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Craig Thompson’s Habibi due out on Sept. 20

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.


What Are You Reading?

Batgirl #17

Welcome to a long holiday weekend (at least here in the United States) edition of What Are You Reading? Today our special guest is Doug Zawisza, who writes reviews and the occasional article for Comic Book Resources.

To see what Doug and the Robot 6 gang are reading, click below.

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“Just to demonstrate that it’s possible”: Ben Katchor on The Cardboard Valise

There’s nothing else in the world quite like Ben Katchor’s comics. Perhaps that’s because there’s nothing in the world quite like the people and places you’ll find in them. Best known for his newspaper strip Julius Knipl: Real Estate Photographer, Katchor is an inventor of lost culture. His comics chronicle imaginary occupations and cultural attractions, like an island whose economy revolves around tourists visiting the ruins of abandoned public restrooms, “humane hamburgers” consisting of tiny slices of meat snipped from still-living cows so gently that they barely notice, or a seaside cellphone stand whose employees hold their phones aloft at the shore for ten minutes at a time so callers can hear the sounds of the ocean for a price. All of these things are just this side of plausible, feeling like old-fashioned customs that have been rendered obsolete or great ideas that never caught on, drowned out by the bustle of life in the big city.

But in his upcoming book The Cardboard Valise, due out on March 8 from Pantheon, Katchor takes a journey beyond his customary imaginary American-urban setting. This collection of strips culled from a variety of publications tells the loosely intertwined stories of two men dealing with our increasingly small world in two very different fashions: One is a literal travel addict who can’t stop visiting distant lands and cultures; the other proudly and loudly denounces the very notion of differing nations and customs, seeking to wipe out the physical and psychological borders that divide the world. Unsurprisingly, Katchor proves himself just as adept at chronicling the dislocations of travel and internationalism as he is at showing us (to use the subtitle of one of his books) the pleasures of urban decay.

As part of Robot 6’s second anniversary spectacular, Katchor allowed us to pick his brain about his new book, the allure of exoticism, the danger of nationalism, print vs. digital, and making the impossible possible.

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Gorillas Riding Dinosaurs | X’ed Out

X'ed Out

X’ed Out
Written and Illustrated by Charles Burns
Pantheon; $19.95

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

I’m sure I’ve used that quote before when talking about serialized comics. One nice thing about trade-waiting is that you tend to get complete stories and I’ve grown used to that. And like being used to it. To the point that when Pantheon sent me a copy of Charles Burns’ X’ed Out, I didn’t read it right away because I knew it was only the first chapter in a continuing saga. The instinct to hold off until it was done kicked in right away and I put it on my shelf unread. And then all the accolades started pouring out of my computer screen.

When Chris Mautner told me it was his favorite comic of the year, I finally caved. Chris and I don’t have exactly the same tastes, but they cross over enough that when I realized I had his #1 pick for 2010 just sitting there unread – and it’s pretty short – I figured I’d end the year with it. What could it hurt?

Little did I know. The bastards.

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This is Charles Burns. This is Charles Burns on Tintin. Any questions?

Aboard the CBR mothership, Alex Dueben talks to Black Hole author Charles Burns about his new book X’ed Out, in stores this week from Pantheon. And by the sound of it, the book — the first in a trilogy — is thoroughly indebted to Belgian comics master Hergé’s timeless Tintin tales, from the cover to the coloring to the format itself:

There’s certainly a very strong Herge influence. If you just think of the Franco-Belgian style of creating comic albums in that format, the way those European make them which is the 64 pages, 48 pages. A hardbound albums with continuing characters. I was one of those rare kids of my generation who grew up reading Tintin and it had a very profound effect on me, so this is the way that I can kind of reflect on that and play with some of those ideas.

[...]

