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The Comics Alternative - Smart Discussions on Comic Books and Graphic Novels

Two guys with PhDs talking about comics! The Comics Alternative is weekly podcast focusing on the world of alternative, independent, and primarily non-superhero comics. (There's nothing wrong with superhero comics. We just want to do something different.) New podcast episodes become available every Wednesday and include reviews of graphic novels and current ongoing series, discussions of upcoming comics, examinations of collected editions, in-depth analyses of a variety of comics texts, and spotlights on various creators and publishers. The Comics Alternative also produces "special feature" programs, such as shows specifically dedicated to creator interviews, webcomics, on-location events, and special non-weekly themes and topics.
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The Comics Alternative - Smart Discussions on Comic Books and Graphic Novels
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Now displaying: September, 2016
Sep 30, 2016

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In celebration of International Podcast Day 2016, Derek participates in a roundtable discussion with fellow comics podcasters, including John Siuntres of Word Balloon, Chris Marshall of Collected Comics Library, and John Mayo of Comic Books Page. The four of them talk extensively about their experiences in podcasting, the challenges of working with publishers and creators within the industry, their particular niche interests in comics podcasting, how their shows have evolved over the years, and their "wish lists" for growing as a podcast. Not only do the guys discuss the many facets of podcasting specifically about comics, they also share insights about podcasting as a social media platform.

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Find out more about International Podcast Day and how you can help promote podcasting worldwide. And be sure to share your thoughts on social media using #PodcastDay.

Sep 29, 2016

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It's the end of the month, so that must mean it's time for Shea and Derek to look at another round of manga. For September, they discuss two recent releases, the first of which is Leiji Matsumoto's Queen Emeraldas, Vol. 1 (Kodansha Comics). Originally serialized in Weekly Shonen Magazine between 1978 and 1979, this is a science fiction adventure with two protagonists. Hiroshi Umino is a fearless earth boy wants to make his own way in life, and the titular character is a mysterious and much-feared figure who sees in Hiroshi a kindred spirit. Matsumoto is known for these kind of space operas, and the guys aren't entirely sure why more of his manga hasn't yet been translated into English (although Americans may be more familiar with Matsumoto's work in anime).

Next, Shea and Derek look at the first of a two-volume collection, Otherworld Barbara. This is the latest in Fantagraphic's translations of Moto Hagio's manga, the previous editions being A Drunken Dream and Other Stories in 2010 and the shōnen-ai classic, The Heart of Thomas, released in 2013. The latest book has a completely different feel from the earlier Hagio translations, as this is a futuristic, psychological drama playing out in a surreal dreamscape. However, don't mistaken this for anything reminiscent of Christopher Nolan's Inception. Derek and Shea spend a lot of time discussing the themes of identity and doubling in this sophisticated narrative, and they eagerly await the completion of the concluding volume.

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Sep 28, 2016

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This week on The Comics Alternative, Andy and Derek discuss three new titles that are quite different in tone. They begin with The Lost Work of Will Eisner, a collection of Eisner's earliest known professional comics. This began as a Kickstarter campaign last year from Locust Moon Press, and just last week the book went on sale to the general public. The collection is made up of two serial strips, the pantomime gag comic Uncle Otto and the espionage adventure Harry Karry. While they do talk about the former, it's Harry Karry that interests the guys more. They spend a lot of time discussing some of the problems of that action-packed strip -- e.g., its racist caricatures and its abrupt shift in narrative direction and art style -- and how it can be read as a testing ground for what Eisner would later do in The Spirit.

Next, the Two Guys turn their attention to Eleanor Davis's Libby's Dad. This is one of the latest books from Retrofit Comics/Big Planet Comics, a publisher that has become a favorite of the show. This is a straightforward and deceptively simple short story about a young girls' pool party and sleepover. The power behind this tale is Davis's ability to focalize the action through her teenage female narrator and to do so in a detached and non-judgmental manner.

Finally, Derek and Andy discuss a much less innocent text. Gilbert Hernandez's Blubber #3 (Fantagraphics) is, in many ways, more explicit and more potentially offensive than the previous issue, which the guys discussed back in April. And back then they thought that issue #2 was "worse" than the first. So what is it about Hernandez's obscene free-for-all that keeps drawing the guys' attention? Perhaps they are just on board for everything Hernandez does. Perhaps they see Beto as a happy First Amendment rebel. Perhaps they are mesmerized by Hernandez's attempts to out-Crumb Robert Crumb. Or perhaps Andy and Derek are just two warped sickos who get their jollies talking about offensive comics for the podcast. You decide.

