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December 2010

Below are the comics, manga and graphic novels I’m most looking forward to based on publisher advance listings due to be released in December 2010 (although actual dates may vary).



A Single Match
by Oji Suzuki
Drawn & Quarterly
$24.95

The publisher says:
In this collection of hauntingly elliptical short stories, Oji Suzuki explores memory, relationships and loss with a loose narrative style, filling each tale with a sense of unfulfilled longing. He plumbs the dissolute depths of human psychology, literally bathing his characters in expansive shadows that paradoxically reveal as much as they obscure. A young man catches a cold after being soaked in the rain and is tended to by his grandmother. He drifts, dreaming of a train trip with an older brother he doesn’t have. A traveling salesman comes across a boy lying in the middle of the road and stops to have a cigarette and tell a story that drifts through memories of faces and places, before settling back on the traveling salesman and the boy pretending to not look at the stars. A young woman walks along the river with her bicycle and a friend who is nothing more than a disembodied head discussing past times together, memories they have of each other. Although he touches on many of the same themes as his contemporaries in the field of post-war alternative manga, Yoshihiro Tsuge (L’Homme Sans Talent) and Seiichi Hayashi (Red Coloured Elegy), Suzuki’s ever-shifting narrative approach and dashes of surrealist humor distinguish his work from his peers.

Paul Gravett says:
Here’s the latest in D&Q’s discriminating range of progressive manga from the early 1970s, which we in the West are only now just about able to grapple with. Take a peep at this 18-page pdf preview and see if you’re as intrigued by this as I am.



Ada
by Atak & Gertrude Stein
Nobrow
£11 / €13 / $17.50

The publisher says:
You have waited long enough you say, but it was surely worth it, because after the long wait you are all rewarded amply with this stunning book by Atak and Gertrude Stein and the first of many Nobrow releases in time for the holiday season. In this illustrated version of celebrated poet and art patron Gertrude Stein’s first ‘word portrait’, Berlin based artist Atak visually recounts the fortunes of the poem’s two protagonists Barnes and Ada Colhard alongside a hand written version of the poem. Generally thought to have been created for Stein’s lover Alice Toklas, the poem represented a significant breakthrough in her prose writing as it focused on the interior quality of the characters and established the stylistic format for many ‘portraits’ to come. Atak’s unique style of illustration harks back to the days of chromolithography. As with these early printing techniques, on every page of the book each print layer is meticulously created by hand directly onto film. There are only a handful of artists left still using this technique and the result is inimitable. The book has the look and feel of something created in the early days of printmaking.

Paul Gravett says:
Reports of print’s demise have been greatly exaggerated, as proved by Nobrow’s alluring, jewel-like publications, truly special books to treasure and caress.  Their latest production is the first original language edition of a remarkable adaptation of Stein’s writing by German genius Atak, previously published in French and German editions. You can read more about him here and see inside the book here.



Bigfoot
by Pascal Girard
Drawn & Quarterly
$19.95

The publisher says:
Jimmy is a teenager in a crummy little town. He’s got a lousy best friend Simon, a porn habit and an uncle whose miserable existence is the embodiment of life stalled in its tracks. He’s also got a tender soul, a pure-hearted crush and the makings of a budding artist. A horrible youtube video of Jimmy dancing in his living room becomes viral, courtesy of Simon, and has made every sweet and hopeful thing about Jimmy seem utterly pathetic. Everyone from fellow classmates to the clerk at the corner store has seen the video, and Jimmy finds himself a celebrity in his town, just for the wrong reason. Unfortunately, the youtube antics do not stop there. As Pascal Girard illustrated in debut graphic novella Nicolas, his second book again showcases his spare deceptively simple style that is but wonderfully expressive and pitch-perfect dialogue. Girard utilizes a drawn line full of tentative, exploratory and intuitive emotion, a line sure of the treasure it carries as the book’s quiet hero.

