Comic Books: Where to start?

Guest Blogger Jeremy Vine answers the ago old question posed by comic book newbies

It’s a question that gets asked a lot by newcomers to comics. Some characters, like Batman and Superman, have been getting published every month for the last seventy five years. These aren’t really stories where you can just start at the beginning and read through to the end – there’s too much. That kind of history can be incredibly daunting to a new fan. So where do you begin?

The best answer is; where do you want to begin?

harley-quinn-volume-1-hot-in-the-cityComics were originally something that could be bought at every newsstand and rarely had a story that lasted more than an issue. Even today, with epic story arcs and massive multi-title crossovers, there’s still a strong element of the original stand alone nature. For the most part, you can enter at any point in the story and a character will exposit what has already happened. But this can still be a little overwhelming and confusing, like catching only the last two-thirds of a film. Fortunately, there is a much simpler (and more enjoyable) way.

Ask yourself; who’s your favourite character? For this example we’re going to use Harley Quinn (because of reasons), but the ideas can apply to any character. The best thing to do is start with the most recent book featuring that character – you’ll get a good idea of what the character is like when they’re the main focus of a book rather than a supporting character in someone else’s. In this case, it’s Harley Quinn vol. 1: Hot in the City. Did you enjoy that? Awesome! You can try the next one, Harley Quinn vol. 2. But you could also go back and try out some of the classic run, like Preludes & Knock Knock Jokes. It’s a different sort of book, but you get more of the character you love! Or maybe, you really enjoyed the writing style and want to see what else that writer has done. A quick trip to Wikipedia tells you that the author also wrote All-Star Western (hyperlink) – why not give that a try too?

This is a great technique for finding new characters to read about and different styles you might like. It’s also a good way to enter the world of comics. You can read as much or as little as you like just by only sticking with the characters you enjoy. Generally if something is vital to a story, it will be explained, but you can also find out where it occurred and read about it yourself if you want.

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Jeremy Vine has been hooked on comics since he taught himself to read with the help of Asterix and Tintin. When not dressing up in costumes and attending pop culture conventions, he is an account manager for Penguin Random House Australia.

More of his thoughts on comics and superheroes in general can be found on the Comics Watchtower Facebook page or at his Twitter account @salesreplyfe

BOOK REVIEW: Hot Point by M.L. Buchman (Reviewed by Kat Mayo)

Firehawk helicopter pilot Vern Taylor can’t help but be distracted by gorgeous mechanic Denise Conroy. Fighting forest fires with Mount Hood Aviation is a far cry from some of the violence Vern has seen…until they find out that MHA isn’t all that it seems.

I love heroines who have non-traditional careers, and helicopter mechanic fits that bill. I particularly love Denise’s camaraderie with the other women of MHA, and I love that she’s a bit of a contradiction – mostly shy around other people, but with a sharp mind and a weakness for fast cars. Vern is an absolute sweetheart and pure romantic fantasy. But hey, a hero who is as comfortable with just snuggling as he is at awesome helicopter sex ticks the box for me!

Grab a copy of Hot Point here


hot-pointHot Point

The Firehawks Series : Book 10

by M.L. Buchman

The elite heli-aviation firefighters at Mount Hood Aviation depend on sexy Denise Conroy, master mechanic, to keep them flying smoothly through the air.

Airplane expert that she is, Denise has never found an aircraft that she can’t fix. Her floundering love life, however, is a puzzle that she hasn’t been able to put together. Mount Hood Firehawk pilot Vern Taylor can’t repair a plane to save his life, but he was born to fly. Vern’s take-charge attitude toward every situation combined with his irresistible artistic side make him an accident waiting to happen.

But when Denise and Vern crash together in the Central American jungle with wildfire on one side and a full-fledged military coup on the other, they’ll have to work together to get out alive. It will take all their skills combined to keep passion from igniting a dangerous new flame.

Grab a copy of Hot Point here

BOOK REVIEW: Lady Emily’s Exotic Journey by Lillian Marek (Reviewed by Kat Mayo)

I love a good Regency as much as any romance reader, but I’m so glad that we’re continuing to see authors exploring different setting and time periods in historical romance.

Lady Emily’s Exotic Journey is set in Constantinople. Forget ballrooms and tea – Lady Emily Tremaine explores the ruins of Nineveh and experiences the wonders of travelling on an ‘odiferous donkey’. And of course, there’s French adventurer Lucien Chambertin to make this the most thrilling adventure – if he can just learn to let go of his past and embrace the call of true love.

