Having reflected back on the best (and most cruelly ignored) comics of the past year, it’s time to look forward. Here are six comics I’m really excited about reading this year. As usual, my list reflects my own alt-comix/alt-manga interests/biases. So let me know in the comments what titles I’ve been such a clod as to overlook.
If there is any true visionary in comics today, surely it is Jim Woodring. No one is able to plumb the horror and wonder of simply being alive in the same surreal and enigmatic fashion as Woodring, nor able to combine veer from whimsy to Lynchian terror at the drop of a hat. In graphic novels like Weathercraft and Congress of the Animals, he has shown himself to be not only a (wordless) storyteller of the highest order, but one whose stories feel both warmly familiar and totally alien at the same time — no small feat.
Woodring’s latest book is Problematic, from Fantagraphics, a collection of sketchbook drawings made between 2004 and 2012 on a series of pocket-sized Moleskine books. Ranging from concept sketches to figure studies to caricatures to the sort of phantasmagorical creatures that populate his universes, Problematic is both a stroll through Woodring’s unique imagination and an opportunity to see his working process — to see the “idea batteries” (as the press release calls it) up close and personal.
Woodring was kind enough to answer a barrage of questions I threw at him about Problematic, as well as his next, upcoming graphic novel Fran, a sequel to Congress of the Animals. I could have spent weeks pestering him with questions, and I’m grateful for taking the time to respond.
Events | Richard Pachter surveys the graphic novel scene at Miami Book Fair International, which this year will include appearances by Chris Ware, Derf Backderf, Marjorie Liu, Dan Parent and Chip Kidd, among others. [The Miami Herald]
Events | A group of Canadian creators and publishers are in Tokyo right now for the International Comics Festa, where they are selling an anthology that includes work by Darwyn Cooke, Bryan Lee O’Malley, and Seth. Manga blogger Deb Aoki is there too, and she has all the details. [About.com]
Apparently, 2000AD group editor Matt Smith has nixed this Judge Dredd cover by Jason Latour. The specter of Frank Miller’s ill-fated cover commission was apparently raised. This must remain a sore subject with Tharg. Personally, I like this image, and can’t see anything wrong with it, but then, I’ve berated Smith for playing it safe with his art choices before and probably will again. More problematic work below — Steve Rude takes a controversial gig; Gary Erskine risks a stay in the Tower for treason; Graeme Neil Reid illustrates the most violent, foulmouthed superheroes of them all; Jim Woodring takes my theme’s title and makes it concrete, and more. And as usual, you may reckon some of this material is NSFW.
Fantagraphics has made a number of notable publishing announcements over the past few weeks, but the new release of its spring/fall catalog reveals even more intriguing books coming down the pike next year. I thought I’d take it upon myself to run through what I feel are some of the more interesting titles scheduled for 2013, avoiding some of the more expected titles, like the new Donald Duck or Steve Ditko collections, or paperback editions of previously released material. If all goes well, I hope to do this sort of thing again with other small press publishers as we get closer to the end of the year.
The Amazing, Enlightening and Absolutely True Adventures of Katherine Whaley by Kim Deitch. Deitch’s latest graphic novel (his first original one, his previous works having been serialized in anthologies and other series) concerns a young actress in early 20th century America who gets a plum role in a movie serial, only to discover all is not what it seems. Could alleged recordings of Christ made centuries before the invention of recorded sound be somehow involved? Could be! Printed in landscape format to give that “widescreen” feel. April, $29.99.
Bread and Wine by Samuel R. Delaney and Mia Wolff. Apparently this was published back in 1999, although this is the first time I’ve ever heard of it. Famed science-fiction author Delaney chronicles his romance with a young homeless man, with Wolff providing art. April, $14.99
The Alternative Press Expo, or APE, returns to the Concourse Exhibition Center in San Francisco this weekend. The show’s special guests are Groo creator Sergio Aragonés, Flood creator Eric Drooker, all three legendary Hernandez Brothers, The Cardboard Valise creator Ben Katchor, jobnik! creator Miriam Libicki, and Weathercraft creator and giant pen owner Jim Woodring, all of whom have spotlight panels over the course of the two days. In addition, other guests attending the show include Shannon Wheeler, Stan Mack, Justin Hall, Derek Kirk Kim, Jason Shiga, Thien Pham, Jamaica Dyer and many more.
In addition to the spotlight panels, the show has panels on politics and comics, censorship, queer cartoonists and a “Gigantes” meet-up with the Hernandez Bros. and Aragones. They also have workshop panels if you’re interested in making comics and a “creator connection” that allows aspiring creators to find writers or artists to work with.
The show is usually one of my favorites of the year, mainly because it’s so easy going and loaded with opportunities to discover something new and cool. Here’s a round-up of some of the folks you can see and buy cool stuff from at the show, as well as things to do inside and outside of the Concourse:
Now available On Demand, the documentary Comic Book Independents by director Chris Brandt receives wider distribution at an interesting time. In the midst of a migration of comic book creators from work-for-hire to creator-owned projects, and just as a renewed discussion about creator rights gains momentum, this documentary offers fascinating insight on what it means to go it alone in comics.
