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Despite the widely publicized objections by some incoming freshmen, Duke University appears to be standing by the selection of Alison Bechdel’s acclaimed graphic memoir Fun Home for its summer reading program.
“With a class of 1,750 new students from around the world, it would be impossible to find a single book that that did not challenge someone’s way of thinking,” Michael Schoenfeld, the university’s vice president for public affairs, said in a statement issued Monday. “We understand and respect that, but also hope that students will begin their time at Duke with open minds and a willingness to explore new ideas, whether they agree with them or not.”
The debate about the 2006 graphic novel, which chronicles Bechdel’s childhood with a closeted gay father, his apparent suicide and her own coming out as a lesbian, began on the Facebook page for Duke’s class of 2019, where incoming freshman Brian Grasso wrote that reading Fun Home would require him to “compromise my personal Christian moral beliefs.” While the ensuing discussion, first reported by Duke’s student newspaper, included support for the book, others admitted they were bothered by its depiction of sexual acts.
Magnetic Press got off to a good start last year, with two Eisner Award nominations (Best Publication for Teens for Tony Sandoval’s Doomboy and Best Graphic Album—Reprint for Dave Dorman’s Wasted Lands), and it looks like the publisher is doing its best best to avoid sophomore slump with the newly announced second-year lineup.
The new books are very much of a piece with the first season’s offerings: Full-color graphic novels that combine action and bold, confident art, much of it from European creators. The recent announcement of a partnership with Darby Pop should shake things up a little.
Here’s a look at what’s on deck for next year:
I spent some time in May at Book Expo America, the annual trade show for the retail book business, checking out the graphic novel offerings. BEA is light duty for a comics blogger, as graphic novels are a tiny part of the retail book universe, but it’s a good way to get an advance look at the books that publishers are promoting for this summer and fall, as well as what they think will have appeal for mainstream bookstores.
Here are a half-dozen books you’re likely to hear about in the coming months:
This past weekend, politician and genuine American hero John Lewis made the trip to Comic-Con International to spread the word about “March: Book Two,” the second volume of the graphic novel trilogy detailing his experiences in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. But as detailed by the Washington Post, Rep. Lewis didn’t just drop in for a quiet appearance, he marched through the convention center with a group of children in tow. Wearing a trench coat and backpack filled with copies of “March,” Lewis arrived at Comic-Con “cosplaying” as his 25-year-old self, who led hundreds on a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
— Nate Powell (@Nate_Powell_Art) July 12, 2015
Co-written with his staffer Andrew Aydin and drawn by Nate Powell (“Swallow Me Whole”), the “March” books are a three-part set of memoirs telling Rep. Lewis’ story from his days as a young boy in segregated Alabama, to being beaten in the Selma march of 1965, to his time as U.S. Representative for Georgia’s 5th congressional district, a position he’s held since 1987.
On Saturday, Lewis took the stage at Comic-Con International alongside Aydin and Powell to discuss the books, his lifelong message of nonviolent protest and share a preview for “Book Three.” In attendance were a group of third-graders from San Diego’s own Oak Park Elementary, who then accompanied the congressman in a march from the panel to his signing at Top Shelf Productions’ booth, echoing his “Bloody Sunday” march.
— TopShelfProductions (@topshelfcomix) July 11, 2015
— TopShelfProductions (@topshelfcomix) July 11, 2015
At Scholastic’s party Thursday night at Comic-Con International, the pubblisher announced the latest addition to its Graphix line of middle-grade graphic novels: Dream Jumper: Nightmare Escape, by actor Greg Grunberg (Heroes, the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens). It will be illustrated by Lucas Turnbloom, creator of the comic strip Imagine This and a contributor to both the Axe Cop graphic novels and the Team Cul de Sac anthology.
The book will feature a foreword by Grunberg’s longtime friend, director J.J. Abrams.
Dream Jumper is a story about a boy who jumps into the nightmares of his friends in order to rescue them from a monster who tries to keep them from waking up. “Lucas and I met at San Diego Comic-Con. We hit it off immediately and knew we wanted to create something together,” Grunberg said in a statement. “When my 12-year-old son Ben described a dream he had about a boy who could jump in and out of his friends’ nightmares to help them fight off bad guys and monsters, it sounded like a really relatable and exciting world to build a graphic novel and I immediately thought of Lucas,” Grunberg said.
Dream Jumper will be released in June 2016.
Avatar: The Last Airbender co-creator Bryan Konietzko will make his graphic novel debut with Threadworlds, a sci-fi series to be published by First Second.
Scheduled to debut in 2017, Threadworlds is set on a group of five planets that share a single orbit, each with its own intelligent species and level of technology. The story centers on Nova, a stubborn and brilliant young scientist from one of the most primitive worlds who refuses to adhere to the rules of a superstitious, oppressive empire that forbids girls to read and write. The series will follow a chain reaction of scientific discovers from planet to planet that sweep up Nova in a journey.
