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Food or Comics? | Hades or haddock

Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a “Splurge” item.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man

Graeme McMillan

It had to happen; I’m so uninspired by this week’s offerings, I’d skip the $15 altogether and go straight for the $30 option, which I’d spend on the Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man by Brian Michael Bendis Premiere Edition Vol. 1 HC (Marvel, $24.99); I ended up skipping out on the single issues after #3 because of the price, but I enjoyed it enough that I’d happily pick up the collection.

If I were looking to splurge even more than that, there’s also the Spider-Man: Spider-Island Companion HC (Marvel, $39.99), which gives me a chance to catch up on the peripheral titles from the recent event; I picked up the Spider-Girl series, but missed out on the well-reviewed Cloak and Dagger and other books.

Explorer: The Mystery Boxes

Brigid Alverson

You know who is getting a lot of my money this week? Abrams, that’s who: I’m going two for two on their releases this week.

If I had $15, I’d keep it all-ages, with their Explorer: Mystery Box anthology, edited by Kazu Kibuishi, who was also responsible for the Flight anthologies, so you know the talent lineup will be stellar. At $10.95, the paperback edition won’t break the bank, and it’s a good deal for 128 pages of full-color comics. That leaves just enough for issue #5 of Roger Langridge’s Snarked ($3.99).

If I had $30, I’d put Snarked back on the shelf and pick up another Abrams book with a more adult subject: My Friend Dahmer ($17.95 for the paperback). Derf Backderf went to school with Jeffrey Dahmer; one grew up to be a cartoonist, one became a serial killer. I’m always interested in how people evolve, and by all accounts, Backder’s story of the young Dahmer is fascinating.

Splurge: A big pile of manga! This is Viz’s big release week for comics stores, and they have a lot of worthy titles: Vol. 19 of Naoki Urasawa’s outstanding 20th Century Boys, vol. 6 of the lovely pseudo-historical shoujo drama The Story of Saiunkoku ($9.99), vol. 9 of the I-want-to-be-a-mangaka drama Bakuman ($9.99), and the first volume of a new series about a sassy girl in a new school, The Devil and Her Love Song ($9.99). There are some weeks when I can barely figure out how to spend any money at all, but between Abrams and Viz and BOOM!, this week really does bring an embarrassment of riches.

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Vertigo reveals May covers + ‘Mystery’ project

It must be close to the time of the month that DC Comics releases their solicitations, as yesterday the company revealed a bunch of artistic changes to their May titles and today Vertigo posted several covers for their “new” May books. (Does this new wave of Vertigo books have a name, BTW? “The New 4″ doesn’t have the same ring to it that the “New 52″ has, but it does feel like they’re trying to push it as its own “thing.”)

Kevin posted previously about the Fairest #3 cover by Adam Hughes, and you can find the full covers for Saucer Country #3, Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child #3 and The New Deadwardians #3 after the jump.

But wait–there’s more!

DC Comics gave Blastr details and a Mike Allred variant cover for an anthology book coming in May, Mystery in Space. You might remember their previous anthologies, The Unexpected and Strange Adventures, which respectively contained previews of Dominique Laveau and Spaceman in addition to other short stories by a variety of creators. No word yet if this one will provide a first look at a new series, but the creative line-up is impressive. It will contain stories written and drawn by Paul Pope and Mike Allred, as well as new stuff from science fiction writer Nnedi Okorafor and Michael Wm. Kaluta, Robert Rodi and Sebastian Fiumara, Ann Nocenti, Fred Harper, Andy Diggle, Davide Gianfelice, Steve Orlando, Francesco Trifogli, Ming Doyle and more. The regular cover will be drawn by Ryan Sook.

