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PG Previews:

March 2012

Assorted comics from as far afield as Austria and Australia, and from Japan, Italy, Germany, France and Belgium, as well as Britain and America, are among the temptations I’ve found coming up in March 2012 (all based on publishers’ advance listings, although actual dates may vary). Browse through my PG Tips and see what tickles your fancy. I hope you find this a useful monthly service to plan your comics-buying budget and stoke your anticipation for treats in stores soon.

by Nicolas Mahler

The publisher says:
Easily the funniest super-hero comic to come down the pike since Harvey Kurtzman and Wally Wood’s Superduperman!, Angelman is Austrian cartoonist Nicolas Mahler’s sardonic take on super-heroes, their fans, the businessmen behind them, the current media obsession with them, not to mention fancy-ass Ultimate collections of dopey super-hero comics. Created by Korporate Comics in a flash of money-grubbing cynicism appalling even by their standards, Angelman’s powers (which include empathy and the ability to be a good listener) prove less than adequate to deal with the sinister threat of the insane plastic-surgeon villain Gender Bender - or for that matter with the fickleness of fashion, the rapacious super-heroine Lady Dentata, the increasingly desperate re-boot attempts by Korporate Comics, his oddly twin-like wife, a disastrously bad movie adaptation that single-handedly brings the vogue for super-hero movies to a screeching halt… all delineated in Mahler’s trademarked ultra-minimalism (albeit this time in spectacular color), and with his drier-than-dry wit.

Paul Gravett says:
Forget all those 52 or Crisis/Invasion/Fear/X multiversal crossover events, here’s the costumed crusader you need, Angelman. I’ve been a fan for some time and in 2010 was lucky enough to see the wacky exhibition Nicolas Mahler conceived for the Fumetto International Comix Festival in Lucerne, Switzerland. As well as a rib-tickling fake history of the ups and mostly downs of his absurd heavenly superhero’s comic book career, mirroring the assorted fake front covers, Mahler also created one mini-gallery with a hanging, rotating mobile sculpture of his characters. Check out this Angelman mini-movie I filmed of it, and see how I used the handy hairdryer (in bright pink of course) to blow round his mobile and make it spin. Minutes of fun! Fantagraphics are serialising the first quarter of the book with the rest of their weekly digital comics to get you hooked. I’m hoping we can get Mahler over for Comica in the future.

by Pat Grant
Top Shelf Productions

The publisher says:
Blue is the debut graphic novel of Australian cartoonist Pat Grant. Part autobiography and part science fiction, Blue is the story of three spotty teenagers who skip school to go surfing only to end up investigating rumors of a dead body in their beach town.

Craig Thompson says:
This book rekindles my earliest enthusiasm for the comics medium. Pat Grant is the Australian Mark Twain, trading Huck’s raft for a waxed-up surfboard and an inked-up sable brush. Vast themes of racism and immigration unravel in sprawling murals and a single day in the life of some reckless teens in this sea-polished, perfect nugget of a book.

Paul Gravett says:
Flashback to the fictional coastal backwater of Bolton, Australia, where the newspaper hoarding sums up the mood: ‘PM’s decree: Turn Back The Boats’, a reference to Australia’s immigrant and refugee tensions. What starts as a reality-based incident between kids on the beach morphs into a parallel world to our own, where six-tentacled blue space aliens live among us, though are far from welcomed. Pat Grant colours his landscape-format pages in black, blues and browns and cuts back and forth between gridded comics of up to 30 panels and more flexible sequences, panoramas, collages, quotations and the like. High-school truants and surfers Christian, Much and Verne ‘wag’ school to go surfing. You learn some Australian street and surf slang here: ‘your olds’ for your parents, to ‘rack’ meaning to steal. Ironically lunching on a bowl of noodles, Christian gives his first-person recollections in captions: “You can’t even get a sausage roll in Bolton these days”, or “Thirteen-year-olds don’t pick their mates.” When another pupil Nigel discovers the remains of a man’s body hit by an express train, he urges them to go see the grisly scene on the tracks for themselves.

