Comic Collection Review: Piled Higher & Deeper Vol. 2 by Jorge Chem

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Piled Higher and Deeper (PHD) by Jorge Chem is a comic strip about life as a grad student at Stanford University.  Jorge himself went through this during his time there securing a degree in mechanical engineering.  The comic is published mainly in university newspapers and on line at http://www.phdcomics.com/comics.php

The comic centers around the lives of perpetual students who are lost in the stage of education after college and before entering the real world.  They exist in their own personal oasis of bureaucracy unknown to most of the general public.  They earn very little money while pursuing the research whims of professors and trying to work on their own research and doctorial thesis’ which are met with the daily struggle against procrastination and the need to find a way to live off the less than minimum wage they earn to do all the heavy lifting of scholarly research.

The comic is remarkably well drawn and can be a little hard to follow if you are unfamiliar with college life, but to those of us who have experienced the ineptitude of the colligate system, this comic is for you.  This is the second volume in the series (there are 5 published so far) and it is not a gag a day strip, but follows a continuity which develops the characters quite well.  We see the character age as well as try to form normal relationships all while balancing the enormous strain of constantly being on call and under pressure to deliver results or risk losing their position and everything they have worked so hard to invest in.

This is another instance of an independent artist finding some modicum of success and striking out on his own to rewrite what comics are all about.  This is not your everyday newspaper comic, it is funny, but there is much more being done here than just reacting with a gag a day.  Jorge Chem is telling a story and exposing a lifestyle which is unique to the scholastic environment.  The comic is smart, but accessible, and can be enjoyed by anyone, I highly recommend this series of books which can be found on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0972169520?keywords=piled%20higher%20and%20deeper&qid=1456777954&ref_=sr_1_3&s=books&sr=1-3

Will they ever find their way out of academia and into the real world?  Do they really want to?  These are all issues that are faced by our cast of characters as they fumble their way through the Ivy League.  Check this one out if you are looking for something different.  Until next time True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.

 

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Root Beer review: Hires Root Beer

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This is the big one.  The Grandaddy of all root beers.  I finally broke down and bought 2 twelve packs off amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004743S5O?keywords=hires%20root%20beer&qid=1456775867&ref_=sr_1_1_s_it&s=grocery&sr=1-1 for $30.

Hires was once the king of root beers and the one I remember well from my childhood.  It was bought out by A&W and shelved for the most part with only a small amount being made for sale every year from one factory.  In the interest of Root Beer Party history, I took it upon myself to find some and let you know if it still lives up to the stuff of legend.

This is what root beer means to me.  when I poured the Hires into the mug, it was foamy, and the foam stayed in the glass, it did not melt away instantly like most root beers, and it smells like what root beer is supposed to smell like.  Like Proust with his Madeleine cookie, it took me back to childhood.  Hires is still as smooth as ever, the perfect balance of spice to vanilla.  what more can you say, it is the root beer by which all others are measured.

It is sad that people can no longer get Hires at the local market, being made in Pennsylvania, it would seem that it could be easily obtained on the east coast, but it is elusive to find and expensive to get a hold of, but when you do, you will know what root beer is all about.  This is the guy who invented it after all.  Hires was the first to market a root beer soda, before that it was a drink that was brewed like tea.

If you are lucky enough to come across a can, or crazy enough to pay $30 dollars than consider yourself one of the lucky ones.  I recommend you indulge yourself at least once and try it for yourself.  This is 11 out of 10 in the ratings, it is what root beer is supposed to be by the people who made it what it is today.  So until next time True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your Hires root beer always foamy.

Comic collection review: Sunnyville Stories Vol. 2 by Max West

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In Sunnyville Stories Vol. 2 Max West expands the world of Sunnyville, introducing new characters and storylines into the mix.  He begins the collection with Episode 4, a melancholy morality piece, which introduces Rusty (The main character) to a certain degree of tragedy as He and Samantha try to reunite Roger with his Uncle Mr. Jakes from the fix it shop.  This is finally achieved by Ms. Brown who relates a tragic tale from her own past to help the family see that time and forgiveness are gifts and should not be taken lightly.