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“There’s a kind of comic I want to see and it doesn’t exist, so I’m going to make it”: Sammy Harkham on Kramers Ergot 8

Cover design by Robert Beatty

“You can tell I’m still making sense of it myself.” So says Sammy Harkham of the eighth volume of his landmark anthology series, Kramers Ergot, at one point during our lengthy conversation about the book. And indeed, Harkham’s side conversation is characterized by strategic pauses, halves of sentences that trail off and are abandoned as Harkham retreats, rethinks, and rearticulates. Despite his ebullient cadence – Harkham’s as great a talker as he is a tweeter – it’s quite clear that the amount of thought he put into this comparatively slim and quiet volume of his once-overflowing and raucous art-comics anthology is nearly overpowering.

So is the collection itself. Despite featuring a much smaller roster than previous volumes in the series, and despite a much less “noisy” visual aesthetic than that which has characterized the series since its phone book-sized fourth volume caused a sensation upon its release at the MoCCA Festival in 2003, Kramers Ergot 8 has an intensity that’s tough to shake. Contributors like C.F. (aka Christopher Forgues) and Chris Cilla craft uncomfortable but undeniably erotic sex scenes, which sit next to grim science-fiction parables from Gary Panter and Kevin Huizenga and gruesome horror tragedies by Johnny Ryan and Harkham himself. Fine artists Robert Beatty and Takeshi Murata contribute pieces as visually vibrant as the stories of crime and desire from Gabrielle Bell and the team of Frank Santoro and Dash Shaw are bleak. A cheekily provocative introductory essay from musician Ian Svenonius and a massive selection of racy reprinted Oh, Wicked Wanda! comics from the pages of Penthouse prove perplexing – but it’s a good perplexing, because it forces the reader to consider just how fingernails-on-a-chalkboard effective the rest of the volume is at discomfiting them.

With the book on its way to stores from PictureBox Inc. in a couple of weeks, Harkham took an hour before picking his two older kids up at school to talk about this very personal project. We started off talking about our respective babies; fitting, then, that by the end of the interview a fascinating picture emerged of what Harkham wanted Kramers 8 to be that proved every pause along the way was a pregnant one.

Page from "A Husband and a Wife" by Sammy Harkham

Page from "A Husband and a Wife" by Sammy Harkham

Sean T. Collins: Kramers Ergot 8 debuted at the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival in December, but your third baby debuted not long before that. That had to be a challenge.

Sammy Harkham: Knowing the baby’s coming, you work knowing that when that baby comes, things are gonna shut down. The book only got finished mid-September, and then the baby came. It was funny, because I drew my comic [for the anthology] when the book was done, basically. I thought, “I’ll do a simple issue of Kramers, I’ll do a story for it, and then I’ll get back to Crickets.” But editing, for me, is like working on my own book, as if it’s fully just me. I’m thinking about it day and night, and it’s hard for me to then think of a story within that if I don’t already have one that I’m working on. So at a certain point I decided I’m not going to be in the book. Then it was clear I needed to be in the book, because I wanted a very particular kind of story in it [laughs]. “I guess I’m gonna have to do it.” It was a flurry of activity August into September, then it was done, then the book was done, and then I was just…breathing, you know? But I felt like, “Oh man, I really should be working right now before the baby comes.” But since the baby came I’ve still been doing stuff. You know what it’s like: a lot of tricky hours, and getting used to weird working habits. You work for five minutes, but you try to make it a good five minutes. You try to break it up. And I try not to lose my temper. I get resentful of the people around me when they’re asking for my help and I’m in the middle of something. [Laughs] If I’m in the middle of writing or drawing something, I wanna finish the thought. So I’ve got to think of those Dalai Lama tweets I read earlier in the day. [Laughs] You’ve got to get into the headspace where you’re malleable in that way, you’re flexible.

But Kramers was late this year. Nadel wanted it in July, but I’ve never been able to deliver that book on time, never. This one was particularly hard because there were so few contributors, so I couldn’t lose anybody without it affecting the whole thing. Whereas in previous issues there are so many people that unless it’s a really big strip – it’s a shame to lose anything, you don’t want to lose anything, but you can. You can lose a one- or two-pager. But with this, if CF is running late, there’s nothing we can do. I told [PictureBox Publisher Dan] Nadel that up front: “I hope to get the book done on time, but if Panter’s not ready, if Christopher’s not ready, if any of these people aren’t ready, we can’t do anything.” [Laughs] We’re at the mercy of them, really.

