Pop Sonnets: Shakespearean Spins on Your Favorite Songs
by Erik Didriksen
Quirk Books, 2015
William Shakespeare is best known for his brilliance as a playwright, but his skill with pen and paper extended to the area of poetry as well; the Bard is also known for his mastery of writing sonnets. Author Erik Didriksen combines the Bard’s language with today’s most popular poets, also known as songwriters, for the humorous parody Pop Sonnets: Shakespearean Spins on Your Favorite Songs.
Ranging from classic rock (“Free Bird” and “Light My Fire”) to country (“Folsom Prison Blues” and “King of the Road”) to more recent top 40 hits (“Party Rock Anthem” and “Call Me Maybe”), Didriksen creates wonderful Victorian versions of twentieth and twenty-first century lyrics. This small volume will have readers laughing as they try to sing these popular songs with Shakespearean language.
This book is a perfect gift for anyone who loves Shakespeare or music. Didriksen might as well have been writing about himself when he stylized the couplet of MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This”:
Though I have of my craft imparted much,
my artistry’s beyond what thou canst touch.
William Shakespeare’s Tragedy of the Sith’s Revenge: Star Wars Part the Third by Ian Doescher (2015)
William Shakespeare’s Tragedy of the Sith’s Revenge: Star Wars Part the Third
by Ian Doescher
Quirk Books, 2015
Ian Doescher’s adaptation of Star Wars’ episodes IV through VI into the Victorian language of William Shakespeare was a brilliant idea, and the execution was tremendous. When it came to the prequels, however, Doescher suffered from inferior source materials. Episodes I and II simply did not match the originals in quality, and the adaptations, while there were some clever twists, were not as enjoyable as the first three. Fortunately, The Revenge of the Sith was a return to form for Lucas and, subsequently, for Doescher.
William Shakespeare’s Tragedy of the Sith’s Revenge follows the events of the movie, replacing modern language with that of Shakespeare’s day and utilizing such devices as narration from “Rumor.” Doescher continues to employ rhyming quatrains for the lovers, Padme and Anakin, though the rhymes are imperfect as Anakin’s path to the dark side separates him from Padme’s love. Mention must be made of Nicolas Delort’s illustrations throughout the series, a perfect mixture of the futuristic looks of Star Wars with a touch of traditional English garb and culture.
Doescher has brought to fruition a fantastic idea, and this reviewer hopes he is able to continue this series with the new Star Wars films that begin releasing later this year.
The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray
by Robert Schnakenberg
Quirk Books, 2015
Bill Murray turns 65 years old today. He is one of the most beloved comedic actors of the past four decades, and his legend grows with each photobomb and impromptu kickball game. Robert Schnakenberg’s The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray, subtitled A Critical Appreciation of the World’s Finest Actor, examines the enigmatic entertainer’s professional career through all the ups (Ghostbusters) and downs (Where the Buffalo Roam). All of his film appearances are listed with an overall movie rating and a Bill Murray score to guide the diehard fan in what to watch first, and what to watch only if you have nothing else to do. There are also anecdotes (styled “Tales from Murrayland”) and tidbits about movies Murray didn’t appear in. For instance, Murray was apparently considered for the roles of Han Solo, Indiana Jones, and Forrest Gump.
Obviously, in a book this size, there is a lot of information about what Murray did not do. He could have been Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story, and Sully in Monsters, Inc., and the titular character in Shrek. But for one reason or another, he wasn’t. There are also several facts included in this book that seem extraneous, such as the fact that Murray does not find Adam Sandler funny, he doesn’t like e-mail, he prefers Mexican Coke, and he usually dressed up as either a hobo or a ghost for Halloween when he was a child.
Schnakenberg wraps up the book with some quotations by Bill Murray, and others about Bill Murray. Among the wise words of the Murricane is this gem on art: “It’s hard to be an artist. It’s hard to be anything. It’s hard to be.” Murray has done an excellent job of entertaining millions with his art, and Schnakenberg does a fine job capturing those moments in The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray.
William Shakespeare’s The Clone Army Attacketh
by Ian Doescher
Quirk Books, 2015
A parody is only as good as its source material. When Ian Doescher’s first installment of the William Shakespeare’s Star Wars series was released two years ago, it was hailed as brilliant—and it was. Equally as fun were The Empire Striketh Back and The Jedi Doth Return. Then came The Phantom of Menace this April, and while Doescher did his best to shoehorn that mess of a story into the Shakespearean style, it fell flat. Unfortunately, he was not able to rebound with The Clone Army Attacketh, through no fault of his own. While he does employ some interesting literary devices in the work—Jango Fett speaking in prose, Anakin and Padme speaking in rhyming quatrains—the story itself is lacking.
The sixth installment, Tragedy of the Sith’s Revenge, is due out in September. That film was the best of the prequels, and hopefully Doescher’s Elizabethan treatment will prove to be stellar as well.
The League of Regrettable Superheroes: Half-Baked Heroes from Comic Book History by Jon Morris (2015)
The League of Regrettable Superheroes: Half-Baked Heroes from Comic Book History
by Jon Morris
Quirk Books, 2015
“Some (superheroes) have regrettability baked in; others have regrettability thrust upon them.” Author Jon Morris does his best to immortalize some of the biggest comic book blunders, while conceding that some were simply victims of poor timing. On the cover of the book, we see Fatman, Doctor Hormone, Fantomah, Bozo the Iron Man, the Eye, and Amazing-Man; inside are the biographies of Funnyman, Kid Eternity, Captain Marvel (but not that Captain Marvel), Squirrel Girl, and the unfortunately unforgettable NFL Superpro.