Paul Gravett says:
Girard’s Nicolas was a haunting little gem and judging from these four preview pages here Bigfoot looks like a strong, full-scale follow-up in a 48-page colour hardback. Definitely one young voice to keep on your radar.



Drawn & Dangerous:
Italian Comics of the 1970s & 1980s

by Simone Castaldi
University Press of Mississippi
$40.00

The publisher says:
Exploring an overlooked era of Italian history roiled by domestic terrorism, political assassination, and student protests, Drawn and Dangerous: Italian Comics of the 1970s and 1980s shines a new light on what was a dark decade, but an unexpectedly prolific and innovative period among artists of comics intended for adults. Blurring the lines between high art and popular consumption, artists of the Italian comics scene went beyond passively documenting history and began actively shaping it through the creation of fictional worlds where history, cultural data, and pop-realism interacted freely. Featuring brutal Stalinist supermen, gay space travelers, suburban juvenile delinquents, and student activists turned tech-savvy saboteurs, these comics ultimately revealed a volatile era more precisely than any mainstream press. Italian comics developed a journalistic, ideology-free, and sardonic approach in representing the key events of their times. Drawn and Dangerous makes a case for the importance of the adult comics of the ‘70s and ‘80s. During those years comic production reached its peak in maturity, complexity, and wealth of cultural references. The comic artists’ analyses of the political and religious landscape reveal fresh perspectives on a transformative period in Italian history.

Paul Gravett says:
The publisher’s blurb curiously avoids mentioning any characters or creators but presumably Castaldi will be covering some of the truly great rebels of fumetti, from Liberatore and Tamburini on RanXerox to the visinoary Andrea Pazienza and maybe Mattotti and the others in the Valvoline group. I covered some of these thrilling innovations way back in Escape Magazine #5 in 1985 in our ‘Spaghetti Fumetti’ feature, so I am glad to see a new volume coming out on this this stormy, steamy era in Italian comics history.



El Vocho
by Steve Lafler
Manx Media
$12.00

The publisher says:
In El Vocho, Rosa the mechanic and Eddie the artist fall in love against a backdrop of intrigue - Rosa has created the ultimate green engine, but the oil industry will stop at nothing to erase all trace of it! Find out if Rosa can dodge the oil goons & bring her clean technology to the public. Steve Lafler offers a crackling urban romance pairing uber cute Rosa, a brilliant inventor, with the laconic Eddie, boy/man artist. Can love blossom over the backdrop of a tense thriller pitting big oil against budding genius Rosa? Indie comics veteran Lafler is best known for Bughouse, a graphic novel trilogy (Top Shelf Productions) tracing the emergence of Be-bop jazz, featuring an all insect cast. With El Vocho, the cartoonist is tinkering with the emerging publishing model within the cartooning trade. “With the simultaneous emergence of web media and the ascendancy of the graphic novel in the book trade, it’s the perfect time to bring clean energy themes to comics. The next economy will be a green economy. I believe that we can improve life for everyone and create jobs at the same time. My muse has compelled me to create a love story/thriller on the subject” says Lafler. “My strategy with El Vocho is to post the complete work on the web, and subsequently publish it as a graphic novel.” El Vocho is being posted as it is created online.

Paul Gravett says:
Lafler is a hard-working regular American maverick, making comics his way no matter what, channelling classic strips and underground legends, and enjoying the freedoms the internet brings to unfold his story and themes. There’s an insightful Comics Journal review of the book by Rob Clough.



Finder: Voice
by Carla Speed McNeil
Dark Horse
$19.99

The publisher says:
What you find isn’t nearly as important as what finds you… Since 1996, Finder has set the bar for science—fiction storytelling, with a lush, intricate world and compelling characters. Now, Carla Speed McNeil’s Eisner Award—winning series comes to Dark Horse with the original graphic novel Voice. In a society defined by its intricate network of clans, Rachel Grosvenor has grown up an outcast, straddling worlds. Now, her quest for admission to a highly exclusive clan sends Rachel spiraling into the dark underbelly of Anvard and a paradox that holds the key to her future: How do you find a Finder?