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Sep 27, 2016

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Time Codes:

  • 00:24 - Introduction
  • 02:25 - Setup of interview
  • 03:32 - Interview with Andy Hirsch
  • 48:38 - Wrap up
  • 49:43 - Contact us

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The Two Guys with PhDs (Talking about Comics) are happy to have Andy Hirsch as their guest. Actually, Andy has been on the podcast a number of times before, but usually for short interviews at on-location events. But now, for the first time, Andy Hirsch sits down with Derek and Andy for a sustained episode-long conversation. Most of their discussion centers on Andy's brand new book, Varmints, just out from First Second. Andy shares the genesis of the premise and how he first began mapping out his characters in a series of self-published minicomics. The guys also talk about the all-age focus of Varmints and how a publisher like First Second is the perfect platform to reach a broader audience. But they also discuss Andy's other works, such as the recently-completed Baker Street Peculiars (co-created with Roger Langdridge), his work on Garfield, and even his earlier miniseries, The Royal Historian of Oz (along with Tommy Kovac). Andy Hirsch is a long-time friend of show, so this interview is more like a coming home than an introduction.

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Sep 26, 2016

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In this final episode of the on-location interviews conducted at Small Press Expo last weekend, Derek talks with Theora Kvitka, Sophie Goldstein, Melanie Gillman, Carolyn Nowak, Zack Soto, Jarod Roselló, Kevin Budnik, Andrea Tsurumi, Julia Gfrörer, and Joshua W. Cotter. Much thanks to everyone who was a part of these SPX episodes, the creators as well as the publishers, and who made all of these recordings possible!

Sep 23, 2016

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In this second in a three-episode series of on-location interviews conducted at Small Press Expo this past weekend, Derek talks with Jessica Campbell, Molly Ostertag, Pranas Naujokaitis, Luke Healy, Kel McDonald, Dakota McFadzean, C. Spike Trotman, Cheese Hasselburger, and Keiler Roberts.

Sep 22, 2016

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This past weekend, Andy W. and Derek attended Small Press Expo in North Bethesda, MD. While there, the Two Guys interviewed a variety of creators about their recent releases and their upcoming projects. In all, Derek and Andy were able to conduct 27 different interviews, each of which lasted from anywhere between 2 minutes to over 20 minutes. The guys have now edited these conversations and are presenting them in a series of three on-location interview episodes conducted at SPX. In this first installment, Derek and Andy talk with John Martz, Jay Hosler, Blue Delliquanti, Ulises Fariñas, Storm Smith, Ted Stearn, Emma Glaze, Daryl Seitchik, and Sean O'Neill.

Sep 21, 2016

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Last weekend was the Small Press Expo held in Bethesda, MD, and a big part of that event was the recognition of the 2016 Ignatz Award nominees. So for this week's episode, Gwen and Derek discuss the many and diverse titles populating that list, looking for trends and making observations about this year's selections. The nominees in all nine categories, announced last month, were chosen by a five-member jury, and then attendees voted on their favorites during the first day of the event. Gwen starts things going by asking Derek about his experiences at SPX, and then the two plunge into the heart of the discussion. They do not run down the entire list of nominees in an organized manner, beginning with one category and then moving on to the next, but their exchange is more free-flowing and associational, taking up titles as they come up in the conversation. In this way, Gwen and Derek are able to cover about all of the nominees and draw insightful connections among many of the texts. They notice, for example, that many of the winners seem to skew younger, and that, at times, complex and longer-form storytelling doesn't get the same kind of attention as episodic or one-off narratives. They also comment on the fact that established names within the medium, such as Daniel Clowes, Adrian Tomine, Trina Robbins, and Kim Deitch, were completely shut out in the final selection. However, Gwen and Derek do not so much emphasize the actual winners of the nine categories -- although they do discuss these -- as they do the broader sweep of each category's population and what that might say about the current state of small press and indie comics.