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Stan Sakai participating in next Mouse Guard Legends anthology

Mouse Guard by Stan Sakai

Although the Mouse Guard series is David Petersen’s sandbox, he has been known to let others in to play with his toys. For instance, the first Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard series featured stories by Ted Naifeh, Gene Ha, Jeremy Bastian and many others.

We know that a second volume of the anthology series is in the works, and it looks like one of the contributors will be Stan Sakai, who shares one of his pages on his LiveJournal. Sakai of course has been doing Usagi Yojimbo for decades now, so it isn’t surprising to see him drawing anthropomorphic characters, but it is a rare treat to see his work in color (beyond the Usagi covers, of course, and the occasional graphic novel or anthology submission).

Nexus returns in Dark Horse Presents #12

Nexus by Steve Rude

This year was not only a challenging one for artist Steve Rude, but it also marked the 30th anniversary of his and Mike Baron’s Nexus. So it’s great that it is ending with a bit of good news for the artist — Dark Horse Comics announced this week that the Eisner Award-winning duo will bring their popular creation back to comics next May in Dark Horse Presents #12.

“Nexus has never been a stranger to different publishers. Last seen under the Rude Dude banner in 2009, Nexus has stayed in limbo, never quite knowing when to return, or if he ever would return. Things come together in strange ways. With the backing of Mike Richardson of Dark Horse Comics, Nexus will return to comics,” Rude said in a press release. “We especially look forward to the response of Nexus’s devoted fans, and thank them for the wonderful support and encouragement they’ve given us since the book’s debut in 1981!”

Nexus was first published in 1981 by Capital Comics. Since then, it’s been published by First Comics, Dark Horse and Rude’s own Rude Dude Productions. Dark Horse has collected most of the material in several archive editions.

Food or Comics? | Jason Conquers Amaretto

Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a “Splurge” item.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes

Graeme McMillan

As we head into Christmas, I’m saving my pennies for last-minute presents. That said, if I had $15 to spend, I’d run towards Memorial #1 (IDW, $3.99), the debut of the new fantasy series by Chris Roberson and Rich Ellis. I admit to having sneaked a peak at this particular present, and I really enjoyed the tone, which is somewhere between Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who and some of Neil Gaiman’s work. I’d also grab Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes #1 (DC, $6.99), the collection of what was supposed to be the final issues of Grant Morrison’s run on the Batman, Inc. series before the relaunch; I’d enjoyed Batman Incorporated a lot, and am ready for more of the weird, retro-but-somehow-off series again, especially with lovely Cameron Stewart and Chris Burnham artwork.

If I had $30, I’d also grab Fantagraphics’ Jason Conquers America ($4.99), a collection of some of the cartoonist’s work that’s so far gone unseen in the US, along with pin-up tributes from fans like Mike Allred and Rich Tommaso. My nostalgia would then compel me to grab Defenders: Coming of the Defenders #1 (Marvel, $5.99), a reprint of the original stories that launched the fondly remembered (and just relaunched) non-team. Hulk groove on old comics.

Were I to ask Santa for something to splurge on, I might go completely left-field and ask for John Byrne’s much-maligned Spider-Man: Chapter One TP (Marvel, $34.99), which I’ve never actually read, but have a strange fascination with. Would that make me naughty or nice?

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Zack Soto premieres Study Group Magazine

And while we’re on the subject of big BCGF news, how’s this: Cartoonist and editor Zack Soto has announced the launch of Study Group Magazine, with a first issue slated to debut at the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival on December 3rd. Spinning out of Soto’s long-running Studygroup12 anthology (the last issue of which debuted at last year’s BCGF) and co-edited by Soto and former Comics Journal editor Milo George, Study Group Magazine will include both comics and comics journalism. On the latter score, the first issue will feature an interview with Craig Thompson by George, an interview with cover artist Eleanor Davis by Soto, and a profile of Brecht Evens by Greice Schneider. As for the comics themselves, look for contributions from Soto, Michael DeForge, Jonny Negron, Trevor Alixopulos, David King, Aidan Koch, Daria Tressler, Chris Cilla, Malachi Ward, and Jennifer Parks. And be sure to visit Soto’s blog for some gorgeous purple-and-yellow two-tone preview art.

