August 19, 2007
CR Sunday Feature: And Now, Let Us All Look To A Potentially Amazing Fall 2007
I don't really do seasonal previews, but I think it's important that time to time as readers we remind ourselves that comics are worth our collective investment of time, energy and resources. Here are several books that are coming out before the New Year that I greatly look forward to seeing, and some of the reasons why I'm anticipating their arrival.
This is not a complete list. I've tried to limit myself to presenting one item per publisher (I failed once), and I've skipped perennials like Complete Peanuts
. I also had a hard time finding books from a couple of publishers. In some cases this difficulty seems to stem from the fact that they loaded the books that I like from their line into the first half of 2007, and in other cases I experienced difficulty figuring out exactly what they're putting out (for instance, one company has a book I like promised for October, but it was also listed as having shipped from Diamond a couple of weeks ago). Please don't take anyone's absence from this list as anything other than my inability to get the information I needed in the amount of time I scheduled. Plus I'm sure I simply forgot about several obviously awesome books.
Those comics that did
make it onto this quickly-assembled list seems to me as a group to represent an embarrassment of riches, pleasures high and low, a snapshot of what the field looks like ten minutes before noon during Comics' Great Day in the Sun. And on a lazy Sunday afternoon, what's better than daydreaming of great experiences yet to come?
Azumanga Daioh Omnibus Vol. 1, Kiyohiko Azuma, ADV Manga, 686 pages, 9781413903645, November, $24.99
I know that a bunch of stylized schoolgirls posing for what looks like a yearbook photo isn't the kind of cover many of you expect to see on the top of a preview list of considerable works, but Kiyohiko Azuma
's potent work on Yotsuba&!
, particularly the cartoonist's ability to convey the subtle changes in perception that arise from a child's world view and then mine humor from it, has me dying to go back and check out this equally lauded high school soap opera
in its newest iteration.
Betsy & Me, Jack Cole, Fantagraphics, 104 pages, 9781560978787, November, $14.95
In a career cut tragically short by suicide, Jack Cole
became an all-time comic book artist (the Plastic Man stories in Police Comics
) and a world class gag cartoonist (in Playboy
). The aborted strip Betsy and Me
would have been his third stab at pantheon-level greatness. As it's also a sterling example of the American newspaper's strip period of flirtation with a certain approach to slick, stylized figure drawing that never quite took as some thought it might, having all of Betsy and Me
in one place is a minor miracle.
Edison Steelhead's Lost Portfolio, Renee French, Sparkplug Comic Books, 88 pages, $9
Already available via direct order
, this a no-doubt beautiful mini-collection of Renee French
art deftly organized into a meta-fictional conceit as a series of drawings by the protagonist of her 2006 major book The Ticking
. French has quietly become a skilled portrait artist; the material in this book should begin to clue you in on the gut-wrenching nature of this facet of her illustration skill.
Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus Vol. 3, Jack Kirby and Mike Royer, DC Comics, 396 pages, 9781401214852, November, $49.99
I prefer the original comic books, but these shelf-ready trades
seem to be a not-bad way for fans to watch Jack Kirby climb the last great, creative mountain of his long and exemplary career. Count me among those that think the most important part of these early 1970s comics was their fun house mirror take on the horrors of war and their potential recalibration of some fundamental aspects of the superhero formula: questioning the value of fighting, any kind of fighting; people lose according to where the power lie no matter how popular they are or noble their intentions.
Leadership: Cartoons & Sculptures From the Bush Years, Pat Oliphant, Andrews McMeel, 128 pages, 9780740726743, October, $19.95
Since no one is rigorously collecting Tom Toles
, the best editorial cartooning book of the Fall should come from the field's Lion in Winter, Pat Oliphant
, an under-appreciated legend who still rushes at his targets knives out, no apologies. He also draws extremely well. After reading so many newspaper cartoons where it seems the reader is expected to compensate for odd stylistic choices and a lack of craft, reading a bunch of Oliphant is like moving mid-bite from vanilla wafers to rum-laced chocolate cheesecake. He's one of the few cartoonists in that field who can communicate -- and punish -- with the quality of his art alone.
