Paul Pope

New Graphic Novels, Comic Books for You – 10/14/09

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 October 14 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.

[And yes, I’m nearly a month behind. You don’t have to rub it in.]

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.

Blood + Water – $17.95
By Judd Winick & Tomm Coker
128 pages; published by DC Comics’ Vertigo Books; available at Amazon.com

Adam Heller is dying, but before he can take the big dirt nap, his best friends offer him a chance at immortality and he takes it. Now Adam is a vampire living it up on the wild side and it’s everything he could ever want. But the eternal party crashes to a bloody halt when an ancient monster awakens from the dark, forgotten places of the world and comes looking for Adam. The startling reason this monster has come looking for him may be the most horrifying realization of all.

I read this story when it originally came out in individual comic book issues back in 2003. (I can’t believe that was 6 years ago.) I find Judd Winick to be kind of a mixed bag as a writer, but this was one of his good ones. And as I recall Tomm Coker’s art is even better. It was so solid, I was kind of surprised a sequel never materialized. Maybe this collected edition is a hint that one is finally coming. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a preview. If anyone finds one, post it in the comments below.

Heavy Liquid – $24.99
By Paul Pope
240 pages; published by DC Comics’ Vertigo Books; available at Amazon.com

“Pope has embellished his stylish love story with heart-stopping action and adventure. …Pope’s drawing and page design … is both technically assured and wonderfully expressive.” —PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

“This has the potential to attract a large audience, including serious readers, science-fiction buffs, artists, and would-be graphic novelists.” —SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL

In a future where New York has evolved into a sci-fi metropolis, “S,” a man addicted to “heavy liquid,” a substance that is both a drug and an art form, finds himself trapped in a mystery littered with love and drugs. This new edition features bonus sketch material, new coloring and more.

Another one from Vertigo’s vaults, this was originally released in early 2000. Paul Pope is one of the art form’s more exceptional storytellers and artists and this has been on my must-get list for some time. It’s great to see this re-released. DC Comics has a pretty skimpy preview here in PDF.

The Fixer and Other Stories – $19.95
By Joe Sacco
216 pages; published by Drawn and Quarterly; available at Amazon.com

“Sacco is one of the most astute war-zone correspondents working today” –Rolling Stone

“A searing and amusing look at the motley collection of reporters, war profiteers, criminals, soldiers and hapless civilians trapped in war zone.” –New York Times

“Sacco doesn’t try to lay claim to the truth. He’s simply telling one man’s story, and it makes for an excellent book.” –Washington Post

“Sacco demonstrates that the narrative arts, including comics, can gather up complicated social truths with a gradual patience that often eludes the camera.” –Boston Globe

Using old-fashioned pen and paper, award-winning cartoonist Joe Sacco reports from the sidelines of wars around the world. THE FIXER AND OTHER STORIES is a new softcover that collects Joe Sacco’s landmark short stories on the Bosnian War that previously comprised the hardcover editions of THE FIXER and WARS END.

It must be re-issue week. This reprints material from 2003 and 2005. Joe Sacco is living proof that comics can do and be anything. Even journalism. And fortunately he’s real good at it, too. It’s sorta kinda like NPR in comics.

Blackbeard: Legend of the Pyrate King #1 – $3.50
By Eduardo Sanchez, Gregg Hale, Robert Napton, Jamie Nash and Mario Guevara
32 pages; published by Dynamite Entertaiment

Dynamite presents their most ambitious undertaking yet – BLACKBEARD: THE LEGEND OF THE PYRATE KING #1! Under the stunning John Cassaday, producers Eduardo (writer of The Blair Witch Project) Sanchez and Gregg (producer of The Blair Witch Project) Hale are joined by Robert Napton and Jamie Nash to present the ultimate adventure tale of a bygone age, when pyrates ruled the waters!
Beginning with his childhood and carry through to his bitter end, Blackbeard’s legacy has never been explored as deeply and illustrated as beautifully (by Mario Guevara) than now!