Food or Comics? | Vess, Wonder Woman, Mudman and more

Mudman

Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a “Splurge” item.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Graeme McMillan

What’s that, you say? Paul Grist’s new Mudman series starts this week (#1, Image Comics, $3.50)? Well, that’s how I’m starting my $15 haul this week. While I’m at it, let’s add Avengers Origins: Luke Cage #1 (Marvel, $3.99) and Kirby Genesis: Captain Victory #1 (Dynamite, $3.99), before finishing up with the third issue of Wonder Woman (DC, $2.99) for a superheroic week that goes from the earth to the gods, with some blaxploitation and aliens thrown in the middle for flavor.

DC would dominate the other half of my budget if I had $30. I’d be grabbing the third issues of Green Lantern Corps, Justice League and Supergirl ($2.99 each, except Justice League for $3.99), but I’m surprising myself as much as anyone else by grabbing The Bionic Man #4 (Dynamite, $3.99) for my final pick – I read the first three issues in a bunch this weekend and really enjoyed the book to date much more than I’d been expecting.

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pood to cease publication with issue #4

As a newspaper broadsheet it was always able to do so literally, but now the alternative comics anthology pood has folded in the unfortunately metaphorical sense. Writing on the pood blog, co-founder and co-editor Geoff Grogan says the publication’s fourth issue will be its last.

Through pood, editors Grogan, Kevin Mutch, and Alex Rader published a wide array of challenging, often unfashionable altcomix work, by creators ranging from Jim Rugg to Hans Rickheit to (in the anthology’s fourth and final issue) DC and Dick Tracy artist Joe Staton. But Grogan says that the project, always a labor of love, was a quixotic one in today’s marketplace: Its unconventional newsprint format, uncommercial contents, and budget-necessitated lack of a dedicated PR person made it impossible to generate enough revenue to continue the series.

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Incoming | A roundup of publishing news

It seems like my Google Reader and email box are getting full, so here’s a quick roundup of several new and new-ish announcements and information about upcoming comics and graphic novels.

The Twelve

• Marvel has announced plans to finally release the last few issues of The Twelve, starting in January. “It’s taken a long while, but finally, FINALLY, the balance of The Twelve has been completed and we’re ready to ship it all to our long-suffering fans,” said Tom Brevoort, senior vice president and execuitve editor. “We appreciate everybody’s patience, and both hope and expect that the conclusion will live up to the wait. And for folks who missed out the first time, we’re making it easy to get back on board no matter how much or how little of the previous eight issues you may have already read, though the release of the softcover trade paperback of the first six issues, and a Marvel Must-Have containing #7 and #8. So you’ve got no excuse not to experience one of the best reviewed, best beloved and long-awaited series Marvel has ever produced as it reaches its ultimate climax.”

• Fantagraphics has released their publishing catalog for Spring/Summer 2012, which includes their first two EC Comics collections, Gary Panter’s Dal Tokyo, more manga from Shimura Takako and Moto Hagio, and new volumes of Peanuts, Mickey Mouse, Carl Barks, Captain Easy, among others. The full catalog is available as a PDF.

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Robot 6 Q&A | Art Comix pay tribute to the 1990s in Rub the Blood

Rub the Blood

One of the more interesting projects to pop up on Kickstarter lately is Rub the Blood, “an Art Comix tabloid that explores the lasting influence (for better or worse) of the Early 90’s Collector Boom comics of Rob Liefeld, Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, etc. on today’s most fringe underground cartoonists.”