“Black Hole” was always conceived of as being a book that would be all collected together. I’m not conceiving of this as, “Here’s three books that will eventually be collected into one book.” When I get interviewed by the French and Belgian press, I won’t be answering this question, because it’s a different tradition. I’m kind of emulating that tradition by doing a series of books in this manner. For example, when I was doing a signing in Southern France, there was someone who came up to me and who explained that he was really hesitant to buy “Black Hole” for a long time because it just seemed too foreign to him, this idea of this big volume. He wasn’t used to that idea of the graphic novel format, whereas now, it’s really been assimilated over there and popular over there as well. Here, the questions I get asked are, “Gee, this seems like a really slender volume for a graphic novel.” It’s not trying to pass itself off as a big graphic novel. It’s a different style of storytelling.

Unfortunately, Hergé passed away before he could ever release a graphic album in which he processed the influence of Charles Burns. Too bad — I would have liked to have seen Captain Haddock grow a small but strangely erotic vestigial tail.

Comics College: Kim Deitch

The Search for Smilin' Ed

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.

A rotten sinus cold/upset stomach plus an ungodly amount of day-job work has kept me from event attempting to work on Comics College. Thankfully, the ever-erudite Bill Kartalopoulos graciously volunteered to write this month’s entry, about the legendary underground cartoonist Kim Deitch. And it just so happens that Bill’s the perfect person to write about Deitch and his legacy, as he curated a show featuring the artist at MoCCA not too long ago and also wrote the intro for Deitch’s latest book, The Search for Smilin’ Ed.

So with that, I’m going to take some Advil and lie down. I leave you in Bill’s more than capable hands.

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Daniel Clowes, Ben Katchor top Pantheon’s publishing plans

Promobox.GraphicNovels

It’s always exciting to get the quarterly publishing catalogs from Random House in the mail and see what Pantheon, the best of the major New York City-based book publishers when it comes to graphic novels, has in store. And yesterday’s special delivery of the Spring 2011 catalog to “Fort Collins” was a real doozy: Major new works are on the way from a pair of alternative-comics titans, Wilson‘s Daniel Clowes and Julius Knipl‘s Ben Katchor.

First up is Daniel Clowes’s Mister Wonderful, a collection of the Eisner Award-winning serial strip that kicked off The New York Times Magazine‘s Funny Pages comics section. What’s new about this, you ask? How about fully 40 pages of new material, according to the publisher? That’s practically a whole new strip. Looks from the cover image in the catalog like the work’s being reformatted from broadsheet to landscape, too — which is maybe where some of that new page count is coming from, come to think of it. But either way, I’m excited to revisit the story of a lonely middle-aged man and his too-good-to-be-true blind date, which was sort of the genial GoodFellas to Wilson‘s brutal Casino. The book retails for $22.95 and hits in April 2011.

Next is Ben Katchor’s The Cardboard Valise, the acclaimed cartoonist’s first book in over ten years (!). Instead of the slightly more fantastical version of New York City found in much of his previous work, Katchor’s constructing an entire new country for this one: Outer Canthus, a strange region inhabited by travel junkie Emile Delilah, the exiled king Boreal Rince, and globalist Elijah Salamis. Together they explore, and I quote, “a vast panorama of humane hamburger stands, exquisitely ethereal ethnic restaurants, ancient restroom ruins, and wild tracts of land that fit neatly next to high-rise hotels.” That’s our Katchor! There’s really nothing else out there like Katchor’s inky, off-kilter explorations of the spaces people build, inhabit, and forget, and I can’t wait to get my hands on this one. The Cardboard Valise can be opened for $22 when it arrives in February 2011.


Comics college: Art Spiegelman

Maus Vol. 1

Maus Vol. 1

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 traipsing through the body of work of one of the most significant (if not exactly prolific) American cartoonists of this modern age, Art Spiegelman.

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The 30 Most Important Comics of the Decade, Part Two

megatokyo3_500

Continuing our countdown of (in our opinion, obviously) the most important and influential comics of the past ten years, here’s the second half of our list, from #15-1. If you missed it, you can read part one over here, with an explanation of how we put the list together and the (admittedly somewhat arbitrary) ranking. Can you guess what made number one? (hint: it’s not one of the books sampled in the collage above.) Read on to find out!

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Everyone’s A Critic: A round-up of comic book reviews and thinkpieces

David Welsh asks the people who know what sort of scary manga they’d recommend for Halloween reading. As expected, his panel comes up with a lot of good picks.