Top Shelf Productions describes its pair of Comic-Con International exclusives as “jaw-dropping,” and it’s tough to argue with that.
The first is a gorgeous deluxe slipcase edition of Essex County, collecting Jeff Lemire’s award-winning trilogy about life in a rural community in Southwestern Ontario. This foil-stamped edition features a letterpress bookplate signed and numbered by Lemire.
Following a student’s protest over the contents of the graphic novels required by her English 250 class, Crafton Hills College President Cheryl A. Marshall has issued a statement saying the college will not ban any books or alter the content of the course.
I support the college’s policy on academic freedom which requires an open learning environment at the college. Students have the opportunity to study controversial issues and arrive at their own conclusions and faculty are to support the student’s right to freedom of inquiry. We want students to learn and grow from their college experiences; sometimes this involves reaffirming one’s values while other times beliefs and perspectives change. In this specific case, the syllabus distributed on the first day of class contained the list of required reading materials allowing students the opportunity to research the books and make a choice about the class. The class is one of numerous electives available for completion of the English degree. We are attempting to avoid this situation in the future and Professor Bartlett has agreed to include a disclaimer on the syllabus in the future so students have a better understanding of the course content. I know he appreciated the differing views presented by Ms. Shultz in his class.
College student Tara Shultz is the latest in a long line of people to be shocked to find that Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi’s graphic memoir about growing up during the Iranian revolution, contains violence.
A 20-year-old attending Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa, California, was so dismayed by the graphic content in four of the graphic novels required by her English 250 course — official description: “the study of the graphic novel as a viable medium of literature through readings, in-class discussion and analytical assignments” — that she and her parents are seeking to have them banned by the administration.
In addition to Persepolis, Shultz took exception to Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, the first volume of Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s Y: The Last Man, and Neil Gaiman, Mike Dringenberg & Co.’s The Sandman: The Doll’s House, due to the depictions of sex, violence and “obscenities.”
“I didn’t expect to open the book and see that graphic material within,” she told the Redlands Daily Facts. “I expected Batman and Robin, not pornography.”
The Kramers Ergot anthology, edited by Sammy Harkham, has had an irregular publication history, with long spaces between volumes and a different publisher every few years. The oversized Kramers Ergot 7, which stood almost two feet tall, was released in 2008 by Buenaventura Press, and Kramers Ergot 8 came out in 2012 from the now-defunct art publisher PictureBox.
So it’s big news that a new volume is on the way, this time from Fantagraphics.
Call it the Streisand Effect, Singapore-style: Sonny Liew’s graphic novel The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye has sold out at bookstores across Singapore after the National Arts Council pulled its funding from the book at the last minute, citing “sensitive content.”
The book had an initial press run of 1,000 copies, and all 500 of the copies allotted to Books Kinokuniya Singapore are gone. Other bookstores also report a run on the book, and the publisher has no more copies in the warehouse; a second printing is planned. Publisher Edmund Wee of Epigram Books attributed the sellout to a combination of the controversy and Liew’s popularity. To give an idea of the scale of graphic novel sales in Singapore, a typical Epigram book sells about 500 copies a year.
Agence France-Presse reports the move comes as Russian authorities seek to purge the capital of swastikas and other Nazi insignias ahead of May 9, which marks the 70th anniversary of the Soviet victory over German forces in World War II. Raids have already been conducted on toy and antique shops, and bookstore owners are anticipating similar actions.
Of course, Art Spiegelman’s celebrated Maus, released in Russia in 2013, isn’t “Nazi propaganda”; it’s pointedly anti-fascist, telling a story about the horrors of Nazism. However, bookstore owners appear to be erring on the side of caution, figuring the large swastika on the cover is enough to make the title — and retailers — a target.
If you thought teaser images and announcements of announcements were strictly the domain of superhero publishers, think again.
Fantagraphics Books raised the subject of Daniel Clowes’ next graphic novel with a teaser image posted on its Twitter page:
In comics it’s hard sometimes to get authenticity — where are you going to find a real superhero with superpowers? — but a recent release in the burgeoning biker genre has done that.
Lucifer’s Sword MC: Life and Death in an Outlaw Motorcycle Club is a graphic novel written by Phil Cross, a 46-year veteran of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. Published by Motorbooks, which specializes in books about the biker lifestyle, Lucifer’s Sword MC rides on the success of FX’s Sons of Anarchy (both in television and the BOOM! Studios’ licensed comic), but offers a more raw, and less glitzy, look at the “one percenters.”
In what Top Shelf Productions describes as possibly “the first — and the last — time Jon Stewart ever features a graphic novel,” Congressman John Lewis appeared last night on The Daily Show, where he discussed meeting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” and his memoir of the civil rights movement March.
“People must understand,” Lewis said, “and that’s why we did [these] two books here, March Book One and Book Two, to tell the story, so our young people — our children and their children — will understand what happened and never forget it.”