wait to see what you create!

 

~Scott

The Truth Is a Cave In the Black Mountains by Neil Gaiman and Eddie Campbell – A Book Review

Written by the renowned Neil Gaiman, this small picture book is unlike anything I’ve ever read.  Perhaps picture book is too simple a phrase, for that conjures up something meant for a child, which this book clearly is not.  At seventy-three pages, I read this tale in less than an hour. Every page is comprised of paintings, drawings, and even photography that weave in and out of each other and provide endless opportunities for inspection.

The story itself is something of a mystery, something of a fairy tale, something horrific, and something also amusing.  It satisfies on every level, and as soon as I finished it, I immediately reread the beginning to find the clues I’d previously ignored.   The signs are there.  The omens are given.  The fortunes read.

I don’t want to reveal much more about this story, for I think the less known the more fulfilling it is.  Just know that it is masterfully written, with just enough dialogue, description, and narration to ignite a spark within your imagination not easily forgotten.

And, just as Gaiman created a provocative short story, Eddie Campbell delivers artwork no less significant.  Like the story itself, the art of the book is multifaceted and unlike anything I’ve ever quite experienced.  As already stated, Campbell sometimes works photography into the illustrations, sometimes creates beautiful paintings, and sometimes scribbles simple line drawings with a touch of color.  Sometimes the prose and dialogue are placed within a traditional comic book sequence of panels, and sometimes they adhere to the traditions of a picture book with the prose within the illustration or juxtaposed to it.

I’ve read much of Gaiman’s work—comic books, children’s books, and novels—and I assure you that this is one of his most gratifying efforts.

 

East of West by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta – A Book Review

I recently checked out a batch of graphic novels in search of a few must-reads.  I’m a collector by nature, and I enjoy having a series (or twelve) to follow.  East of West could be counted among the batch, but honestly, I picked it up only because it was available.  I didn’t particularly like the summary I read online, nor did Volume One’s cover particularly catch my interest.  However, I heard good things, so I thought, “Why not?”

I’m hooked.  I had zero expectations for this book, but I knew it hooked me within the first five pages.

Here’s the premise: The Four Horsemen have been reborn to ravage mankind yet again, only there’s one problem—there’s only three of them.  The fourth, Death, did not die along their side to require a rebirth, and the other three don’t like that.  Though reborn as children, they already plot Death’s decimation.

Know, though, that this is not happening in our version of reality.  In East of West, America is divided among seven nations due to events dating back to 1908. There is also a prevailing religious fervor within the population referred to as “The Message.”  The time is “now,” but “now” seems to be a mixture of the old west and the far future.

We soon meet Death, and Death seeks revenge.  He travels with two witches, the Wolf and the Crow.  The three of them are a formidable posse, and also three of the most visually interesting characters in comic books.  Why does Death seek revenge?  You’ll have to read the book to find out, but it involves his former Horsemen, a romance, and a child.

Nick Dragotta provides exceptional artwork you have to see to believe.  Let’s be honest: the graphic novel covers are rather boring.  Trust me, though, the interior artwork is exquisite.  Dragotta makes futuristic cities and barren desert landscapes equally interesting.  But it’s the sense of movement that sets Dragotta apart.  His battle scenes are clean, violent, and frenetic.  He knows just the right angles, just the right times to open the panel up or draw it in tight.  It’s a delight to look upon.

You know I’m a color guy, so we can’t leave out Frank Martin.  Death, the Wolf, and the Crow are almost entirely black or white, but even so, Martin makes them unbelievably dynamic.  In the hands of the less talented, they would look washed out or bleed into the background, but Martin knows how to make them pop.

Hickman has built a complicated world comprised of diverse mythology, cutthroat politics, maniacal religion, insane science fiction, all-out action, and some chilling horror.  Somehow he blends it all together seamlessly, and the result is that must-read I so desperately craved.