Paul Gravett says:
Amid the giant haystack of dreary, derivative, licensed-property based, and worst of all unimaginative fantasy that drowns so much of the American medium, Finder is that glistening, glorious needle, steely, sharp, a bit dangerous, dazzlingly crafted.  Voice may not be quite a wholly ‘original’ graphic novel, as I gather Carla has been serialising this online, but it’s wonderful to have a new Finder volume to look forward to. Read my previous rave reviews here and find Finder!



Frank Bellamy’s Complete Swift Stories
by Michael Butterworth & Frank Bellamy
Book Palace
$225.99 / £125.00

The publisher says:
This book brings together every strip and illustration produced by Frank Bellamy for the classic British children’s comic Swift, Frank Bellamy’s Swift contains the complete adventures Robin Hood, King Arthur and His Knights and Swiss Family Robinson, plus his contributions to other strips (The Fleet Family, Paul English) and the Swift Annual. Edited by Steve Holland with an introduction by Dave Gibbons. 380-pages, part-colour softcover in Deluxe Leatherbound Edition of 200 copies, with bonus Limited edition Robin Hood print.

Paul Gravett says:
Classic British adventure comics from their golden era in the Fifties, meticulously reprinted and splendidly packaged. I know this is a high-ticket item but it’s a very limited edition and frankly the late, great Bellamy stands tall as one of the greatest illustrators to have worked in comics anywhere, not just in Britain. Take a look here at the bonus print to see for a sampler of what I mean.


Freeway
by Mark Kalesniko
Fantagraphics
$28.99

The publisher says:
A down-on-his luck animator looks back in anger. In his first new graphic novel since 2001’s acclaimed Mail Order Bride, Mark Kalesniko delivers a 416-page tour de force chronicling a single day - a few hours, even - in the life of his recurring dog-headed alter ego, Alex Kalienka. Stuck in a horrendous traffic jam on his way to his increasingly miserable job as an animator at Babbitt Jones Studios, a burnt-out and depressed Alex alternately rages, reminisces, fantasizes and hallucinates. Thus flashbacks to his earliest days as a starry-eyed young animator snagging his dream job, through the increasingly depressing political battles and creative compromises, with a love affair gone badly wrong along the way, alternate with scenes of an increasingly agitated present-day Alex, who imagines a series of increasingly violent deaths for himself.  Then again, are they in fact fantasies, or prescient flashes? Is a threatening car tailing Alex just a paranoid fantasy or a genuine threat? Readers will have to wait until the very end of this hugely ambitious graphic novel to find out. Moreover, woven into this narrative fabric is a series of imagined moments from two generations ago, a Golden Age of animation, when an earlier Alex made his entry into a much different Babbitt Jones Studio - as imagined by the increasingly despondent present-day Alex. Loaded with fascinating insider information on two different generations of animators, skipping seamlessly among present and several different pasts, reality and fantasy, Freeway is another step forward for a major cartooning talent.

Paul Gravett says:
I have been soooo waiting for this one. Read my commentary of Kalesniko here and look out for what promises to be his magnum opus.