I don’t really consider a comic by the makers of The Blair Witch Project to be all that big of a selling point, but Dynamite has had a pretty decent track record with properties like The Lone Ranger, Zorro and Sherlock Holmes. I think this is their first comic steeped in history and based on an actual person, and I’m sure liberties will be taken. But it looks like a fun ride nevertheless. Check out the preview at the publisher link above.

MOME Vol. 16 – $14.99
Edited by Gary Groth and Eric Reynolds
112 pages; published by Fantagraphics Books; available at Amazon.com

Since its inception in 2005, Mome has served as a comics McSweeney’s. Whether exposing new talent like Eleanor Davis (author of the recent Stinky by Toon Books); featuring short stories by contemporary graphic novelists like Dash Shaw (The Bottomless Belly Button); bringing the work of international superstars like David B. (Epileptic) to American audiences; or introducing the work of legends like Gilbert Shelton (The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers) to a new generation of readers, Mome is the most acclaimed, accessible, frequent, and reasonably priced anthology on the market despite it’s high production values and mostly color format.

This issue features several of our favorite alternative comic artists of the last 15 years, bringing us great joy. Archer Prewitt is the first, with an all-new “Funny Bunny” strip created in between his active musical career. “The Moolah Tree” is the new Fuzz & Pluck graphic novel from Ted Stearn, following Fuzz & Pluck and Fuzz & Pluck: Splitsville, beginning serialization here. We are equally proud to debut new work from Renée French, whose work is also featured on the front and back cover of this issue. And Nicholas Mahler debuts to ask “What Is Art?” (translated by secret weapon Kim Thompson).

Also: the second chapter of T. Edward Bak’s “Wild Man – The Strange Journey – and Fantastic Accounts – of the Naturalist Georg Wilhelm Steller, from Bavaria to Bolshaya Zemlya (and Beyond)”; a new “Cold Heat” story by the team of Ben Jones, Frank Santoro & Jon Vermilyea; Dash Shaw interprets an episode of “Blind Date” into comics form; and new stories from Lilli Carré, Conor O’Keefe, Laura Park, Nate Neal, and Sara Edward-Corbett, with incidental drawings by Kaela Graham.

This highly regarded quarterly anthology is a great survey of some of the industry’s greatest and most innovative creators. If you’ve always wanted to sample quality alternative comics, here’s your first stop. Here’s a great big 12-page preview (PDF).

You Are There – $26.99
By Jacques Tardi & Jean-Claude Forest
192 pages; published by Fantagraphics Books; available at Amazon.com

The satirical masterpiece that ushered in the graphic novel era to European comics, finally available in English—the beginning of an ambitious publishing project introducing one of Europe’s most beloved cartoonists to American audiences. One of the earliest full-length, standalone graphic novels to be published in Europe, and certainly one of the best and most original, Ici Même was serialized in the adult French comics monthly (A suivre) in the early 1980s and then released in book form. A quarter of a century later, this dark, funny, consistently surprising masterpiece has finally been translated into English.

An unexpected yet smoothly confident collaboration between the darkly cynical Jacques Tardi and the playful fantasist Jean-Claude Forest (of Barbarella fame), You Are There is set on a small island off the coast of France, where unscrupulous landowners have succeeded in overtaking the land from the last heir of a previously wealthy family. That heir, whose domain, in a Beckettian twist, is now reduced to the walls that border these patches of land he used to own, prowls the walls all day, eking out a living by collecting tolls at each gate. His seemingly hopeless struggle to recover his birthright becomes complicated as the government sees a way of using his plight for the sake of political expediency, and the romantic intervention of the daughter of one of the landowners (who has her own sordid history with the politician) engenders further difficulties, culminating in an apocalyptic, hallucinatory finale.

Set in Tardi’s preferred early 20th century milieu, You Are There is drawn in his crisp 1980s neo-“clear line” style, gorgeously detailed, elegantly stylized, with impossibly deep slabs of black. You Are There is a feast for both the eyes and the brain.

