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In ‘We Can Fix It,’ comic book science improves on the memoir

We Can Fix It coverIt’s 2013, and headlines reading “Comics aren’t just for kids anymore”  have been cliched for about 25 years. Art Spiegelman’s Maus is a classic, Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis is widely read and widely taught. The late Harvey Pekar’s name is, if not a household name, as close to one as those of most prose authors get in America. Thanks to Joe Sacco and Alison Bechdel and Jeffrey Brown and John Porcellino and Joe Matt and Chester Brown and dozens of other cartoonists, journalism, autobiography and memoir are successful, respected, even  commonplace genres for the graphic novel, which, it’s worth highlighting, is a term that exists now.

In fact, autobiographical graphic novels are so mainstream that Jess Fink’s We Can Fix It reads like an outlier — a subversive, transgressive reversion to the good old bad days of comics. Her new memoir, with its fictive premise, is differentiated from most in the genre by the prominent inclusion of elements from the medium’s trashy superhero and humor past. Its protagonist wears a skin-tight bodysuit, she travels through time in a big, goofy time machine that goes ZIPPITY ZAP, and there’s a sixth-grade lunch period’s worth of scatalogical humor.

Despite the embrace of the low-brow aspects of comics history — We Can Fix It looks and  reads like an autobiographical comic book, not an autobiographical graphic novel — Fink’s new work ultimately ends up in the same thoughtful, dramatic, epiphany-having place that the slicker, more obviously literature-focused comics works do. This is a very funny comic book that is functions as an effective piss-take on the autobio genre while, remarkably enough, simultaneously being one hell of an autobiography.

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Top Shelf rolls out new books from Harrell, Russell and Wheeler


Top Shelf Productions has announced the July debut of a series of all-ages graphic novels by veteran cartoonist Rob Harrell, and a “condensed” version of the Bible by Mark Russell and Shannon Wheeler.

Harrell’s Monster on the Hill ($19.95) is set in a fantastical version of 19th century England, where every little town is terrorized by a unique monster, much to the pleasure of the citizens, who view the ferocious creature as a matter of local pride and a magnet for tourism. That is, except for the residents of Stoker-on-Avon, whose monster Rayburn is a little down in the dumps and in need of a makeover from the eccentric Dr. Charles Wilkie and street urchin Timothy.

And then there’s God Is Disappointed in You ($19.95), the irreverent yet faithful retelling of the Bible written by Russell and illustrated by Wheeler (Too Much Coffee Man). It’s billed as “a must-read for anyone who wants to see past the fog of religious agendas and cultural debates to discover what the Bible really says.”

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Food or Comics? | Nutella or Nemo

Welcome to the very last Food or Comics. Next week our new-release picks will take a different format, but this week we’re still talking about what comics we’d buy at our local 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.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Batman Incorporated #8

Batman Incorporated #8

Graeme McMillan

Let’s be honest, if I had $15, I’d make sure that Batman Incorporated #8 (DC Comics, $2.99) was first on my list. Not because of any controversy — I’ve been enjoying the series all along — but because I’d be worried it’d sell out if I waited. I’d also grab two Dynamite books: Jennifer Blood #23 and Masks #4 (both $3.99); Al Ewing has done just insane, amazing things on the former, and the Chris Roberson/Dennis Calero team on the latter is just killing it.

If I had $30, I’d find myself time traveling to all the weeks prior in which I didn’t use all $30 to borrow a dollar from past-me, just so that I could get Showcase Presents Justice League of America, Vol. 6 (DC Comics, $19.99), which takes the series firmly into the 1970s and brings the team face to face with villains including the Shaggy Man, Amazo and countless other favorites of my childhood.

Should I have some splurging left in me after that nostalgia-fest, I’d likely go for the Judge Anderson: PSI Files, Vol. 3 collection (Rebellion, $32.99), which picks the series up just after I’d dropped off the 2000AD radar for awhile, and hopefully gives me the chance to get back into the character, now that I am firmly into Thrill Power again.

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Jason says goodbye to American Elf

The Norwegian creator Jason pays tribute to the last day of James Kochalka’s American Elf in the sincerest way possible.

Never fear, Kochalkaholics: James is busily making other comics, and Top Shelf is prepping the fifth volume of American Elf for its digital release.