Grant shifts to sepia-toned history to show Bolton’s beginnings as a company town and home to the plant and its ‘bogan’ working-class labourers. In the present day, the town in decline, the adult Christian’s unskilled job is to whitewash over the blue graffiti written on the walls by the blue people, a symbol of a vain effort to re-impose the white race. Grant’s cartooning has a rubbery, scuzzy underground feel to it, inspired as he admits by Rick Griffin, with a hint of another wave-master, Hokusai. Usefully, Grant appends an essay to the story, ‘Genealogy of the Boofhead: Images, Memory and Australian Surf Comics’, in which he explains this little-known local comics tradition. It includes such series as surfer Tony Edwards’ Captain Goodvibes, Mark Sutherland’s Gonad Man, Steve Cakebread’s Felch and Ben Brown’s work in the magazines Tracks and Stab. It’s a tradition that Blue builds upon and develops into an affecting coming-of-age graphic memoir.

Breathe Deeply
by Doton Yamaaki
One Peace Books

The publisher says:
A battle ensues over life and death, machines or clones, create synthetic hearts or grow them? Two boys, Sei and Oishi, fall madly in love for Yuko. Her loss wreaks havoc in their young lives as relentless memories cease to fade. As a result their tender hearts are dedicated to a dream that no one will ever suffer their excruciating pain again. But, is what they had thought been a lie? Is there still a chance that their suffering may end? Will mercy and love prevail? This exhilarating masterpiece of graphic fiction begs readers to forget what they know about manga. Within this volume lies a new frontier in story telling.

Paul Gravett says:
Intriguing new translation, their first time in English, of a one-shot manga by Doton Yamaaki, a husband and wife team who have won numerous awards for graphic fiction, including the Chiba Tetsuya Young Dept. Award and the Manga Open’s Watase Seizou Award. Their work has been serialized in numerous magazines, such as Mister Magazine, Morning, and Kindai Mahjong Gold. Breathe Deeply is a medical manga addressing the controversial use of stem cell research to save lives. Worth looking out for.

Chicks Dig Comics:
A Celebration of Comic Books By Women

Edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Sigrid Ellis
Mad Norwegian Press

The publisher says:
In Chicks Dig Comics, editors Lynne M. Thomas and Sigrid Ellis bring together essays by award-winning writers and artists who celebrate the comics medium and its creators, and who examine the characters and series that they love. Gail Simone (Birds of Prey) and Carla Speed McNeil (Finder) describe how they entered the comics industry. Colleen Doran (A Distant Soil) reveals her superhero crush, while Jill Thompson (Scary Godmother) confesses to being a comics junkie. Jen Van Meter (Hopeless Savages) sings the praises of 1970s horror comics, and Seanan McGuire (the October Daye series) takes sides in the Jean Grey vs. Emma Frost battle. Other contributors include Marjorie Liu (Dark Wolverine), Rachel Edidin (Dark Horse Comics), Jill Pantozzi (Newsarama), Kelly Thompson (Comic Book Resources), and SF/F authors Sara Ryan, Delia Sherman, Sarah Monette, and Elizabeth Bear. Also featured: an introduction by Mark Waid (Kingdom Come) and exclusive interviews with Amanda Conner (Power Girl), Louise Simonson (Power Pack), Greg Rucka (Queen & Country), and Terry Moore (Strangers in Paradise).

Paul Gravett says:
Women really are one of the futures of comics, as writers, artists editors, readers and publishers, and this selection explores the American mainstream scene through their eyes and experiences.

Corto Maltese Vol 1:
The Ballad Of The Salt Sea

by Hugo Pratt

The publisher says:
Treasure hunter, sailor, and adventurer, Corto Maltese remains one of the most popular characters from graphic literature in Europe and maintains a devoted cult following among American readers and creators. Originally published in 1967, Corto Maltese: The Ballad of the Salt Sea introduces our hero for the first time. The story begins with Corto Maltese adrift at sea in the Pacific during World War I. He is picked up by a Russian pirate/privateer named Rasputin. The graphic novel follows Corto and the adventure that ensues.

Paul Gravett says:
Maybe this third attempt at an English edition of this European masterpiece will click and find the readership it deserves. This debut story was released previously by both NBM USA and then Harvill Press UK. Pretty sure this is a fresh translation and this 254-page compilation, I think in colours approved by Pratt, comes in a smaller 6 x 9 inch graphic novel format.