It’s not your usual comics documentary, and if you’re a creative type yourself, or are interested by those who are, you’ll probably find yourself inspired. Framed by information from cognitive psychologist Dr. James Kaufman, the human process of creativity as it is realized in comics is broken down and explored by some of the art form’s most interesting thinkers and voices.
Publishing | Heidi MacDonald catches word that Top Cow Publisher Filip Sablik is moving on to a new job, which will be announced next month at Comic-Con International (Rich Johnston contends that gig is at BOOM! Studios). Friday will be Sablik’s last day at Top Cow; Social Marketing Coordinator Jessi Reid will assume his marketing duties. [The Beat, Bleeding Cool]
Creators | Through its partnership with the Small Press Expo, the Library of Congress has acquired works by cartoonists Matt Bors, Keith Knight, Jim Rugg, Jen Sorensen, Raina Telgemeier, Matthew Thurber and Jim Woodring. Dean Haspiel’s minicomics collection was added to the holdings just last week. [Comic Riffs]
Awards | The Guy Davis short story “The Phototaker” has been removed from the 2012 Eisner Awards ballot after it was determined to be ineligible. “The ‘Phototaker’ Eisner nomination was a mix up,” Davis wrote on Twitter. ” Jackie Estrada messaged me after I posted asking about the original English version, which came out in Metal Hurlant #9 (2003). So it’s not eligible for the 2012 Eisner nomination and has been removed. Thanks for all the congratulations yesterday, but I’m happy to clear this up and have it removed from the running.” [Eisner Awards]
Publishing | DC Comics’ Senior Vice President of Sales Bob Wayne and Vice President of Marketing John Cunningham respond to March’s direct-market sales estimates, which saw Marvel claim three of the Top 10 spots after a February shutout. “We are pleased that we gained share, and we never expected that we would hold ten out of ten at the top of the chart for ever,” Wayne said. “I think it is better for the business if everybody is firing on all cylinders, that our competitors are doing interesting things, and we are doing interesting things. It keeps everybody on their toes and it keeps enthusiasm in the readership. The retailers remain involved wanting to make sure that they have enough of everything. I think it’s a good thing all around.” [ICv2.com]
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Today our special guest is Ivan Salazar, public relations and marketing manager for Studio 407.
To see what Ivan and the Robot 6 crew have been reading (and playing), click below.
The Los Angeles Times Book Prize judges have released their list of finalists for the 2011 prizes, and here are the five nominees for best graphic novel:
- I Will Bite You! And Other Stories, by Joseph Lambert (Secret Acres)
- Celluloid, by Dave McKean (Fantagraphics)
- Finder: Voice, by Carla Speed McNeil (Dark Horse)
- Congress of the Animals, by Jim Woodring (Fantagraphics)
- Garden, by Yuichi Yokoyama (PictureBox)
This is only the third year that there has been a graphic novel category, and it’s worth noting that this is the second time one of Jim Woodring’s books has been a finalist; last year it was Weathercraft. Also, while the selection is quite eclectic, five out of the 15 nominees in the past three years have been from Fantagraphics, which gives an inkling of the judges’ tastes.
I’d imagine Mad magazine artist Jack Davis isn’t the first thing you think of when Valentine’s Day rolls around. But in ’50s and ’60s, he produced a stunning set of Valentine’s Day cards that would make Hallmark blush. And now comics publisher Fantagraphics is honoring those with a holiday-timed exhibition featuring Davis’ work along with other artists inspired by it.
Set to kick off Saturday, Feb. 11 at the Fantagraphics Bookstore in Seattle, the exhibition will include works by Peter Bagge, Johnny Ryan, Jim Woodring, Matthew Southworth and others. Davis himself will appear live via Skype at 6:30 p.m. Saturday from his home in Georgia. The exhibit itself is set to run through March 7, so even if you miss opening night you have a chance to see this unique collection of heart-themed art.
So if you’re Seattle-based and looking for something special for your loved one, consider swinging by Fanta’s bookstore. While you’re there, the surrounding district is hosting a number of visual and performing arts presentations as part of Georgetown Art Attack.
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]
Bad as things can get, there is solace to be found in the fact that we do not live in the cold-blooded realm of the swiftly mutating amphibian.
—Master cartoonist Jim Woodring (Weathercraft, Congress of the Animals, The Frank Book) looks on the bright side. And indeed, in a time when influential comics creators are tearing the internet apart with every digitized utterance, it’s nice to find something on which we can all agree. I would prefer not to be a frog-man getting trampled to death by a frog-horse — I am the 99 percent.
This aphorism and the accompanying image above were posted to Woodring’s blog under the title “NIGHTMARISH SKETCH,” and who are we to argue about that characterization?
He’s debuted stunning, moving original graphic novels two years in a row (Weathercraft, one of the year’s best books, in 2010, and The Congress of the Animals this year), while his compendium The Frank Book has recently returned to print. But Jim Woodring is not one to rest on his laurels where his funny-animal protagonist Frank is concerned. Lately he’s been posting breathtaking images like the one you see above to his blog on a surprisingly regular basis. They appear to show Frank up to his old mischievous tricks, and to augur another Frank book on the horizon. Check them out here and here, and marvel that a cartoonist of Woodring’s caliber is tossing these things out there for free like it ain’t no thing.