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Preview: Take a look at Diana Thung’s August Moon

Diana Thung’s August Moon, out this week from Top Shelf Productions, brings magical elements into a grittily realistic setting in a way that’s reminiscent of the films of Hayao Miyazake. The underlying theme, of outsiders disrupting harmony with the (mostly) unseen spiritual elements of nature, will seem familiar as well. Thung’s story is set in the town of Calico, which is mostly cut off from the rest of the world and is watched over by large, rabbit-like creatures. Any notion that this is going to be a warm-and-fuzzy story is shattered early on, when two of the creatures are shot, one fatally. The body attracts the attention of a scientist, who comes to town with his daughter Fiona to investigate. Meanwhile, Jaden, a strange child who is the grandson of a street vendor, is trying to protect the creatures’ secrets. It’s a very classic sort of story told in an unusual style, with plenty of quirky originality, and the book has already garnered praise from Junot Diaz and Hope Larson. But don’t take their word for it — check out our preview and see for yourself.

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This weekend, it’s the Alternative Press Expo

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:

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Just in time for Halloween: a comic about vampires, witches and candy

Trick or treat? Jess Smart Smiley‘s Upside Down is definitely a treat, and if there’s anything at all deceptive about his new graphic novel,  it’s how charming the  simple, even roughshod-looking artwork ultimately is, and, perhaps, how far he strays from pop-culture conventions into his own idiosyncratic monster mythology.

Part of Top Shelf’s growing line of kid-friendly comics, this original graphic novel is a black, white and “Halloween green”-colored story about Harold, a young vampire that loves candy and lives in a piano with his parents. This piano belongs to an eccentric professor, who has been tirelessly working on a potion that will allow a person live forever.

At story’s start, Harold is on his way to the dentist to get his teeth looked at on the day before he is finally old enough to join his parents on a “hunt,” but ultimately has to have his fangs pulled, due to cavities. A wicked witch named Vermillion attempts to rally the last remaining witches on Earth, only to accidentally kill them all with a rain spell, making her the last witch on earth. And the professor perfects his potion, which is suddenly of great interest to Vermillion, now that she’s the last witch.

These characters and a few others crisscross conflicts throughout the book’s 15o-ish pages, those crisscrosses coming in some rather unexpected ways (in the world of Upside Down, for example, vampires don’t hunt people to suck their blood, they hunt witches, and witches can turn other people into witches, even vampires, using spells).

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This weekend, it’s the Small Press Expo

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.

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Synopsis, cover art debut for LOEG stand-alone Nemo: Heart of Ice

The longstanding links between The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen‘s U.K. publisher Knockabout and the London comic shop Gosh! mean that Gosh!’s blog is the place to go for news relating to Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s ongoing opus. The retailer has posted a synopsis and cover image for the next installment, the stand-alone Nemo: Heart of Ice:

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Alan Moore’s Unearthing, Gary Panter’s Dal Tokyo on the horizon

Two of America’s premier art comix publishers have released further details of a pair of high-profile releases of repackaged work by two of the art form’s most influential, if wildly disparate, creators. Top Shelf is publishing Alan Moore’s “narrative art-book” Unearthing, a new edition of a piece that began as an essay, became a spoken-word piece, and was released in various audio formats a couple of years back featuring a score by Faith No More’s Mike Patton and Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite, among others (hear an excerpt over at Pitchfork). It’s ostensibly a biography of Moore’s friend and mentor Steve “Pedro Henry” Moore (it’s now customary to write “no relation” at this juncture) in both his career as a comic book writer and in his mid-life conversion to studying magic, although with Moore being Moore, wanders off on many Iain Sinclair-esque tangents into the psycho-geography of both South London and their native Northampton.

Fantagraphics has released images on its Tumblr of Dal Tokyo by Gary Panter (including the strip seen above), as if to prove it really exists, the book being one of those long-promised Fanta projects that a lot of people had either forgotten was ever solicited, or had given up hope of ever seeing. Turns out it’ll be with retailers before the end of the month. Possibly.

SDCC’ 12 | A roundup of pre-con con news

Comic-Con International in San Diego may officially open today (last night was Preview Night), but the news has been rolling in for awhile. So let’s take a look at what’s been announced thus far.

• Of course you can’t have Comic-Con without news about Comic-Con itself. CBR’s Kiel Phegley spoke with CCI’s David Glanzer about the show, while Ryan Ingram spoke with Scott Morse about the Tr!ckster satellite event. And it seems like every non-comics media outlet reports on the show in some form or fashion; here’s an article by The Christian Post about religion and the show, for example. And finally, Tuesday brought the tragic news that a con attendee camping out for today’s Twilight panel was killed in front of the convention center after being struck by a car.