Fallen Words
by Yoshihiro Tatsumi
Drawn & Quarterly

The publisher says:
In Fallen Words, Yoshihiro Tatsumi takes up the oral tradition of rakugo and breathes new life into it by shifting the format from spoken word to manga. Each of the eight stories in the collection is lifted from the Edo-era Japanese storytelling form. As Tatsumi notes in the afterword, the world of rakugo, filled with mystery, emotion, revenge, hope, and, of course, love, overlaps perfectly with the world of Gekiga that he has spent the better part of his life developing. These slice-of-life stories resonate with modern readers thanks to their comedic elements and familiarity with human idiosyncrasies. In one, a father finds his son too bookish and arranges for two workers to take the young man to a brothel on the pretext of visiting a new shrine. In another particularly beloved rakugo tale, a married man falls in love with a prostitute. When his wife finds out, she is enraged and sets a curse on the other woman. The prostitute responds by cursing the wife, and the two escalate in a spiral of voodoo doll cursing. Soon both are dead, but even death can’t extinguish their jealousy. Tatsumi’s love of wordplay shines through in the telling of these whimsical stories, and yet he still offers timeless insight into human nature.

Paul Gravett says:
Discover another aspect of Tatsumi’s oeuvre, alongside his powerful gekiga short stories and his autobiographical epic A Drifting Life, just awarded one of the prestigious Essential prizes at the Angoulême Comics Festival and adapted in Eric Khoo’s first-rate animated film, Tatsumi

Graphic Freud: The Wolf Man
adapted by Richard Appignanesi & Swava Harasymowicz

The publisher says:
Based on Sigmund Freud’s most famous case study of his patient Sergei Pankejeff (later known as the Wolf Man), this tells the history of an obsessional neurosis. It begins with Sergei, who dreams of a walnut tree full of white wolves, interpreted by Freud as a memory of parental intercourse a recto. We follow this Russian aristocrat’s life as Freud and other analysts unravel the source of his neurosis. This case study, re-interpreted in this stunning graphic novel, became a cornerstone of psychoanalysis. This special edition is published in collaboration with the Freud Estate.

Paul Gravett says:
SelfMadeHero unveil a new collection in their expanding programme of originated and translated graphic novels, this time focussing on Graphic Freud. To get a flavour of her distinctive visual style rooted partly in Polish graphics, take a look at Swava Harasymowicz’s website.

I’m Never Coming Back
by Julian Hanshaw
Jonathan Cape

The publisher says:
A collection of surreal, comic and mournful interweaving tales travelling across three continents. In each destination we zoom in on unusual lives and remarkable situations, each tale unknowingly impacting on the next.

Paul Gravett says:
This is the follow-up to Hanshaw’s Cape debut The Art of Pho, which has just been adapted by Submarine in The Netherlands into a rather brilliant animated version. Hanshaw’s kindly just sent me a pdf of the whole graphic novel, so look out for my write-up in the near future.

I’m Not A Plastic Bag
by Rachel Hope Allison
Archaia Entertainment & Jeff Corwin Connect

The publisher says:
Based off the real-life occurrence of The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an island of floating trash in a remote area of the Northern Pacific Ocean more than twice the size of Texas, I’m Not A Plastic Bag tells a moving story about loneliness, beauty, and humankind’s connection to our planet.

Paul Gravett says:
Go check out Rachel Hope Allison’s website where she has posted some beautiful and terrifying colour preview pages from this eco-fable of the flight and fate of a plastic bag and the horrors we prefer to ignore in the Pacific gyre of pollution. Nick Hayes also dealt with this man-made disaster in his Rime of the Modern Mariner last year. Archaia has promised me an advance reader’s copy of Allison’s ambitious new work for me to review, so I’ll be reporting back more fully.

by Gabriella Giandelli

The publisher says:
A high-rise apartment building in an unnamed European city. Its inhabitants come and go, meet each other, talk, dream, regret, hope… in short, live. A ghostly, shape-shifting anthropomorphic white rabbit roams from apartment to apartment, surveying and keeping track of all this humanity… and at the end of every night, he floats down to the basement where he delivers his report to the “great dark one.” Lushly delineated in penciled halftones, this moody graphic novel was originally serialized in Fantagraphics’ ‘Ignatz’ series of upscale saddle-stitched booklets in duotone form, but this complete edition restores the artist’s original striking full-color treatment.