MW, Osamu Tezuka, Vertical Inc., 600 pages, 9781932234831, October, $24.95
A cooler columnist would probably focus on Vertical
's publication of some more action-oriented comics, but I still have Tezuka on the mind, and it's all their fault. The mini-spate of non
, pulpier Osamu Tezuka
books from Vertical over the last year or so has been a revelation in ways that aren't always comfortable. Engaging topics such as sex and religion, these books reveal an ambitious side of Tezuka where he puts his magnificent understanding of comics craft in service of stories about human issues and subtle progressions of spirit. It's sort of like watching your uncle divorce and start dating again, in that the occasional bad choice makes you cringe in sympathy, but damned if you don't understand the guy a whole lot better the next time you shoot the breeze over Thanksgiving dishes.
My Life as a Foot, Richard Suicide, Conundrum, 80 pages, 9781894994262, October, $15 CDN.
It doesn't help matters that the promotional copy for this book invokes Robert Crumb
, a comparison that seems not only inexact but massively unfair to any unfamiliar artist. Still, the cartooning on display in the sample pages looks like a lot of fun, and Conundrum
seems determined to carve out a very specific niche for itself as a discoverer of significant, under-published Canadian cartoonists. Hey, if I had told you a year ago one of their books would win a distinguished award
over works from Bryan Lee O'Malley
and Guy Delisle
, you'd have looked at me funny, admit it.
Omega the Unknown #1, Jonathan Lethem and Karl Rusnak and Farel Dalrymple and Paul Hornschemeier, Marvel, 32 pages, October, $2.99
I know that the list of writers crossing over into mainstream comic book company writing has only grown longer since Jonathan Lethem
's involvement with this Steve Gerber/Mary Skrenes character
was announced, but there's something that seems almost old-fashioned, very 2003, about an established literary author's reconsideration of an under-utilized comic book character. I have no idea if this will be any good or not, and past history seems stacked against it, but with the creators involved I'm looking forward to checking it out.
Scott Pilgrim Vol. 4: Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together, Bryan Lee O'Malley, Oni Press, 200 pages, 9781932664492, October, $11.95
I'm not as smitten with this engaging series of books
as some people seem to be, but the way its fans talk about it makes me think this is a seminal comics experience for a lot of readers, particularly those from about 22-30 years old. I'm not sure there are a lot of those anymore.
Skyscrapers of the Midwest #4, Josh Cotter, AdHouse Books, 56 pages, AUG073288 (Diamond), October, $5
I almost chose the second issue of Zack Soto's Secret Voice #2
for an AdHouse representative on this list; that series burns with the weird energy that all great creator-owned comics exude. On second thought, though, I believe Skyscraper of the Midwest
#4, likely the last issue of Josh Cotter
's funny and touching sort-of memoir of childhood
in an American small town, is the company's biggest release of the Fall. It's also a good time to take a second look at what Cotter's accomplished. I'm not sure any cartoonist has done as effective a job in capturing adolescent self-absorption on paper, and the art itself has wonderful texture.
Tekkon Kinkreet: Black and White, Taiyo Matsumoto, Viz, 624 pages, 9781421518671, September, $29.95
I have no idea what it reads like, but it sure looks gorgeous enough
for me to want to find out.
The Best of Mutts, Patrick McDonnell, Andrews McMeel, 256 pages, 9780740768446, September, $24.95
It feels like Mutts
has been around a lot longer than 10 years, but there's the birthday notice, right in the promo material. I think this book of McDonnell favorites could be the perfect springboard for re-appraising one of the two or three best current strips. Not only do we get to see what should be some of the cartoonist's finest work, but it's my understanding that McDonnell is writing a significant amount of introductory material for this volume. Author's commentary from Walt Kelly
and Bill Watterson
helped cement their reputations as all-time greats, and the opportunity may be there for McDonnell, a very good writer, to suggest the light by which we historians make our first considered impression of his life's work.
That Salty Air, Tim Sievert, Top Shelf, 112 pages, 9781603090056, November, $10
What would a season in comics be without a promising-looking book
from a cartoonist under the age of 25?
The Complete Terry And The Pirates Volume 1: 1934 - 1936 A Library Of American Comics Original, Milton Caniff, IDW, 368 pages, 9781600101007, September, $49.99
A rollicking adventure strip that transformed itself into a great American romance about the country assuming its place on the international stage as a metaphor for adult responsibility, Milton Caniff's Terry and the Pirates
is gorgeous to behold. It also takes a long time to pick up on rhythms that people probably had a more immediate grasp of 70 years ago -- some folk find Terry
impossible to read -- so a bunch of this work in one place should yield significant benefits.