• I’m not 100 percent sure if it qualifies as Comic-Con news, but since it was officially announced in the Entertainment Weekly Comic-Con issue, let’s just go with it. Marvel’s big news going into the Con is that they plan to relaunch several titles later this year as part of “Marvel NOW!” Their recently released solicitations reveal they plan to cancel nine titles in October, but of course you can expect many if not all of them to come back in some form or fashion as Marvel NOW! rolls out.

• Mike Mignola and Hellboy return this December in Hellboy in Hell, the first four-issue miniseries in a series of miniseries about the title character’s post-demise adventures.

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Digital deals | Get Eddie Campbell, James Kochalka GNs for $1.99

Here’s a digital choice for you: You could pay $3.99 for a single issue of some Marvel comic, or you could get two plump e-books by well-known creators for a penny less.

First, Panel Nine is offering its collection of Eddie Campbell’s Dapper John comics, Dapper John: In the Days of the Ace Rock ‘n’ Roll Club, for $1.99 for the month of August, to celebrate the release of the app on iPhone as well as iPad. The collection is regularly priced at $9.99, so this is a temporary deal. Panel Nine is a small publisher that is developing comics as single apps; it’s also behind the iPad version of David Lloyd’s Kickback. When you have a bit of time, check out From Under the Stairs, the blog of publisher Russell Willis, who’s pulling out his 1990s British comics memorabilia and posting it online.

Meanwhile, Top Shelf is publishing a volume a month of James Kochalka’s diary comic American Elf, with each volume covering a year of Kochalka’s life. The first volume includes 1999 and a bit of 1998, so it’s 454 pages altogether. And each volume is priced at $1.99

SDCC ’12 | Saturday programming schedule released

Saturday’s programming for this year’s Comic-Con International continues the grand “big movie panels” tradition typically associated with the third day of the con. Both Warner Bros. and Marvel Studios are on the schedule for Hall H; no doubt Marvel will have more than just Iron Man 3 to talk about at that 6 p.m. slot. Warner Bros., meanwhile, will talk about Man of Steel in their panel, which will also include The Hobbit and Pacific Rim.

Comic publishers are well represented, with BOOM!, Marvel, DC Comics, Archie, Archaia, Dark Horse, Image, Top Cow, Drawn & Quarterly, Skybound, Vertigo, Top Shelf and more scheduled for various panels on Saturday. CCI also puts the spotlight on Mark Waid, Morrie Turner, Klaus Janson, Stan Goldberg, Gary Gianni, Jim Lee and many more creators, and celebrates anniversaries for Funky Winkerbean, Love & Rockets, Bob the Angry Flower, Courtney Crumrin and the Gays in Comics panel. And don’t forget about the always entertaining masquerade.

Here are some of the comics-related highlights below; visit the Comic-Con website to see the complete schedule.

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Alan Moore’s Antichrist is a lot like Harry Potter

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century 2009 by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill is due out this week, and the U.K. newspaper The Independent zeroes in on what everyone will be talking about: The Antichrist has arrived, and he sounds an awful lot like Harry Potter:

Though the words “Harry Potter” are never mentioned, the allusions are unmistakable. One section features a magical train hidden between platforms at King’s Cross station which leads to a magical school. The Antichrist character has a hidden scar and a mentor named Riddle. (Lord Voldemort, born Tom Riddle, is Harry Potter’s arch enemy in the Potter series.) Characters resembling both Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger also appear and, at one point, the Potter character kills someone with a lightning bolt from his flaccid penis.

So is Moore lining himself up with the religious fanatics who were burning the Harry Potter books in parking lots a few years ago? Of course not. Reviewer Laura Sneddon, who has actually read the book, says Moore is using the boy wizard to critique modern popular culture:

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Preview: Zander Cannon and Kevin Cannon’s Double Barrel #1

Top Shelf has provided Robot 6 with a preview of Double Barrel #1, the digital-only pulp anthology by Zander Cannon and Kevin Cannon (no relation). The 122-page first issue, which goes on sale today, begins the serialization of two graphic novels: HECK, by Zander Cannon (The Replacement God, Top 10), about a washed-up high school football player who returns to his hometown to attend his father’s funeral, only to discover a portal to the underworld; and Crater XV, Kevin Cannon’s follow-up to Far Arden, featuring a new adventure of crusty sea-dog Army Shanks.

As if that weren’t enough, the $1.99 price tag — that’s tough to pass up! — also includes extras like this introductory comic, which you can read below. Double Barrel #1 is available for download today via Comixology, Apple iBooks, Comics+ by iVerse and the Top Shelf app.

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