[The Umpteen Millionaire Club is our series which puts forth book club discussion questions for Fantagraphics titles. The Comics Journal interns Keith Baralato, Eli Powell, and Evans Winters put together this set of questions. - Ed.]
Today Is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life is a graphic memoir by Ulli Lust, set in the 1980s, which recounts her journey from Vienna, Austria, down through Italy, finally arriving on the island of Sicily. Seventeen-year-old “Ulli” lives on the streets, traveling with nothing but her best friend Edi, a sleeping bag, and barely enough money to buy a coffee. This rebellious young woman lives a life free of possessions or concern for the future as she interacts with fellow vagabonds, junkies, prostitutes, and even the Sicilian mob.
What motivates Ulli to travel?
Early on, Ulli states that she wants to “accumulate as much experience as possible, to meet as many people as possible” (34). How successful is she in this goal?
How does Ulli’s life on the streets differ from the people she meets who are more permanently rooted in poverty, homelessness, drugs, and hustling?
What impact do the people she meets have on her? (List of Characters: Edi, Andreas, Dieter, Guido, Frankie, Gino, Paolo, Marc, etc.)
How does Ulli’s gender affect her position as a traveler?
What purpose do Ulli’s journal entries serve?
How does Ulli’s vision of herself and/or what she will become match up with how you viewed the character?
How does Lust use metaphorical imagery to tell her story? What effect do these techniques have on the reader as far as understanding Ulli’s inner life/experience?
Does Ulli live as if today is the last day of the rest of her life? How does her attitude toward this idea change throughout the story?
On the last page of the book, why does Ulli crawl out of her bed onto the floor to sleep? What does the bed symbolize for Ulli?
[The Umpteen Millionaire Club is our series which puts forth book club discussion questions for Fantagraphics titles. The Comics Journal interns Brooke Chin, Tom Graham and Toby Liebowitz put together this set of questions. As this is intended for those who have read the book and contains spoilers, questions can be found behind the jump. - Ed.]
Julio’s Day is a graphic novel by Gilbert Hernandez that spans the hundred-year life of one man. It opens with his birth; it follows Julio and his family and friends in a small farming village as successive generations are born and die. Packed within the pages is a range of human experience: a soldier goes to war and is changed; evil in the family goes unaddressed; and there’s the blue worm. We follow Julio to the end, which is much as the beginning, or, to quote Samuel Beckett, "the same day, the same second."
[The Umpteen Millionaire Club, our series which puts forth book club discussion questions for Fantagraphics titles, turns its attention to The Heart of Thomas by Moto Hagio. The Comics Journal interns Tom Graham, Nomi Kane and Jack McKean put together this set of questions. – Ed.]
The Heart of Thomas is a manga by Moto Hagio about students in a German boarding school for boys. The boys deal with tragic death, romantic love amongst each other and have more lighthearted concerns about popularity, rumors and cliques.
How does the story address gender conventions or stereotypes?
How do the characters deal with complex emotions that they seem too young to handle, such as unrequited love, intense guilt and/or feeling culpable?
How does the story portray dealing with loss?
Discuss the use of Christian imagery and how it impacts your reading of the story.
Is there abuse going on in this story? If so, how do you respond to the way it's portrayed?
What visual devices does the cartoonist use to indicate narrative techniques such as foreshadowing, symbolism, flashback, etc.?
Discuss Hagio's choice to set the story in Germany. How might it be important (or not?).
The Heart of Thomas was originally published in 1974 and based on a 1964 French movie, which in turn was based on the 1943 semi-autobiographical French novel Les amitiés particulières. How might you read it differently given its historical context? Does this impact your reading of the story?
How do the characters' relationships with their parents figure into the broader story and their personalities and desires?
Does this book have a message? If so, what might its message be?
[For this installment of The Umpteen Millionaire Club (which perhaps should be renamed The Umpteen 1% Club for the occasion), The Comics Journal interns Kristen Bisson, Aiden Fitzgerald, Tom Graham, Janice Lee & Anna Pederson put together this series of discussion questions about Barack Hussein Obama by Steven Weissman for use in book clubs. – Ed.]
Barack Hussein Obama is a collection of absurdist four-panel gag strips featuring the Head of State, his family and numerous political friends and foes.
Barack Hussein Obama Book Club Questions:
What does this book have to say about Obama’s role as a statesman and/or figurehead?
Is this book making a political statement? If so, what is that statement?
Discuss the significance of characters’ transformations: i.e. head sizes, into birds, into trees.
What effect does showing the characters’ personal lives — even fictionally — have on our view of their political lives?
What picture does the book paint about the future of politics?
How is religion portrayed?
What does the book say about media culture in politics?
The second book in Monte Schulz’ Jazz Age trilogy (the first, This Side of Jordan, was released in 2009; the last, The Big Town, will be released in 2012), The Last Rose of Summer examines the relationships among three women under the same roof in late 1920s Bellemont, East Texas: Maude, Marie and Rachel. Marie and her two small children, Cissie and Henry, are sent by her husband Harry to live with his mother Maude while he is on business elsewhere. Marie observes her sister-in-law Rachel’s tempestuous love life while trying to abide by Maude’s house rules, keep track of her children and provide for her family. When a boy is found dead in the river, Marie worries that his killer may still be lurking in the shadows. As a Northerner, she is also disturbed by the town’s overt racism, especially that of her in-laws. Meanwhile, she resists the advances of her boss, Jimmy Delahaye.