Paul Gravett says:
This is the ideal way to enjoy her gorgeously atmospheric fumetti, in colour and compiled in one volume. I’ve never forgotten the striking exhibition of her original artwork which I saw at the BilBolBul Comics Festival in Bologna in 2008. It was in the perfect setting of a real apartment, like the ones in her stories, as if you were inside her panels and her storyworld.

It’s Dark In London
by various

The publisher says:
Here is a cityscape of looming towers, shadowy embankments, and subterranean sleazel of public bars and private vices; of huckster artists, femmes fatales, and capital crimes… With strong language, and stronger imagery, It’s Dark in London is an uncompromisingly adult descent into the dark underground world of the capital. A portrait of London that captures the city’s fundamental essence as an exquisite mixture of lofty towers and gutter sleaze, of suburban gentility and urban depravity, of private vices and public philanthropy. Featuring: Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean, Stella Duffy, Melinda Gebbie, Alexei Sayle and Iain Sinclair among others.

Paul Gravett says:
Great to have this collection edited by Oscar Zarate originally for Serpent’s Tail back in print, and revised and expanded with new introductions and texts by Alan Moore (on Highbury, Holborn and Capital Crime), Alexei Sayle, Steve Bell, Neil Gaiman and others. Zarate provides an eye-catching new cover and Warren Pleece rejigs ‘The Court’, his 8-page collaboration with Gaiman, reprinted in my massive Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics into a 12-page version, adding fresh panels and inserting extra drawings alongside old, to let this tale breathe more fully. It’s a great concept, let’s hope this leads to further city-inspired compilations.

Kochi Wanaba
by Jamie Smart
Blank Slate

The publisher says:
Kochi Wanaba is quiet and introverted, drawing secretive things in his sketchbook and tolerating the over-excited attentions of his girlfriend Lhys. But when the day of the annual Bee Festival falls on the town, Kochi, Lhys, and their little group of friends start to discover how badly wrong friendship can go, as events spiral horrifically out of everyone’s control. Featuring a foul-mouthed cast of misfit school kids, the world as they know it is turned upside down as the town rapidly descends into supernatural chaos. Rendered in Jamie Smart’s characteristic cute/gross style.

Jamie Smart says:
Kochi Wanaba is quiet and introverted, drawing secretive things in his sketchbook and tolerating the over-excited attentions of his girlfriend Lhys. But when the Bee Festival comes to town, Kochi, Lhys, and their little group of friends start to discover how badly wrong friendship can go, as events spiral horrifically out of everyone’s control. Kochi Wanaba is a pencil-drawn graphic novel i started about 5 years ago, and have been struggling to find the time to complete. I’m estimating in total its been about 8 months work from start to finish, and I’m very proud of where its ended up. Kochi is a personal story to me, and one that I think’s a bit different from my usual work, so I’m keen for people to see it.

Paul Gravett says:
To look right now go straight to Jamie’s dedicated Kochi Wanaba website where he has been serialising this special self-generated labour of love. If you know Jamie from his wacky-wacky approach to Desperate Dan in Dandy or Monkey & Bunny in new UK weekly The Phoenix, or even his more adult work for Slave Labor, you’ll be pleasantly surprised like me to see how different and strange this is. Jamie’s also posted a blog journal about the background and making-of, with some spoilers so be warned.

Leeroy & Popo
by Louis Roskosch

The publisher says:
Leeroy & Popo is the first book by up and coming talent Louis Roskosch. The full colour strip follows the misadventures of a couple of slacker extraordinaire, adolescent friends as they loaf around trying to hook up with girls and generally avoid doing anything that might be construed as work. Roskosch’s duo of protagonists are characters any of us who would recognise immediately - they get stoned quite a bit and argue over whose turn it is on the games console - so it’s all the more interesting when we note that Leeroy is a bear and Popo a dinosaur! The anecdotal, observational comedy is expertly played out in this lovingly crafted debut graphic novel. The book takes the form of episodes - each a small story in its own right - which link up to sustain the longer narrative threads.

