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Comics College: Lewis Trondheim

Sequence from 'Mister O'

Sequence from 'Mister O'

Comics College is a monthly feature where we provide an introductory guide to some of the comics medium’s most important auteurs and offer our best educated suggestions on how to become familiar with their body of work.

Today we’ll be crossing the Atlantic to take a look at the one of the most prolific cartoonists of the past 30 years, either in Europe or America, Lewis Trondheim.

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The return of the Smurfs

New edition of The Purple Smurf

New edition of The Purple Smurf

The Smurfs are back! What, you didn’t know they ever left? Apparently the little blue guys have been out of print, at least in the U.S., for years, but NBM/Papercutz is bringing them back, with the first volume, The Purple Smurf, set to debut in August. (Incidentally, the Urban Dictionary has two definitions of “The Purple Smurf,” and neither of them is obscene. Go figure.)

Most people experienced the Smurfs as animated cartoons, rather than as comics, but that’s the origin — they first made their appearance in a Belgian kids’ comic in 1958. Jog, who broke the news (on a tip from Pedro Bouça), has more commentary, including the note that the purple Smurfs were actually black in the original comic; apparently the symbolism was too heavy-handed for the folks at Hanna-Barbera, who re-colored them in the animated cartoon.

NBM/Papercutz does a nice job when they bring European comics over here, except for a tendency to shrink them too much. At first glance, these look like full-size albums (like Tintin), but the type makes me think they are going to be smaller. The Amazon listings don’t give a trim size.

Robot reviews: Hotwire, Things Undone, Vatican Hustle, Missile Mouse and Copper

Hotwire Comics Vol. 3

Hotwire Comics Vol. 3

Hotwire Comics Vol. 3
Edited by Glenn Head
Fantagraphics Books, 138 pages, $22.99

Once again, Hotwire returns to attempt to fill in that edgy alt-comix niche that was so prominent in the 80s and early 90s and has seemingly been eclipsed by the more literary, rarefied indie comics of today (sort of). If for no other reason, this anthology should be lauded for giving folks like Mary Fleener and Mack White the opportunity to showcase their work, since no one else seems to be interested in doing so these days. There is always the occasional dull or misguided piece (David Paleo and David Sandlin’s work continues to fail to interest me), but the stellar work by folks like Michael Kupperman, R. Sikoryak, Onsmith, Johnny Ryan, Tim Lane and Mats!? make this well worth your time.

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Quote of the day | Terry Nantier, on NBM’s lack of Eisner nominations

“I know this is an ill-advised post, I shouldn’t be doing this. Suck it up, and shut up like I do every year when the noms are announced and we get crums. Well this year, we didn’t even get crums, we got nuthin’! And my frustration level has just reached boiling point. How about Rick Geary’s Treasury? Trondheim’s Little Nothings? The Dungeon series? Kleid and Cinquegrani’s The Big Khan? Year of Loving Dangerously by the comic industry’s favorite punching bag Ted Rall (but also beautifully illustrated by Pablo Callejo)? All of these and most of our books get outsized recognition from the press, online and off, including the growing contingent of online comics reviewers. These aren’t worth honoring? A number of titles got multiple nominations. WHY? With so much good stuff out there worth nominating, how about spreading the wealth, guys? Who do we need to give sexual favors to to get the recognition we and our authors deserve? Huh?”

–NBM publisher Terry Nantier, on NBM receiving no Eisner Award nominations this year

What Are You Reading?

D&D Player's Handbook

D&D Player's Handbook

Welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading. JK Parkin is off having fun at WonderCon, so it falls to me to handle this week’s column. Our special guest this week is New Zealand cartoonist Dylan Horrocks, who some of you might know as the author of the seminal graphic novel Hicksville, which was just re-released by Drawn & Quarterly.

To see what Dylan and the rest of us are reading hit the link below. Hard. Then let us  know what you yourself are perusing in the comments section.

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What are you reading?

Luna Park

Luna Park

Our guest this week is the esteemed critic Ng Suat Tong, who has written some quite memorable pieces for The Comics Journal, but lately can be found as a regular contributor to The Hooded Utilitarian blog.

To find out what Suat and the rest of us are reading, click on the link below. And don’t forget to let us know what you’re currently reading in the comments section.

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Robot reviews: The Year of Loving Dangerously

The Year of Loving Dangerously

The Year of Loving Dangerously

The Year of Loving Dangerously
by Ted Rall & Pablo G. Callejo
NBM, $18.95

For a brief time, in my supposed salad days, I had the alleged good fortune to date two different women at the same time. My friends frequently kidded me about my good luck, but the truth was I was absolutely miserable. Plagued by guilt, constantly shuttling between the two women, desperately trying to remember who was responsible for, say, the flowers left on my car, and knowing that sometime soon I was going to have to break one of their hearts, put an amount of stress on my shoulders that outweighed any supposed benefits. My behavior during that time still ranks as one of my biggest regrets.