• Meanwhile, Ten-Cent Plague author David Hajdu reviews Robert Crumb’s adaptation of Genesis for the New York Times:

Crumb's The Book of Genesis

Crumb's The Book of Genesis

For all its narrative potency and raw beauty, Crumb’s “Book of Genesis” is missing something that just does not interest its illustrator: a sense of the sacred. What Genesis demonstrates in dramatic terms are beliefs in an orderly universe and the godlike nature of man. Crumb, a fearless anarchist and proud cynic, clearly believes in other things, and to hold those beliefs — they are kinds of beliefs, too — is his prerogative. Crumb, brilliantly, shows us the man in God, but not the God in man.

Over at Comics Comics, Dan Nadel calls BS on Hajdu’s review: “One wonders why an author would persist in writing about a subject he clearly disdains and isn’t interested in actually learning about, but I guess that’s between Hajdu and his own idea of the sacred.”

Go read the whole takedown; it’s fun.

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Robot reviews: A.D. New Orleans

A.D. New Orleans

A.D. New Orleans

A.D. New Orleans: After the Deluge
by Josh Neufeld
Pantheon, 208 pages, $24.95

Given its subject matter, and the talent of its author, I’d love nothing more than to declare that A.D. New Orleans is an excellent book, but I can’t. While it’s far from a failure and there are compelling moments, there are also too many flaws and awkward sequences to call the book anything more than a grudgingly qualified success.

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Everyone’s A Critic: A round-up of comic book reviews and thinkpieces

Asterios Polyp

Asterios Polyp

• The great and all-powerful Ng Suat Tong provides one of the most comprehensive and detailed critiques of Asterios Polyp I’ve seen online yet. Seriously, Tong’s one of the finest critics comics have ever had. The fact that he’s writing again, even if it’s just a one-time thing, is cause for joy.

Frank Santoro reviews issues #1-4 of Richard Sala’s Ignatz series, Delphine: “The story surrounded me and carried me away to a very real world. It’s a cartooned, exaggerated world, but a real world nonetheless.”

Johanna Draper Carlson reads a whole lotta vampire manga.

Graeme McMillan offers 25 thoughts on Wednesday Comics. He also admits to liking X-Men Forever. That’s very brave of you Graeme.

• Similar to our Collect This Now feature is David Welsh’s License Request Day, where he picks manga that haven’t been translated yet, but should. This week he recommends something called Paros No Ken.

• It’s been up for a few days now, but I have to point an arrow towards Katherine Dac’s review of Children of the Sea, which is one of the best takes on the book yet.

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Robot reviews: Asterios Polyp

Asterios Polyp

Asterios Polyp

Asterios Polyp
by David Mazzucchelli
Pantheon, 344 pages, $29.95.

Asterios Polyp is the type of graphic novel that causes critics like me to rub our hands together frantically and salivate. It’s full of all the juicy metaphors, re-occuring motifs and classical allusions that academics and reviewers alike go koo-koo for. Best of all, they’re all right up front and not hidden in the text, so you don’t have to do a lot of hunting around.

At its center, however, Polyp is a familiar and heartfelt tale of a man, who, halfway through his life, is faced with the realization that he is far from the wonderful person he thought he was and sets about trying to make things right.

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What are you reading?

Prince Valiant Vol. 1

Prince Valiant Vol. 1

Welcome to another round of What Are You Reading. Our guest this week is blogger, critic, Comics Comics editor and expectant dad Tim Hodler. To find out what Mr. Hodler and the rest of us are reading this week, click on the link below. And be sure to let us know what you’re currently reading in the comments section.

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What Are You Reading?

Asterios Polyp

Asterios Polyp

Welcome to What Are You Reading, where we don’t let a little thing like national holidays and fireworks prevent us from talking about our current reading exploits. Our guest this week is cartoonist (you can see his work in the new anthology Syncopated) and editor Paul Karasik, whose latest book is the highly accclaimed You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation! the second collection of comics by the late Golden Age artist Fletcher Hanks.

To discover what Paul and the rest of us are reading, simply click on the link below …

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