Paul Gravett says:
I’ve only seen an eight-page sneak preview so far, but this has real wit, charm and a winning art style and colouring, sort of cool, slacker Richard Scarry. It promises to be another exciting UK debut from Nobrow.

Lynda Barry: Girlhood Through A Looking Glass
by Susan E. Kirtley
University Press of Mississippi
$65 ($25 paperback)

The publisher says:
Best known for her long-running comic strip Ernie Pook’s Comeek, illustrated fiction (Cruddy, The Good Times Are Killing Me), and graphic novels (One! Hundred! Demons!), the art of Lynda Barry has branched out to incorporate plays, paintings, radio commentary, and lectures. With a combination of simple, raw drawings and mature, eloquent text, Barry’s oeuvre blurs the boundaries between fiction and memoir, comics and literary fiction, and fantasy and reality. Her recent volumes What It Is and Picture This fuse autobiography, teaching guide, sketchbook, and cartooning into coherent visions. In Lynda Barry: Girlhood Through The Looking Glass, author Susan E. Kirtley examines the artist’s career and contributions to the field of comic art and beyond. The study specifically concentrates on Barry’s recurring focus on figures of young girls, in a variety of mediums and genres. Barry follows the image of the girl through several lenses—from text-based novels to the hybrid blending of text and image in comic art, to art shows and coloring books. In tracing Barry’s aesthetic and intellectual development, Kirtley reveals Barry’s work to be groundbreaking in its understanding of femininity and feminism.

Paul Gravett says:
Lynda Barry is at last getting some greater recognition. After her two inspirational books What It Is and Picture This and the complete reprinting of her comics work from Drawn & Quarterly comes this insightful study of her life and work.

Monsieur Jean: The Singles Theory
by Phillippe Dupuy & Charles Berberian
Humanoids Inc

The publisher says:
Monsieur Jean is back in this stand-alone volume, published in English for the very first time! At once continuing the adventures of our favorite Parisian bachelor and that of his entourage, this beautifully designed two-tone title also further explores the dreams and nostalgia that invariably come with adulthood.

Paul Gravett says:
Drawn & Quarterly released most of the Monsieur Jean series, apart from this black-and-white, longer story from the Humanoides’ Tohu Bohu collection, finally available in English. You can find extracts to read here. I caught up with Charles Berberian in Angoulême again and he’s designed the female lead for a pan-European comics exhibition, Europe se dessine, while Philippe Dupuy told me he’s preparing a lengthy new solo work for Futuropolis.

by Shigeru Mizuki
Drawn & Quarterly

The publisher says:
NonNonBa is the definitive work by acclaimed Gekiga-ka Shigeru Mizuki, a poetic memoir detailing his interest in yokai (spirit monsters). Mizuki’s childhood experiences with yokai influenced the course of his life and oeuvre; he is now known as the forefather of yokai manga. His spring 2011 book, Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, was featured on PRI’s The World, where Marco Werman scored a coveted interview with one of the most famous visual artists working in Japan today. Within the pages of NonNonBa, Mizuki explores the legacy left him by his childhood explorations of the spirit world, explorations encouraged by his grandmother, a grumpy old woman named NonNonBa. NonNonBa is a touching work about childhood and growing up, as well as a fascinating portrayal of Japan in a moment of transition. NonNonBa was the first manga to win the Angoulême Prize for Best Album. Much like its namesake, NonNonBa is at once funny and nostalgic.

Paul Gravett says:
A truly magical autobiographical manga, one that can touch so many hearts, no wonder it was picked by Angoulême as their book of the year. It’s also of course included in my 1001 Comics guide. Highly recommended.