It was a blast reading through these profiles, and imagining what they might look like on the big screen with the Avengers and the Justice League. The answer is that they would look ridiculous, and the studio executives would likely regret inserting them into such franchises, but it is still fun to imagine the Ferret and Ravage and Mr. Muscles joining the ranks of Iron Man, Captain America, Superman, and Batman. My personal favorite is Fatman the Human Flying Saucer, and I would be thrilled to try out for the role; I certainly fit the body type.
Comic book lovers young and old will enjoy reading Morris’ The League of Regrettable Superheroes. And who knows, it might even inspire someone to resurrect and reinvent one of these long-forgotten crime fighters.
Much like the movie it was based on, Ian Doescher’s William Shakespeare’s The Phantom of Menace is the weak link in this series of books. It would be difficult for anyone to dress up George Lucas’ greatest misstep, but Doescher does his best and remains true to the filmmaker’s vision, Jar Jar Binks and all. Doescher does some interesting things with the characters, such as giving Jar Jar more intelligence than most would. When speaking in asides to the audience, Binks speaks Shakespearean English, fully in iambic pentameter just as the other characters; when conversing with the other characters, however, the last syllable drops off. Conversely, the other Gunguns receive the full ten syllables, even with their native dialect.
There are other deviations from the iambic pentameter with other characters: Yoda speaks in haiku, while Valorum tacks on an eleventh syllable at the end of his lines. Another quirk with the language includes the two-headed podrace commentator, who uses the pronoun “we” instead of “I.” Qui-Gon Jinn has a Julius Caesar moment during his final battle with Darth Maul, and tribute is paid to Samuel L. Jackson’s long career in Hollywood in several stanzas.
One of my favorite parts of William Shakespeare’s The Phantom of Menace is the conversation Doescher inserted between two unnamed Jedi in Act IV, Scene 5, foretelling the regression of technology and Jedi skills that would be seen in Verily, A New Hope. A weak explanation, but a nod to the lack of consistency between Lucas’ original trilogy and the prequels.
William Shakespeare’s The Phantom of Menace is a step back for the series, but Doescher should be able to right the ship with the next installment (scheduled for a July release) as he will have better source material from which to work. Still, for the completist, this tale is necessary as it tells the innocent beginnings of Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars saga.
William Shakespeare’s Star Wars Trilogy: The Royal Imperial Boxed Set
by Ian Doescher
Quirk Books, 2014
The greatest story in modern cinema, retold in the style of the greatest playwright of all-time, Ian Doescher’s William Shakespeare’s Star Wars Trilogy is a treat for fans of the galactic tale and the Bard alike. Ian Doescher channels the language of Shakespeare in this retelling, a brilliant parody that reads like a serious play, almost entirely in iambic pentameter. There are exceptions to the style, such as Boba Fett (prose), Yoda (haiku), and the Ewoks (short AABA lines). Han and Leia emulate Romeo and Juliet, speaking in rhyming couplets to each other in private, while the chorus is granted rhymes and occasional sonnets.
The reader is sure to encounter some surprises, as R2-D2 is revealed to have a witty command of the English language, though he reserves that for asides, speaking in beeps when other characters can hear. Doescher lifts themes and rewords famous lines and even soliloquies, such as Darth Vader’s appropriation of Hamlet in portions of The Jedi Doth Return. Doescher also provides insight into the mind of the Wampa in The Empire Striketh Back and the Rancor in The Jedi Doth Return, allowing them to speak (or sing, in the case of the Rancor) to the audience.
Doescher’s William Shakespeare’s Star Wars Trilogy is a fantastic and entertaining way to relive the story of Luke, Han, Leia and the rest of the Rebellion in their battles against the Empire. Highly recommended for Star Wars fans.
William Shakespeare’s Foorsooth, The Phantom Menace. is scheduled for an April 2015 release.
Gig Posters Volume 2
by Clay Hayes
Quirk Books, 2011
This massive book showcases some of the most creative artwork of the past couple of decades…all created to promote local concerts. Gig posters have become quite a collector’s item recently, with very limited print runs. Thanks to the internet and books such as Gig Posters Volume 2, fans all over the world can enjoy and admire this artwork.
Clay Hayes is the owner of gigposters.com, a community that showcases what seems to be an infinite collection. The owner of this book, however, can do more than just look at pictures. There are 101 ready-to-frame posters featured here, measuring 11×14, each perforated and ready to be ripped out and hung on your bedroom wall, from Queens of the Stone Age to Slayer to John Mellencamp to The Black Keys.
While the main attraction of this book is the collection of reprinted posters, there are also insights and interviews with the artists that created them. Hayes reveals the artists’ beginnings and influences, preferred media and impressions of the poster community. Gig Posters Volume 2 is a great book for fans of music and art.
Insults Every Man Should Know
by Nick Mamatas
Quirk Books, 2011
Have you ever been in a situation that called for a real zinger, but you just couldn’t find the words to properly express your frustration at another’s idiocy? You need Insults Every Man Should Know by Nick Mamatas, which is a “greatest hits” of sorts when it comes to putting other people down. Whether you need to make fun of your friend’s intelligence (or lack thereof), or a co-worker’s ineptitude, or if you just need a good mama joke, Mamatas has you covered.
My favorite mama joke (because mama jokes have always been my personal favorite of all forms of insult, appropriate for almost any situation), found on page 40: “Your mama’s so fat, she walked in front of the TV and I missed three commercials.”
This small edition (measuring 3.5 x 5.75) easily fits in your pocket so you can take it with you wherever you go. Be warned: the book is full of puerile, offensive, and sometimes out-right gross insults. Use with caution.