As we cover in our documentary Dig Comics, the perception of comic books and their corresponding growth (or lack thereof) is notably different in countries other than the United States. This past summer, Dig Comics director/writer/host Miguel Cima discovered firsthand that France has a healthier, more diverse industry. This release from 1979 was apparently a significant moment in the growth of that industry. Here’s an even bigger 19-page preview (PDF).

The Act-I-Vate Primer – $24.99
Edited by Dean Haspiel, Nick Bertozzi, et al.
160 pages; published by IDW Publishing; available at Amazon.com

In the tradition of the acclaimed and groundbreaking anthology, Flight, the ACT-I-VATE Primer showcases a wide array of stories and talent -18 innovative creators, 16 intriguing properties, one beautiful book – and all-new, never-before-seen stories and art!

act-i-vate.com is the premier comic art collective on the Internet, featuring many renowned cartoonists who produce all-new material on a regular basis. The ACT-I-VATE PRIMER is a PRINT EXCLUSIVE anthology by many of the Act-I-Vate creators. None of the material in this book will appear on the Act-I-Vate website for at least one year from publication date.

There is a lot of good comics work being doing online and Act-I-Vate.com is one of the best hubs to find it. This anthology is another fine sampler. Here’s a 16-page preview.

That’s it for this week. Tougher than usual to whittle it down to a halfway digestible list. Yay comics!

New to Comics? New Comics for You! 7/8/09

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

Here’s some brand new stuff coming out this 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: While it may seem like it, I do not live in the future. 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.

Pixu: The Mark of Evil – $17.95
By Gabriel Ba, Becky Cloonan, Vasilis Lolos & Fabio Moon
128 pages; published by Dark Horse Comics; available at Amazon.com

This gripping tale of urban horror follows the lives of five lonely tenants — strangers — whose lives become intertwined when they discover a dark mark scrawled on the walls of their building. The horror sprouts quite innocently from a small seed and finds life as something otherworldly, damaged, full of love, hate, fear, and power. As the walls come alive, everyone is slowly driven mad — defenseless against the evil in the building, stripped of free will, leaving only confusion, chaos, and eventual death.

Originally self-published as a two-volume book, this groundbreaking work receives a deluxe presentation in a hardcover edition with a sketchbook section.

* The 2008 Eisner Award-winning team for Best Anthology — Gabriel Bá (The Umbrella Academy), Becky Cloonan (American Virgin), Vasilis Lolos (The Last Call), and Fábio Moon (Sugarshock) — return with their latest collaboration, Pixu: The Mark of Evil.

“The story telling here is beautiful, creating a real sense of dread and supernatural menace. Smart, subtle and genuinely disturbing.” -Mike Mignola, creator of Hellboy

A very generous 17-page preview for you. I met Becky Cloonan last year during Comic-Con for my Barbie photo-blog. She’s already incredibly talented, so there’s really no need to be that cool. I wish someone would set her straight. Anyway, this a creepy thing filled with psychological horror.

Sinfest Volume 1 – $14.95
By Tatsuya Ishida
208 pages; published by Dark Horse Comics; available at Amazon.com

AT LAST! “The webcomic to end all webcomics” has landed at Dark Horse, and we’re starting the collections at the beginning! Sinfest is one of the most-read and longest-running webcomics out there, and explores religion, advertising, sex, and politics in a way fleen.com calls “both brutally funny and devastatingly on-target.” In an era when most syndicated newspaper strips are watered down and uninspired, creator Tatsuya Ishida draws on influences ranging fromCalvin and Hobbes and Peanuts to manga and pop culture to bring us a breath of fresh air. If your comic-strip craving hasn’t been satisfied since the nineties, deliverance is finally at hand.

* The first volume of Sinfest collects the first six hundred Sinfest strips, introducing the full cast of characters and the opening installments of Ninja Theatre, beat poetry, calligraphy lessons, and the irresistible Pooch & Percival strips.