Grandville: Mon Amour
by Bryan Talbot
Dark Horse/Jonathan Cape
$19.99/£16.99

The publisher says:
The Badger is back! Set three weeks after the finale of Grandville, Grandville Mon Amour pits Detective Inspector Archie LeBrockof Scotland Yard against an old adversary and ruthless urban guerrilla, Edward ‘Mad Dog’ Mastock, - a psychotic serial killer whose shocking escape from his execution by guillotine at the Tower of London begins this fast-paced, Hitchcockian steampunk thriller. LeBrock, still racked by remorse for his failure to prevent the death of ‘the Divine Sarah’ and working outside the law after resigning his post following a blazing row with his superior officer, embarks on a quest to redeem himself by tracking down Mastock and bringing to an end his horrific murder spree. Aided by his adjunct and old friend, Detective Roderick Ratzi, he follows the trail of carnage to Paris. Otherwise known as Grandville, it’s the largest city in a world dominated by France, a city used to violence following the years of terrorist bombings by the extreme fanatic wing of the British resistance during the occupation, the notorious Angry Brigade, of which Mastock was the sadistic leading light. With his customary tenacity, LeBrock stalks his prey through a world populated by anthropomorphic animals, an underclass of humans and automaton robots where advanced steam technology powers everything from hansom cabs to iron flying machines. It’s a trail that leads to the demimonde of Parisian prostitution and an atrocity perpetrated twenty-three years ago. With a range of new and fascinating characters and a mix of Holmesian deduction, knowing humour and edge of the seat action, Grandville: Mon Amour continues the vein of high-octane adventure begun in the first volume. Can even LeBrock escape the past or do heroes have feet of clay? Follow the badger!

Paul Gravett says:
With a second episode delivered only a year later, Bryan Talbot is clearly on a roll here. He’s already brewing up a third and has loads of ideas for more. You can feel how much he’s enjoying this mash-up of steampunk, period detective and anthropomorphism (or the funny animal genre). Some of the greatest pleasures here are spotting his puns and jokey references. Here is the official home on the web of this graphic novel series with links to previews, interviews and a stylish trailer. Bryan will be launching Grandville: Mon Amour (a reference to the 1959 Alain Resnais film Hiroshima Mon Amour) at a special Comica Festival evening on 1 December at the ICA on The Mall, London - more details here. The U.S. edition is due out February 2011.



Hagakure: The Code of the Samurai
by Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Sean Michael Wilson & Chie Kutsuwada
Kodansha America
$14.95

The publisher says:
Reminiscent of The Arabian Nights in structure, Hagakure is a collection of tales and anecdotes that offer instruction and insight into the philosophy and code of behavior that foster the true spirit of Bushido - the Way of the Warrior. A young, upcoming samurai seeks the advice of an older, seasoned warrior who has become a Zen monk. The ambitious young samurai humbly begs to learn from the old master, who consents. So begins a series of eventful meetings. At each sitting, the master tells his young student tales of samurai past. Tales of famous warriors are recited, as well as ignoble gaffs. With brutal, unrelenting samurai justice, wrongs are righted and judgment is enacted. With each incident, the young novice learns what it means to be a samurai. Learns what courage and right thought are. Learns the harsh realities and subtle wisdom of his age.

Paul Gravett says:
Sean is a Scot in Japan while Chie is a Japanese woman in London, and between them they have crafted two new graphic novels coincidentally both out this month. This one marks an exciting new venture from publishing giant Kodansha’s international wing, originating manga aimed at both the Japanese and Western markets.



My New New York Diary
by Julie Doucet & Michel Gondry
PictureBox
$24.95

The publisher says:
In 2008, the famed director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Green Hornet, You’ll Like This Film Because You’re In It) wrote to legendary cartoonist Julie Doucet (of My New York Diary fame) to propose that they make a film together. Little did Gondry and Doucet know that the process itself would be the film, and they’d soon be starring in a “reality” comic and film of their own devising. They settled on a process that involved inserting the “real” Julie into a landscape of her own drawings. After meeting and filming with Gondry in Brooklyn, Doucet returned to her native Montreal and created dozens of drawings for the scenery, while Gondry, in New York, worked on editing the footage itself. Over time, these two elements were combined, and the result is a magical, funny and touching 20-minute film. My New New York Diary contains all of Doucet’s drawings for the film, as well as the DVD containing the film itself. Both the film and Doucet’s graphic novella are being released only in this deluxe, hardcover volume from PictureBox, which does full justice to the richness and warmth of Doucet and Gondry’s collaboration.