For me, I really love odiferous donkeys! True love is a bonus. :)

Grab a copy of Lady Emily’s Exotic Journey here


lady-emily-s-exotic-journeyLady Emily’s Exotic Journey

The Victorian Adventures Series : Book 2

by Lillian Marek

From sensible, sheltered girl
Safe in the embrace of her loving family, Lady EmilyTremaine longs to feel more intensely alive. Surely the magic and mystery of Assyria and the fabled ruins of Nineveh will bring about the transformation she seeks.

To the woman his heart desires
Scarred by his past and estranged from his noble grandfather, French adventurer Lucien Chambertin desires neither a home nor the chains of emotional attachment. He seeks only to explore the far reaches of the world. But he did not know the world contained the likes of Lady Emily—whose curiosity and sense of wonder match his own.

Grab a copy of Lady Emily’s Exotic Journey here

BOOK REVIEW: When a Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare (Reviewed by Kat Mayo)

‘…he was…an impoverished, unloved orphan with a passion for books. Her every feminine impulse jumped into attention.’

An introvert, Maddie Gracechurch invented a fiancé – conveniently abroad, fighting in the war – to avoid ballrooms and the pressure of having to find a suitable match. But when said fiancé turns up at her doorstep years later, marries her without so much as kiss (okay, one kiss), Maddie knows she’s in Very Big Trouble.

Logan Mackenzie needs a place for his men, coming home from the war. Marriage to Maddie is the quickest and surest way to ensure that they have a home. But as it becomes increasingly clear that there’s more to their marriage than convenience, how can they be sure that what they have is love and not just a way to avoid their deepest fears?

I might be biased because I’m an unashamed Tessa Dare fan girl, but when I learned that Tessa is releasing a Scottish romance (they seem to be making a resurgence!), I knew I had to feature it in the Romance Buzz. Her writing is always rich with nuance. We don’t get many truly introverted heroines in romance, and Maddie is charming and so very worthy of a happy ending!

Grab a copy of When a Scot Ties the Knot here


when-a-scot-ties-the-knotWhen a Scot Ties the Knot

The Castles Ever After Series : Book 3

by Tessa Dare

On the cusp of her first London season, Miss Madeline Gracechurch was shyly pretty and talented with a drawing pencil, but hopelessly awkward with gentlemen. She was certain to be a dismal failure on the London marriage mart. So Maddie did what generations of shy, awkward young ladies have done: she invented a sweetheart.

A Scottish sweetheart. One who was handsome and honorable and devoted to her, but conveniently never around. Maddie poured her heart into writing the imaginary Captain MacKenzie letter after letter … and by pretending to be devastated when he was (not really) killed in battle, she managed to avoid the pressures of London society entirely.

Until years later, when more…

About the Author

Tessa Dare is the New York Times bestselling, award-winning author of more than a dozen historical romances. A librarian by training and a book-lover at heart, Tessa makes her home in Southern California, where she lives with her husband, their two children, and a pair of cosmic kitties.

Grab a copy of When a Scot Ties the Knot here

Who is this Aquaman person and why should I care?

Guest Blogger Jeremy Vine dips his toe into the story of Aquaman and the news of Aquaman: The Movie

You might have seen some of the movie news recently – that Aquaman is getting his own film in 2018 (following Batman v Superman, Justice League and Wonder Woman). You may also be wondering why the guy that talks to fish is getting his own superhero movie. Well, Aquaman’s a little different to what you might think he is.

You see, there have been a number of different versions of Aquaman. There’s the original version way back in the Golden Age of Comics, who didn’t really have superpowers but was able to stay under water for long periods thanks to SCIENCE! During the Silver Age in the 1970s, Aquaman could be found battling undersea menaces with the help of his ocean friends. This is probably the version that people remember – the one that can’t go for more than an hour without needing to return to the water. Later, he became a grittier anti-hero with a harpoon in place of one of his hands. But still, the most common vision of Aquaman is the one from the Silver Age, using his telepathic powers to summon seahorses. All of that is about to change.

aquaman-volume-1-the-trenchThe most recent version was being written by Geoff Johns, who has delivered a fantastic new imagining of the character. Aquaman (or more accurately, Arthur Curry) is an Atlantean prince raised by his human father in a lighthouse on the coast. The first book, Aquaman vol. 1: The Trench is far from the standard superhero adventure. Gone are the criminals, superpowered or otherwise. Instead, Aquaman faces creatures from the darkest depths of the ocean, monsters from before civilisation that have come ashore searching for fresh food and people seem like the best thing on the menu. Tracking them back to their lair, he discovers something that threatens Atlantis itself.

