Friday, October 16, 2015

Jim Butcher's Dresden Files: Down Town by Jim Butcher and Mark Powers--They Release a Totally New and Original Story!

Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     As a long-time fan of Jim Butcher's "Dresden Files," and Dynamite Publishers, once I learned a brand new original story was available as an advance reading copy (ARC) from NetGalley, my adrenaline surged and I hit the "accept" button as quickly as I could. I downloaded my e-copy to my computer and began reading. I did not stop reading until I finished the book.

     Sometimes books come out and functionally act to extend the main storyline in between series books. In the case of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, "Down Town," falls between White Knight (series book, #9) and Small Favor (series book, #10). [2] Anyone who is a Jim Butcher "Dresden Files," fan will be ecstatic to be able to read a new original story that helps fill out the background of familiar characters, explains mysterious secrets, or just gives the reader explanations about various characters' idiosyncrasies, fears, or foibles. 

     In Down Town, we are reacquainted with old familiar characters, we also get to see a great deal more of Harry Dresden's world. But before I say more about the book, let's take a quick look at the book's synopsis.


     Harry Dresden lives as a wizard--one that advertises in the local newspaper as a wizard-for-hire. Harry and recently acquired apprentice, Molly Carpenter, suddenly find themselves trying to find and stop an unknown monster that has been killing Chicago citizens. Soon, they find themselves dealing not only with Chicago's Karen Murphy of Special Investigations, but also, Gentleman Johnny Marcone and his thugs, as well as a new "baddie" from Chicago's notorious supernatural badlands, "Undertown." They will find themselves at risk as they dare to pass through the portal into Undertown. Will apprentice, Molly, be out of her depth and cause Dresden trouble? But most worrisome is whether or not Harry and Molly will make it out alive. Or, will Gentleman Johnny Marcone cause his own brand of trouble in Undertown? [4]

     Having reviewed a number of graphic novels over the two years that I have been writing posts for this blog, I worked hard to follow what other experts had said were the hallmarks of the graphic novel. Well, that changed, in part, after having read On the Graphic Novel, by Santiago Garcia (to read that post click here.).

     Garcia said that as far as definitions go, it is mostly critics who have created "...a set of formal parameters that unambiguously trace the shape and size of the graphic novel versus other, different kinds of comics." [5] Moreover, Garcia explained that what were mainstream comics in the 1950s changed, in part, due to subsequent audience loss, into a niche market. The result was that scholars and critics suddenly began discrediting the comics that came before by considering "...the graphic instrument for legitimizing comics.[5]

     Here is list of formal parameters (not from Garcia) that many (not all) critics use to define "graphic novel":
  1.  Story Arc: A story with a beginning, middle and end;

 2. Character Development: Does the protagonist grow and change?

 3.  Number of Stories in the Book: Ask, "Is the story episodic in nature?" (With different Issue and Volume numbers--like comics.) Or, "Is the story a complete (one) story with a complete story arc (and the same protagonist and important characters)?"

My copy of Ghoul Goblin by
Jim Butcher/Mark Powers. On
the right is the hard cover with
iridescent green print. On the left
is the book's dust cover construct-
ed of  glossy, full color paper.[8]
4.  Publication Covers: Comic books tend to have inexpensive paper while graphic novels usually have a type of cardstock, or even a hard cover. This "requirement" does not always apply since we have seen collections of older comics with hardbound covers. The other issue is with e-books. Since e-books have no covers or paper pages, none of the physical parameters apply;

5.  Paper Quality:Episodic publications (comic books) tend to be published on pulp paper. Graphic novels are usually published on higher quality paper--sometimes, heavy, textured, or glossy. Again, paper quality is not dispositive because some episodic publications have been collected and published on good paper;

This is a photo of my copy of Ghoul
 by Jim Butcher and Mark
Powers. A well-constructed book by
Dynamite Publishers. To see the com-
plete book review of War Cry, from
which this photo is taken,click here.[8]
6. How is the Publication Bound? 
  Episodic publications tend to be stapled, or in the case of collections they can have glued bindings or stitched and glued bindings. Graphic novels are usually bound the way books are bound (but not all). 

