Carol Swain

New Graphic Novels, Comic Books for You – 12/9/09

Never read a graphic novel before? Haven’t read a comic book in years?

Here’s some brand new stuff that came out the week of December 9 that I think is worth a look-see for someone with little to no history with comics. That means you should be able to pick any of these up cold without having read anything else. So take a look and see if something doesn’t grab your fancy. If so, follow the publisher links or links to buy yourself a copy. Or, head to your local friendly comic book shop.

Disclaimer: For the most part, I have not read these yet, so I can’t vouch for their quality. But, from what I’ve heard and seen, odds are good they just might appeal to you.

Crossing the Empty Quarter and Other Stories – $24.95
By Carol Swain
200 pages; published by Dark Horse Comics; available at

Collecting over thirty short stories by London-based writer/artist Carol Swain, Crossing the Empty Quarter and Other Stories is Swain’s first career-spanning retrospective! The “graphic lit” love children of Gabriel García Márquez and Raymond Carver, Swain’s comics first appeared in the late 1980s, and she has since contributed to over twenty anthologies across the globe. Her introspective, boldly executed, and visually unique works are peppered with magical realism, autobiography, and tenacious punk attitudes. While Swain’s tales cover a wide range of emotions, politics, and societal ills, they are all tied together with an art style that is universally appealing and undeniably unique. Two brand-new color stories, created for this hardcover volume, are featured in a special color section. Alan Moore describes Carol Swain’s work as “dark and full of life, like soil . . . a perfect example of what modern comics are capable of if they only try.”

* “Carol Swain has one of the most unique and compelling styles in comics.” –Time

* “The Raymond Carver of British comics.” –Time Out

That cover might look placid, but don’t think this work doesn’t have any punch. Here’s a preview of remembering a disturbing dream of endless pregnancy.

Daytripper #1 – $2.99
By Gabriel Bá & Fábio Moon
32 pages; published by DC Comics’ Vertigo

They were two of Entertainment Weekly‘s Top 100 stars to watch. They’ve won multiple Eisners and have worked with the top names of comics and pop culture from Joss Whedon (Sugar Shock) and Mike Mignola (BPRD: 1947) to Gerard Way (Umbrella Academy) and Matt Fraction (Casanova).

Now, Brazilian wonder twins Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá are back writing and drawing in a hauntingly lyrical series set in their native Brazil. With DAYTRIPPER, they follow in the tradition of Craig Thompson, Paul Pope and David Mazzucchelli – cartoonists at the top of their game making comics about the quiet moments that ask big questions.

Brás de Oliva Domingos is an obituary writer with a famous father, a career he hates, and tons of questions. How does a person become a successful writer? How does a man get out of his father’s shadow? But those concerns will dwarf the surprise he’ll find in the first issue – a twist both he and readers will never see coming, which will grow into a mystery about the meaning of life itself.

I love that cover. Such cool imagery. And that’s just the beginning. Here’s a preview to soak in.

I Hate Gallant Girl – $12.99
By Jim Valentino, Kristen Simon, Kat Cahill & Seth Damoose
104 pages; published by Image Comics; available at

Renée Tempête might just be the most talented super-hero of her generation. But when a buxom blonde with no actual super-powers wins the coveted title of Gallant Girl over her, Renée must learn what it takes to be a real hero rather than a bitter wannabe.

I think this might actually be from the previous week but I don’t mind if you don’t. A fun super-hero tale. Here’s the book’s official website, which includes the Facebook fan page. Here’s a 5-page preview.

The Return of King Doug – $14.95
By Greg Erb, Jason Oremland & Wook-Jin Clark
184 pages; published by Oni Press; available at

Twenty-five years ago the Kingdom of Valdonia was under siege by an army of darkness. The magical forces of good only had one hope — a chosen one destined to lead them to victory.

Douglas Peterson was that hero.

Only he wasn’t. He was an 8-year-old boy from Earth scared out of his mind! The frightened boy turned tail and skedaddled, hoping to never see his childhood wonderland again. Now as an adult, Doug is about to learn that his adventure in Valdonia was only beginning and that there are some things you can never run away from.

