Leach’s big follow-up to 2011′s Pterodactyl Hunters is a very entertaining, tightly paced crime comic about two hoodlums living in Newark, New Jersey, in the early ’60s and the trouble they get into running “errands” for one of the local gangsters. I really liked the way Leach sets up the story, with a violent incident on a bus that quickly establishes the characters’ personalities and relationships to each other but also becomes an even more significant incident once you learn what those two were doing on that bus. Leach has an angular, slashing style that fits the grittiness of the material and also keeps the narrative moving a hurried clip, rarely taking a moment to pause. There’s at least one big plot hole that gave me pause (without spoiling anything, I find it difficult to believe that a certain ancillary character’s death would generate such a minor reaction from family members, friends and various authorities not on the take). A bit more perspective and varied viewpoints (it’s notable there’s no parental units to be found in Iron Bound) might have given the story a bit more depth, although it could also have easily slackened the book’s drumbeat pace. Overall, this is a sharp, strong book, a smart follow-up to Hunters and proof that Leach is a cartoonist to watch. The book even comes with a flexi-disc record to play during the story’s big fight/climax, a really terrific conceit, even if the nerd in me is hesitant to play it, for fear of damaging the book’s “mint” condition (you never know what might be worth money some day).
Failure (Alternative Comics): Faithful readers of ROBOT 6 may recall the name of cartoonist Karl Stevens from a fall 2012 story about his Boston Phoenix strip Failure being canceled after an installment referred to Bud Light — one of the paper’s advertisers — as “diluted horse piss.” The Phoenix denied this at the time, and, coincidentally, several months later ceased publication all together (after a brief time in which it was split into five different newspapers with five different editors — Cyclops, Emma Frost, Namor, Colossus and Magik — until Cyclops assumed control over all five papers and it took the combined might of all of the Avengers to stop him … there’s a comic book joke for you!).
While that history may not be particularly relevant to readers, Stevens covers his side of the incident in his introduction to the Failure collection, which packages the final installments of his strip — right up to, and a few past, the “horse piss” one — into 150 pages of gorgeously drawn material.
What is important is that this is some great work, of the must-read variety. Failure, at this point in its existence, had become a sort of slice-of-life strip, with one to four panels devoted to anecdotes from his own life, including his relationship with his girlfriend, funny things his friends said or funny things he overheard. There are, additionally, plenty of flights of fancy starring his descendant in the far-flung future, and recurring characters like Bongbot, a time-traveling robot bong, and Pope Cat, a cat who is also the pope (if I’ve got that right).
What keeps Failure from being as mundane as you might imagine it, based on how I just described its premise, is what an incredible artist Stevens is. He works in a lush, highly detailed, representational style, as if he were drawing portraits rather than cartoons. Check this out:
Right now, you can read two great new comics by respected creators online — provided you can read their languages.
Did you take French in college? Then head to Guy Delisle’s blog, where you can enjoy the goofy humor of Le guide du mauvais père (roughly, “Guide for the bad dad”). You really don’t have to be briefed in the particulars of the perfect tense, or even too well acquainted with Dr. and Mrs. Vandertramp, to enjoy these comics; the language is straightforward and the visuals do a lot of the heavy lifting, at least in the strips I read. (Click each of the cartoons on the linked page to get a short story.)
A few weeks ago we looked at Fantagraphics publishing plans for 2013. Today I thought it might be worthwhile to peek into Drawn & Quarterly’s crystal ball and see what they have in store. I skipped over some re-releases and new volumes of expected material — a new Moomin collection, a paperback release of Paying for It — mainly because I’m lazy.
You’re Just Jealous of My Jetpack by Tom Gauld. Gauld’s weekly comic gets the fancy book deal. Expect lots of really funny riffs on history and pop culture in Gauld’s stone-faced, deadpan style. January, $19.95.
Guy Delisle has posted an improv comic he did with Goliath creator Tom Gauld at the BD & Comics Passion convention in London a few weeks ago. Although Delisle usually takes on serious subjects, such as life in Burma and in Jerusalem, this comic shows his goofy side, as he and Gauld disguise themselves and generally act awkward. (Note: The blog post is in French but the comic is in English.)
Welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly rundown of what comics and other stuff we’ve been checking out recently. Today our special guest is cartoonist Austin English, creator of the graphic novel Christina and Charles and publisher of Domino Books.