Here's a photo of the book with the pages all falling out of it.
I love my books and handle them gently--I never break a
spine or fold pages to mark my place! This book literally
fell apart as I read it. To see the full review of this
book, please click here. [9]

        I have had some bindings on a few of my graphic novels in my personal collection that are coming unglued. One publisher, however, reached an all-time low--they used such poor glue to bind their graphic novel, that all the pages literally fell out even before I finished reading the book for the first time. 

[To find out which graphic novel this is, click here.]; 

7. What is the size of the book? In the U.S., comic books are generally 6 5/8 x 10 1/4 (Trade paperbacks: 5.32" x 8.51", and Digests: from 5 3/8" to 5 1/2" x 7 1/2" to 8 3/8").

8. How many pages are in the book? Early comic books of the 1940s had about 64-96 pages where modernly, comics total about 32 pages (22 for the comics and 10 for advertising). Graphic novels, on the other hand, are about three times the size of a comic book with a minimum of 100 pages. Many graphic novels I've seen, have been closer to 150-165 pages.


9. Advertising: Does the publication contain any advertising? If a comic book, then, obviously, the answer is yes. Usually a minimum of ten pages of ads. If a graphic novel, the answer is no. 

10. Price: Early comic books would cost about $.10 and modernly might run you $4.00, more or less. Graphic novels, on the other hand, can start at about $9.99 and run to $25.00 (or more if they are large or deluxe gift editions, or personally signed by the author). [10]


     This is the million dollar question that can trump most of the above parameters for distinguishing a comic from a graphic novel. If the publication is openly advertised as a graphic novel this can go a long way in helping to determining whether or not it is a graphic novel. If, however, the author/publishers advertise the publication as comics, the question is generally easy to determine.So, intent of the author/publishers and how it is promoted or advertised may be dispositive.

     Since we've just been talking about whether or not a publication can be determined to be a comic or a graphic novel given a set of formal parameters with which to judge such a publication, let's just jump right in and talk about Jim Butcher's new book. Let's start with, "Is it a comic or graphic novel?"

     Answers to the questions posed just above: (1) Yes, there seems to be a beginning, middle, and end to the story; (2) Harry always seems to learn something and grow more into his wizardry powers. Here, Harry learned to trust his apprentice, Molly, that she would be competent to act. He also learned that sometimes enemies can help out in a mutually dangerous situation; sometimes, Harry gets distracted, so he learned that he needs to try harder to stay on the path.

This is one of the six issues pub-
lished episodically as a comic
book. This issue is #3 of Down
. [13]
     (3) The six parts or chapters were originally published serially with issues numbered 1, 2 3, etc.; no volume numbers were attached as in comics. Serial publication usually indicates the publication is a comic. Even so, when put together, the chapters made one entire story, flowing seamlessly from one chapter to the next. In fact, if I hadn't learned that the chapters in the book were previously published individually, I would never have known it because of how smooth the transitions were. So, the answer to this issue is "I'm not sure."

     (4) I am reviewing this book as an e-book edition through NetGalley; because it is not a physical book, with a cover, the issue is moot for this book review. However, I did purchase the "Down Town" hardcover book for myself. The book has a beautiful glossy dust cover. (5) Again, an e-book has no physical pages, so this issue is also moot for this book review. Just to let you know, however, the physical book's inner pages appear to be semi-glossy and are just beautiful to hold and turn. (6) Since e-books have no (physical) cover, you can not have a binding; this issue is also moot. My hardcover edition is bound perfectly; I cannot tell if it is stitched and glued or just glued, but however they did it, it is sturdy and no pages are in danger of falling out.

     (7) An e-book has no physical dimensions--in terms of actual book size. The hardcover edition, however, as given by the publishers, are: 6.8 x 0.5 x 10.2 inches. (8) The publishers have given the number of pages as 144. This is certainly within the page range for this graphic novel. 