Co-edited by Pat Aulisio and Ian Harker, the project fittingly draws its name from a 1990s cover gimmick and features contributions from a variety of art comix pros. In addition to Aulisio and Harker, contributors include Josh Bayer, William Cardini, Victor Cayro, PB Kain, Keenan Marshall Keller, Peter Lazarski, Benjamin Marra, Jim Rugg, Thomas Toye and Mickey Z. Rub the Blood will debut at the 2011 Brooklyn Comics & Graphics Fest.

Aulisio and Harker were kind enough to share a few thoughts and details about the project and its inspiration with me; my thanks for their time.

JK: Where did the idea originate to put this anthology together?

Ian: It’s been something we’ve kicked around in various shapes and forms for a few years now. The joke was that one day Rob Liefeld will be just as adored among the art comix crowd as Fletcher Hanks is now.

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Brandon Graham finds his Voice in Dark Horse Presents #7

The Speaker

Here’s a nice Christmas present — Brandon Graham is doing a new story in Dark Horse Presents #7, which arrives in shops Dec. 21. I didn’t realize until Dark Horse called it out that Graham has a story in that issue, titled “The Speaker.”

“A man loses his voice—his voice goes off to see the world,” Graham said about the story. “Years later the man dies and the voice that walks like a man hears the news and returns home. The Voice has to deal with all the personifications of the man’s doubts, secrets and ideas that are left behind. It’s got doubts using tuning forks like guns and ideas that smash the light bulbs over their heads like they were bottles in a bar fight.”

In addition to “The Speaker,” Dark Horse Presents #7 also features new Age of Reptiles and Skeleton Key material, as well as a “Hellboy in Mexico” story by Mike Mignola.

Take a peak at James Kochalka’s ‘Attract Mode’ from the Devastator

from Attract Mode

The fourth issue of the humor anthology The Devastator arrives Nov. 9, and the theme for this issue is video games, It includes contributions from James Kochalka, Danny Hellman, Corey Lewis and many more. Above is a brief taste of Kochalka’s contribution; if you’d like to see the whole thing, you can find a preview of a few pages from the book on their site. And hey, if you pre-order it before Nov. 9, you’ll get a mystery prize!

A trailer for the book is available after the jump.

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Ryan Mita on the making of Minimum Paige

One of the most intriguing comics I picked up at the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo a few weeks back was Minimum Paige, an anthology produced by the Harvard Bookstore and printed in-house on their print-on-demand machine, Paige M. Gutenborg. I checked in with editor Ryan Mita to get the story behind the stories.

Brigid Alverson: First of all, tell me about Paige M. Gutenborg—what is it and what can it do?

Ryan Mita: Paige M. Gutenborg is a book machine and fantastic opportunity for artists to custom print their works. Books must be over 40 pages long, there is no minimum print run and artists can design the book anyway they like.

In addition to custom printing, Paige can print nearly five million titles, including Google Books in the public domain, and later this fall, HarperCollins will make 5,000 backlist titles available.

We’re excited about the future of bookselling and Paige keeps Harvard Book Store a step ahead.

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The Sequential Goose | A short chat with Scott C.

From Scott C's 'Pop Goes the Weasel'

All this week at Robot 6 we’re interviewing some of the many contributors to First Second’s new anthology, Nursery Rhyme Comics. In today’s final installment, Chris Mautner talks to cartoonist Scott C.

If anyone in this new anthology seemed like a “must-get,” it surely was the cartoonist known as Scott C., a.k.a. Scott Campbell. His charming, anthropomorphic — and frequently sardonic — work, whether found in video games made by Double Fine Studios, in comics like Hickee and the Flight anthologies, or in his new book, Amazing Everything: The Art of Scott C. seems perfectly suited to the off-kilter, frequently surreal world that nursery rhymes frequently seem to inhabit. The fact that he chose one of the most manic rhymes of the bunch — “Pop Goes the Weasel” — seems equally fitting.

How did you get involved in this particular project and what led to you selecting this particular nursery rhyme?

I’ve known Chris Duffy for awhile through Nickelodeon magazine. When he asked me to take part in the project, there were not many rhymes left. I chose Pop! Goes The Weasel because it is the most nonsensical of any of the rhymes and I thought it would be fun to pick apart.

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