Ted Rall doesn’t have that problem. In the 1980s he juggled, lied to and slept with numerous women, a fact he chronicles in his latest graphic novel, The Year of Loving Dangerously, without much angst on his part.

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Thin wallets, fat bookshelves: NBM’s early 2010 line-up

Dungeon Twilight Vol. 3

Dungeon Twilight Vol. 3

During the next month or two, we’ll be looking at various indie and small press publishers’ plans for the coming year. Today we’re taking a quick look at NBM. Based on material found on the company’s Web site, as well as some catalog pages they sent me, I’ve managed to come up with a quick rundown of their line-up for the first six months of the year. FYI: The dates are based off of the Web site, and not the catalog, which are off by a few months due to trade shipping dates (translation: comic stores get it first).

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What Are You Reading?

Criminal: The Sinners #2

Criminal: The Sinners #2

Here at What Are You Reading, we don’t let a little thing like a holiday weekend keep us from our comics, no sir. Nor do we stop blogging about them.

Our guest this week is David Brothers, who can be found saying interesting things about comics at 4th Letter. Want to find out what he’s reading this week? Me too!

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Robot reviews: hodge-podge time

Cold Heat 7/8

Cold Heat 7/8

Cold Heat 7/8
by Ben Jones and Frank Santoro
PictureBox Inc., 48 pages, $20.

This may be my favorite issue in the series so far, and I’m not sure I can easily articulate why. It’s hard at times for me to talk about this series without coming up with empty, awkward phrases and stumbling cliches. There’s something about hitting the time travel/memory wipe/reset plot button that appeals to me though, as protagonist Castle finds herself back at home and romancing a overly eager British music critic, though little has actually changed and dangerous aliens and evildoers are still lurking about.

Hitting that button must appeal greatly to Jones and Santoro as well, as they seem to be firing on all cylinders here. There’s an ever so slight shift in tone that brings plot and dialogue a little farther up center than it had been before, though little of the series’ sublime weirdness has been abandoned. Santoro offers some of his best compositions yet here; there’s more than a few pages here that are quite striking. I like how he tries to think of the page as an entire unit and not a collection of separate tiny panels that tell a story. Too few contemporary cartoonists, indie or otherwise, follow that example. I also like how he uses overlapping lines to suggest a character’s inner emotional state or provide different perspectives of the same scene. Meanwhile, Jones continues to show off his gift for hilarious, idiosyncratic dialogue. Twenty dollars may seem like a high price point (it’s due to a limited print run) but you know what they say about no good comic being too expensive? It’s true here.

Reviews of Dungeon and more after the jump.

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Thin wallets, fat bookshelves: A publishing news round-up

Little Nothings Vol. 3

Little Nothings Vol. 3

NBM announced over the weekend they will release a third volume in Lewis Trondheim’s autobiographical Little Nothings series. You can read samples of the work on the company’s blog.

• The University Press of Mississippi will be publishing My Life With Charlie Brown in April. It’s a collection of essays, lectures and articles by Peanuts creator Charles Schulz. If April seems to far away for you, this book is coming out next month.

• Fantagraphics unveils the covers for their next Krazy and Ignatz book (designed by Chris Ware), as well as the second volume of Prison Pit.

Van Jensen gives readers the scoop on the upcoming book tour for Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer and announces plans for a sequel in winter of next year.

• Speaking of SLG, they will be releasing an omnibus collection of Gene Yang’s early work, entitled Animal Crackers, in January.

The Kingdom of New York is a new book featuring essays and articles from the New York Observer magazine. It also sports a spiffy cover and interior art by Drew Friedman. And apparently Fantagraphics will be releasing a collection of Friedman’s celebrity portraits in summer of 2010.

• I don’t know if we caught this on the blog yet, but apparently Chuck Dixon and Gary Kwapisz are forming a publishing company devoted to historical comics.

Dash Shaw, who has redesigned his Web site, apparently completely reworked his 2006 book the Mother’s Mouth, cutting out pages and changing colors. The alternations are only for the French and Spanish editions, however, which seems a shame.