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Sep 20, 2016

Last week at Small Press Expo, Derek had the opportunity to sit down with Carol Tyler for a one-on-one interview. Her book from last year, Soldier's Heart: The Campaign to Understand My WWII Veteran Father: A Daughter's Memoir (Fantagraphics) was up for a 2016 Ignatz Award in the "Outstanding Graphic Novel" category. Derek talked with Carol about the book's nomination and about the impact her memoir has had on her own life since its publication. They spend a good deal of time talking about the current state of veteran's affairs, the debilitating effects of PTSD, and how Soldier's Heart both has and hasn't resonated within the veteran's community. Carol also discusses the current projects she has underway, including a follow up (sort of) to her father's story and a project documenting the days leading up to her attending The Beatles concert at Comiskey Park in August 1965. As she tells Derek, in that work she'll be channelling her inner 13-year-old-girl self. This is a moving and, at times, a deeply personal interview, one that reflects the sheer impact of Carol Tyler's writing.

Derek with Carol Tyler. Photo taken by Joe Sacco.
Sep 16, 2016

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The September on-location episode marks a first for The Comics Alternative. Derek is now talking with customers and employees at Valhalla Games and Comics in Plano, TX...which is at the same exact physical location where he's been doing the on-location show for the past few years. What had once been Collected is now Valhalla! But the people and comics inside have remained the same. Talking with Derek this month are some of the shop regulars, including Krystle, Craig, and Nick. They begin by discussing the recent change in ownership -- and, unfortunately, neither Valhalla's owner, David Larson, nor Sabrina, the shop manager, were able to be there -- and everyone's excitement over the changes in store. But then they get into the core of this month's discussion, which is on crime comics. Craig comes prepared with a big stack of recent examples, including The FixThe Baker Street Peculiars, and The Black Monday Murders. And Nick chimes in with crime titles he'd recommend, as well. The conversation gets even more lively when Derek questions Craig on his definition of "superhero," which he seems to apply in a much less discriminating way than the others. They spend a good deal of time discussing examples of outright noir, such as Scalped and 100 Bullets, and genre-blending crime comics such as FataleWeird Detective, and even The Spirit. All in all, this was a successful first recording at the new Valhalla Games and Comics!

Sep 15, 2016

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 - Introduction
  • 00:02:28 - Setup of interview
  • 00:05:05 - Interview with Erica Mena
  • 00:53:01 - Wrap up
  • 00:54:14 - Contact us

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On this episode of the interview series, Edward and Derek have as their guest Erica Mena. She is the translator of two recent Spanish-language works from Fantagraphics, Paco Roca's Wrinkles and the anthology Spanish Fever. The guys actually discussed the latter on this month's Euro Comics episode, and since Edward knew its translator, they thought it'd be revealing to get Erica on the podcast to talk about her work on the anthology. They spend a good deal of time discussing the Spanish Fever project, and they also talk extensively about Wrinkles (something Edward and Derek didn't have time for on the Euro Comics show). But the guys also ask Erica about her efforts on The EternautHéctor Germán Oesterheld and Francisco Solano López's classic sci-fi narrative that was finally translated into English and published last year. During her conversation with the guys, Erica shares some of her philosophy of translation, compares professional notes with Edward, and discusses how her own poetry has helped determine the kind of translator that she's become.

Visit Erica's website and discover her love of animated cats!

Sep 14, 2016

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:30 - Introduction
  • 00:02:32 - Comics Alternative news
  • 00:05:57 - Angel Catbird, Vol. 1
  • 00:39:10 - Everafter #1
  • 00:52:07 - Glitterbomb #1
  • 01:05:39 - Wrap up
  • 01:06:41 - Contact us

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On this week's episode, the Two Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics look at three recent texts, each fantastical in its own way. They begin with Margaret Atwood and Johnnie Christmas's Angel Catbird, Vol. 1 (Dark Horse Books), a unique amalgamation of Golden Age superhero comics, environmental awareness, and ailurophilia. This is the first mainstream comics foray for Atwood, a Canadian novelist, poet, and winner of the Man Booker Prize. Andy and Derek spend a good deal of time talking about the tone of this book as well as its intended, or perhaps inferred, readers. They also sense a faint whiff of "Omaha" the Cat Dancer.

Next, the guys turn their attention to the new addition to the Fables world, Everafter #1 (Vertigo Comics). Written by David Justus and Matthew Sturges, and with art by Travis Moore, this new title picks up where Bill Willingham's long-running series left off. Several of the old Fables make their ways into this first issue, but what appears to distinguish Everafter from the original run is its emphasis on adventure, similar to Chris Roberson's Cinderella stories.

Finally, Andy and Derek discuss the first issue in the new Image Comics series, Glitterbomb. This is Jim Zub's look at the exploitative nature of Hollywood culture, but with a healthy dose of horror thrown in. The guys wonder if this series will adopt a polemical tone similar to Bitch Planet. And they are especially taken by the art of newcomer Djibril Morissette-Phan.