Paul Gravett says:
Back in May in Lucerne while co-curating our Jack Kirby exhibition, Dan Nadel was telling me about this fascinating collaborative project mixing film and diary comics by these two great artists. Ever since her self-publishing zine days on Dirty Plotte, French-Canadian Doucet has stayed an ever-exciting, spirited artist to follow, as she branches restlessly into all sorts of expressive territories, like this latest ‘film-book’ adventure. PictureBox have posted a few images here.



On The Line
by Rick Wright & Rian Hughes
Image
$12.99

The publisher says:
Celebrated designer and illustrator Rian Hughes first explored the possibilities of Adobe Illustrator’s vector drawing tools with ‘On The Line’, a unique newspaper strip written by Rick Wright that ran in The Guardian, one of the United Kingdom’s largest daily newspapers. This December, the strip gets its first-ever collection with On The Line, a gorgeous new hardcover from Image Comics. With On The Line, Hughes forged a modern design-savvy approach that still tips the hat to classic UPA cartoons and the angular work of Gene Deitch. Bold, graphic and expressive, this collection brings together every strip for the very first time, including some unpublished rarities, in a neat hardback designed by Hughes in a pocket-sized format.

Paul Gravett says:
Not come across these Hughes newsprint items before, to be honest, but sure to be worth checking out in this suitably snazzy 48-page 6x6 inch square hardcover. Rian’s Yesterday’s Tomorrows is also getting a paperback release via Image this November. You can read my intro to that here.



Pandora’s Eyes
by Vincenzo Cerami & Milo Manara
Humanoids Inc
$19.95

The publisher says:
Pandora is gorgeous, until her uncontrollable anger makes her eyes piercingly evil. Shortly after therapy has cured her, Pandora is kidnapped and thrown into a crime-filled conspiracy that’s connected to her mysterious past. By legendary cartoonist Milo Manara and Vincenzo Cerami (co-writer of the Oscar award winning Life Is Beautiful).

Paul Gravett says:
I’m looking forward to finally meeting Manara properly at the new Rio Comicon in Brazil next month. He is of course a total master of the erotic female in Click!, Butterscotch and others, and has collaborated with Hugo Pratt, Federico Fellini and yes, Chris Claremont to illustrate the female members of Marvel’s X-Men in X-Women. This one-off thriller adds yet another string to his bow. 



Stigmata
by Lorenzo Mattotti & Claudio Piersanti
Fantagraphics
$19.99

The publisher says:
A stunningly illustrated metaphysical thriller by the European titan. He lives day to day and hand to mouth, this shambling lug of a man, wrestling with his demons, picking up work where he can, and drinking himself into oblivion. Until one days his palms begin to bleed… These newfound stigmata lose him his job, and he ends up as part of a traveling carnival, where he even finds love. But his past catches up with him - violently so. Has he lost his last chance at redemption? This stunning graphic novel, executed in a mad, expressionistic swirl of black lines, is the result of a unique collaboration between the preeminent Italian cartoonist/graphist Lorenzo Mattotti (RAW, The New Yorker, and the graphic novels Fires and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) and the award-winning Italian screenwriter Claudio Piersanti.

Paul Gravett says:
Wonderful. Just wonderful. Yes, it’s finally coming out, one of the finest untranslated European modern masterpieces. OK, if you thought Mattotti was already a grand maestro of colour in Fires and Jekyll & Hyde, wait till you see him unleash his passions in pen and ink linework, and see him excelling across a spectrum from feverish frenzies to the most delicate traceries. Mattotti will be over in the UK next March, all being well, for the Falmouth Open Forum which I will be chairing, and hopefully for a Comica event as well in London around that time.



