John Hankiewicz

New to Comics? New Comics for You! 9/23/09

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

(Still catching up. Time keeps on slipping-slipping-slipping into the future. For your patience… a sorta-kinda Halloween-themed edition!)

Here’s some brand new stuff that came out the week of September 23 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 Amazon.com 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.

Ghost Comics: A Benefit Anthology for RS Eden – $10.00
Edited by Ed Choy Moorman
176 pages; published by Bare Bones Press

Ghosts of dinosaurs, transforming robots, and forgotten pasts abound in this star-studded book of staggeringly good comics.
All proceeds benefit Minneapolis substance abuse treatment facility RS Eden.

Including: Monica Anderson, Tuesday Bassen, Jeffrey Brown, Kevin Cannon, Allison Cole, Warren Craghead III, Will Dinski, Will Hayes, Hob, John Hankiewicz, David Heatley, Toby Jones, Reynold Kissling, Aidan Koch, Lucy Knisley, Mike Lowery, Sean Lynch. Jessica McLeod, Ed Choy Moorman, Sarah Morean, Corinne Mucha, Abby Mullen, Madeline Queripel, Evan Palmer, John Porcellino, Zak Sally, Jillian Schroeder, Mark Scott, Eileen Shaughnessy, Jenny Tondera, Sarah Louise Wahrhaftig, Maris Wicks, and Jessica Williams.

“An excellent sampler of what’s being done in today’s indie comics scene.” – Midnight Fiction

A different take on ghost stories. Here’s a preview of each story from this 2008 Xeric Award winner.

Bart Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror #15 – $4.99
Edited by Sammy Harkham
48 pages; published by Bongo Comics; available at PictureBox

Guest edited by Sammy Harkham, the award-winning creator of the popular Kramers Ergot anthology, this year’s issue is jam-packed with some of the most idiosyncratic takes on “The Simpsons” universe ever.

Among Halloween-inspired short strips by such visionary cartoonists as C.F. (Powr Mastrs), Will Sweeney (Tales from Greenfuzz), Jordan Crane (Uptight), Tim Hensley (MOME), and John Kerschbaum (Petey & Pussy), are four featured tales of inspired Simpsons lunacy: heralded artists Kevin Huizenga (Ganges, Or Else) and Matthew Thurber (1-800 Mice, Kramers Ergot) collaborate on a weird and wild story equal parts Lovecraftian eco-horror and Philip K. Dick identity comedy. Jeffrey Brown (Incredible Change- Bots, Clumsy) does a creepy and suitably pathetic story featuring Milhouse in a “Bad Ronald”-inspired tale of murder and crawl space living. Harkham and Ted May (INJURY) pull out all the stops for a tragic monster tale of unrequited love, bad karaoke, and body snatching at Moe’s Bar. Ben Jones (Paper Rad) does the comic of his life with an epic tale of how bootleg candy being sold at the Kwik-E-Mart rapidly spirals out of control into an Invasion of The Body Snatchers-like nightmare of a Springfield filled with cheap bootleg versions of familiar characters. And nobody does squishy, sweaty, and gross like up and coming cartoonist Jon Vermilyea (MOME), who outdoes himself with “C.H.U.M.M.,” a C.H.U.D.-inspired parody featuring everybody’s favorite senior citizen, Hans Moleman!

Every year “The Simpsons” TV show does a special Halloween-themed episode. They also put out a comic book that’s probably even more bizarre and hilarious. Here’s a review of it with some previews.

Underground #1 – $3.50
By Jeff Parker & Steve Lieber
32 pages; published by Image Comics

Park Ranger and avid caver Wesley Fischer is on a one-woman mission to stop Stillwater Cave from being turned into a tourist trap, but public opinion is not on her side. When locals begin blasting in the cave, Wes and a fellow ranger investigate – and a confrontation spirals into a deadly chase deep under the Kentucky mountains!

Yes, there are even comics about people who explore caves. Claustrophobics be warned. Here’s a 7-page preview. One of the characters are named Corey, so I don’t really think it’s possible for this to not be awesome.

(And if you haven’t read Whiteout, I highly recommend it. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I haven’t really heard good things about it. Like with Watchmen and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, ignore the movie and enjoy the comic.)

