It’s been a big couple of weeks for U.K. comics publishing, and a lot of that might have to do with this weekend’s Comica Festival (a.k.a. “the 10th London International Comics Festival”). There has been a rush of titles from British graphic novel publishers of late, no doubt timed for a big push at this most art-centric of U.K. comics conventions (it’s hosted this year at Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design, and I dare anyone of a certain vintage to think of that place and not start humming this).
There’s a lot of great stuff out there at the minute that’s maybe not getting enough coverage internationally, so let’s do a round-up, shall we? There’s a myth that the American comics audience is insular, so let’s disprove it: These books are even already available in English, although their spelling is a bit suspect at times. Yeah, you heard me, buy a dictionary, limeys!
• The Man Who Laughs, the oddest of Victor Hugo’s novels, adapted by David Hine and Mark Stafford, published by SelfMadeHero: Hine has posted a host of panels from the book at his blog. I was previously ignorant of Stafford’s work, but these are some handsome-looking samples; they reminded me a little of the great Dave Cooper. Hine is always good value, and has a track record of making some genuinely unsettling comics (Strange Embrace, The Bulletproof Coffin), so this sounds like the perfect alignment of talent to source material.
“Ah, young love,” the poets like to sigh. But as intense and memorable as childhood (and early adulthood) romance can be, it can also be fraught with insecurity, awkwardness and trauma, a fact Canadian cartoonist Patrick McEown underlines in his latest graphic novel, Hair Shirt.
The story centers on John, a veguely insecure twentysomething who, while mourning the death of a long-term relationship, stumbles into the arms of Naomi, a former childhood sweetheart who happens to be attending the same university.
And while John seems happy to reconnect with Naomi, it’s clear from the start their budding relationship is fraught with problems. For one thing, both John and Naomi are haunted by the ghost of Chris, Naomi’s rather swinish older brother who died in a car crash when they were teenagers. Chris and John had been friends as kids, and there seems to be a cloud of guilt and apprehension hanging over John concerning how his relationship with Chris soured as the latter became more of an obnoxious bully. While never completely stated, John hints at horrible things that happened to Naomi in her formative years, and there’s a specter of abuse — either physical or sexual — that haunts her and by extension John.
Comics | Reporter Henry Hanks asks three experts about the increasing tendency toward “headline-grabbing plot twists” in comics, such as the death of Damian Wayne, and which ones they think have been the most successful. “I strongly believe that The New 52′s Batgirl can be seen as a great example of a major plot shift or re-imagining of a story that required readers to let go of a long-loved character (Oracle) and begin to believe in Batgirl as a new character, one who’s recovered from a life-threatening attack,” says Dr. Andrea Letamendi, a clinical psychologist and convention speaker. “The character essentially presented the determination, resilience and psychological strength that she needed to put the cape back on after a severe injury, just as readers were challenging her ability to represent a strong rebooted character. It’s as if we could relate to the weight on her shoulders, because we were a part of that process. [CNN]
It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. We’ve each picked the five comics we’re most anticipating in order to create a list of the best new stuff coming out two months from now.
As usual, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell us what we missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.
Crater XV HC (Top Shelf, $19.95): I’ve been following (and loving) the serialization of Kevin Cannon’s follow-up to Far Arden in the digital pages of Double Barrel, but I know that I’ll be picking up this hardcover collection of the further adventures of sea dog Rusty Shanks nonetheless. The Canadian space program deserves no less.
In The Days of the Mob HC (DC Comics, $39.99): To say that Kirby’s 1970s take on the organized-crime world of the 1930s is something I’ve been longing to read since I first discovered its existence would be an understatement, so I’m definitely looking forward to this deluxe reprint, complete with material that wasn’t in the original edition.
Indigo Prime: Anthropocalypse TP (Rebellion/2000AD, $24.99): John Smith’s cosmic authorities are one of comics’ most secret treasures, I think, especially when he’s paired with an artist like Edmund Bagwell, who brings a wonderful Euro-Kirby influence to the stories in this collection. Really looking forward to this one.
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen GN (First Second, $17.99): As a sucker for good autobiographical comics and also good food writing, the idea of Lucy Knisley creating a food-centric memoir — complete with recipes! — is far too good to ignore. I love that publishers like First Second are publishing work like this.
Solo Deluxe Edition HC (DC Comics, $49.99): Even though I own most of these issues from their original appearance, the oversized hardcover format is waaaay too tempting when you consider some of the material this book has up its 500+ page sleeve: Paul Pope covering Kirby! Brendan McCarthy channeling Ditko as only he could! The amazing Darwyn Cooke issue! The only thing that could make this better would be if it included work completed on follow-up issues before the plug had been pulled … But maybe that can appear in a second volume, one day…
Continuing our look into what comics and graphic novels lie in wait for us in the year 2013, I thought I’d take a look at Abrams catalog, which also includes books from British publisher SelfMade Hero, which Abrams distributes in the U.S. Here’s what I discovered:
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 catch up on Joe Keatinge and Andre Szymanowicz’ Hell Yeah with the first trade, Vol. 1: Last Days On Earth (Image, $9.99). I admit to dropping off after the second issue, but it’s always something I wanted to get back to; and reading Keatinge’s interviews on the more recent issues has pushed me over the top. If nothing else, $9.99 for five issues is a good deal. After that I’d get Avengers Vs. X-Men #12 (Marvel, $4.99). Of all the group-written issues, Jason Aaron’s seems to have been the most organized and engaging, so I’m glad they opted to have him do the finale. Seeing Adam Kubert on this is surprising, as his previous issues of Avengers Vs. X-Men felt rushed – but previews of this issue show him more measured and confident, like his Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine work, also with Aaron.
