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Capes Optional – The Illustrated Bard

posted: , by Thaddeus Moriarty
tags: Library Collections | Recommended Reads | Adults | Teens

maven-ShakespeareAgain we meet, fine readers young and old;

my blog, it has a secret to be told:

The Bard has tales in comic form, you see,

And found they can be at the lib’rary!

Welcome back, dear reader, to Capes Optional, PPL’s Grade-A, cage-free graphic novel blogorama for your eyeballs. Everyone knows that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is out in movie theaters in just a few weeks, but much like Lex Luthor taking over the Justice League Watchtower, ye olde William Shakespeare has conquered the hearts, minds, (and indeed, gallery space) of the Portland Public Library — and he hath not spared mine lowly publication! Thus, I bring you five Shakespeare graphic novels that you can find right on the shelves of PPL to satisfy both your love of graphic novels as well as your craving for the immortal works of the Bard.

               Manga Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar illustrated by Mustashrik

Manga ShakespeareOur first graphic novel comes from a series called “Manga Shakespeare,” which takes the original texts of the works and pairs them with art inspired by modern Japanese illustrators, often re-imagining the settings of the plays in fantastical ways. In this instance, ancient Rome is transformed into a steampunk-style desert world, with the conspirators against Caesar wearing visors and flying helicopters, and the warriors of the Roman Empire fighting with semi-automatic weapons on motorcycle-back. The artwork is all black-and-white and can end up looking a little repetitive eventually, but any lover of manga or anime will be right at home in this interesting retelling of the classic tragedy.

               The Tempest adapted by John McDonald and illustrated by Jon Haward

The TempestAhh, The Tempest. This play by Shakespeare is closest to my heart as I played a role in a production at the University of Southern Maine. The incredible imagery of  it – the magics of Ariel, the conjured storm, the monstrous Caliban – is a joy to enact on stage, and this graphic novel, part of a series from Classical Comics, is equally beautiful. Classical Comics actually releases three versions of its Shakespeare graphic novels: one in the original Old English; one in “plain text” easy to understand; and one in “quick text,” which omits everything but the central plot from the story. PPL has  the “plain text” version, which makes for an easy read without losing all of the nuance and tangential plotlines that Shakespeare is famous for. The artwork is colorful and fun, and the characters pop right out of the page. Can you guess what my role in the play was?

               Romeo & Juliet illustrated by Will Volley

romeo julietteThis is another one of Classical Comics’ graphic novels. We have the “original text” version on our shelves, so it remains a tough read for those not versed in or used to the Old English. Romeo and Juliet, for its credit, is one of the more grokkable of the Bard’s plays, but still, for every one of its “Wherefore art thou Romeo?”s (which actually means “Why is your name Romeo?”), there is a “to-night she is mew’d up to her heaviness” (which I’ve got nothing for). Volley’s art is quite a bit different from Haward’s – think Prince Valiant compared to Ninja Turtles – but it helps make the story easier to follow, and certainly to differentiate between similar sounding characters (Benvolio, Mercutio, and Tybalt could all have the same voice, as far as I’m concerned.)

               Macbeth adapted and illustrated by Gareth Hinds

macbethThis graphic novel is a masterpiece. Hinds keeps most of the original text and adds to it a distinctive art style that brings to life the tragic tale of hubris and comeuppance. This particular graphic novel is certainly not for the faint of heart (Hinds shows no quarrel with depicting blood and bone in his paintings), but leaves lasting impressions. The eerie depiction of the ghost of Banquo staring down Macbeth at his banquet table in Act 3 Scene 4 is spine-chilling, and the final showdown with Macduff is pure comic-book action (with no capes required!). Not for the kids, but perfect for comic readers looking for superheroes saving Scotland, and not Metropolis.

               King Lear illustrated by Gareth Hinds

king learAnother of Hinds’ works, the art of King Lear is markedly different from that of Macbeth. King Lear, in our children’s section and meant to be an introduction to Shakespeare, has the artwork and the story literally intertwined, the winds of the art carrying the words from characters’ mouths to ears, letters spelled out in lightning cascading towards the wretched king, and color schemes that permeate the entire piece. The letter work is a little hard to read at times, and certainly parents will want to show some discretion before showing some of the artwork or reading some of the plot to younger children (speaking of eyeballs), but this is a beautiful way to read through one of Shakespeare’s more tragic plays.

There are more graphic novels based on Shakespeare’s works within the PPL collection, including different retellings of the same plays (four each of Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth!), and you can discover those here. Also look for references – both subtle and overt – to the Bard in works such as Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman.

I love reading graphic novel versions of literature, and I hope that this blog will inspire you to go beyond the Bard and into other genres as well. Next time, we’ll look at some of my favorite Batman and Superman graphic novels just in time to enjoy the new movie. So keep reading, dear reader, and remember: “gentle breath of yours my sails must fill, or else my project fails!”

Movie of the Month: Looking for Richard

posted: , by Patti DeLois
tags: Library Collections | Adults | Teens | Seniors | Art & Culture

Al Pacino Looking for RichardAl Pacino spent four years making this film, the purpose of which is to share his feelings about Shakespeare, and to make one of the Bard’s most difficult plays accessible to a modern audience.

And what are Pacino’s feelings about Shakespeare? He loves him, he’s passionate about him, because the plays are all about human emotions, which are the same no matter the time or place. Pacino believes the legacy of Shakespeare’s plays belongs to actors, who must find the feelings in the words of their characters and transmit them to the audience.

And so he assembles a troupe of American actors to discuss and parse and act out scenes from Richard III. He talks about the relationships among the characters–the Yorks, the Lancasters, the brothers and nephews and wives who all have their own ideas about who should wear the crown. He talks to British actors like Derek Jacobi and Vanessa Redgrave and Kenneth Branagh about whether Americans can do justice to Shakespeare, whether we have perhaps become estranged from the language, or lack the knowledge of British history. He does man-in-the-street interviews to find out whether people think Shakespeare is relevant to them, and why or why not. He explores various settings, and films scenes from the play, and the entire film becomes an experiment in Shakespeare.

Sometimes described as “video Cliff notes,” this film can reawaken a passion for Shakespeare, or introduce the reluctant student to his timeless revelations about the human condition.Al Pacino Cliff Notes

Highly recommended.

For more Shakespeare films and adaptations, click here.

For the Library’s Shakespeare Film Festival schedule, click here.

Before you rock your vote…RESEARCH YOUR VOTE!

posted: , by Sonya Durney
tags: Adults | Government


Are you registered, researched and ready?

The Caucuses are coming to Maine this weekend!

The Maine Republican Party will gather on Saturday the 5th and the Maine Democratic Party will gather  on Sunday the 6th. The League of Women Voters have you covered on everything you need to know to prepare for the weekend!


The general election for 2016 will be on Tuesday, November 8th.

 How do you register to vote? You fill out a voter registration card.  You can register until/on Election Day.  You must register in person and must show ID and proof of where you live.

Where do you register to vote? You can register to vote at your town office or city hall, or through any Motor Vehicle branch office. Completed voter registration cards may be mailed or hand delivered to your town office or city hall, or  to the Secretary of State’s Office in Augusta.

If you’ve already registered, but wish to verify your registration, contact the Maine Bureau of Corporations, Elections and Commissions or your town office or city hall.

Also, make sure you know where you go to cast your vote; find your local polling place.

Research the candidates and issues -

  • Search for news articles via MARVEL! Maine’s Virtual Library. (with your PPL card) Use this resource for access to the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, many other national newspapers in addition to many political and current events magazines such as Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, Mother Jones and many more. Check to see if they carry your favorite newspaper or magazine by clicking here. Updated daily.
  • Search for local news articles about the candidates and issues via the Maine Newsstand (with your PPL card) -an index to and full text coverage of five Maine newspapers: the Bangor Daily News (12/3/92-present), the Kennebec Journal (Augusta) (6/11/93-present), the Portland Press Herald (10/30/95-present), Lewiston Sun Journal (2006-present) and the Central Maine Morning Sentinel (Waterville) (8/12/93-present). Updated daily. Available through MARVEL! Maine’s Virtual Library.
  • Research Voting History - If a candidate is currently in office or previously held office,  you can view the person’s voting history. In order to do this, you need to know information about a piece of legislation the candidate voted on, such as bill name or number. If the candidate served in Congress, you can find voting history by visiting and checking the Major Actions tab on a piece of legislation.
  • Use your PPL card to access library databases including Global Issues in Context (resources explaining the background and viewpoints necessary for understanding global issues, conflicts, and events) and Opposing Viewpoints (an online resource covering today’s hottest social issues).
  • Visit where you can explore topics, conduct a search or even ask questions via chat to a government representative.  Learn about voter registration; researching candidates; tracking fundraising and spending; contributing to the election process; and more.

Note: Neither the librarian who wrote this blog nor the Portland Public Library  is advocating for any political party in writing this article. All resources listed are given as information outlets only.

Voting smart is important. Have questions? Visit your local library!



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