Pete & Miriam
by Rich Tommaso
Boom! Town

The publisher says:
War, Polanski, Mischief Night, and schoolyard fights. From the mundane to the unpredictable, the complicated relationship of Pete and Miriam, best friends growing up in New Jersey in the 1980s, is chronicled in this riveting volume.The trials and tribulations of Pete and Miriam, best friends struggling to deal with growing up in 1980s New Jersey, come together in this riveting new volume from Eisner Award-winning cartoonist Rich Tommaso. From the trouble caused by youthful impulses to exploring the seedier side of what life has to offer outside their suburban confines, Pete and Miriam forge their friendship through the odyssey of coming of age in America.

Paul Gravett says:
Tommaso has been percolating this project for a while, and I savoured his Miriam comic book a while back. Good news then that Boom! Town are releasing the whole thing now.

Peyo: The Life & Work Of A Marvelous Storyteller
by Peyo
NBM Publishing

The publisher says:
Issued on the occasion of a recent exhaustive exhibition of original art by Peyo, father of the Smurfs, this is a hefty compendium chock-a-block with reproductions of his original pages from Johan & Peewit to Poussy the Cat and more, and of course with plenty of Smurfs art! Accompanied by text on the history of Peyo’s creations. Direct import from France.

Paul Gravett says:
Do not miss this revealing art book and biography combined, lavishly illustrated with his original line artworks, of the Smurf-Father, and a Belgian comics maestro of much more besides.

Spooks Vol. 1: The Fall of Babylon
by Xavier Dorison, Fabien Nury & Christian Ross

The publisher says:
1895. Members of the East Coast elite have died under mysterious circumstances. To investigate this delicate problem, Richard Clayton - against the wishes of the President - calls upon a man named Morton Chapel for his unorthodox methods and peculiar associates. As they begin to uncover strange, vanishing marks on people’s bodies, unexplained changes in behaviour and hints of widespread corruption, the team reforms around the name Ulysses S. Grant himself gave it years earlier: his SPecialists in the Odd and the OCcult - his SPOOKS.

Xavier Dorison is one of the rising stars of the French comic scene. Author of several successful series such as Prophet, Sanctuary and Long John Silver, he also co-wrote the script of the French movie Les Brigades du Tigre with Fabien Nury. In addition to his collaboration with Xavier Dorison, Fabien Nury has produced some 15 successful graphic novels in a short six years, including Il etait une fois en France, Le Maitre de Benson Gates and the series I am Legion with American artist John Cassaday. Christian Rossi is an established artist with series such as Le Chariot de Thespis and La Gloire d’Hera to his name; his credentials also include taking over the art of Les Aventures de Jim Cutlass from no less than Jean Giraud himself.

Paul Gravett says:
Originally titled WEST in France, this delivers an entertaining and stylish genre mash-up of cowboys and monsters. Welcome to the Wild, Weird West!

Stalin’s Spy In Tokyo
by Isabel Kreitz
Blank Slate
£18.99 / $27.99

The publisher says:
1941: A German pianist arrives in Japan as the Ambassador’s guest, where she encounters the enigmatic journalist and Soviet spy Richard Sorge, who is covertly channelling communications between Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan back to the Kremlin. It’s only a matter of time till his arrest and execution by the Japanese. Telling Sorge’s story retrospectively through the testimony of those around him, Isabel Kreitz explores these true events with her sensitive, engaging pencil art, both figuratively and literally, to expose a less told side of WWII.

Paul Gravett says:
A gripping true story of wartime espionage, superbly narrated and illustrated by one of Germany’s most gifted graphic novelists. Germany will be a guest country at this year’s Comica Festival and as part of this, the touring exhibition Comics, Manga & Co. will come to the Goethe Institut, London this November. Kreitz is of course one of the spotlighted contemporary talents in this show and hopefully will be in London to promote her English-language debut, chosen as one of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die - so now, you can!

Take What You Can Carry
by Kevin C. Pyle
Henry Holt

The publisher says:
In 1977 suburban Chicago, Kyle runs wild with his friends and learns to shoplift from the local convenience store. In 1941 Berkeley, the Himitsu family is forced to leave their home for a Japanese-American internment camp, and their teenage son must decide how to deal with his new life. But though these boys are growing up in wildly different places and times, their lives intersect in more ways than one, as they discover compassion, learn loyalty, and find renewal in the most surprising of places. Kevin C. Pyle’s evocative images bring to life a story of unlikely ties across space and generations.