[The Comics Journal intern Laura Pieroni put together this series of discussion questions about Mark Kalesniko's Freeway for use in book clubs. As this is intended for those who have read the book and contains spoilers, the conclusion of the synopsis and the questions can be found behind the jump. – Ed.]
Alex, Mark Kalesniko's recurring dog-headed character, has been stuck in Los Angeles traffic for longer than he can remember. In fact, Alex has been stuck in traffic through multiple time periods and alternate lives.
Freeway is a non-linear compilation of various alternate realities centered on Alex and his dream of being an animator at Babbitt Jones Studios. Alex takes readers through his memories as a child dreaming of a career in animation and into his experiences working that same dream job turned nightmare. Through the story Alex also has multiple visions of violently dying, and a fantasy of what it might have been like to work at Babbitt Jones during its Golden Age when the animators were treated like royalty instead of assembly-line workers.
[The Comics Journal interns Laura Pieroni and Chi-Wen Lee put together a series of discussion questions about Linda Medley's Castle Waiting Vol. 2 for use in book clubs. As these questions are intended for those who have read the book, please be warned that they may contain mild spoilers. – Ed.]
Linda Medley's fairy-tale misfits are back in the second volume of Castle Waiting. While some of Castle Waiting's residents reminisce, a Hammerling pair ventures to the castle for assistance in putting together a woman's wardrobe. In return for Lady Jain's help with the clothes, the Hammerlings assist in the unearthing of a secret passageway. Castle inhabitants' pasts are revealed through flashbacks: Dr. Fell's dark history with the plague, Lady Jain's childhood experiences with her betrothed and evil half-sisters, and the story of Simon's father are brought to light.
Genre and History
What are some of the ways that Linda Medley stays faithful to the "fantasy" genre, and in what ways does she break from it?
The second volume reveals Dr. Fell's past as a doctor during the Black Plague; what effect does incorporating historical events/facts into the story have?
What part does Christianity play in the series?
How does Sister Peace interpret the role of the nun? How is she the same or different from a traditional nun?
What is the relationship between Leeds and Sister Peace?
How has Pindar affected those living in the castle?
What can the reader infer from Jain's relationships with Tylo and Pindar's father?
What is the relationship between the Hammerlings and humans?
What is the relationship between Jain and her (half?) sisters?
At one point in the story, Flora is trapped in the armory pen to keep her from chewing out of the wooden one; how does this reflect Jain's situation in the castle?
Sister Peace, Simon and Mr. Rackham exhibit traits that are atypical of traditional gender roles. What are these characteristics, and how does this affect their interactions with the other members in the castle?
What does this say about the author's view on traditional roles?
[The Comics Journal interns Andrew Davis and Chi-Wen Lee put together a series of discussion questions about Stephen DeStefano & George Chieffet's Lucky in Love Book 1: A Poor Man's History for use in book clubs. As these questions are intended for those who have read the book, please be warned that they may contain mild spoilers. – Ed.]
At age 15, the only things on Lucky's mind are women, sex, movies, and, to some degree, the war. He fantasizes about being a hero, much like in the Tex Stengler films his friends and he watch. When he does enlist, however, it appears his "heroic" adventures consist of nothing more than removing guns from warplanes and failed attempts to get a girl. But the war has still changed Lucky in some way; whether he is conscious of it or not, he becomes more aware of social and racial perceptions.
What function does the book's disclaimer about characters' usage of racial slurs serve? Did the characters' usage of these terms affect your perception of the story?
How racially accepting is Lucky? Does he grow more fair-minded throughout the book?
In the story, has Lucky actually been "lucky" in any sense of the word?
Is Lucky ever "in love"?
Can you detect influences in Stephen DeStefano's artwork?
How is Lucky's encounter with the prostitute significant beyond being his first sexual experience?
Is Lucky a hero for serving in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II?
Why is the third chapter entitled "Lucky Triumphant"?
Since the war had ended, Lucky's life in "Lucky Triumphant" takes a different tone compared to the first two chapters. Does the third chapter continue any threads begun earlier?
Did Lucky accomplish anything during his early years (the course of this book)? Does it matter?
Summer 2010 interns Ian Burns, Melissa Gray, Jamie Hibdon, Kailyn Kent, Michael Litven and Christina Texeira put together a series of discussion questions about Tim Hensley's Wally Gropius for use in book clubs. As these questions are intended for those who have read the book, please be warned that contain spoilers [We've placed any spoilers behind the jump – Ed.].
How the Story is Told
Wally Gropius is broken up into a collection of small episodes that end with punch lines. How did this affect your reading experience, i.e. your engagement with the story and feelings for the characters?
What affect does solid color instead of detailed backgrounds have on the story? Did they affect the sense of "reality" in the comic?
Do all the visual and textual puns create their own narrative, or do they just exist for humor's sake? Do they add complexity to narrative?
Compare and contrast the punning in the sound effects of Wally Gropius with how other creators use onomatopoeia. How did you respond to that?