The Killer: Modus Vivendi
by Jacamon & Matz
Archaia Comics
$24.95

The publisher says:
A new story arc begins for this Eisner Award-nominated series! In Venezuela, the “sanctuary” that he chose to withdraw from the world for four long years, our Killer reappears on the scene. What brought him back? Boredom, fatigue, the need for action? His old friend Mariano recommends him for a quick-and-dirty freelance job. Except that the job, obviously, is worse than it seemed at first. Remove one banker and one international oil broker, sure, no problem. But why is his third and final target a nun, Madre Luisa, so devoted, selfless and invested in her ministry to the poorest of the poor in all of Latin America? A perfect jumping-on spot for readers new to the series!

Paul Gravett says:
The pitch-blackest of Noir as only the French can deliver. There’s a movie adaptation apparently underway based on this Casterman bande dessinée album series (which is approaching its climax in French quite soon), but why wait when you can dive into this intense inner portrait of the emotions and morals of an ace assassin-for-hire? And this bungs together three whole BD albums into one compact 176-page colour hardback.



The Lodger
by Karl Stevens
KSA Publishing
$19.95

The publisher says:
After losing his girlfriend and hip Boston apartment, Karl Stevens moves into a spare room in his painting professor s home, where his bohemian adventures in sex and boozing converge with the rituals of life with a family and an unruly beagle named Cookie. In a series of humorous, poignant, and gorgeously rendered stories, The Lodger chronicles a tumultuous year in the life of the author as he grows as an artist and a man. Combining comic strips originally published in The Phoenix, Boston’s leading alternative weekly, with exquisite watercolors and oil paintings, The Lodger follows the Xeric-winning and Ignatz-nominated artist’s Guilty and Whatever as a penetrating and visually stunning depiction of love, loss, and the moving minutiae of everyday life.

Paul Gravett says:
Karl Steven’s sees the world in all its most refined and defined details, both physical and emotional. Every so often when a publication by him pops up it always surprises, intrigues and provokes me with its ideas and daring. The arresting front cover says it all, showing a prostrate figure, beer bottle in hand, flat out on the kitchen floor, a cute beagle stepping onto him, anxiously sniffing. And I’ve discovered a whole archive of his Failure strips for The Phoenix online here so take a gander and get a flavour.



The Man Of Glass
by Martin Flink
Accent UK
$5.95

The publisher says:
What is the tragic connection between the young boxer who has it all - love, friends and a promising career - and the sad old man who drinks cheap beer in the park and carries his belongings in two plastic bags? This heart-wrenching tale shows how a single mistake can change everything if you take an unlucky chance. Starman’s Peter Snejberg calls this “A touching and poetic story, beautifully told.”

Paul Gravett says:
OK, this has been out here in the UK for a while now. I first came across when it was launched by Colin and Dave from British publishers Accent UK at the Copenhagen Komiks DK festival back in June. But it’s hitting US shores this December and this 48-page colour softcover is a classy contender, packing a subtle punch, from highly promising Danish creator Flink. There’s a nifty trailer you can watch here.



The Story of Lee
by Sean Michael Wilson & Chie Kutsuwada
NBM
$11.99

The publisher says:
Lee, living in Hong Kong, meets Matt, a fine young Englishman. Their relationship becomes stronger by the day, despite their deep cultural differences. But there is Lee’s Dad to contend with who views this affair very suspiciously. And there is another contender for Lee’s heart, a Chinese young man, whose jealousy takes on twinges of xenophobia. Will Lee and Matt’s relationship successfully cross the cultural divide and overcome the negative odds? Two worlds collide creating good sparks… and bad ones.

Paul Gravett says:
A highly gifted mangaka, Chie Kutsuwada will be exhibiting her work from this new graphic novel as part of That’s Novel, an exhibition wich am curating at the London Print Studio as the main element and hub for this year’s Comica Festival. Later in November, as part of this, she will be appearing in a Comica event to promote this title, as well as her other new release, Hagakure, also listed here. Check out some sneak peaks from Story of Lee here.

Posted: October 10, 2010

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