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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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World War 3 Illustrated tackles censorship, from Comics Code to Wikileaks

Anthologies are an overlooked lot in comics, and one of the most overlooked is the long-running World War 3 Illustrated. I myself have fallen victim to having a blind spot for the series, but the solicitation in the most recent Previews catalog drew my attention.

Scheduled to ship in  July, World War 3 Illustrated #43 focuses on the subject of censorship — an all-too-current subject in the larger world of comics. Subtitled “Expression/Repression/Revolution,” this issue features cartoonists who may not be all that familiar to our readers. The best-known name is Peter Kuper, who’s joined by the likes of Mike Diana, Gianlucca Costantini and others to do stories about Occupy Wall Street, Wikileaks, the Comics Code Authority and more.

World War 3 Illustrated is a different kind of comic than what most people expect, akin to magazines like Maximumrocknroll, 2600: The Hacker Quarterly and Adbusters. Definitely an overlooked facet of comics, and something many comic stores don’t even stock. If your comic shop doesn’t,  you can order World War 3 Illustrated #43 directly from the publisher, Top Shelf.

Free Comic Book Day: What to look out for

Today is Free Comic Book Day, and here’s a rundown of some of the comics that caught my interest. If you want to check ‘em out before you go, CBR has previews of many of the FCBD titles. (My FCBD comics came from my favorite Boston comics shop, Comicopia.)

Hands down, the one comic everybody wants is Archaia’s hardback anthology, which includes brand-new stories from six of their titles: Mouse Guard, Labyrinth, Return of the Dapper Men, Rust, Cursed Pirate Girl, and Cow Boy. The stories stand on their own but also tie in to the books in clever ways; the Mouse Guard story is a puppet show, and the Rust story features a boy writing a letter to his father (as his older brother does in the book). This book is a keeper; it even has a nameplate inside the front cover. Here’s a list of where Archaia creators will be doing book signings this FCBD.

BOOM! Studios has a nice flipbook with several Adventure Time comics on one side and Peanuts on the other. The Peanuts comics are mildly funny, but the Adventure Time side is edgier and features extra stories by Lucy Knisley and Michael DeForge. The stories are colorful and lively, and DeForge’s contribution, about a bacon ecosystem that supports tiny breakfast organisms, is downright surreal.

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My MoCCA photo diary

Note the cell phone barcode thingy on his suitcase

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.

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