To see what Austin and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Comics | With the success of The Avengers film, Kendall Whitehouse discusses the narrative techniques comics have “explored and exploited,” including “multi-issue story arcs, crossovers, team-ups, reboots and multiple title tie-ins,” noting they not only help sell more comics but also have blazed the trail for complex stories: “The story has now become a world unto its own that allows the reader to explore whichever dimensions are of the greatest interest. Follow the events from the perspective of Iron Man or Thor. Or just peruse the core series and ignore the supplementary story elements. The series presents a nearly unbounded narrative universe for the reader to experience. It is easy to interpret this with a cynical eye as nothing more than a series of cheap marketing tactics designed to pump sales. And yet, when well executed, something larger emerges.” [Knowledge@Wharton Today]
Retailing | Saturday’s Free Comic Book Day also served as the grand opening for Aw Yeah Comics, a store in Skokie, Illinois, owned (as the name suggests) by Tiny Titans creators Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani and retail veteran Marc Hammond. [Skokie Review, Time Out Chicago]
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.
If I had $15, I’d go all-in on AvX: Vs #1 (Marvel, $3.99). As a story format-junkie, this seems like an ideal supplemental series to the event comic series as we know it – I may have read it wrong, but this seems low on continuity and high on action – kind of a throwback to the condensed comics of the ’60s, I hope. And seeing Kathryn and Stuart Immonen on this together is a big deal – wish they’d get more chances like this! Next up would be the finale of The Twelve, #12 (Marvel, $2.99). I argued with myself about waiting for the trade at this point, but at the end of the day I’m more interested in this than a lot of everything else going on out there. Plus, I bought the eleven previous issues so I should finish it out, right? Next up would be Spaceman #6 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99). I’m finding this series benefits from a deeper re-reading prior to each new issues, but it’s paying off in spades in terms of my enjoyment. This is definitely a palate cleanser after Azzarello and Risso’s run on 100 Bullets, but in a good way. Finally, I’d get Daredevil #11 (Marvel, $2.99). The Eisner Awards judges got this one right when they piled nominations on this book, because Waid, Martin, and Rivera have really made the quintessential superhero book here. The fill-ins from Khoi Pham and Marco Checchetto seem off-putting, but they’ve earned some lee-way after the murderer’s row of creators who started the book. Can’t wait to see Samnee on this, however.
If I had $30, I’d start off with an interesting looking project that’s gotten no press – Airboy: Deadeye #1 (Antarctic Press, $3.50). Chuck Dixon and Ben Dunn — what a pairing. After that I’d go back to get Supercrooks #2 (Marvel/Icon, $2.99); Mark Millar knows how to sell a high-concept, but it’s Leinil Yu that’s making me come back past the first issue. After that would be an Avengers two-fer: New Avengers #25 (Marvel, $3.99) and Secret Avengers #26 (Marvel, $3.99). I dropped off New a few issues back, but with this new issue covering some never-before-seen connections between Iron Fist and the Phoenix Force, I’m back in for this one. And Secret Avengers, well, Remender’s on a roll with his Marvel work and this is continuing on that without being an Uncanny X-Force retread. And guest artist Renato Guedes seems a better fit for this than his work on Wolverine.
If I could splurge, I’d lunge for a copy of The Art of Amanda Conner (IDW/Desperado, $29.99). I was fortunate enough to get a digital review copy of this earlier, and seeing it like that only made me want this more. Rather than just being a template art book plugging in her work, the design and packaging really go along with what you’d expect from Amanda’s tongue-in-cheek comic style. Reading this makes me want to go back and track down her earlier work that I missed.
Best of Enemies: A History of U.S. and Middle East Relations, Part One 1783-1953
by Jean-Pierre Filiu and David B.
Self Made Hero, 120 pages, $24.95
Perhaps it’s just the tenor of the times (quite likely) or perhaps it’s the influence of Joe Sacco (not quite as likely but still a possibility) but there’s been a lot of graphic novels focusing on the Middle East lately. In the realm of fiction there’s Craig Thompson’s Habibi, G. Willow Wilson and M.K. Perker’s Cairo and the various works of Marjane Satrapi. In the realm of nonfiction, there’s Sacco’s own Footnotes from Gaza. and Sarah Glidden’s How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less. Now two new books have joined the conversation on the nonfiction side of things: Guy Delisle’s Jerusalem and Best of Enemies, from historian Jean-Pierre Filiu and Epileptic author David B.
Thanks to our friends at The Forbidden Planet blog for pointing us to this trailer for filmmaker Philip Rashleigh’s documentary about Guy Delisle. Here’s the blurb:
Captured over the course of a 1 year period in the south of France, the film follows the gradual realization of Guy’s latest travelogue ‘Jerusalem Chronicles’ and includes an in-depth look at Shenzhen, Pyongyang, Burma Chronicles aswell as an intriguing insight into the rise of the independent graphic novel. Equally explored are Guy’s beginnings in animation, his studio, his inspiration, his career thus far and the travelogues that never saw print: Vietnam and Ethiopia.
