Oct 23 2013

YOU. Read YOU.

Published by under reviews

I just finished YOU by Austin Grossman. It’s brilliant, in my opinion. As an elevator pitch, I would describe it as Microserfs meets Ready Player One, but with an existentialist heart. A bit slow in places, but the plot pulled me along pretty effectively, and I enjoyed the old-game nostalgia as well as the philosophical underpinnings. I highly recommend it to anyone who is/was into computer games, especially the early RPGs of the 80s and 90s. The recommendation goes double for anyone who has ever worked as a game developer, or wanted to know what that’s like.

There are many references to LookingGlass, and among the characters are many traits mined from the personalities of LG developers — but he’s re-formed all these elements into a kind of archetypal mythology that somehow tells the story of the whole evolution of games, both as it was and as it should have been, AND does the same archetype-evolution trick with both the people who MAKE games and the characters IN games. This can lead to some occasionally-confusing switches of perspective (1st, 2nd and 3rd person narratives are all used, all four “playable characters” are “played” as both avatars and real characters, and sometimes you aren’t totally sure if the protagonist is playing, dreaming, or hallucinating) — but ultimately YOU has big, audacious goals that, in my opinion, Austin achieves elegantly. It also has a really nice cover by Superbrothers.

Incidentally, I listened to it on audio, and the audio book is really well done. (As is the audiobook for Ready Player One, if you haven’t read that yet.)

Also, I should disclose possible bias, since know Austin personally (we overlapped at LG by a year or so). I don’t think personal bias is playing into my love of this book, but shared experience certainly is. It’s possible that no one who isn’t an LG alum will truly appreciate the full, painful genius of Realms of Golf.

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Oct 21 2013

Review: Templar

Published by under reviews

I just finished reading Templar, by Jordan Mechner with illustrations by LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland.  I read the first section when First Second published it as Solomon’s Thieves, and loved it — except for the cliffhanger ending!!! Now the story is finally available in one volume, thank goodness!

Since that first sentence contained the name LeUyen Pham, I probably don’t have to tell you that this book is drop-dead gorgeous, with 480 pages (!) of beautiful, dynamic, expressive drawings of medieval France illustrating a rollicking adventure tale with comic and tragic touches and a powerful ending. It also has some brief but clear notes at the end about what’s historical and what’s made-up (unlike some of their other reality-inspired books such as Boxers & Saints).

I don’t think I really need to say much more. Read this book!

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Oct 21 2013

More R&J, This time at the Folger.

I’ve been crunching hard on Macbeth (I delivered the line work last week), so I’ve got a backlog of things to post. But here’s one I wanted to get up right away. The Folger Shakespeare Library was kind enough to invite me to their very powerful new production of Romeo & Juliet. I drew a bunch, but the house was very dark, so I was drawing completely blind — hence the rather dada-esque nature of most of these sketches.

The show is directed by Aaron Posner, and stars Michael Goldsmith as Romeo and Erin Weaver as Juliet, plus Aaron Bliden, Rex Daugherty, Brian Dykstra, Sherri Edelen, Eric Hissom, Brad Koed, Shannon Koob, Joe Mallon, Allen McCullough, Matthew McGee, and Michele Osherow.

Later in the season they are doing Richard III and Two Gentlemen of Verona.

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Oct 02 2013

Second Star!

Published by under Uncategorized

The Horn Book has announced that Romeo & Juliet will get a starred review in their Nov/Dec issue. Which is awesome enough by itself, but I also got a sneak peek at the text of the review, and it is truly magnificent, thanks to the eloquence of Joanna Rudge Long.

Congrats to the other authors receiving starred reviews, especially friend and fellow Candlewick author Matt Phelan for his new book Bluffton!

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Oct 02 2013

ASP’s Romeo & Juliet

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m enjoying a lovely, serendipitous cross-promotion with Actors’ Shakespeare Project and their new production of Romeo & Juliet, which opens this week. The timing didn’t work out for me to see the whole show, but I caught a couple of hours of their tech rehearsal on Sunday night. I only got to see the last few scenes, but it looks really good! Here are a few sketches I did. They ran through each bit a couple of times, so in some cases I got multiple drawings of the same thing.

A big thank-you to Adele and Allyn for arranging logistics, and Maurice for giving me a ride back to Cambridge. The show is directed by Allyn Burrows and Bobbie Steinbach, and stars Jason Bowen and Julie Ann Earls as R&J. Also shown are Ben Rosenblatt (Paris), Ken Baltin (Capulet), Miranda Craigwell (Lady Capulet), and Maurice Emmanuel Parent (Mercutio/Apothecary).

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Sep 30 2013

Book launch recap, Romeo & Juliet on stage everywhere

My book launch events this weekend went really well, I think. Of special note was the event at Porter Square Books, where I did a slideshow illustrating the development of the concepts and designs for my R&J, and showed pages from the book, highlighting a few of my favorite passages. When I got the balcony scene, two teenagers who were “planted” among the audience popped up and surprised everyone (else) with a really beautiful live performance of the scene. They were Frank and Natasha, two talented young actors who recently starred in Actor’s Shakespeare Project’s Youth Program production of R&J. I want to thank them again for doing such a fantastic job — and also ASP resident actor Mara Sidmore, for working with them, helping to figure out the cuing and blocking, playing Mercutio and the Nurse, and generally helping make it all work really smoothly. Thanks also to David and Carol at Porter Square Books, and Adele and Allyn at ASP, who all helped to arrange the whole thing.


