Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, June 13, 2016

Bob Proehl introduces us to A Hundred Thousand Worlds of pop culture possibilites

Novels about comic book fans and creators are now becoming a regular part of the literary landscape yet many of them are not simply cookie cutter plot points that many would expect them to be. A good number of these books are explorations of love and imagination such as this debut novel by Bob Proehl that I just finished reading this very day.

In A Hundred Thousand Worlds, Proehl has his characters take their own emotional journeys on the road as they follow the Comic Con circuit. The leading lady of this story happens to have been a famous leading lady at one point in pop culture time.

 Valerie Torrey was once the co-star of a popular sci-fi TV series called Anomaly and at one time, deeply in love with Andrew Rhoades, who played the Mulder to her Scully. Years after that show ended abruptly due to a stunning tragedy, Valerie is living in New York with her nine year old son Alex, who only has seen his father on the  sleazy Showtime cable series that he's in.

As Valerie makes her way through the convention route as one of the celebrity stars, she's also preparing to give up Alex to his father, who has forced her hand in allowing him some custody time. Their reunion is set to coincide with a L.A. appearance at a panel discussion of Anomaly, a show that may be long gone but is still a strong part of all of their lives:

Along the way, Valerie and Alex run into a number of comic book related folks such as Brett, an indie illustrator who is rebounding from a bad romantic break-up and close to a professional break-up with his writing partner Fred, and Gail Pope, a frustrated writer who resents being the token female at the mainstream comic book company she works for.

Brett winds up bonding with Alex, who asks for his help in writing his own comic book adventure. Gail finds herself giving emotional support to Valerie while trying to figure out how to get better control over her work life.

 A chorus of superheroine clad women(hired by the convention) also offers their moral support and influence throughout the comic con road, which will lead them all to the place that they need to be in order to embrace the changes lying in wait for them up ahead.

Like many of the adventures that these folks work at to make for others, there's a good amount of misunderstanding and things unspoken that need to be, with new bonds forming to help them adjust to the strange new worlds they find themselves in:

 Proehl's deft hand at bringing comic con players to life clearly shows his depth of  knowledge in this field and while you can spot the real world basis for some of the major characters, he takes enough original twists and turns with them that give each one a true life of their own.

The heart of AHTW belongs to Alex, a smarter than he should be yet completely innocent creative soul who uses both the stories that he reads and the one that he's making up along the way to discover his place in the world. Valerie's emotional arch is strongly tied to him but you do want her to be able to seek true peace for herself as well.

One of the reoccurring pauses in the book are sections that give the origin story of some of the fictional superheroes that are featured at the cons like The Blue Torch, The Astounding Family and Outerman, a thematic rhythm that also extends to the real world characters at times. Those set pieces are vividly engaging, making you wish that some of these super powered folk really did have comics that you could enjoy:

This is not some cut and paste pop culture production here, folks. Proehl showcases what we love best about this entertainment realm that we sometimes take for granted.

 It's not just fueled by money making concerns and pandering to certain audiences, the life blood of comics and other fantastical genre is the desire to share a piece of our collective artistic heart with other and vice versa, in order to make sense from the everyday chaos all around us. In times like these, we need to keep that spirit strong and perhaps this book can be a small step in that right direction.

A Hundred Thousand Worlds is set to be released on June 28th and whether or not you're a comic book fan or sci-fi/fantasy follower, anyone in need of a good story should check this out. Keeping that special spark of childhood wonder is the key to any true fan love and Proehl's debut displays that deep magic well indeed:

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