We go into episode 5 with a lighter tone as Rusty must prepare for his first dance.  This is reminiscent of Bob Montana and his classic Archie comics strip in flavor.  Rusty must learn to overcome his own fears and self awareness and this really culminates when Rusty looks beyond himself and sees Samantha in her dancing outfit.  This chapter is more in line with the slice of life style that we saw in Volume 1, a light hearted romp with a mild moral lesson to be learned.  Not that Sunnyville is out to preach, but we see the character of Rusty learning all the lessons of teenage life as his character grows.  He is still the wise cracking protagonist we know and love, but since he moved to Sunnyville he is learning more about the world in Max West’s microcosm of the world at large.

In episode 6 the gang all comes together to put on a unique version of Cinderella for the school play.  In this Rusty and the gang now look beyond themselves to the plays director and their teacher Donna Mason who is going to be let go by the board.  They put on a play in true Sunnyville style with the whole town showing up and all the characters playing a part.  Like a perfectly executed sitcom, Max West brings everything together as everything goes wrong and yet, in the end Rusty and the gang save Ms. Mason’s job.

And lastly we turn to episode 7 which is sort of a comic interlude paying homage to the classic Abbot and Costello routine “Who’s on First?” In this story we meet Who, What and Why, as you can imagine they use this confusion to thwart the evil Weasel Brothers in their latest attempt to  cause mischief.

Once again Max has utilized his artistic style of “Only what’s necessary,” and brings his comics to life in a deceptively simplistic style.  Much like Charles Schulz, he brigs a heart to his characters and stories which is lacking in the more cynical mainstream comics.  If you are looking for something different in todays mass market comic book fare, look no further than the true independent comics out there where many artists are still trying to do something different in both style and subject.  You can find Max West’s Sunnyville Stories on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Sunnyville-Stories-Vol-Max-West/dp/0989069605

You can find the other volumes of Sunnyville Stories there as well, or at selected independent comic shops and libraries.  His main website is http://sunnyvillestories.com/ So check it out for yourself and as always True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your Root Beer always foamy.

Comic collection Review: Hagar the Horrible The Epic Chronicles 1982-1983 by Dik Brown

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The world’s 4th most famous Viking is back in vol. 7 of the complete Hagar the Horrible series by Dik Brown.  This volume shows Hagar in his 9th and 10th year when his comic really hit it’s stride.  Brown has completely mastered the format by this point and easily slips from puns to uncomfortable humor with the flick of a pen.

The unusual premise of Hagar as a marauding Viking is even played for laughs as in one strip, Helga tells him to “have a good day and play nice”, to which he replies, “I’ve never asked you this before, but do you know what I do for a living?”  There is another strip where Helga berates Hagar for having to much of a good time in France, a subtle stab at the pillaging lifestyle of the main character.

Despite it’s unlikely premise, Hagar the Horrible has gone on to become one of the classic comic strips of the latter half of the Twentieth Century.  Brown even has several Reuben awards to his credit for the series.

Although Dik Brown passed away in 1989, his son has taken over the strip and it’s still produced today.  In today’s more PC environment, Hagar no longer alludes to his wayfaring lifestyle, but focuses more on his home life and his henpecked ways.  It was always the contrast of Hagar being the wild and feared barbarian to the world at large while being a brow beaten husband and father at home which has been the fodder for the strip.  For 43 years Hagar the Horrible has been one of the most enduring comics out there.

You can check out this volume on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1782763813?keywords=hagar%20the%20horrible&qid=1456759032&ref_=sr_1_1&s=books&sr=1-1 and for only $15.53 it is a bargain for comic collectors.  The other volumes are available as well and well worth checking out.  Be sure to add Hagar the Horrible to your comic library, it will earn it’s keep.  Until next time True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your Root Beer always foamy.

Finally the Complete Garfield Collection!!!

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After three long years of searching E-bay and Amazon’s used book dealers, we have finally completed the Garfield collection for the Root Beer Party Archives.  That’s right, we now have all 60 volumes of Garfield.  As a kid I remember owning volumes 1 – 15, but they were long lost from years of moving back and forth across the country, but now the Root Beer Party archives contains the complete collection once again.

Jim Davis’s classic cat series parodying the narcissistic, consumerism of the American dream is now once again at my fingertips.  I also picked up some of the special books based on TV specials as well as the book Garfield minus Garfield, and even Jim Davis’s pseudo-biography: My life with Jon Arbuckle.  The Root Beer Party comics archives grows a little everyday and today we celebrate a huge milestone in the preservation and appreciation of one of the most iconic comics of the Twentieth century.

Today we toast Jim Davis and his fat cat Garfield.  Until next time True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.