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…
Occasionally I talk about how perfunctory the monthly solicitation ritual can be … but not so for April!
On the same day the solicitations were released, Comic Book Resources launched its new “B&B” column, featuring editors Bob Harras and Bobbie Chase, and chock-full o’ factoids about various books. Moreover, the solicits were themselves packed with new story arcs, new creative teams, and an even more heightened feeling of coyness.
A big part of this coyness comes from April’s cover gimmick. Actually, we readers can only see half of the gimmick — because while every New 52 book will sport a fold-out cover, the solicits only show the left side. (Makes me wish there were a retailers-only edition of Previews, as this is just the kind of thing which surely irritates them.) To add to the anticipation, every New 52 solicitation ends with a question. Accordingly, this month more than usual, the solicits are structured precisely to set up dire consequences and leave them unresolved. Suspenseful!
Ah, but that sort of thing only encourages me. Let’s dive in, shall we?
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Every week, hard as it may be to believe, I try honestly to offer something I think might interest the larger group of DC Domics superhero readers. However, this week I am invoking a personal privilege. For one thing, with Halloween on a Wednesday (when I usually end up writing these essays), the holiday will more than likely take priority.
The main reason, though, is that today is my birthday, and as you might have guessed from the headline, this year is my 43rd birthday. Therefore, this week I have pulled together an especially memorable DC story and/or issue from each of those years, 1969 through 2012. (Note: They may not always line up with the actual year, but just for simplicity’s sake, all dates are cover dates.) These aren’t necessarily the best or most noteworthy stories of their particular years, but they’ve stuck with me. Besides, while I’ve read a lot of comics from a lot of sources, for whatever reason DC has been the constant. Maybe when I’m 50 I’ll have something more comprehensive.
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Comic readers like underdogs, both in comics and in comics creators. They like to see someone start off small and build themselves up with achievements, skill and perseverance. In recent years we’ve seen a number of talents catch fire as they went from comics newbie to comics celebrity, from Nick Spencer to Becky Cloonan. Several years back there was one artist who was right on the cusp of breaking into the exclusive A-list level of creators who decided instead to leave for something else. But now he’s back.
Artist Damion Scott graduated from the Kubert School in the late 1990s with a full head of steam and took that to DC Comics, where he climbed the ladderr from 1999 to 2006, refining his style and defining his name on books like Robin and Batgirl. By the end of his run on Batgirl, he was seemingly ready to shine — and did so as the youngest artist picked to headline an issue of DC’s prestigious (but short-lived) Solo anthology. After that, he produced a miniseries featuring the Teen Titans’ Raven, and then … nothing. Well, nothing in the United States. In 2007, Scott moved to Japan to pursue commercial and fine art, doing magazine illustrations, street art and gallery shows. He made a rare cameo in American comics with a short for 2009′s Deadpool #900, but by and large this budding top talent was absent for four years. But last month Scott returned with the first of a two-part story in Marvel’s Web of Spider-Man featuring a group of street-level heroes from his native Brooklyn. And he’s not stopping there.
For this interview I exchanged emails with Scott for several weeks, with the artist writing from Tokyo and New York, where he divides his time. We talked about his return to American comics and his art in Japan, as well as his upcoming comic series Duppy.
“Pop!” one-page strip in Solo #12 (2006). Brendan McCarthy.
At times the things that can be achieved by comics’ usual mode of sequencing — strings of single panels after single panels — can seem almost limitless. Looking at it from the inside out, as a comics-literate reader who can see the vast differences in approach to sequence that distinguish a Ware from a Kirby from an Eisner, it’s easy to get lost in just how diverse the pages can get. But take a step back and look at comics as one visual medium among many, a vehicle for creating information to be absorbed through the eyes, and the methods of sequencing used by its artists begin to look surprisingly limited.
Think about it — or better yet, get out a bunch of your comics, all genres, all drawing styles, as diverse and differentiated a selection as you can find, and give them all a flip-though. While comics have no shortage of different colors on their pages and different methods of mark-making swimming through their panels, a ridiculously large majority of them stick to that one typical mode of sequencing — boxed panels following boxed panels, groups of them fit more or less perfectly together like puzzle pieces, jammed snugly into the rectangle of the page. The grid, as wonderful and variable a sequencing tool as it is, possesses a downright tyrannical stranglehold on the comics form.
Now I don’t know about you, but personally I like reading comics better than I like reading prose chiefly because their pages don’t all look the same. And it’s frustrating to see how many comics lock themselves into prose’s side-scrolling, line-above-line sequencing pattern to put their information across. Try to think about a page of comics as a painter or a sculptor would and it’s almost laughable. Why does everyone stay in those safe little boxes all the time? A page of comics is a canvas, a big pure space that can contain anything, and yet for over a century now, its artists have jailed their pictures in panel borders rather than exploring the possibilities of setting them free on the page, leading readers’ eyes along lines that aren’t straight and short and easy.
If you’re a fan of Brendan McCarthy or the short-lived DC series Solo, do I have the post for you … The Strangeness of Brendan McCarthy has posted two sketchbook ideas “generated when Brendan was working out material for his issue of DC Comics’ SOLO,” both featuring redesigns of the Flash.
And if that’s not enough, they’ve also posted info and images on a new Judge Dredd story that will appear in 2000AD Prog 1712, which goes on sale this week in the U.K. “In a new story called Dr. WHAT? Judge Dredd tracks down a time-travelling Doctor who rides a Mega-City Portaloo along the timewaves, altering history and changing the future in a potentially catastrophic way,” the blog says.
In recent years there has been a resurgence of anthologies in comics, and with good reason. Anthologies offer a taste of numerous styles through varied creators telling a concise story. Even if one story is lackluster, there’s several other stories in the anthology that should outweigh that to offer an interesting package.
Anthologies are a common trend in the wider publishing medium, especially when it comes to fantasy and sci-fi — genres that are spiritual brethren to the comics medium by and large. But one thing that hasn’t crossed over is short-story collections. Short-story collections are — what else — collections of short story with one unifying point — the author. Just look at Joe Hill, prose author and comics writer of the IDW series Locke & Key. His first book was a collection of his short stories called 20th Century Ghosts.