     (9) Since I am reviewing an e-book, advertising doesn't come in to play. My edition of my purchased "Down Town," likewise, has no advertising, whatsoever. (10) Price. Before the six episodic editions were put together, they cost $1.99 each from Amazon. Again, though I am not reviewing the individual episodes, I am reviewing the whole book, Down Town. I received my copy for free through NetGalley for providing an honest review, and not obligated to give a positive review. People purchasing the e-book, from Amazon, for example, will pay (as of today's date) $14.74; the hardcover will run $18.62 (again, as of today's date).       
     We have finally come to the big question for this book. It was on October 9, 2014 that Dynamite Entertainment announced that Jim Butcher was to release a "contemporary fantasy miniseries featuring an original Jim Butcher story exclusively developed for the comic book medium." The miniseries was set within the continuity of the Dresden File Series. The announcement included that the serialized line would come in "six comic book issues ...before collection as a hardcover graphic novel later in 2015." [15] Logically, we come to the conclusion that the book is a series of six comic books in one.

This photo was part of the press release for Jim Butcher's,
Down Town mini series for the spring of 2015 and HC
graphic novel for the fall of 2015. Jim Butcher is co-
writing with Mark Powers and art is done by Carlos
Gomez. Jim Butcher says he likes comics. [2]

     We not only have the intention of the publishers and author that they were "exclusively developed for the comic book medium," they actually have different issue numbers. So, now we ask if collecting the six issues into one volume negates the intention of the author/publisher to create a comic, and transform it into a graphic novel. According to The Beat, in Todd Allen's article about the Down Town mini-series, not only was the story to be "serialized in six comic book issues," the intent was to turn the mini-series into a "collection as a hardcover graphic novel later in 2015."[2]

     So, how does this intention to change the the comics into a graphic novel result in such a metamorphosis? Santiago Garcia, in On the Graphic Novel, said:
The prestige captured by the graphic novel, on the other hand, has in some way rubbed off on traditional comics, and traditional publishers have wasted no time trying to co-opt it by repackaging their old tired products as brand new graphic novels for mature audiences, in the hope of bringing in unwary readers, as if you could go from Persepolis  to X-Men just by switching formats. [xi]
One thing to keep in mind, is that modernly, the graphic
novel consists of adult themes. These "adult" themes are
not only sexual, but includes violence of all sorts, rape,
murder, genocide, torture, supernatural, cultural and
hate crimes, etc. [17]
     Even if one could say Jim Butcher's six serialized comic books are "new," and neither "old" nor are they "tired," can one still claim that authors/ publishers can metamorph comics into a graphic novel by merely "intending" to do so? It would seem the answer would be "No." if we relied only on Garcia's, above, statement. But, we must also consider that the story was written for adult audiences, not preteens buying from the comic book rack. 

     Also, consider that Butcher planned his story to have a complete arc, to be a complete story, that no advertising graces the pages of the "graphic novel," and that there's an adequate amount of pages (here, 144). Finally, we must also consider that it was the intention, all along, for the story to eventually be a graphic novel. I believe the answer is yes.Butcher wasn't just trying to merely "repackage" his comics in a different format, his comics metamorphosed into the graphic novel he intended, all along--not just a mere switching of formats.


     ART WORK: Original art was done by Carlos Gomez and color by Mohan, letters by Bill Tortolini and the cover by Stjepan Sejic. Let's start with the cover: issue #1 of the 6 issue comics was used for the graphic novel. I've enjoyed other work by Stjepan Sejic before and this cover also does not disappoint. The drawings and use of color is beautiful, placement impeccable, as is the point of view! Inside the book, the drawings by Bill Tortolini are wonderful. Just enough detail to enjoy the art, but not so much that the reader gets lost in the drawing--ending up in confusion, boredom, or not paying attention to what is happening. Mohan's use of color really complements the beautiful drawings. Not only do the drawings, but the use of color help set scene and mood for each frame. None of the frames appear washed out and muddy. 

     BONUS MATERIAL: Original character sketches of the major players in the story are fun to examine and imagine how the images were drawn from the mind of the artist. Additionally, twenty-two pages of original rough line art (for issue one) are included and are almost as enjoyable as seeing them in color in the story.