The film is in French, but it’s subtitled, and it looks like a nice combo of watching the artist at work and hearing what he has to say about comics in general and his comics in particular.
Awards | The gold medal for Best Graphic Album at the Angoulême International Comics Festival went to Guy Delisle for Jerusalem, and the jury awarded a Special Prize to Jim Woodring for his Congress of the Animals. Veteran French creator Jean-Claude Denis was awarded the Grand Prix de la ville d’Angoulême, so he will preside over next year’s festival, as Art Spiegelman did this year. Two manga won awards as well: Kaoru Mori’s A Bride’s Story won the Intergenerational Award, and Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s autobiographical A Drifting Life received the World Outlook Award. The Heritage Award went to Glenat’s edition of Carl Barks’ Donald Duck. [Paris Match]
The Toronto Comic Arts Festival, one of the high points of the indy comics year, has announced the first round of guests for this year. It doesn’t seem to be up on the TCAF site just yet, but Tom Spurgeon has the rundown at The Comics Reporter, and it’s an impressive list: Jeff Smith, Alison Bechdel, Guy Delisle, and Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon are the headliners. Smith will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of Bone, while Bechdel’s Are You My Mother? and Delisle’s Jerusalem are both due out shortly before the show.
But wait! There’s more! Kate Beaton, German creator Arne Bellstorf, Scottish creator Tom Gauld (whose Goliath is due out soon from Drawn and Quarterly) Gabriella Giandelli, Jennifer and Matt Holm (Babymouse), Jason, Kazu Kibuishi (creator of Amulet and editor of the Flight anthologies), Bryan Lee O’Malley (Scott Pilgrim), Gary Panter, Michel Rabagliati, Andy Runton (Owly), Olivier Schrauwen, and Adam Warren (Empowered) will also be gracing the halls of the Toronto Reference Library this May. That’s an amazingly eclectic and talented group. If you have been thinking “Some day I’ll make it to TCAF,” this should probably be the year.
Publishing | The anime and manga company Bandai Entertainment will stop distributing new products in February, although its existing catalog will continue to be available until the licenses expire. The company will shift its focus to licensing its properties for digital distribution and merchandising. President and CEO Ken Iyadomi said the decision to shut down new-product operations was made by the Japanese parent company without his input, and he strongly implied the underlying problem was that the corporate parent wanted to charge more for its anime than the current market will bear. Bandai published the Lucky Star, Kannagi and Eureka Seven manga, among others; all new manga volumes have been canceled, which means Kannagi will be left incomplete, at least for now. [Anime News Network]
Awards | The finalists for the Cybils, the blogger’s literary awards for children’s and YA books, have been posted, and they include five nominations each in the children’s and YA graphic novel categories. [Cybils Awards]
On Saturday, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il made like untold hundreds of thousands of people in the country he immiserated over the course of his 17-year reign and died. To most of the rest of the world, he was a simultaneously clownish and sinister figure who enriched himself as the apex of a pyramid of Orwellian oppression and deprivation. Yet the spectacle of many of his former subjects abasing themselves with public grief over his passing is already making the meme rounds.
For comics readers, nothing can explain this paradoxical phenomenon better than Guy Delisle’s masterful travelogue Pyongyang, an account of the cartoonist’s time working at a North Korean animation studio. Publisher Drawn and Quarterly has posted a passage from the book that gives a sense of just how pervasive and intrusive a presence the Dear Leader was in the lives of North Koreans, with his face, name, and mostly bogus backstory visible in some way nearly everywhere you looked. Check out the excerpt, then do yourself a favor and make Pyongyang a last-minute stocking stuffer for yourself: It filters the totalitarian politics of North Korea and the controversy surrounding how best to handle it through a uniquely personal lens, and as an introduction to how the country works it’s tough to top.
Oh man, this was an unexpected treat to find in my Google Reader today: A six-page preview of comics memoirist-cum-journalist Guy Delisle’s upcoming travelogue Jerusalem, courtesy of Drawn and Quarterly. Delisle recounts a trip to an Israeli checkpoint as Palestinians attempt to pass through to attend Friday services at the al-Aqsa Mosque, and the resulting pages are a gorgeous demonstration of how to convey controlled chaos with a handful of lines and graytones. The full book, Delisle’s longest to date, comes out in April 2012.