APE ’09 | Exhibit A, NBM, SLG and more

APE2009_Poster_170

The Alternative Press Expo, or APE, is coming up this weekend at The Concourse in San Francisco. The show runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Special guests include Jamaica Dyer, Phoebe Gloeckner, Dean Haspiel, Batton Lash, Lark Pien, Dash Shaw and Jeff Smith. I’ll be there covering the show, while Matt Maxwell will have a table to sell copies of Strangeways.

And over the next couple days, I’ll be posting what various companies and creators have planned for the show. If you’d like to be included, drop me the details on where you’ll be, what you’ll be selling and all that good stuff.

Exhibit A Press | Jackie Estrada dropped us a note about what Exhibit A Press (table 312) will have at the show, where special guest Batton Lash will be celebrating 30 years of Wolff & Byrd, Counselors of the Macabre.

“He’ll be signing the limited-edition Supernatural Law Tales from the Vault Anniversary Special as well as comics and trades,” she writes. “We’ll also have Batton’s ‘monster cameos,’ one-of-a-kind hand-painted miniatures of everyone’s favorite monsters. Plus: new Graphitti Designs Supernatural Law T-shirt!”

More info at www.exhibitapress.com/pages/index.php

SLG Publishing | Jennifer de Guzman sent over an update on SLG’s plans for the show. “Jamaica Dyer will be a special guest, so we will have plenty of copies of her new book Weird Fishes,” she writes. “Jamaica will also be on the panel Personal Stories on Saturday at 5 p.m. with Dean Haspiel, Phoebe Glockner, and Dash Shaw. I’ll be moderating her spotlight panel on Sunday at 12 p.m.”

Things Undone

Things Undone

NBM | Ted Rall and Shane White will be at APE; Rall will have a few copies of The Year of Loving Dangerously, while White will sign copies of the recent release Things Undone (which is sitting on my dresser in my “to read” pile; I should read it before this weekend).

Top Shelf | Brett Warnock posts on his blog that Nate Powell, Grant Reynolds and Jeremy Tinder will be at their booth, along with himself and Leigh Walton. And as always, he’ll be at the Isotope party Saturday night.

Creators | Scott Morse will be on hand doing commissions and selling the last few remaining copies he has of The Ancient Book of Sex and Science.

Manga | Deb Aoki rounds up what various manga publishers are doing at the show.

Crime and Communism: An interview with Rick Geary

Famous Players

Famous Players

Rick Geary has been regarded as an “underrated” cartoonist for so long now that it’s almost a cliché at this point to label him as such. But in the many years he’s been making comics, he’s produced an impressive body of work that seems to escape a lot of folks notice. His stellar Victorian Murder series, now bumped up a few decades to encompass the 20th century, alone show such a high and consistent degree of quality that most cartoonists would give their eye teeth to have on their resume.

Having made his name with true crime, he’s recently attempted to tackle the biography genre, producing two books for Hill and Wang’s graphic line, one on J. Edgar Hoover, and most recently, one on Leon Trotsky.

I talked to him recently from his home in Kansas City, Missouri, about his new Trotsky bio as well as the latest book for NBM in his Murder series, Famous Players, about the mysterious and currently unsolved slaying of silent movie director William Desmond Taylor. Here’s what he had to say:

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Robot reviews: The Big Kahn

The Big Kahn

The Big Kahn

The Big Kahn
Written by Neil Kleid, art by Nicolas Cinquegrani
NBM, 176 pages, $13.95.

Here’s the thing. I have a friend who fell in love several years ago with a wonderful, intelligent woman. His parents, however, refused to recognize their relationship and threatened to disown him if he married her. Why? Because she didn’t practice the same religion they did. Eventually they thankfully relented and embraced his now-wife, but it resulted in several years of ugly tension and discomfort for everyone involved, to put it mildly.

I have another friend who has two sisters who were both disowned by their father because, you guessed it, they married outside of the church. In the one case the sister married a Mormon. In the other, she just abandoned the church altogether. My friend has told me several times that her dad’s decision all but rendered her family asunder and caused scars that are still linger these many decades later.

So when one of the main characters in The Big Kahn, an up-and-coming young rabbi, has this huge guilt complex because in a moment of weakness he slept with a gentile girl, I’m not really feeling his pain. In fact, I want to punch him in the nose.

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What Are You Reading?

Brave and the Bold #27

Brave and the Bold #27

Sunday’s here and that means it’s time once more for What Are You Reading. Our guest this week is the incredibly talented cartoonist Rick Geary. Geary has two books out this fall, his latest entry in his ongoing XXth Century Murder series, Famous Players, and a biography of Leon Trotsky that should be coming out from Hill and Wang any day now.

Look for an interview with Mr. Geary appearing on this blog in the coming weeks. For now though, let’s just see what he’s currently reading …

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