Things Undone – $12.95
By Shane White
80 pages; published by NBM Publishing’s ComicsLit; available at Amazon.com

The author of the acclaimed “North Country” is back with a dark comedy. Despite Rick Watt’s best efforts to keep it together, he feels his life is falling apart, turning him into a zombie. After a cross-country move with girlfriend in tow, his fresh start turns into a festering mess. As a video game artist, Rick is subjected to the incompetence of three bosses and a kinky art director. His overactive imagination helps him cope until… his seven-year relationship tailspins and his ex takes flight with the guy across the parking lot. Other jobs and a new GF don’t look any better. Caught between his fantasy world and reality, Rick decides to pull the trigger.
With a foreword by Robert Kirkman, creator of the Walking Dead.

Here’s a 10-page preview. That flooded comics scene might be the most horrific thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

Outlaw: The Legend of Robin Hood – $11.99
By Tony Lee & Sam Hart
160 pages; published by Candlewick Press; available at Amazon.com

How did Robin of Loxley become Robin Hood? Why did he choose to fight injustice instead of robbing for his own gain? Expressive and gritty, this graphic novel whisks readers back to Crusades-era England, where the Sheriff of Nottingham rules with an iron fist, and in the haunted heart of Sherwood Forest, a defiant rogue — with the help of his men and the lovely Maid Marian — disguises himself to become an outlaw. Lively language and illustrations follow the legendary hero as he champions the poor and provokes a high-stakes vendetta in a gripping adventure sure to draw a new generation of readers.

Here’s a 30-second preview for you:

And here’s the graphic novel’s blog, for interviews, reviews and some other preview images.

New to Comics? New Comics For You! 8/5/09

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 Amazon.com 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.

Frankenstein’s Womb – $6.99
By Warren Ellis & Marek Oleksicki
48 pages; published by Avatar Press; available at Amazon.com

1816 was called “The Year Without A Summer.” In the weird darkness of that July’s volcanic winter, Mary Wolfestonecraft Godwin began writing Frankenstein on the shore of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. But that is not where Frankenstein began. It began a few months earlier when, en route through Germany to Switzerland, Mary, her future husband Percy Shelley, and her stepsister Clair Clairmont approached a strange castle. Castle Frankenstein, some one hundred years earlier, had been home to Johann Conrad Dippel, whose experiments included the independent invention of nitroglycerin, a distillation of the elixir of life – and the transfer of a live soul into an awful accretion of human body parts! Mary never spoke of having entered the real Castle Frankenstein, stark on its hilltop south of Darmstadt. But she did. And she was never the same again – because something was haunting that tower, and Mary met it there.

Fear, death, and alchemy – the modern age is created here, in lost moments in a ruined castle on a day never recorded. The newest addition to Warren Ellis’ Apparat line of original graphic novels has arrived! Following up the huge successes of Crecy and Aetheric Mechanics, Ellis turns his spark of mad genius to bring us a fantastical tale in this all-new original graphic novel illustrated in atmospheric perfection by newcomer Marek Oleksicki.

Warren Ellis is kind of disturbed. In this case, it should be a good thing. Here’s a preview.

The Gigantic Robot – $16.95
By Tom Gauld
32 pages; published by Buenaventura Press; available at Amazon.com

“A perfect little book.” – Daniel Clowes
A wry fable concerning the production of an impressive secret weapon whose promise goes unfulfilled. Elegant, meticulous and concise in both word and drawing, Gauld’s signature style graces the pages of this silver-cover board book.

This 8.25 x 10.5 inch board book format is a bit unconventional but this looks too delightful to pass up. There are pictures of the book, interior pages, and other goodies to look at on Tom Gauld’s Flickr account. (I love the mock Google ads he does at the end.) You can also order this straight from the artist’s site, CabanonPress.com.

Abstract Comics: The Anthology – $39.99
Edited by Andrei Molotiu
232 pages; published by Fantagraphics Books; available at Amazon.com

Abstract comics? Don’t all comics tell stories? How can a comic be abstract? Well, as it happens, beginning with the experiments of Saul Steinberg, through some of the more psychedelic creations of R. Crumb and Victor Moscoso, and with increasing frequency in recent years, cartoonists and other artists have played with the possibility of comics whose panels contain little to no representational imagery, and which tell no stories other than those that result from the transformation and interaction of shapes across the layout of a comic page. Reduced to the most basic elements of comics — the panel grid, brushstrokes, and sometimes colors — abstract comics highlight the formal mechanisms that underlie all comics, such as the graphic dynamism that leads the eye (and the mind) from panel to panel or the aesthetically rich interplay between sequentiality and page layout.