* Web traffic on Sinfest.net averages 1.7 million unique visitors per month and 300,000 page hits per day.

* “After seven years and counting, Tatsuya Ishida shows every indication of maturing into a cartoonist on the level of Bill Watterson and Walt Kelly.” –The Comics Journal, “50 Excellent Comics from 2007”

* “The best webcomic out there.” -comicsworthreading.com

* ” . . . Sinfest offers many laughs; it may be brutally funny, but it is dead honest and refreshing.” –Publisher’s Weekly

Running since January 17, 2000, the Sinfest webcomic launched and has been running daily ever since. That’s a pretty impressive run. You can go sample the entire run right there at Sinfest.net, so who cares how I describe it? Go check it out!

The Nobody – $19.99
By Jeff Lemire
144 pages; published by DC Comics’ Vertigo; available at Amazon.com

“Lemire handles the stuff of a Willa Cather novel with equal poetry . . . He renders emotion and temperment in a cartoon face with breathtaking, masterful economy.” 
— Booklist on The Essex County Trilogy

The tiny, isolated fishing village of Large Mouth never saw much excitement — until the arrival of the stranger, that is. Wrapped from head to toe in bandages and wearing weird goggles, he quietly took up residence in the sleepy town’s motel. Driven by curiosity, the townfolk quickly learn the tragic story of his past, and of the terrible accident that left him horribly disfigured. Eventually, the town embraces the stranger as one of their own — but do his bandages hide more than just scars?

Inspired by H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man, THE NOBODY explores themes of identity, fear and paranoia in a small community from up-and-coming alternative comics creator and Xeric Award-winner Jeff Lemire (The Essex County Trilogy) in a special two-color story that’ll have you guessing until the very end.

I’m really wanting this. I could post a preview, but I’ll do y0u one better because you deserve it. Here’s a teaser trailer of The Nobody:

North 40 #1 – $2.99
By Aaron Williams & Fiona Staples
32 pages; published by DC Comics’ WildStorm

Somewhere in Midwestern America was a place called Conover County. When the old book was opened, and the runes therein used in haste and ignorance, a place of farms, simple folk, and small-town dreams became a den of monsters and nightmare. NORTH 40 is the story of those who survived and came to confront an even greater evil on the horizon – one that wouldn’t just consume their flesh, but their souls as well. Heroes arise with power to bring against the dark: Wyatt, an unwilling protector of his former tormentors; Amanda, an apprentice to forgotten arts; and Sheriff Morgan, whose bonds with Conover County go back farther than even he can remember. See where it started, and watch where it’s all going in NORTH 40 #1. 

Created by Aaron Williams (PS238, The Nodwick Chronicles) and Fiona Staples (SECRET HISTORY OF THE AUTHORITY: HAWKSMOOR).

I like the visuals on the cover. Here’s a 3-page preview. Crazy horror monster attacks middle America.

Wednesday Comics #1 – $3.99
By everyone
16 pages; published by DC Comics

In July, DC Comics gives a fresh twist to a grand comics tradition with WEDNESDAY COMICS, a new, weekly 12-issue series by some of the greatest names in comics today! 

WEDNESDAY COMICS is unique in modern comics history: Reinventing the classic weekly newspaper comics section, it is a 16-page weekly that unfolds to a sprawling 28″ x 20″ tabloid-sized reading experience bursting with mind-blowing color, action and excitement, with each feature on its own 14″ x 20″ page.

Spearheaded by DCU Editorial Art Director Mark Chiarello, whose past editing credits include BATMAN BLACK and WHITE, DC: THE NEW FRONTIER and SOLO, each page of WEDNESDAY COMICS spotlights the continuing adventures of DC heroes, including: 

• BATMAN, WEDNESDAY COMICS’ weekly cover feature, by the Eisner Award-winning 100 BULLETS team of writer Brian Azzarello and artist Eduardo Risso 
• ADAM STRANGE, by writer/artist Paul Pope (BATMAN: YEAR 100) 
• METAMORPHO, written by New York Times best-selling writer Neil Gaiman with Art by Eisner Award-winner Michael Allred (Madman) 
• THE DEMON AND CATWOMAN, written by Walter Simonson (Thor, MANHUNTER) with Art by famed DC cover artist Brian Stelfreeze 
• DEADMAN, written by Dave Bullock and Vinton Heuck, Art by Dave Bullock 
• KAMANDI, written by Dave Gibbons (WATCHMEN, GREEN LANTERN CORPS) with Art by Ryan Sook (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, ARKHAM ASYLUM: LIVING HELL) 
• SUPERMAN, written by John Arcudi (The Mask) with Art by Lee Bermejo (JOKER) 
• WONDER WOMAN, written and illustrated by Ben Caldwell (Dare Detectives) 
• GREEN LANTERN, written by Kurt Busiek (TRINITY, ASTRO CITY) with Art by Joe Quiñones (TEEN TITANS GO!) 
• TEEN TITANS, written by Eddie Berganza with Art by Sean Galloway 
• SUPERGIRL, written by Jimmy Palmiotti (JONAH HEX) with Art by Amanda Conner (POWER GIRL) 
• HAWKMAN, written and illustrated by Kyle Baker (PLASTIC MAN, Special Forces) 
• SGT. ROCK, written by Adam Kubert (SUPERMAN: LAST SON), ilustrated by legendary comics artist Joe Kubert 
• THE FLASH, written by Karl Kerschl (TEEN TITANS YEAR ONE, THE FLASH: THE FASTEST MAN ALIVE) and Brenden Fletcher, illustrated by Karl Kerschl
• METAL MEN, written by Dan DiDio with Art by Ian Churchill (SUPERGIRL) 

WEDNESDAY COMICS will arrive in stores folded twice to 7″ x 10″, with the first issue set to reach stores on July 8.

Another exciting release from DC Comics. In the early 1900’s, one comic strip would take up an entire page, instead of the compartmentalized square inches of today. Strips like Winsor McKay’s Little Nemo had an entire newspaper sheet to stretch out and experiment, still even larger than modern comic books. That expanded canvass returns here in a bit of an experimental format, which is always risky with habit-entrenched comic readers. Some huge talent has been brought in to work on these stories, all guaranteed to be completely accessible superhero adventures. Seriously, this is more like it. The only stumbling block is the price but hopefully you and others will be taken by the novelty of experiencing comics like this for the first time in decades. Heck, USA Today is excited by it, and if they like it…!

Everybody Is Stupid Except For Me and Other Astute Observations – $16.99
By Peter Bagge
112 pages; published by Fantagraphics Books; available at Amazon.com

Fans of Peter Bagge’s generation-defining, satirical fiction may not realize this, but the cartoonist doubles as an opinionated cuss, and has been contributing provocative (but still hilarious) comic-strip opinion pieces to Reason magazine for the last several years… finally collected in this volume.

Although a libertarian by inclination (hence the Reason gig), Bagge (who lives in the fuzzy-headed, liberal capital of the Northwest, Seattle) is hardly dogmatic, and many of the pieces undermine traditional party lines in favor of a rather personal, rational and informed take on hot-button issues that will force partisan Democrats and Republicans alike to rethink them. And of course, Bagge’s well-researched comic strip “essays” crackle with the same energy and wit that propelled him into the collective Gen X consciousness with his comic book series Hate.

Favorite topics include the erosion of our civil liberties (whether the post-9/11 Bush administration’s gradual erosion of the Bill of Rights, the insanity of the war on drugs, or nanny-state meddling), ongoing boondoggles of the American public (for professional sports stadiums or ineffective public transportation systems), the Iraq war (Bagge is vociferously against it), so-called art and so-called entertainment, the homeless, the mall-ification of America, politicians both in general and in particular (including the 2008 presidential race and a revelatory one-on-one with Republican not-so-hopeful Ron Paul that soured Bagge on the candidate forever), the conservative/religious war on sex and drugs, and whether citizens should be allowed to own bazookas. Each piece features the voluble Bagge himself front and center as the puzzled, indignant, or deeply conflicted everyman-on-the-street trying to make sense of this 21st Century.

And of course, every panel is delineated in Bagge’s glorious, laugh-out-loud stretchy 4-color cartoon style, making even his disquisitions on some very serious topics go down as smoothly as Buddy Bradley’s latest escapade.

“Like all good political cartoonists, Bagge can be cruel. But he’s also willing to skewer himself when he deserves it… as libertarian polemicists go, he’s a lot more fun than, say, Ayn Rand.” – The Washington Post

I don’t always agree with his position, but his exploration is always great. And hearing other opinions and positions (especially well-informed like his), is almost always worthwhile. I remember the Ron Paul incident, which even got a little bit of mainstream(-ish) press right in the middle of the Presidential debates. Here’s a 12-page preview.

New Warriors: Classic, Volume 1 – $24.99
By Fabian Nicieza & Mark Bagley
208 pages; published by Marvel Comics; available at Amazon.com

His parents dead, Dwayne Taylor — a.k.a. Night Thrasher — set out to create a new family for himself and ended up with the premier super-team of the 1990s! Marvel Boy and Firestar! Namorita and Nova! Speedball! All they want to do is change the world! Decide for yourself how well they managed it in their trials by fire against Terrax and the Juggernaut! Also featuring anti-heroes Star-Thief and Psionex! Guest-starring Thor and the Inhumans! Collecting NEW WARRIORS #1-6 and THOR #411-412.

Look, this is my website, and I’ll recommend whatever I want! OK, look I’m not immune to nostalgia. This is the first superhero comic I was seriously devoted to and it really opened up my love for comics. This isn’t the series at its peak, but here is where it all started. At 14 years old, I was thrilled by these stories, mostly because it was like a Saturday morning cartoon with the most personal and realistic characterization I had encountered up to that point. These were kids my age or a bit older with “real” problems like divorcing or abusive parents, awkward crushes, and a still-developing sense of self. And then they used their cool powers to go on fun adventures, so it wasn’t entirely consumed by teen angst. I was hooked. For years. Heck, I still am.

Asterios Polyp – $29.95
By David Mazzucchelli
344 pages; published by Pantheon Books; available at Amazon.com

The triumphant return of one of comics’ greatest talents, with an engrossing story of one man’s search for love, meaning, sanity, and perfect architectural proportions. An epic story long awaited, and well worth the wait. 

Meet Asterios Polyp: middle-aged, meagerly successful architect and teacher, aesthete and womanizer, whose life is wholly upended when his New York City apartment goes up in flames. In a tenacious daze, he leaves the city and relocates to a small town in the American heartland. But what is this “escape” really about? 

As the story unfolds, moving between the present and the past, we begin to understand this confounding yet fascinating character, and how he’s gotten to where he is. And isn’t. And we meet Hana: a sweet, smart, first-generation Japanese American artist with whom he had made a blissful life. But now she’s gone. Did Asterios do something to drive her away? What has happened to her? Is she even alive? All the questions will be answered, eventually.

In the meantime, we are enthralled by Mazzucchelli’s extraordinarily imagined world of brilliantly conceived eccentrics, sharply observed social mores, and deftly depicted asides on everything from design theory to the nature of human perception.

Asterios Polyp
is David Mazzucchelli’s masterpiece: a great American graphic novel.

This is another huge release. Maybe the biggest one here (after New Warriors Classic of course). David Mazzucchelli is a great talent whose releases are criminally few and far between. Superhero fans know him from his collaboration with Frank Miller, Batman: Year One, but that doesn’t matter next to this.

This is a great week for comics. Almost something for everyone: horror, humor, heroes. Plenty to choose from! As it should be. Enjoy!