Paul Gravett says:
I’ve liked one of Pyle’s previous books Blindspot in 2007 a lot (see my review), and judging by these preview pages here Take What You Can Carry delivers a similar mix of mood and impact. Once I get a full review copy, I will report back further.

The Art Of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist
by Daniel Clowes & Alvin Buenaventura
Abrams ComicArts

The publisher says:
Throughout his 25-year career, alternative cartoonist/screenwriter Daniel Clowes has always been ahead of artistic and cultural movements. In the late 1980s his groundbreaking comic book series Eightball defined indie culture with wit, venom, and even a little sympathy. With each successive graphic novel (Ghost World, David Boring, Ice Haven, Wilson, Mister Wonderful ), Clowes has been praised for his emotionally compelling narratives that reimagine the ways that stories can be told in comics. The Art of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist is the first monograph on this award-winning, New York Times-bestselling creator, compiled with his complete cooperation. It includes all of Clowes’s best-known illustrations as well as rare and previously unpublished work, all reproduced from the original art, and also includes essays by noted contributors such as designer Chip Kidd and cartoonist Chris Ware.

Paul Gravett says:
This handsome 224-page oversized hardback doubles as a catalogue for the Clowes one-man show opening April 14th, 2012 at the Oakland Museum of California, in his hometown, and touring after August 12th, including a stretch at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio in February to April 2014. But it stands up in its own right as a rich overview, pictorially and textually, of this Modern Cartoonist’s career and craft, including plenty of artworks shot directly from the originals and unseen personal photos, sketches, private, little-seen and unpublished drawings and commissions, draft layouts, and other artifacts. Kristine McKenna’s relaxed and wide-ranging interview manages to tease out intimacies of Clowes’s life and work, including his varied family backgrounds, the death of his stepfather in a car accident when Daniel was five and his open heart surgery in 2006. We also get to see some of his youthful efforts, from his very first 3-panel pencilled strip in 1965 to his boyhood superheroes The Bolt, Bird-Man and Superpresident, augurs of The Death-Ray to come.  Little is said though about his Eighties gag series for MAD magazine imitator Cracked, The Uggly Family, which he drew under the pen-name Stosh Gillespie, perhaps feeling this was not the most auspicious artistic debut. A sign of his later self-confidence is a nine-panel strip for The New Yorker in 2001, in which Clowes draws himself sketching a man from real life to turn into one of his characters, “reduced to a simpole pictograph!” At the drawing board, Clowes muses in the last three panels: “Cartooning affords the practitioner unparalleled creative control!” “I am the master of your world - you will do as I say!” “I mustn’t let all this power go to my head.”

The rest of the book’s sections cover Eightball 1989-2004, including art and stills from his Ramones video I Don’t Want To Grow Up from 1995, followed by an appreciation by Chris Ware entitled ‘Who’s Afraid of Daniel Clowes?’ to which Ware replies: “Me, for one. And a few hundred other cartoonists.” Ray Pride offers some general observations about comics and movies, specifically in David Boring and quotes this commentary by Clowes on the influence of films: “As a cartoonist, there are not so many great masters from which to learn that we can afford to be picky about our influences, especially when it comes to longish narratives. I have watched well-structured movies very carefully, in search of their secrets, but I’m now convinced that the only real secrets are ‘artistic inspiration’ and intuition. The influence of filmmakers on my work is mostly unconscious. I see it as strongly as anyone else, but only in retrospect - ‘Hey, that was a Russ Meyer cut, a Fritz Lang shot,’ and so on - it’s all bits and pieces. Most movie devices don’t work very well in comics form. Zooms, pans, and so on, they can work, but mostly they read as cheap and gimmicky.”

For me, the highpoint of this book is co-editor Ken Parille’s close readings of Clowes’s post-2000 ‘narraglyphic picto-assemblages’ (to borrow a term from Harry Naybors, Ice Haven‘s comics critic) in which Parille touches on some fascinating narrative devices and techniques that really add to our appreciation and understanding. To conclude, Susan Miller provides a portrait of Wilson and Chip Kidd extols Clowes’s design chops, all surrounded by more high-quality reproductions, from cover illustrations for records, magazines and books to caricatures and posters. Jonathan Bennett’s graphic design is the icing on this many-layered, nutritionally-sumptuous gateau.