Black Science: How To Fall Forever by Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera – A Book Review

I saw this book earned a little buzz so I thought I’d check it out.  The premise is Grant McKay and his team have broken through the barrier between infinite dimensions.  The machine making this capable, The Pillar, got damaged though, so they only have a little time before they jump to another world, and if they want to make the jump, they better be near The Pillar or they will be left behind.  McKay’s two children were sucked along for the ride, as were two corporate representatives who don’t get along with McKay at all.  McKay is your narrator.  He is anti-authoritarian, smug, arrogant, cheats on his wife, and is not all that likable.

This first volume begins with McKay trying to escape some aliens and race back to The Pillar before the next jump.  Over the course of the volume, you discover why his kids are with him, why his wife is not, why the team seems so ill prepared, the identity of his mistress, and why the two corporate representatives accompany them.

The artwork is quite stunning.  Scalera creates some impressive aliens and exquisite settings.  His panels keep the story moving along wonderfully, and he delivers some dynamic, fast-paced action.  My only complaint is that because McKay’s crew wear the same uniforms, they tend to look quite a bit alike.  I appreciate the realism, because they likely would wear the same suits, but at times it’s hard to tell who is who.

Dean White does the painted art, and let me tell you, his colors alone make this book worth the price.  I have zero talent at colors, so I’ve learned to appreciate that which I cannot do.  White is a master.  Gorgeous colors.

In the end, though, while the book is very good, I can’t say I’m hooked.  I bought the first volume because I was sure I’d love it, but I didn’t.  I’ll probably check out the second volume when it comes to a local library.  I simply never connected to the characters.  McKay is an anti-hero, and that isn’t a bad thing, but I never really cared about him.  I never found any common ground.  I never necessarily rooted for him.  I can’t really say I have to know where his story goes next.

Of course, this is just my opinion.  I loved most of the art, the story proved interesting, the colors were beautiful, so there is a good chance you may very well adore it.  If the premise captured your interest, I encourage you to see for yourself.

A Few Words About Troy Marcy Photography

I’ve had the honor of following Troy Marcy’s work for several years now, and I can, without hesitation, attest to the fact that this man is a true artist, a student of the craft, and an ethical person.  Furthermore, he’s a good friend.

Troy’s passion for photography is evident with each and every photograph he creates. Many can take a picture, to be sure, but only some have an undefinable ability to produce drama, majesty, and mystery within those boundaries. Troy is one such talent. In particular, his nature and wildlife shots take my breath away on a regular basis.

Consequently, Troy does not relent when it comes to learning new methods. I’ve had many a technological conversation with him concerning his equipment and software, and I’ve understood none of it. He never stops learning, he never stops studying, and he never stops trying to take the perfect picture with the resources available. In fact, he’s been known to labor over a single photograph for hours upon hours in an effort to achieve excellence.

Which leads me to my next point. If you hire Troy Marcy, you will get his best work possible. This is a man who has a passion for photography, an insatiable desire to capture art. He is not out to get rich. He has no desire to fleece clients. His fares are more than reasonable, and his principles are always strong. He truly wants to make his clients happy, which is why he’s been known to go above and beyond for each photograph he takes on a client’s behalf.

As you can tell, I count Troy Marcy among my friends, but that doesn’t guarantee a positive word when it comes to skill or behavior. I am critical and objective when it comes to both art and business, and Troy Marcy excels at each. It is with supreme confidence that I recommend his work and his integrity to you.

Visit his website HERE.

A Few Pictures From “The Illustrated Journey Of An Unknown Author (Thus Far)”

On July 14, 2014, I had the honor of speaking to an audience at the Normal Public Library in Illinois.  I decided to make things interesting by not only talking about my journey as an author, but by illustrating the journey.  I’ve never before sketched in front of a large audience, but it went very well.  I had a fun time, and I think the audience did, too.

I want to thank the Normal Public Library for having me, especially Meghan Rogers who contacted me about the event.  Thanks also to the family, friends, and library patrons who gave me their time.

In case you missed it, here are a few pictures …

Scott William Foley at the Normal Public Library

Scott William Foley

With Batman

Getting Started With Batman

Drawing Nut Hut

Drawing Nut Hut

Drawing Dr Nekros

Drawing Dr. Nekros

With Warrior Angel

With Warrior Angel From Souls Triumphant