If I had $30, I’d double back and gleefully grab Thomas Herpich’s White Clay (AdHouse, $4.95). When I first heard about this the onus of Adventure Time was heavy given the cartoonist works on that show, but after seeing the previews and hearing Chris Pitzer talk about this book I’m in for it. I’d also get the debut issue of Andy Diggle’s Doctor Who #1 (IDW, $3.99) with artist Mark Buckingham. Bucky’s a real treat here, and I’m interested to see what he does with Diggle’s words – and what exactly Diggle does. I’m okay if it’s not Lenny Zero – but that would be nice too. Finally, I’d get Uncanny X-Force #32 (Marvel, $3.99). At one time this was my favorite book coming from the Big Two, but it seems to have grown long in the tooth; I’m not confident enough to say Rick and crew are doing something wrong, as maybe it’s just me. But the first 18 issues had a special kind of magic, and that doesn’t seem to remain here in these issues. But still, I’m in ’til the end.
If I could splurge, I’d get The Nao of Brown (SelfMadeHero, $24.95) by Glyn Dillon. I admit I already received an advance review copy of this book, but if I didn’t I’d surely have it on pre-order. A read a review where they compared to this to Gene Yang’s American Born Chinese, but I think that’s a mere surface examination. After reading this (and flipping through it a dozen times since), this is just a pure coming-of-age story that reminds me more of Hope Larson or a very chatty Adrian Tomine. Very great, very great.
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.
Last month we looked at the career of Marjane Satrapi. This month we’ll examine the career of one of her largest (or at least more apparent) influences, Pierre-Francois Beauchard, better known by his pen name, David B.
The annual Small Press Expo, better known as SPX, will arrive at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Convention Center in Bethesda, Maryland, Saturday and Sunday. This particular SPX promises to be excellent — mayhap the bestest SPX evar — so allow me to run through some of the goings-on if you happen to be in that area this weekend.
Brigid Alverson will have her own MoCCA report up soon, no doubt, but I thought I’d share my own reminiscences of last weekend’s show, via some pics I took while wandering around the aisles.
First, a heads-up on the British Invasion of Toronto: This weekend, Toronto Comics Art Festival will host a number of creators from the United Kingdom, including Sean Azzopardi (Necessary Monsters), Darryl Cunningham (Psychiatric Tales), Joe Decie (Accidental Salad), Tom Gauld (Goliath), Lizz Lunney (Depressed Cat: Nine Miserable Lives) and Luke Pearson (Hilda and the Midnight Giant). Publishers Blank Slate, Nobrow Press and SelfMadeHero will also be in attendance. I ran into some other British creators at MoCCA this weekend; you’ll be hearing about that shortly.
Comics | Gary Northfield shows off some of the art from his comic Gary’s Garden, which runs in the weekly children’s comic The Phoenix:
Part autobiography, part made-up nonsense (well, mainly completely made-up nonsense to be fair), Gary’s Garden delves into my favourite thing ever – me spying on the comings and goings of all the little dudes and dudettes who dwell in my garden.
This makes me wish more fervently than ever that The Phoenix would get an app or somehow make itself available outside the UK, digitally or on paper. Adding to my pain: Jim Medway offers a peek at his new comic Chip Charlton & Mr. Woofles of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
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.
U.S. art and illustrated book publisher Abrams announced Wednesday it plans to buy London-based graphic novel publisher SelfMadeHero. Financial terms weren’t disclosed for the deal, which is expected to be finalized in the next several weeks.
Founded by Emma Hayley, SelfMadeHero launched in 2007 with its much-publicized Manga Shakespeare line, which reinterprets the Bard’s plays, and Eye Classics, which adapts classic works like A Tale of Two Cities and The Picture of Dorian Gray. The publisher expanded in 2009, adding original fiction, Sherlock Holmes adaptations, and biographies (beginning with the well-reviewed Johnny Cash: I See a Darkness, published in the U.S. by Abrams ComicArts).
Hayley will remain as managing director, but distribution in the U.K. and export markets will be handled by Abrams & Chronicle Books. In spring 2012 SelfMadeHero will launch a North American graphic novel list that includes Chico & Rita by Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal, Kiki de Montparnasse by Catel & Bocquet, The Lovecraft Anthology: Volume I edited by Dan Lockwood, But I Really Wanted to Be an Anthropologist by Margaux Motin, and Best of Enemies: A History of U.S. and Middle East Relations by David B. and Jean-Pierre Filiu.
“Having long admired SelfMadeHero’s publishing program and Emma Hayley’s eye and taste for original and exciting graphic novels and material for both adults and children, I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to work with her and her team to bring the books to even larger audiences,” Abrams President and CEO Michael Jacobs said in a statement. “We at Abrams have been looking to expand our reach in the still growing markets for comics and graphics and think that with SelfMadeHero we have found a perfect complement to our existing Abrams ComicArts publishing program.”
Abrams’ comics line includes Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Art of Jaime Hernandez, Nat Turner, Mom’s Cancer and Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow?