Kickstarting an indie graphic novel about John Brown and Harper's Ferry

479ca985e57a8da6551c1ece1b765b00_original

Wilfred Santiago and Sanlida Cheng are comics pros who've worked for the likes of Marvel, DC and Fantagraphics, but for "Thunderbolt: An American Tale," their dramatization of the life of John Brown and the militant abolitionist uprising at Harper's Ferry, they've decided to go indie and take it to Kickstarter. Read the rest

Sex Criminals Volume Three: in which a dirty caper story becomes something much, much more

20150917_185609
The first two volumes of Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky's Sex Criminals were a dirty romp: a pair of lovers who discover that they can stop time at the moment of orgasm start robbing banks to save a local library from demolition, and run into a posse of other time-stopping fuckers who are set against them. But in volume three, Three the Hard Way, the story transcends the sex and the jokes to take a hard, wet look at what humans do when we do sex.

Saga Volume 6: Proof that awesome, weird, sexy space-opera can be produced to a schedule

screen-shot-2016-06-11-at-09-20-32 (1)
Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples' comic Saga blew the lid off comics when they started publishing it with the creator-friendly folks at Image, producing two graphic novels' worth of material in as many years; but then there was the long drought while we waited for book three (spoiler: worth the wait), and since then, they've hit a driving, relentless annual schedule, culminating in the publication, last week, of Volume 6, which is all that we've come to love from the series and then some.

Jughead: Zdarsky's reboot is funny, fannish, and freaky

maxresdefault
For the past couple years, the "new, hipster" Archie has been pushing the envelope on what can be done within the confines of an old, beloved (and outdated) media brand: there was Kevin Keller, a gay character; Jughead coming out as asexual; a seriously scary zombie story; Sharknado spinoffs; a breast cancer storyline; even a guest appearance by Jaime "Love and Rockets" Hernandez: but Chip "Sex Criminals" Zdarsky's run on Jughead, illustrated by Erica Henderson and just collected in a trade paperback shows just how much fun the new normal of Archie can be!

Teri S. Wood's Wandering Star Gets New Omnibus Graphic Novel

Wandering Star Cover Teri S Wood

Stop what you’re doing and buy the new omnibus graphic novel of Teri S. Wood's 1990s comic series Wandering Star. It's amazing. Splendtacular, even.

Set in the future, it is the tale of Cassandra Andrews, daughter of the President of Earth, and how she became embroiled in a galaxy-spanning war for freedom from tyranny. Wood takes what could be a generic science fiction trope and creates something new and different by weaving in hard, realistic racism, xenophobia, religion and philosophy (which are shockingly and sadly relevant to current world events) paired with well-defined and incredibly likeable—and hateable—characters. In fact, the characters and story are so strong and relatable the scifi setting becomes a simple backdrop, the room in which the tale unfolds. The plot is tight, marching forward chapter by chapter, without excess or unnecessary tangents. It is humorous, horrific, endearing, and heart-crushing all in equal measure.

The art is just as good as the story. Wood is a master cartoonist who has a command of human anatomy and understands how to bend, squash and exaggerate it to create visually charming characters, both human and alien alike. Her lines are fluid and alive and playful. I marvel at the stippled, hand-drawn pen and ink effects she puts into every page that make the art in Wandering Star so unique. What’s more, Wood knows how to use sequential art and camera angle to deliver both side-splitting comedy and emotional gut-punches. (And I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention the rad 90’s pop culture and indie comics references hidden in the background details of the art.)

While the series has been collected into graphic novels in the past, those editions are long out of print and nowhere near the quality of this new omnibus. Read the rest

William Gibson's Archangel: intricate military sf, mercilessly optimized for comics

056c026d-1c66-4d42-9fae-a8e96df290c5-1020x1131

Archangel is a five-part science fiction comic written by William Gibson and Michael St. John Smith and illustrated by Butch Guice; Issue #1 came out last month and sold out immediately, and IDW has only just got its second printing into stores this week, just ahead of the ship-date for #2, which is due next Wednesday. Read the rest

How tragedies of the Great Depression influenced singer Woody Guthrie

woody

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Woody Guthrie and the Dust Bowl Ballads by Nick Hayes Harry N. Abrams 16, 272 pages, 8.6 x 8.6 x 1.2 inches $19 Buy a copy on Amazon

A graphic novel of the life and early career of singer Woody Guthrie, Woody Guthrie and the Dust Bowl Ballads is a sepia and dusty brown, linocut illustrated graphic novel. It begins with harrowing tales of his youth – his mother burning his father with coal oil, resulting in her being shipped off to the Hospital For The Insane, the collapse of his Pampa hometown as the plummeting price of wheat ruined the local and national economy, and Guthrie traveling roads and hopping trains during the Great Depression. His encounters with snake oil salesmen and carnival acts, hobos, and migrant workers, as well as his exposure to the music of Cajuns, Native Americans, Xit cowboys, and Appalachian folksong performances at barn dances ultimately inspire him to take up the fiddle and write original tunes.

Along with Woody's story, the book provides a powerful backstory on the environmental conditions of the Dust Bowl region, including the displacement of Native Americans through the push of white settlers on native lands, agriculture techniques that resulted in the tearing up of the bluestem grasses to plant wheat, an unprecedented drought, and the glut of wheat causing the exodus of settlers to California. This all brings to life the tragic unraveling of the fragile Dust Bowl ecosystem and brings about the hardscrabble lives and dust-blown landscape that Guthrie integrates into his music. Read the rest

Fight Club 2 – a punch to the cerebral cortex

tumblr_o9nv3x3i9v1t3i99fo1_1280

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Fight Club 2 by Chuck Palahniuk (author), Cameron Stewart (illustrator) and David Mack (illustrator) Dark Horse Comics 2016, 256 pages, 6.9 x 10.5 x 0.9 inches $20 Buy a copy on Amazon

Let’s talk about Fight Club. This movie rocked me, and introduced me to the incredible and controversial work of Chuck Palahniuk. Now the concept of a sequel does seem a little out of sorts to the counter culture message of the original, but honestly, who hasn’t been wondering how things turned out for Marla and the Narrator after he stuck a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger? Did they find their happily ever after? No, of course they didn’t, thus the sequel.

The Narrator finally gets a name, Sebastian...it’s not a great name, but it fits given the current state of his life. Marla’s bored, Sebastian is in a drug-induced fog, Tyler Durden is raging behind the scenes trying to get back in control, and project mayhem is causing more chaos than ever. Then things get weird.

If you’ve only seen the movie you probably won’t dig this. Actually Palahniuk’s anticipation of the fanbase’s dislike for the comic becomes an actual plot point. Things get meta to say the least. The comic builds off of not just the novel, but Palahniuk’s work and reputation since the film came out. It’s very fitting of Palahniuk, and I think fans of his will really enjoy it, but be clear this is not a blockbuster directed by David Fincher and starring Brad Pitt or Ed Norton. Read the rest

Hope Larson's "Compass South": swashbuckling YA graphic novel

CompassSouth_INT-45
Hope Larson is a comics genius, the woman hand-picked to adapt Madeline L'Engle's Wrinkle In Time for comics, who furthermore just nailed it, and whose other projects are every bit as rich and wonderful. Today she begins a new young adult series, Four Points, whose first volume, Compass South is a treasure-chest of swashbuckling themes and action.

The first volume of Injection reads like a fairytale brought into the tech world

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Injection by Warren Ellis (author), Jordie Bellaire (illustrator) and Declan Shalvey (illustrator) Image Comics 2015, 120 pages, 6.4 x 10 x 0.4 inches $7 Buy a copy on Amazon

Science meets folklore. It’s a theme that is pervasive throughout literature, from Frankenstein to Dracula to The Dragon Riders of Pern. And like its predecessors, the first volume of Injection also poses the question, what if these two things aren’t as different as we’d like to believe?

Injection reads like a fairytale brought into the modern century, combining the folklore used by its predecessors with new computers and communication systems. The story jumps backwards and forwards in time, telling the chronicle of five brilliant people with different backgrounds who came together and built an artificial consciousness to “make the 21st century more interesting.” As anyone who has seen The Matrix or Terminator films could tell you, this creation doesn’t do what the team was hoping it would. But instead of being straight science fiction, the novel joins science with the fantastic. The creation begins mimicking folklore, and the solution to defeating it seems to lie just as much in magic as it does in science.

The artwork is classically rendered graphic novel illustration, reminding me of the Hellboy series, or Sandman. What strikes me as the most interesting part of the pictures is the range of color used in them; the palette moves from dark greys and greens to brilliant oranges and reds, and some of the scenes are done in such a surreal manner you feel as though you’ve been transported to another plane altogether (which, truth be told, might just be the case). Read the rest

Sex Criminals: Robin Hood bank robbers who can stop time when they orgasm

sc2.png
Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky's creator-owned comic Sex Criminals is a filthy, hilarious heist story about a couple who discover that they can stop time while orgasming, and keep it frozen until they become horny again -- so they use their power to rob banks in order to rescue a library from foreclosure (naturally). The first two series of the comic are collected in Big Hard Sex Criminals, a fabulous hardcover whose plain pink wrapper comes off to make it look like you're reading a book on DIY pet euthanasia.

We Stand on Guard: in 100 years, America seizes Canada for its water

Brian K Vaughan's varied career in comics has had numerous and diverse hits like Saga, the epically weird and sexy space-opera; Y: The Last Man, an end-of-the-world story; now, with We Stand on Guard, Vaughan dramatically ups his body count in a tale of an American resource war that's a lot closer to home than the invasion of Iraq.

Lumberjanes: ground-breaking, wonderful, hilarious comic about adventurous girls

LumberjanesEisner
I'm late to the party on Lumberjanes: I bought the first collection when it came out last summer, then promptly lost it in my overseas move; last weekend, I read it and the next two books and fell head over heels in love with this series of graphic novels for kids and adults.

Nod Away: first in a series of seven science fiction graphic novels

tumblr_o3udqhqOwf1t3i99fo1_1280

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Nod Away by Joshua Cotter Fantagraphics 2016, 240 pages, 7.8 x 10.2 x 0.8 inches (softcover) $21 Buy a copy on Amazon

Sometimes the most abstruse and esoteric dilemmas are best considered in the abstract, as if by not directly looking at things somehow makes them more clear. Zen masters speak in koans, Nietzsche wrote in aphorisms, and poets immerse themselves in metaphors, all of them trying to communicate things in a manner that steps outside of the constraints of language. So it is with Joshua W. Cotter’s new book from Fantagraphics Books, Nod Away.

Nod Away is the first of what Cotter promises to be a seven-volume series. Ostensibly this first volume is a sci-fi story that circles around issues such as the human desire for exploration and connection, the power structure inherent in gender politics, and the gray area created in the intersection between science and morality, but, as the book unfolds, the reader feels there is something more complicated occurring in the periphery. Cotter is exploring profound questions of consciousness itself by creating a story that asks them indirectly.

Densely detailed and tightly packed, Cotter’s pages pull and push the classic nine-panel grid layout, opening up or staying regimented as the emotional beat demands. His layouts control the reader’s experience explicitly and play with expectations in order to keep things just off balance enough to force engagement and demand active reading. Just when things start to coalesce, though, Cotter blows them apart. Read the rest

The beautiful grotesques of Megahex are back with more tales of depravity and friendship

tumblr_o6kbgjvPSN1t3i99fo8_1280-1

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Megg and Mogg in Amsterdam (and Other Stories) by Simon Hanselmann Fantagraphics 2016, 164 pages, 6.6 x 9.1 x 0.8 inches $14 Buy a copy on Amazon

The entire loveably dysfunctional freak family that stole our hearts in Megahex (and sold them on the black market for hookers and blow) are back in Megg and Mogg in Amsterdam (and Other Stories). Once again we enter the bizarre funhouse world of Megg the witch, her cat familiar/lover Mogg, and their coterie of hangers on: Owl, Werewolf Jones, Mike the Gnome, Booger (a boogey woman), Dracula, Jr., and others.

On the surface, little has changed. The revolving door of Megg and Mogg’s house still spins to let their drug-addled crew enter, hatch a series of ridiculous schemes, inhale all of the drugs and fast food, and then we get to watch as one nightmarish scenario after another plays out like a slow-motion train wreck. But there are deeper relationship themes that run through Megg and Mogg in Amsterdam. Over the course of the book, strips begin to introduce trouble in Megg and Mogg’s relationship, and Megg’s growing attraction to Booger. Werewolf Jones also is having trouble in his marriage and is fighting to retain custody of his two sons (while doing every boneheaded thing in the world to ensure that doesn’t happen). The title of the book refers to a trip that Megg and Mogg take to Amsterdam to try and patch up their failing relationship. Read the rest

The Collector follows an 1880's rogue and dandy as he travels in search of treasures

tumblr_o30kpdTOlt1t3i99fo1_1280

See sample images from this book at Wink.

The Collector by Sergio Toppi Archaia 2014, 252 pages, 8.5 x 11 x 1 inches $23 Buy a copy on Amazon

I was delighted to discover this terrific collection of comics by Italian artist Sergio Toppi. Although I’d never seen his work before, it instantly got my attention and seemed familiar. It combines a flat graphic art style, a swashbuckling sensibility and witty writing that I found irresistible.

Sergio Toppi (1932-2012) was an artist and illustrator from Italy, whose books have been published for decades in Europe but only recently translated and available in the U.S. through Archaia, a division of Boom Entertainment. The Collector won the Soleil D’Or prize for Best Series at the Soliès-Ville Festival. It’s easy to see why.

The book follows the exciting exploits of an 1880’s rogue and dandy, known as “The Collector,” as he travels the globe in search of treasures. Not a seeker of gold or jewels, he collects only artifacts with historical significance. This sets the stage for adventures featuring Hopi Indians in the American Southwest, camel-riding Ethiopians, Mongol tribesmen, warring Irish clans, Maori chieftains and more. Although the artwork is in black and white, it’s most highly folkloric and historically colorful. The separate wide-ranging episodes and characters are knitted back together into a satisfying finale.

Each page is laid out in dramatic fashion with bold layouts. Some pages have conventional multiple comic panels, while others feature free-wheeling compositions, along with other full-page designs, more fine line illustration than comic book. Read the rest

Something New: frank, comedic, romantic memoir of a wedding in comic form

SomethingNew-100-270
Lucy Knisley is a favorite around these parts, a comics creator whose funny, insightful, acerbic and disarmingly frank memoirs in graphic novel form have won her accolades and admiration from across the field. With her latest book, Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride, Knisley invites us into her wedding, her love life, her relationship with her mother, and an adventure that's one part Martha Stewart, one part French farce comedy.

More posts