Readers of this blog will already be familiar with ASP from the sketches I’ve been doing at their dress rehearsals for several years. I love this group! I am thrilled to report that, by happy coincidence, they are staging Romeo & Juliet starting this week at the Strand theater in Dorchester, and besides participating in my launch party they are also going to be selling my book at their concession stand. I got to sit on the end of a tech rehearsal Sunday night, and it looks excellent. (I’ll be posting a couple of sketches from that in the next day or two.)


Like I said, it’s a wonderful coincidence that they’re doing the show now. But they aren’t the only ones! For those who may not be aware, there are several other high-profile stagings of R&J this month on the East Coast. Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad star in a Broadway production that has tons of buzz. Competing with them off-Broadway is this production with Elizabeth Olsen. And here in my new hometown, The Folger Shakespeare Library has a production starting in two weeks.


Then there’s this new R&J film, which may be good or truly terrible, and which may or may not be in theaters near you next week.


(Or perhaps you’d prefer this lesbian Romeo & Juliet starting next week in Philly?)


I mean, come on, it’s a Romeo & Juliet bonanza! If you live in one of those cities, grab some tickets!

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Sep 10 2013

Romeo & Juliet launch events

Published by under appearances,romeo and juliet

It’s not exactly a full-on tour, but I have to say, this is the closest I’ve ever come to an actual tour for a book launch. I hope you can make it to one of these events!


– Sept. 28 (Saturday) 7pm Porter Square Books event and signing, Cambridge MA.

– Sept. 29th (Sunday) 2:30pm panel, w/signing 30 min before and after, at MICE (Massachusetts Independent Comic Expo), Cambridge MA.

– Sept. 29th (Sunday) 5:30pm Signing at The Million Year Picnic (+other authors TBD), Cambridge MA.

– Nov. 7th 7:30pm Event and signing at Takoma Park Library, Takoma Park MD.

– Nov 16th 2:30pm Event and signing at Bank Street Books, New York NY.

– Nov. 22-24 Multiple appearances at National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention in Boston MA. Email for details if you are attending NCTE.


I’m also looking into the possibility of an online launch event for those who can’t make any of the events above. Stay tuned.


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Aug 14 2013

Romeo & Juliet news — great first review in Kirkus, plus signed pre-orders

Kirkus makes me very happy today with a lovely starred review — unfortunately it’s subscription-only until 8/27, but among other things they called it a “spellbinding graphic-novel production. As thrilling and riveting as any staging,” and said I “expertly abridged the original text while embellishing it with modern sensibilities.”

I have updated the main Romeo & Juliet page with sample images and a link to pre-order signed copies, so please check that out. Plus I will soon be announcing several launch events in DC, NY, Boston, and online.

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Jun 05 2013

Lorenzo Mattotti

Published by under Uncategorized

For some comic geeks, this man needs no introduction. For the rest of you, let me introduce you to an artist who, for the last 15 years, I have kind of worshiped for his unique and powerful work. I mean, you know I love painterly, fine-arty comics, right? This guy really sets the standard for painterly fine-arty comics!

– Mattotti’s website

– His blog

– More images on Google, Pinterest

He was in town from Italy for Book Expo last week. He did an event at the Society of Illustrators which I wasn’t able to attend, but he was also doing free sketches at the show, at an Italian publishing booth on Thursday morning, so I eagerly lined up for it. He was drawing mostly angels and an occasional odd creature for people, inside a sort of brochure for Oltremai. I wish I could tell you more specifics about this brochure, but I didn’t actually get one, because when I handed him my copy of Dr. Jeckyll & Mister Hyde (probably my favorite of his books in English), he drew in that instead. So I didn’t get a hangable piece, but I did get a very unique and awesome Mr. Hyde in my book.



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May 27 2013

Neil Gaiman and the Pirates of Penzance

Published by under reviews,sketchbook

(That sounds like a good mashup, doesn’t it? Someone should write that.)

Last Thursday I had the treat of being in Cambridge and seeing this unusual performance of The Pirates of Penzance at the ART. I highly recommend it, though unfortunately it’s only running a few more days.

I got a “promenade” ticket, which involves essentially being on the stage — except it’s not really a stage, it’s a carpeted area with benches, coolers, kiddie pools, and a slightly raised platform, all of which are fair game on which to sit, but which are also used by the performers, so you periodically get shooed off of your seat and have to move around a fair bit. That was pretty cool, and an unexpected bonus to being on the stage was that the lights never really went down, so I was able to sketch much more effectively than at most other plays I’ve seen.

Partway through the show, I noticed that in the audience were none other than Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer! I immediately did a couple of quick sketches of Mr. Gaiman. I’m afraid neither came out very well, perhaps because I was slightly star-struck. After the show, I went up to him and said, “Excuse me, Mr. Gaiman? May I show you this mediocre sketch I did of you?” He graciously smiled and asked if I would like him to “scribble on it,” at which point he took out a fountain pen and (after asking my name) inscribed it as you see below. I then gave him my business card, mentioning that I draw graphic novels and would be posting these sketches here on my blog. That was about as much as I was comfortable intruding on his evening, so I floated off without mentioning any more about my books, our mutual interest in Beowulf, how much I enjoyed his writing and reading of The Graveyard Book, etc, etc…

In short, Neil Gaiman is a class act, Pirates rocks, and it was a great evening. And without further delay, here are the aforementioned sketches.

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