Abstract Comics, edited by Andrei Molotiu, an art historian as well as one of the best-known contemporary abstract-comic creators, is the first collection devoted to this budding genre. It gathers the best abstract comics so far created, including early experiments in the form by cartoonists primarily known for other types of comics, such as Gary Panter, Patrick McDonnell, or Lewis Trondheim, and pieces by little-known pioneers such as Benoit Joly, Bill Boichel and Jeff Zenick, as well as by recent creators who have devoted a good part of their output to perfecting the form, such as Ibn al Rabin, Billy Mavreas, Mark Staff Brandl, and many others. It also features first attempts, commissioned specifically for this anthology, by well-known cartoonists such as James Kochalka, J.R. Williams and Warren Craghead. Comprehensive in scope, Abstract Comics gathers work not only from North America, but also from France, Switzerland, Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, showing the rise in popularity of the genre to be a true international phenomenon. In the process, the anthology highlights the wide variety of approaches taken to the combination of abstraction and sequential art — approaches resulting in work that is not only graphically bold, but also often proves to be surprisingly humorous or emotionally disturbing.

Complete list of contributors (in order of appearance): R. Crumb, Victor Moscoso, Spyros Horemis, Jeff Zenick, Bill Shut, Patrick McDonnell, Mark Badger, Benoit Joly, Bill Boichel, Gary Panter, Damien Jay, Ibn al Rabin, Lewis Trondheim, Andy Bleck, Mark Staff Brandl, Andrei Molotiu, Anders Pearson, Derik Badman, Grant Thomas, Casey Camp, Henrik Rehr, James Kochalka, John Hankiewicz, Mike Getsiv, J.R. Williams, Blaise Larmee, Warren Craghead III, Janusz Jaworski, Richard Hahn, Geoff Grogan, Panayiotis Terzis, Mark Gonyea, Greg Shaw, Alexey Sokolin, Jason Overby, Bruno Schaub, Draw, Jason T. Miles, Elijah Brubaker, Noah Berlatsky, Tim Gaze, troylloyd, Billy Mavreas

Even more unconventional and on the more avant-garde side of things. More proof that comics are truly an art form. They can be just as weird, surreal, absurd, artistic, expressive and transcendent as any other medium. Fantagraphics has put up a Flickr slideshow of pages from the book. They also have a 20-page preview (PDF). I dare you to try this.

Pax Romana – $14.99
By Jonathan Hickman
136 pages; published by Image Comics; available at Amazon.com

In 2045, as Islam has overrun Europe and the West openly shuns monotheism, the Vatican funded, CERN Laboratories ‘discover’ that time travel is possible. The Pope orders the creation of a private army, and led by a few handpicked Cardinals and the finest graduates of selected war colleges, they travel back in time to 312AD – the reign of the first Christian Emperor, Constantine. Upon arrival, conflicting agendas, ideological differences, and personal greed see grand plans unravel.

Pax Romana is the tale of 5,000 men sent on an impossible mission to change the past and save the future. At the end of the world, will they succeed, or will they fail? This politically driven sci-fi epic comes from the creator of the hit Nightly News! Collects the entire Pax Romana series with never-before-seen back matter!

“Back matter”? Ew, what’s that? Is it like back fat? No, back matter is a term that someone, I think Warren Ellis (the disturbed writer mentioned above), came up with to describe exclusive content semi-equivalent to DVD extras but for comic books. Anyway, this is significantly more conventional after Abstract Comics, so if you’re not into that, some time traveling sci-fi adventure is probably more your speed. Although Jonathan Hickman doesn’t usually take the easy way out. In fact, he might be a bit crazy, too. Fortunately crazy is pretty entertaining if you don’t have to live with it. Here’s a preview of the first four pages.

Kaleidoscope: A Mr. Toast Book – $10.00
By Dan Goodsell
64 pages; published by Imaginary World Comics; available at Amazon.com

Kaleidoscope is a visual tour of the World of Mr Toast. No story, just a potpourri of comics, photographs, watercolors and paintings. Inside you will find humor and fun with Mr Toast and his pals, Joe the Egg, Shaky Bacon and Clem Lemon. Great for kids and adults of all ages.

This looks absolutely adorable and hilarious all at once. At the publisher’s link above, you’ll find some preview pages, and you’ll also be able to buy it for a few dollars less. So simple as to be brilliant.

Kind of a bizarre mix of comics this week, but I like it. I hope you find something you like, too!