The Arrival, Shaun Tan, Arthur A. Levine Books, 128 pages, 9780439895293, October, $19.99
I'm not saying this for effect: I've had one cartoonist whose work I admire tell me The Arrival
is a great, great book, and I've had another cartoonist whose work I hold in equal, high esteem tell me it's a piece of lightweight garbage. Who doesn't want to see a book that comes with that kind of divided recommendation? Finally making its debut after being up for awards Down Under, Shaun Tan's book is at least likely to be a high point in the encroachment of a certain kind of picture story into areas of communication more traditionally trafficked in by comics.
The Goddess of War Vol. 1, Lauren Weinstein, PictureBox Inc., 32 pages, $12.95
is one of those companies that doesn't tell you exactly what's coming out and when, but of all the forthcoming work, this is the one I think has the best chance of appearing before Christmas. (In fact, I think it will
be out by Christmas, whereas I'm not sure anything at all will come out from a similarly coy publisher, Fanfare/Ponent Mon
, who as late as a month ago were saying "winter" instead of "fall.") Cartoonist Lauren Weinstein seemed onto something significant in her Girl Stories
volume, despite that book having to hold together work from a broad range of years and approaches. Her making a 180-degree shift in pursuit of a suite of artistic effects as far removed from teenaged autobiography as seems possible, well, that seems admirable to me, and potentially rewarding.
The Dairy Restaurant, Ben Katchor, Schocken, 224 pages, 9780805242195, December, $19.95
That square isn't blank as some sort of clever commentary; it's blank because I don't think anyone has seen the cover of this book. I don't know what it's about beyond the fact it's categorized as Jewish history and I can't even be sure it's comics as opposed to an illustrated work of prose, but The Dairy Restaurant
is Ben Katchor
and that's all that matters. I get such great pleasure out of Katchor's comics
, his idiosyncratic take on American cultural history and the power of places and objects, that even the chance
of another major volume keeps its Amazon.com page
in my bookmarks.
The Perry Bible Fellowship: The Trial of Colonel Sweeto and Other Stories, Nicholas Gurewitch, Dark Horse, 96 pages, 9781593078447, October, $14.95
When Nicholas Gurewitch's strips are good
, there's a special energy to the Perry Bible Fellowship
that somehow blends everything I loved about early 1990s alternative comics into one crazed stew, sort of like Dennis Worden
scripting gag comics for Jeremy Eaton
. It's also very pretty, and should look good in printed form.
Town Boy, Lat, First Second, 192 pages, 9781596433311, October, $16.95
Although Town Boy
failed to impress me on the same level as its predecessor Kampung Boy
, for nearly everyone I know this is the book that cemented Lat's reputation as a world-class cartoonist. If nothing else, it's a graphic novel full of lovely moments, including street scenes that are all by themselves more humane and remarkable than some cartoonists' entire careers.
White Rapids, Pascal Blanchet, Drawn and Quarterly, 156 pages, 9781897299241, October, $27.95
I know very little about this book except the art, which I found intriguing enough that it somehow stuck in my mind ahead of new, potentially major works from Adrian Tomine
and Julie Doucet
. Conclusion: I am shallow and easily distracted. Still, it looks like an approach to cartooning with which I'm not always comfortable, and so presented to me by D&Q
becomes automatically of interest. I look forward to the experience of diving in and figuring things out.
Bonus Book About Comics: Kirby: King of Comics, Mark Evanier, Abrams, 224 pages, 9780810994478, October, $40
In sense there's no other book about comics this Fall, such is the shadow cast by Mark Evanier
's long-awaited biography
of one of comics' foundational talents. Instigated by Evanier's personal relationship with the man and his family and driven by personal memory and massive amounts of meticulous research, Kirby: King of Comics
came together reasonably quickly in terms of moving from contract to bookshelf, so I'm interested in how the whole thing turned out.
Bonus Magazine About Comics: Comic Art #9, M. Todd Hignite, Buenaventura Press, 9780976684862, October, $19.95
A sleek beauty of a comics magazine, packaged with a small book on cartooning by Ivan Brunetti I would make a trip to the store to buy all on its own, M. Todd Hignite's latest issue
boasts three potentially great profiles: one on Abner Dean
, one on Gluyas Williams
and one on Kaz. The last of the three is written by Ben Schwartz, who may be my favorite working writer about comics.
posted 3:00 am PST
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