On April Fools Day 2008, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Ben Stiller’s production company and DreamWorks were going to produce a movie adaptation of this graphic novel. The weird part was that this graphic novel didn’t seem to exist. No one had ever heard of the thing. It turns out it did exist, it just hadn’t been released yet. And now it has just in time for holiday shopping. The link above has a 6-page preview.

The Vietnam Journal, Book One: Indian Country – $17.99
By Don Lomax
140 pages; published by Transfuzion Publishing; available at

Finally, the acclaimed series from Don Lomax, nominated for a Harvey Award, will be presented in a series of graphic novels collecting the entire series. Vietnam Journal is a look at the Vietnam War through the eyes of a war journalist as it chronicles the lives and events of soldiers on the front line during the Vietnam War. Picked by Entertainment Weekly as “a graphic novel you should own” and recommended by the Military History Book Club, Vietnam Journal is written and drawn by Don Lomax, a Vietnam War veteran.

I know what you’re thinking. “Finally”? I’ve never even heard of this. Truthfully, neither had I. The original comic book series ran for 16 issues across 4 years starting in 1987. It was published by small press comics publisher Apple Comics, now mostly forgotten by modern readers. (It has no connection to Apple Computers or Apple Records.) There’s an 8-page preview at the publisher link above, along with a lot of enthusiastic reviews. Many people consider this among the best war comics ever made.

Kind of a small week, but a nice variety.

New to Comics? New Comics for You! 9/9/09

Never read a graphic novel before? Haven’t read a comic book in years?

Here’s some brand new stuff that came out last week that I think is worth a look-see for someone with little to no history with comics. That means you should be able to pick any of these up cold without having read anything else. So take a look and see if something doesn’t grab your fancy. If so, follow the publisher links or links to buy yourself a copy. Or, head to your local friendly comic book shop.

Don’t have a lot of time, so not much commentary from me. Just imagine me being excited about all of these because they all look awesome.

Disclaimer: For the most part, I have not read these yet, so I can’t vouch for their quality. But, from what I’ve heard and seen, odds are good they just might appeal to you.

The Storm in the Barn – $24.99
By Matt Phelan
208 pages; published by Candlewick Press; available at

In Kansas in the year 1937, eleven-year-old Jack Clark faces his share of ordinary challenges: local bullies, his father’s failed expectations, a little sister with an eye for trouble. But he also has to deal with the effects of the Dust Bowl, including rising tensions in his small town and the spread of a shadowy illness. Certainly a case of “dust dementia” would explain who (or what) Jack has glimpsed in the Talbot’s abandoned barn — a sinister figure with a face like rain. In a land where it never rains, it’s hard to trust what you see with your own eyes — and harder still to take heart and be a hero when the time comes. With phenomenal pacing, sensitivity, and a sure command of suspense, Matt Phelan ushers us into a world where desperation is transformed by unexpected courage.

Tall tale. Thriller. Gripping historical fiction. This artful, sparely told graphic novel — a tale of a boy in Dust Bowl America — will resonate with young readers today.

Here’s a look inside.

Giraffes In My Hair: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Life – $19.99
By Bruce Paley & Carol Swain
120 pages; published by Fantagraphics Books; available at


Bruce Paley turned 18 in 1967 during the Summer of Love, putting him on the front lines of the late-1960s youth movement. Paley’s tumultuous journey took him from being a Jack Kerouac-loving hippie in the 1960s, on the road with his 17-year-old girlfriend, dropping acid at Disneyland, living in a car, and crashing with armed Black Panthers at the infamous 1968 Democratic National Convention, to hanging out at Max’s Kansas City, shooting heroin and cocaine with the likes of rock star Johnny Thunders, and frequenting Times Square’s seedy brothels — a journey that mirrored the changing times as the optimism of the ’60s gave way to the nihilism of the punk years. Over a dozen years, Bruce crossed paths with hippies, violent cops, rednecks, rock stars, and Black Panthers… and ended up a heroin addict for much of the 1970s.

These stories are vividly brought to life in Giraffes in My Hair (A Rock ’N’ Roll Life) by the compelling visual storytelling of Bruce’s partner, the cartoonist Carol Swain.

