I live north of Boston, and as I write, my front door is snowed shut (don’t worry, the neighbor kid is shoveling it out) and my car is immobilized behind a large berm of snow. The nameless blizzard of ’13 didn’t wreak any major damage in my area, but I’m going to be staying in for a while.
This doesn’t bother me; I grew up in Northern Indiana, where you could count on being completely snowed in at least once a winter, and we sort of liked it. It clears a space in your life; when you can’t go out and most of the activity in the outside world has stopped, it’s a great time to light a fire, pour the drink of your choice (for me it’s hot tea) and hunker down with a good book. Here are six graphic novels that evoke that winter feeling, all of which are equally enjoyable whether you are reading them by a snowy window or on the beach.
Chikyu Misaki | This three-volume manga, published many years ago by the now-defunct CMX, is a charming all-ages story about two children who find a shape-shifting lake monster in their country town. It’s structured like a caper movie, but one of the things I really enjoy about it is Yūji Iwahara’s wonderful art, which perfectly evokes the feeling of a country house on a snowy day. You’ll have to pick it up used or from the library, though, as it’s long out of print.
Awards | Two titles from First Second won the graphic novel categories in the 2011 Cybils Awards, literary honors given by bloggers who write about children’s and young-adult books: Ben Hatke’s Zita the Spacegirl received the graphic novel prize in the Elementary & Middle School category, while Vera Brosgol’s Anya’s Ghost won in the Young Adult division. [Cybils]
Digital | With the Vita on the way, Sony is shutting down its PSP comics service, and users will lose their comics come September. [Gameranx]
Graphic novels | Craig Thompson’s Blankets made Oprah’s list of the eight greatest love stories of all time, taking its place alongside Brokeback Mountain and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. [Oprah.com]
It’s an annual tradition to look forward to: The alternative comics publisher Top Shelf has unveiled its “Massive $3 Sale,” in which they’re pricing down their catalog to near-ridiculous levels — in many cases $3, and in many more cases just one lousy American dollar. For very little money, you can rack up a big chunk of one of the best comics publishers’ best comics.
What would I get? At the $3 level, Kolbeinn Karlsson’s The Troll King — a surreal collection of intertwined short stories that for once lives up to the overused, rarely true label “fairy tales for grown-ups” — is basically a must-buy. I’d also be sure to pick up Andy Hartzell’s Fox Bunny Funny, an unpredictable and impeccably cartooned funny-animal allegory about conformity and self-discovery. Lilli Carré’s remarkably assured debut collection of satirical short stories, Tales of Woodsman Pete, is another no-brainer. If you’re interested in rounding out your Alan Moore collection with some of his more off-the-beaten-path efforts, you can get all eight issues of his underground-culture zine Dodgem Logic, his prose novel Voice of the Fire, and his poetry/photography collaboration with José Villarubia The Mirror of Love for three bucks a pop. And you can pick up all three issues of Jeffrey Brown’s one-man action anthology series Sulk — Bighead & Friends, a return to his genuinely funny superhero parody characters; Deadly Awesome, an 84-page mixed martial arts fight comic; and The Kind of Strength That Comes from Madness, a grab bag of sci-fi/fantasy/action/adventure spoofs — for a buck apiece, which is a steal.
Beyond the deepest discounts, you’ll rarely find the publisher’s heavy (literally–these books are big) hitters priced as low as they are now: Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell, Campbell’s Alec: The Year’s Have Pants omnibus, and Jeff Lemire’s complete Essex County are all $20, while Craig Thompson’s Blankets is just $22.50.
And hey, if you’re totally new to all of these books, so much the better. Maybe DC’s New 52 initiative has you in an “I’ll try anything for $3 a book” mood? If so, put a few bucks aside and get some full-fledged graphic novels for that price or lower. You’ll be glad you did.
Top Shelf will debut three new books at the San Diego Comic-Con later this month, including the new Nate Powell book, new League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Infinite Kung Fu. In addition, James Kochalka will at their booth with his entire family signing a special family portrait print, and Craig Thompson will sign the new hardcover and softcover editions of Blankets.
Check out the debuts below.
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Vol III): Century #2 – 1969
by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is back! Our merry metafictional marauders continue their bestselling adventures through the 20th century! In this volume, the League must battle dark cultists amid the sit-ins, sitars, and psychedelics of 1960s swinging London.
It sounds like some of his blog’s readers found this out before he did, but Blankets author Craig Thompson has revealed that his looooooooong-awaited fantasy graphic novel Habibi will be released on Sept. 20 by Pantheon. “The book will be $29.95 — 672 b&w pages — clothbound hardcover with stamped gold foil, and look something like the mock-up above,” Thompson writes. It will come out just one day before Thompson’s 36th birthday.
It’s difficult to describe the impact of Thompson’s last bona fide graphic novel, the 2003 memoir Blankets, to people who weren’t there to feel it. (Though God knows I’ve tried.) This is hard to imagine in a world where your bookshelves can groan under the weight of Bottomless Belly Button, A Drifting Life, If ‘n Oof et al, but at the time this Top Shelf release was the longest original graphic novel ever published; its mere existence was a statement about the future of the medium. And it’s equally difficult to describe just how hard its story of finding and losing first love and religious faith while growing up amid the snows of the conservative upper-Midwest hit with readers, many of whom had never cracked open a comic without being harangued by true believers. My wife, whose prior experience with comics was pretty much limited to stuff I’d force her to read, started flipping through it on the kitchen table one day, read it in one sitting, and eventually got a picture from it tattooed on her person, let’s put it that way. Thompson followed the book up with Carnet de Voyage, a 2004 travelogue recounting his experiences touring Europe in support of Blankets and Northern Africa as research for his already nascent next project Habibi, but Habibi itself is really the “next Craig Thompson book” for which fans have been waiting. And God help us all, but its long-discussed filtering of Middle Eastern and Muslim culture through an epic fantasy lens remains as timely as it was when Thompson concocted the idea during the first term of the Bush Administration. I can’t wait to read it.
Anyway, click the link to see a whole bunch of cover designs that didn’t make the cut over at Thompson’s blog.
As 2009 draws to a close we’re practically awash in Best Comics of the Year and/or Decade lists. But when it comes to breaking down the books that made a difference this decade, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and a pair of sites have developed novel approaches to the traditional decade-ender.
First up is Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter. This year he’s aiming his annual Holiday Interview Series squarely at “emblematic” books from 2000-2009 — “by which we mean favorite, representative or just plain great” — by hosting discussions with a series of critics, each one focusing on one particular book. So far he’s tackled Mat Brinkman’s monster-mash Multiforce with writer/artist/critic/bon vivant Frank Santoro, and Craig Thompson’s rapturous romance ‘n’ religion memoir Blankets with me. Further installments will roll out on (I believe) a daily basis until the New Year. If you’re the sort of person who loves to really dig into what makes a great graphic novel tick, these are for you.
Next we have Marvel’s Ben Morse, DC’s Rickey Purdin, and CBR’s own Kiel Phegley, who collectively park their online presence at The Cool Kids Table. In their ongoing look back entitled “Our Comics Decade,” the trio take a look at one comic per year that impacted their view of the medium. So far they’ve covered 2000, 2001, and 2002, and recounted their experiences with books ranging from Scott Lobdell’s Uncanny X-Men to Jeffrey Brown’s Clumsy. Personal and aesthetic history have a tendency to mix and match in unexpected and interesting ways, and it’s fascinating to watch these guys spill the beans on how it happened in their lives in such a methodical way.
So go, click the links and curl up with (a good post on) a good book…