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Sep 12, 2016

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:27 - Introduction
  • 00:07:03 - Brief comments on the 2016 Ignatz Award nominees for Outstanding Online Comic
  • 00:18:07 - The Red Hook
  • 00:57:28 - Kill 6 Billion Demons
  • 01:21:11 - Interview with Jim McClain and Paul Schultz
  • 01:41:15 - Rice Boy
  • 02:13:55 - Wrap up
  • 02:15:30 - Contact us

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On this extra-long episode of The Comics Alternative Webcomics, Sean and Derek cover a lot of territory on the webcomics front. They begin with a few brief comments on this year's Ignatz Award nominees for Outstanding Online Comic. They also contrast the way that the Ignatz judges classify webcomics with what the Eisner Awards has been doing lately, combining webcomics and digital comics.

After that, the guys jump into the core of this month's episode with a look at Dean Haspiel's The Red Hook. They discuss, among other things, the fact that superhero comics are relatively rare in webcomics and that this title is reminiscent of what Haspiel did with The Fox, for Archie Comics, and with his own comics centered on Billy Dogma and Jane Legit. Sean and Derek also spend a bit of time talking about Webtoons, the platform where you'll find The Red Hook.

Next, they review Kill 6 Billion Demons. Both of the guys are impressed by Tom Parkinson-Morgan's art and the intricacies involved in his world-building, but they are somewhat critical of the webcomic's design and usability. It's not easy to navigate that site, which is surprising, given the fact that Kill 6 Billion Demons has been around since 2013.

Before they turn to the final webcomic of the month, Derek and Sean introduce what they hope will be a new feature of the monthly series. Beginning with this episode, they will talk briefly with Jim McClain and Paul Schultz about a new webcomics they're creating, Poe and the Mysteriads. Every month they hope to check in with the creators about the step-by-step process they're going through in developing the title, from story concept to art choices to the design of the website.

Finally, Sean and Derek look at Evan Dahm's already completed webcomic, Rice Boy. This is the second time Dahm's work has been a focus of the webcomics series, the first occasion being a discussion of Vattu back in January 2015. This is a much earlier webcomic, and the guys discuss the evolution of Dahm's art and storytelling style as the story develops. It's an intriguing fantastical quest narrative, and if you're not already familiar with Dahm, then this would be a great way to get to know his work.

Sample art from Poe and the Mysteriads

 

 

Sep 9, 2016

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:25 - Introduction
  • 00:02:28 - Setup of interview
  • 00:03:38 - Interview with Peter Hogan
  • 00:45:36 - Wrap up
  • 00:46:10 - Contact us

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Peter Hogan is the guest on this episode of The Comics Alternative Interviews. His new miniseries in the Resident Alien line, The Man with No Name, begins next week with the release of issue #1. Derek talks with Peter about this ongoing Dark Horse series and what we can expect in this new narrative arc. They also spend a good deal of time discussing the genesis of Resident Alien, possible inspirations for the title, its episodic publishing model, and the working relationship between Peter and the artist of the series, Steve Parkhouse. Derek asks Peter about the stand-alone nature of each storyline, and how, at the same time, he's able to weave a larger ongoing narrative that binds everything together and develops incrementally with each issue. In this way, and to use American television comparisons, Resident Alien reads like episodes of Cannon or Quincy (which involves another medical professional), with a larger unfolding saga akin to The Fugitive...and, of course, a good bit of My Favorite Martian thrown in for that extraterrestrial touch. And, without giving anything away, Peter also hints about the direction of The Man with No Name and what we might see over the next two narrative arcs.

Sep 7, 2016

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It's the beginning of September, the first of the month, so that must mean it's time for the Two Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics to look at the latest Previews catalog. As they do every month, Andy and Derek carefully go through the the Diamond publication, highlighting upcoming titles they're interested in, commenting on solicitations that sound interesting, and discussing creators they look forward to reading. Among the many comics they mention on this episode are from publishers such as

Sep 6, 2016

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 - Introduction
  • 00:02:13 - Setup of interview
  • 00:03:30 - Interview with Dash Shaw
  • 01:02:39 - Wrap up
  • 01:03:52 - Contact us

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On this interview episode, Derek talks with Dash Shaw about his latest book, Cosplayers (Fantagraphics). This "Perfect Collection," as it is called, brings together the Cosplayers stories that were previously released in the two earlier comic-book issues from April and July 2014, as well as the story that appeared in the 2015 Free Comic Book Day release of Hip Hop Family Tree Three-in-One. (The guys reviewed Cosplayers #1 in Episode 83.) However, as Dash points out, this isn't a mere repackaging of his earlier Cosplayers comics. The book not only includes brand new material, but it also reworks some of the visuals from the original stories. A telling example of this can be found in some of the book's collage art, where Dash takes the covers and some of the interior pages from the earlier comics, cuts them up, and re-presents them in collage form...much like his protagonists, Annie and Verti, do with their comic books in the story "Escape from Nostalgia World."