Swain’s trademark visual approach to comics, typified by exquisitely composed panels that vividly capture both anomie and pathos, is perfectly suited to dramatizing Paley’s life during that confusing, tumultuous period of American history — a life lived in the countercultural margins, amidst personal chaos and social dissolution. Swain’s storytelling rhythms are contemplative and breathes inner life into Paley’s turbulent stories, creating a perceptive prism to view the vast possibilities and endless pitfalls as experienced by a kid growing up in America in the late 1960s and early ’70s.

Here’s a 9-page preview (PDF), which makes up the first chapter.

West Coast Blues – $18.99
By Jacques Tardi & Jean-Patrick Manchette
80 pages; published by Fantagraphics Books; available at


George Gerfaut, aimless young executive and desultory family man, witnesses a murder and finds himself sucked into a spiral of violence involving an exiled war criminal and two hired assassins. Adapting to the exigencies of his new life on the run with shocking ease, Gerfaut abandons his comfortable middle-class life for several months (including a sojourn in the countryside after an attempt to ride the rails turns spectacularly bad) until, joined with a new ally, he finally returns to settle all accounts… with brutal, bloody interest.

Originally released in 2005, West Coast Blues (Le Petit bleu de la côte ouest) is Tardi’s adaptation of a popular 1976 novel by the French crime writer Jean-Patrick Manchette. (The novel had been previously adapted to film under the more literal title Trois hommes à abattre, and was released in English by the San Francisco-based publisher City Lights under the English version of the same title, 3 to Kill.)

Tardi’s late-period, looser style infuses Manchette’s dark story with a seething, malevolent energy; he doesn’t shy away from the frequently grisly goings-on, while maintaining (particularly in the old-married-couple-style bickering of the two killers who are tracking Gerfaut) the mordant wit that characterizes his best work. This is the kind of graphic novel that Quentin Tarantino would love, and a double shot of Scotch for any fan of unrelenting, uncompromising crime fiction.

“Tardi brings a rough and gritty reality and an existential strangeness that makes his crime stories different than anyone else’s. I’ll read anything he draws.” – Ed Brubaker

“To put it simply, this shit kicks ass.” – Howard Chaykin

Here’s a 10-page preview (PDF).

Grown-Ups Are Dumb! (No Offense) – $8.99
By Alexa Kitchen
96 pages; published by Hyperion Books For Children; available at

Dumb parents, little brothers, gigantic messes, and homework–this is the plight of young readers everywhere. And, until now, it had not been expressed by someone so close to the source.

Ten-year-old Alexa Kitchen may have an unusual talent–she is the world’s youngest comics artist–but she really is just like many girls her age. Just trying to get by in a world that seems determined to undermine her at every turn. Luckily she’s got a way with a pen and a good sense of humor.

This collection of funny, insightful cartoons based on the real-life trials of many families will resonate with young readers everywhere.

Grimwood’s Daughter – $12.99
By Jan Strnad & Kevin Nowlan
64 pages; published by IDW Publishing; available at

Grimwood’s Daughter chronicles the last days of the elves in their desperate war against man, magician, and dragon. Artist Kevin Nowlan’s powerful images elevate Jan Strnad’s dark, cautionary tale into a true gem of fantasy fiction, a graphic fable that is compelling, timeless, and unforgettable. Includes a special section with Nowlan sketches and preliminaries!

Here’s a blog post by artist Kevin Nowlan reminiscing about the original release of this story and talking about this new publication. And here’s another with a preview.

The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook – $10.99
By Eleanor Davis
160 pages; published by MacMillan Publishing’s Bloomsbury Books; available at

Supersmart Julian Calendar thinks moving to a new school will mean he can shed his nerdy  image—but then he meets Ben and Greta, two secret scientists like himself. The three form  a covert club, complete with a high-tech lair. There, they can work to their hearts content on  projects like the Stink-O-Meter, the Kablovsky Copter, and the Nightsneak Goggles. All that  tinkering comes in handy when the trio discovers an evil scientist’s dastardly plan to rob a  museum. Can three inventors, armed with their wacky creations, hope to defeat this criminalmastermind?

Illustrated in full color throughout, The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook is a treat  for the eyes, with marvelous gadgetry rendered in elaborate detail. And stay on the lookout formore Secret Science Alliance adventures from comic supergenius Eleanor Davis!

Here’s a 9-page preview.

Yay comics! Go get ’em!