The Coldest City
by Antony Johnston & Sam Hart
Oni Press

The publisher says:
November 1989. Communism is collapsing, and soon the Berlin Wall will come down with it. But before that happens there is one last bit of cloak & dagger to attend to. Two weeks ago, an undercover MI6 officer was killed in Berlin. He was carrying information from a source in the East - a list that allegedly contains the name of every espionage agent working in Berlin, on all sides. No list was found on his body. Now Lorraine Broughton, an experienced spy with no pre-existing ties to Berlin, has been sent into this powderkeg of social unrest, counter-espionage, defections gone bad and secret assassinations to bring back the list and save the lives of the British agents whose identities reside on it.

Paul Gravett says:
Originally planned for 2009 and the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, British author Johnston and British-Brazilian artist Hart finally see their long-nurtured Cold War spy thriller make it into print. Here are some comments from Johnston:

“I’ve been working on The Coldest City, on and off, for almost three years. The Cold War was still very much in progress as I was growing up, and the Berlin Wall symbolized everything about the mood and paranoia of those times. It seemed like it would stand forever; even while glasnost and perestroika made the headlines, the Wall remained. And then, almost without warning, it was gone. I still remember watching the live pictures on TV as it was torn down, feeling that there was hope for the world after all. I even visited Berlin shortly after the Wall came down, to see it for myself, because everything about it had such an effect on Europeans of my generation. When I came to write my first full-on spy thriller, I knew it could only be set in one place and time: Berlin, during the Cold War. In The Coldest City I’ve tried to convey the paranoia of the times that I remember from my childhood. The knowledge that in the game of spies you simply can’t trust anyone. The Coldest City‘s lead, Lorraine, is an outsider in Berlin, and the locals don’t appreciate her sticking her nose in. She’s very much alone, knowing that anyone, even her supposed allies, could be working against her.”


The New Deadwardians
by Dan Abnett & I.N.J. Culbard

The publisher says:
Set in post-Victorian England, nearly everyone in the upper class has voluntarily become a vampire to escape the lower classes who are all zombies. Thrust into this mayhem is Chief Inspector George Suttle, a lonely detective who’s got the slowest beat in London: investigating murders in a world where everyone is already dead! But when the body of a young aristocrat washes up on the banks of the Thames, Suttle’s quest for the truth will take him from the darkest sewers to the gleaming halls of power, and reveal the rotten heart at the center of this strange world.

Paul Gravett says:
How this thoroughbred workhorse of an artist finds time to breathe and blink, let alone eat and sleep, is beyond me. Prolific and terrific, Culbard is one of sharpest pens in British comics and this Vertigo series promises to break him through more widely to mainstream American comic book readers. Probably the best of a new crop of Vertigo titles this Spring.

by Leela Corman
Schocken Books

The publisher says:
A mesmerizing, heartbreaking graphic novel of immigrant life on New York’s Lower East Side at the turn of the twentieth century, as seen through the eyes of twin sisters whose lives take radically and tragically different paths. For six-year-old Esther and Fanya, the teeming streets of New York’s Lower East Side circa 1910 are both a fascinating playground and a place where life’s lessons are learned quickly and often cruelly. In drawings that capture both the tumult and the telling details of that street life, Unterzakhn (Yiddish for “Underthings”) tells the story of these sisters: as wide-eyed little girls absorbing the sights and sounds of a neighborhood of struggling immigrants; as teenagers taking their own tentative steps into the wider world (Esther working for a woman who runs both a burlesque theater and a whorehouse, Fanya for an obstetrician who also performs illegal abortions); and, finally, as adults battling for their own piece of the “golden land,” where the difference between just barely surviving and triumphantly succeeding involves, for each of them, painful decisions that will have unavoidably tragic repercussions.

Paul Gravett says:
Great graphic novels don’t pop out in a month or two. To find out more about Leela Corman’s historical project, read her 2008 interview with the newspaper Forward here.

Posted: January 31, 2012


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