Image from A Cosplayers Christmas
Image from A Cosplayers Christmas

Derek talks with Dash about his curious stylistic choices for this new work, as well as his experimental use of colors in earlier books such as Doctors and New School. But they also discuss some of Dash's other projects, such as his work in animation. His feature-length directorial debut, My Entire High School is Sinking Into the Sea, a film based on an earlier short story, will be premiering at next week's Toronto International Film Festival. Also, Dash reveals that he may not yet be done with Cosplayers, referencing the new story appearing in the summer 2016 issue of Smoke Signal and the upcoming one-shot A Cosplayers Christmas. All in all, this is a fascinating interview, and one that underscores why Dash is one of the few artists the Two Guys have featured in a Creator Spotlight episode.

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See what's up with Dash on his Tumblr site!

Sep 5, 2016

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:28 - Introduction
  • 00:02:45 - Setup of reviews
  • 00:04:37 - Spanish Fever
  • 00:46:27 - The Longest Day of the Future
  • 01:00:45 - Growing Up in Public
  • 01:28:04 - Wrap up
  • 01:29:12 - Contact us

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This month on the Euro Comics series, Edward and Derek discuss three works translated from Spanish, and all published by Fantagraphics. They begin with the anthology Spanish Fever: Stories by the New Spanish Cartoonists, edited by Santiago García. This is a collection of contemporary comics coming out of Spain, bringing together works by over thirty creators including Paco Roca, Max, Miguel Gallardo, David Rubín and Miguel Ángel Martín, as well as newcomers such as José Domingo, Anna Galvañ, Álvaro Ortiz and Sergi Puyol. As the guys point out, the styles, genres, and themes are diverse, making this not only a valuable introduction to new Spanish artists, but a well-rounded comics collection by any standard.

Next, the Two Guys turn to two creators from Argentina. The first is Lucas Varela and his The Longest Day of the Future. This is a mostly wordless narrative satirizing hegemonic corporate culture. There's an almost cinematic quality to Varela's storytelling, and Derek and Edward liken it to a Pixar film infused with a darker Cohen brothers' sensibility.

Finally, the two wrap up with Ezequiel Garcia's Growing Up in Public. His is a memoir, but one that wanders loosely without any discernible endpoint...and with a curious injection of Moby-Dick thrown in, to boot. Indeed, both Edward and Derek appreciate Garcia's different take on graphic autobiography, and they look forward to more from this Argentine artist.

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Sep 2, 2016

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:29 - Introduction
  • 00:02:10 - Setup of interview
  • 00:03:55 - Interview with Gina Wynbrandt
  • 00:27:16 - Interview with Will Dinski
  • 01:03:48 - Interview with MariNaomi
  • 01:39:32 - Wrap up
  • 01:40:41 - Contact us

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The Two Guys have discussed 2dcloud comics in past -- see their review of Austin English’s Gulag Casual as well as the coverage of last year's Ignatz Awards -- but on this episode, they take a deep dive into the publisher's recent releases. They do this by interviewing three of the creators who have had, or will have, new books coming out from 2dcloud: Gina Wynbrandt, Will Dinksi, and MariNaomi. The guys talk with all three about their recent publications -- Someone Please Have Sex with MeTrying Not to Notice, and Turning Japanese -- but they also use the opportunity to delve into each artist's broader career. For example, Andy and Derek talk with Gina about her history with, and preference for, fan-inspired minicomics. In their conversation with Will, they ask about his 2dcloud comics as well as the Top Shelf book Finger Prints and his self-published projects.  And with Mari, they discuss her series of autobiographical efforts beginning with Kiss and Tell: A Romantic Resume Ages 0 to 22 and leading all the way to her upcoming I Thought You Hated Me. Powerpaola, yet another 2dcloud author, couldn't join the guys this time around, but readers should definitely check out her new book, Virus Tropical.

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