     STORY: The story line begins as any story line does with exposition and some basic background, moves into rising action, followed by climax, falling action, and resolution. I know this sounds terribly dry, but I can't really give away any of the action more than I have in the short synopsis, above. I can say, though, that I really enjoyed another one of Jim Butcher's stories. Yes, it is shorter than any of his novels, but this story seems to fit the format. It's like Harry Dresden and Molly have a job to do and they go out, say, over the weekend, and do it. It isn't complicated with a lot of extraneous characters and subplots; just a nice clean and to the point story.

     Given all the reasons I have stated, above, I am very happy to award, Jim Butcher's Dresden Files: Down Town, by Jim Butcher and Mark Powers a rating of 4.0 stars out of 5. I truly enjoyed the e-file download to my computer and know that if you should choose to get your story through an e-book, you will enjoy it. I love Dynamite Publishers and have many books that they have published. I have already received my copy of my hardcover edition of Down Town, and am enjoying the beautiful cover, the wonderful art work, great story, beautiful colors and characters we have all come to love. 

THANK YOU! Truly, thank you from the bottom of my heart for joining me today as we got to take a look at Jim Butcher's exciting new graphic novel, Down Town. I enjoyed speaking with you, my dear friends, and hope you were able to take away something useful for yourself this week. I always like being with you to share a little of the joy I feel at reading and writing about some of the wonderful books that have come my way. If you have something special you would like to share with me, please just leave me a comment or contact me on twitter.

     Please join me, again, next week, as we will be going back to the world of sci-fi with Children of the Comet by Donald Moffitt. Mr. Moffitt's book is another of one of my NetGalley books that I have looked forward to reading and reporting on, here on my blog. Anyway, until next time, thank you for joining me. Remember to be good to one another because you never really know what sorrows another person has in their heart or what burdens are weighing them down. A smile or a kind word can go a long way, sometimes, in cheering another person up. God bless you all.

Until next time...
This flower is a white with red center, Rose of Sharon. [22]

...many happy pages of reading.



[1] "Jim Butcher's Dresden Files: Down Town." [jim butcher and mark powers] [Retrieved 10-12-15.]
[2] "Jim Butcher's Dresden Files: Down Town Coming in Spring 2015." [Retrieved 10-13-15].
[3] "Harry Dresden--Chicago, IL." [11-22-14] [jaholst] Retrieved 10-13-15.
[4] "Jim Butcher's: Dresden Files "Down Town." [jim butcher and mark powers] Retrieved 10-13-15.
[5] "On the Graphic Novel." [santiago garcia; p.ix] Retrieved 10-13-15.
[6] "Some More Writing Advice--Beginning, Middle, End." Retrieved 10-14-14.
[7] "Homenaje, Wolverine 1 de Frank Miller y Chris Claremont (ensenando las garras)." Retrieved 10-14-15.
[8] "GRAPHIC NOVELS: An Exciting New Graphic Novel--A New Original Story! by Jim Butcher, THE DRESDEN FILES: WAR CRY." [Jim Butcher/Mark Powers; 10-15-14] Retrieved 10-14-15.
[9] "Hercules: The Thracian Wars by Steve Moore [Book-to-Movie Staring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson." [06-29-14] Retrieved 10-14-15.
[10] "How to Distinguish Between a Comic Book and a Graphic Novel." Retrieved 10-14-14.
[11] "NetGalley." Retrieved 10-14-15.
[12] "My Thoughts on Night of Champions." Retrieved 10-14-15.
[13] "Jim Butcher's Dresden Files: Down Town #3 (of 6)." Retrieved 10-14-15.
[14] "3 Tips For eBook Marketing For Inbound Leads." Retrieved 10-14-15.
[15] "Jim Butcher's Dresden Files: Down Town Coming in Spring 2015." Retrieved 10-14-15.
[16] "Prosper / Prosperous Living--January 16." [01-16-13; ivy prosper] Retrieved 10-14-15.
[17] "Adult Books, Adult Themes and Teens That Read Them." Retrieved 10-15-15.
[18] "Other Considerations." Retrieved 10-15-15.
[19] "Good Story." Retrieved 10-15-15.
[20] "Jetpack Joyride." Retrieved 10-15-15.
[21] "Thank You!" Retrieved 10-15-15.
[22] "Children of the Comet." [donald moffitt] Retrieved 10-15-15.
[23] "White Rose of Sharon Gifts." 10-07-15.