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Thomas, Grant – Not Ashamed: My Life in Records

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My Life in Records #5: Not Ashamed

Well, best to get this bit out of the way early: this comic leans way, WAY into religious overtones, which do absolutely nothing for me. There’s a montage early on that shows the secular world and how “it is filled with people who do not know god and has the scent of the fires of hell about it,” and said montage has Darwin and pro-choice protestors as some of the symbols of evil. Since this is one (ok, two) chapters in the ongoing sage of how music has impacted Grant’s life, I don’t know if he eventually came out of all this to see the actual joys of the secular world or if those images were ironic, so I’ve decided to ignore them altogether. Meaning that I disagree with his spiritual points and personally ended up in a very different place, but I’m here to talk about the merits of his comic, not the merits of his spiritual opinions. And on that front, this comic is another winner. Grant more than knows what he’s doing when it comes to panel and page composition and maintaining a brisk pace for his stories. There are two stories in this one. The first one deals with Grant’s early experiences with Christian rock and a concert he attended where the band was miserable when they gave out autographs afterwards. The concert also had a speaker who talked about how people would make fun of you if you tried to convert others, but that a little mockery was nothing compared to eternal damnation. I’ll give young Grant some serious credit here: when a girl from his high school who he had a crush on made fun of his crucifix, the easy choice was to make fun of it too in the hopes of getting her to like him somehow. But he tried to explain the crucifix honestly and lost any chance he might of had with her. The next story is all about the Christian bands who were supposed to sound just like the popular rock artists of the time (I kind of wish I could have seen more of the list, honestly) and Grant’s experience in a church band. It was an eye-opening experience for him, and not in a particularly religious way. Things turn around for Grant again by the end of the book, sort of, so there’s clearly more to the story yet to come. It’s says a lot for Grant’s skills that I still thoroughly enjoy his comics, even when the religious angle is something I don’t agree with at all. I’m really curious to see how this story reads as one big epic too. Before the next issue comes out I’m going to try to gather all of the issues together to see how it flows. If you knew anything about my comics “organizational” system, you would find that prospect just as hilarious as I do… $7.50

Thomas, Grant – My Life in Records: Hell’s Bells

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My Life in Records: Hell’s Bells

Have you ever wondered just how many people started listening to rock/rap/metal music purely because they were told by their church that they shouldn’t listen to it? The thought has crossed my mind more than a few times, and Grant documents his experience with it in this issue. His brother had saved up and bought a radio alarm clock (they were kids, remember, and such a thing was rare in those days), and after experimenting with waking up to classical music (and realizing that it was only putting him back to sleep), he switched over to the Jesus station. Grant would sometimes listen outside of his room, and then later he’d listen with his brother, which was where he first heard about the evils of rap music. Which, hilariously, he learned about because the station played a 2 Live Crew song (kids, ask your parents) and they couldn’t even make out the words through all the bleeps. Of course this would make a kid curious about that kind of music! Stupid Jesus station. Anyway, he also started hearing about the evil types of music in Sunday school, and it eventually sunk into him that he LIKED this type of music. The rest of the comic has him dealing with that (a bit, anyway). There’s also a short story at the beginning dealing with his early days in the school band and the monotony of having to practice while still not making much headway in advancing in the band. It’s another solid issue showing Grant’s musical development and his gradually powering through despite growing up in a pretty religious household. $7.50

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Thomas, Grant – My Life in Records #3

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My Life in Records #3

I’ll say this right off the bat to save some suspense: this comic probably has the most realistic depiction of playing with toys that I’ve ever seen. Not just the simple act of playing with them, which is easy enough to show, but the ways that the experience changes when he plays with his brother, how the music from the “Star Wars” soundtrack enhanced the experience, and even how his brother making sound effect noises added on top of it all combined to form a completely immersive experience. If you grew up playing with toys it’s hard not to get more than a little bit nostalgic for the simplicity of it all, and the magic that was required to make it all work. Do kids today play with toys or is it mostly computers and handheld games? If that’s what they mostly use, they’re missing out. Anyway, the rest of the comic deals with Grant’s grandparents and the way that his grandfather had an amazing video/audio system at home, taping movies off TV so that the kids could watch. Well, when I say movies I mean “The Empire Strikes Back” specifically and, again, it’s hard to appreciate what an amazing experience that was back in the day when you could think of almost any movie right now and be watching it within five minutes. Crikey, this is getting far more nostalgic than I intended. Grant also deals with the time that his gerbil got lost after they left it playing in their Ewok village, and how they were so excited to watch “Return of the Jedi” that they took a wrong turn and ended up getting slightly lost going to their grandparents. I should also add that there was a great finale to that story (with the reaction of the grandfather being priceless), but I won’t ruin it for you here. It’s another solid issue in the series, and it looks absolutely gorgeous. This is a little pricier than past issues at $7.50, but it’s full color and worth it.

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Thomas, Grant – My Life in Records #2: Into My Heart

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My Life in Records #2: Into My Heart

Who says that you need free time to make comics? Grant is an art teacher with two small kids and this is still his second full color comic produced within the last year (unemployed slackers with one comic out in the last three years, take note). He also apparently put his master’s thesis into comics form, although I don’t know if the world at large will ever see it. But enough about that, how’s the comic? The music is much less prevalent this time around, but it does effectively take over a scene when it is used. Things start off with Grant (age three) being annoyed that he’s been confined to the kiddie pool and taking matters into his own hands by jumping into the big pool. Where he proceeds to sink like a stone and is rescued by another swimmer (the details are still hazy for the guy). There’s an abrupt transition from this section to Grant remembering older Christian records that he listened to as a kid and the idea of a giant box of crayons, then comes the Jesus. The rest of the book deals with Grant trying to work up the nerve to get baptized after his near-drowning and gradually coming around to accepting Jesus. Which will always and forever be a little creepy to me when that “decision” is coming from a kid and not an adult, but that’s my own personal bugaboo and not something that should concern you or take away from this comic. This is another gorgeous book, and it will probably hit you spiritual types a bit harder than it hit me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still an interesting story even for us cranky atheist types, but a journey to Jesus is probably most appreciated by other people who have journeyed to Jesus. Here’s hoping his schedule eases up a little bit (not likely with two small kids, but you never know), as I curious to keep reading the “origin story” of this man and how music factored into it. $6.50

Thomas, Grant – My Life in Records

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My Life in Records

It’s always a little tricky to pull off music in comics, but I think Grant nailed it here. This one is split into three stories, and the first one is  entirely about music. There’s his first record, how certain songs trigger a nostalgic reaction or bring up distinct mental images, the air guitarist gradually moving up to the actual guitarist, all ending in a cacophony of sounds and images. Next up is a story of Grant growing up (Grant must be his middle name, as he’s called Tom in this one). It starts off with explaining the items that meant the most to each of the three brothers, then moves on to drawing in the early Saturday hours and how his only knowledge of Sesame Street was through a record with Bert and Ernie. There are also bits about growing up in a small room with two brothers (then the shock of moving to a house where they all got their own room) and trying to get a few glimpses of television when they visited their grandparents. This is the bulk of the book and it looks like the start of something bigger, and he’s gotten off to a fantastic start. Finally there’s a story about seeing Pinocchio in the theater when he was a kid, how he tried to make a Halloween costume of Pinocchio as he was changing into a donkey, and how he learned the difference between the “good” and “bad” record players. All of this is full, gorgeous color, so for $5 I’d call this a damned good deal.