Johns has re-imagined Aquaman as a princely warrior, one that battles horrors more at home in H.P. Lovecraft than a superhero comic. As the series continues, Aquaman is forced to make a decision between his Atlantean heritage and the humans he has chosen to protect, as demons from his past return. Johns has made what could just be another standard superhero book into an epic saga of betrayal, murder and revenge.

All of this has paved the way for the new Aquaman film featuring Jason Momoa. The initial promotional images for the character show a very different style again. The best word to describe Momoa is fierce. There’s no doubt that the new film is going to increase the popularity of this long time character, so now’s the best time to catch up on the latest incarnation. There are currently five books in the Aquaman series, and two in the spin off series, Aquaman and the Others.

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Jeremy Vine has been hooked on comics since he taught himself to read with the help of Asterix and Tintin. When not dressing up in costumes and attending pop culture conventions, he is an account manager for Penguin Random House Australia.

More of his thoughts on comics and superheroes in general can be found on the Comics Watchtower Facebook page or at his Twitter account @salesreplyfe

Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar is Caroline Baum’s Book of the Month

salt-creekBooktopia’s Editorial Director, Caroline Baum reviews Lucy Treloar’s Salt Creek which features in The Buzz as Caroline’s Book of the Month.

If, like me, you thought you did not need another story about hardship in colonial Australia, with the TV adaptation of The Secret River fresh in your mind, think again: Lucy Treloar’s intensely dramatic saga of the downfall of a family settled on the edge of the Coorong is a welcome and fresh take on the well-trodden territory of narratives of colonial hardship.

First of all, she captures the little known beauty of that remote watery place perfectly. Her ability to conjure up its landscape, once shared with the local Ngarrindjeri Aborigines, is a reminder that it is a hard place to farm now, just as it was then. Secondly, the story she tells is utterly compelling and almost mythic, such are the powerful forces unleashed on the family of misguided pastor Finch as told by his endlessly forbearing daughter Hester.

When light skinned Aboriginal boy Tull befriends the Finch family, he is welcomed into their home to share their meals and conversations. But while curious about white culture, Tull remains proud of his own. ‘Don’t you have any stories?’ he asks pointedly. (They direct him to the Bible) On another, he remarks that he considers all white people ugly. When the Pastor muddies his tribe’s waterholes, there is consternation. When he chops down a venerable tree, the question of who owns the land is a source of more discord, a rumbling thunder that must eventually break into a storm.

Treloar calibrates these little moments of tension with impeccable judgment, never overplaying them, though she signposts a grim outcome early on, warning the reader to brace themselves for disaster. We navigate the unconventional relationship between the Finches and Tull, balancing trust and mistrust, with mounting apprehension.

The Pastor is not as principled and high minded as he might wish and has no head for business: all his ventures end in debt, with increasingly terrible consequences. When Tull forms a close bond with Hester’s youngest sister Addie, Hester refuses to see what is under her nose. As the family fractures, torn apart by the pastor’s blind unbending values and his hypocrisy, Hester tries to hold everything together.

She is a fascinating creation: full of contradictions, overwhelmed by an eldest daughter’s sense of duty following her mother’s early death while longing to be free and independent. Seemingly uninterested in personal attachment, she fights her own nature and impulses when drawn to a visiting artist explorer. Their moment of romantic intimacy on a shell beach is again understated and restrained, sensual but unsentimental.

The novel builds to a climax that avoids melodrama, but is charged with high emotion and tension to the very last chapter.

Grab a copy of Salt Creek here
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Caroline Baum has worked as founding editor of Good Reading magazine, features editor for Vogue, presenter of ABC TV’s popular bookshow, Between the Lines, and Foxtel’s Talking Books, and as an executive producer with ABC Radio National. She is currently Booktopia’s Editorial Director. For more reviews by Caroline – click here.


Salt Creek

by Lucy Treloar

Some things collapse slow, and cannot always be rebuilt, and even if a thing can be remade it will never be as it was.

Salt Creek, 1855, lies at the far reaches of the remote, beautiful and inhospitable coastal region, the Coorong, in the new province of South Australia. The area, just opened to graziers willing to chance their luck, becomes home to Stanton Finch and his large family, including fifteen-year-old Hester Finch.

Once wealth political activists, the Finch family has fallen on hard times. Cut adrift from the polite society they were raised to be part of, Hester and her siblings make more…

About the Author

Lucy Treloar was born in Malaysia and educated in Melbourne, England and Sweden. A graduate of the University of Melbourne and RMIT, Lucy is a writer and editor and has plied her trades both in Australia and in Cambodia, where she lived for a number of years. She has an abiding love for Southeast Asia, a region she retains links with through her editing work, which focuses on English language translations of a diverse range of material including folk tales and modern narrative forms.

Lucy is the 2014 Regional Winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. In 2012 she won the Writing Australia Unpublished Manuscript Award for her first novel, The Things We Tell Ourselves, and went on to be awarded a Varuna Publisher Fellowship for the same work in 2013. In 2011 Lucy was the recipient of a mentorship through the Australian Society of Authors as well as an Asialink Writer’s Residency to Cambodia.

Her short fiction has appeared in Sleepers, Overland, Seizure, and Best Australian Stories 2013.

Grab a copy of Salt Creek here

Adaptation: The Best Comics adapted from Video Games

Guest Blogger Jeremy Vine looks at the best comics to be adapted from video games.

The recent release of the video game Batman: Arkham Knight got me thinking – what fantastic comics have been adapted from video games? The Arkham series has already had a number of digital tie ins from DC Comics, but there are some great other titles that are perfect for people who want to re-live adventures (or need something to read during loading screens).

Here’s a selection of some of my favourites:

Tomb Raider

tomb-raiderLara Croft – Tomb Raider. Lara has been robbing tombs for a couple of decades now, and Dark Horse Comics have been right there with her. Dark Horse has had a long history of adapting other media to comics (no doubt someday I’ll get around to talking about their Aliens books) and Tomb Raider was one of the first. However, the one I’m talking about now is the adaptation of the latest iteration of Lara Croft, Tomb Raider vol. 1: Season of the Witch, written by Gail Simone and following the events of the excellent new video game.

Here, Lara is a young woman, not quite the seasoned adventurer players are used to. Simone hits the right level of action and mystery to keep the reader interested but doesn’t simply re-tell the events of the game. It’s about Lara coming to terms with what happened to her during the game.

Many characters, plot points, and locations from the game reappear, but it’s also accessible to new readers whose only knowledge of Lara is that she raids tombs.

This is an ongoing series and is currently being written by Simone with assistance from Rhianna Pratchett, the writer on the video game the series is adapting. With these two at the helm, the series really captures what made the game great.

Halo: Escalation

halo-escalationOne of the best-selling video games of all time, of course Halo makes the list. Halo: Escalation follows directly on from the events of Halo 4 – the galaxy is at peace following the epic war between humanity and the coalition of alien races known as the Covenant. However, it is not an easy peace.

The story follows the crew of the UNSC Infinity as they are charged with a protecting a peace summit between some of the warring Covenant factions. Things refuse to go smoothly and negotiations break down. Standing on the brink of renewed hostilities between the species, the human forces are drawn into the conflict against their will – but as events unfold they discover that deep behind enemy lines is a UNSC warship, long thought lost, raising the stakes dramatically.

Much like the game series it’s based on, the Halo: Escalation books are action-packed struggles with treachery and mystery woven in. This series will appeal to fans of science-fiction, military adventure or anyone wanting to know more about the Halo universe, as they expand on the worlds that the games started to develop.

Injustice: Gods Among Us

injusticeIn an alternate version of the DC Universe, things did not go well. The Joker managed to confound Superman, leading to the Man of Steel destroying Metropolis and accidentally killing his wife, Lois Lane.

Bent on vengeance, Superman takes the ultimate step and does what Batman has never been able to bring himself to do – kill the Joker. After that, there is no turning back. With little humanity left in him, Superman begins to remake the world in his image, forcing the other superheroes to choose their side – with him, or against him.

The game takes place five years after that, when the heroes of the regular DC Universe come through a dimensional rift and discover Superman ruling the world with an iron fist, and Batman the only person still fighting against him. Injustice: Gods Among Us – Year One, written by Australian Tom Taylor, takes place during those five years, as Superman rises to power and crushes the resistance against him.

What began as a fighting game has become a New York Times best-seller! While the original story was met with some dismay by fans (Superman, does after all, become a villain), Taylor delivered an astounding series full of pathos and wit. It chronicles the fall of a titan, while delving into just what exactly these superhero vigilantes stand for: is it justice, or is it vengeance?

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Jeremy Vine has been hooked on comics since he taught himself to read with the help of Asterix and Tintin. When not dressing up in costumes and attending pop culture conventions, he is an account manager for Penguin Random House Australia.

More of his thoughts on comics and superheroes in general can be found on the Comics Watchtower Facebook page or at his Twitter account @salesreplyfe

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