Monday, 30 September 2013

Ben Towle's silver-age superheroes


Ben Towle was commissioned to draw DC's silver-age superheroes and did a pretty super job; I like how these are instantly recognisable yet significantly unique thanks to the retention of Towle's own style. Often when people draw huge properties like Batman or Wonder Woman, they merge into a cookie cutter depiction and lose what makes their art distinctive in the first place. Love these old school costumes as well, they really add to characterisation, which is surely part of the function of costume design. You can see the whole set over at Towle's blog, where he's also currently open to commission work, if you fancy something special.


Something old

On Saturday I worked my first full day at OK Comics, which, for those of you who don't know, is a great little comics shop in Leeds. Over the course of the day, I came across a few books on my endless 'comics I must get around to buying and reading' list and amassed a small pile behind the counter to buy at closing (hey, staff discount!).  I'm drowning in comics at the moment, to the point where I have piles of unread books(!) dotted around the room, but these are the older ones that have been out for a while, which I'll be coming to first. 

Hard Boiled by Frank Miller and Geof Darrow, and Fanny and Romeo by Yves Pelletier and Pascal Girard: I guess I'm one of those people who will buy books on the strength of interest in an artist I like, because that's why I picked both of these up. Fanny and Romeo is an English language translation of the French-titled Valentin and was published by Canadian small-press publishers, Conundrum Press, last year. It's about a young couple, Fanny and Fabien, and a cat called Romeo who comes in between them (he's allergic, so she rents the cat a separate apartment). 

I really love Pascal Girard's illustrations; his lines and watercolours are so laid-back and breezy and cool (you can follow his Tumblr here, it is a small joy), and yet so characterful. Girard does a lot of observational people drawing on his Tumblr, and it's interesting to see how few people draw those kind of illustrations in the manner he does, a sort of retro-louche style that's reminiscent of British children's books illustrations. There's something almost comedic about them, I think. The majority of observational people drawings that I came across are  usually rendered in a more cartoony style leaning towards anime or the more traditional, sketchy, 'arty' serious portraiture, like Nick Aabadzis' subway illustrations.

Sometimes I feel like I know quite a bit about comics and then a gap in my knowledge will make me feel really stupid about that assumption. For example, I've never come across Geof Darrow's work before and it is bloody balls-out amazing. Hard-Boiled contains spreads like this:

Jared also pointed out the amazing sequence towards the end which is set in a scrap/junk yard, with two characters having a conversation over the course of several double page spreads. Darrow's done this fantastic thing where you can tell the inches they're moving as they're talking, because the background has slowly changed and moved along with them. So the car with the popped hood which is in the middle of a spread on one page has shifted towards the left on the next, revealing more of the surroundings on the right. Sort of like a giant flip-book, but not. He also does that thing that Moebius and Otomo do, with lots of little dimples and wrinkles in everything, so a man with a trench coat, shirt and trousers has lines, lines, lines everywhere, including his face, giving him the appearance of the most creased, crumpled and weather beaten guy ever (there you go: I have just revealed to you the secret of legendary comics artist status- add lines and dashes to everything). Texture and depth overload.

I'm not a fan of Miller's narratives (and this story about an insurance investigator, tax collector, and robot being the same entity doesn't really appeal), but Darrow's artistry is unignorable. He works on comics intermittently in between film employment and is refreshingly honest about his desire to make well-drawn, action packed comics (though much of that is humility), and I'm guessing it helps when you can draw like he does. He also has his first comic book in a few years releasing next month from Dark Horse: a new Shaolin Cowboy mini-series. 

Beach Girls by Box Brown, with an additional story by James Kochalka: this is the newest comic on this list, which I bought from Impossible books, along with 4090 and Comics Class. I've grown to really like Brown's simple art, especially his figure drawings: the women he draws always look fantastic, no stupid proportions or rail thin skinniness, just realistic depictions which seem so attractive as well as aesthetically pleasing in terms of style. And varied in body-type too. I'm becoming increasingly obsessed with packaging (that doesn't sound right), form- so I love Beach Girls 10.5 x 8 inches size, the 44 pages length ensures it's not flopping all over the place, too. Brown and Kochalka's styles complement each other really well. It looks great, here's a quick synopsis:
 'Pheobe and her friends are on vacation at the beach, and Pheobe isn’t quite feeling it. Local surfer Hank is hyped about the summer influx of “beach girls”, but also struggling to find his own place in the world. What will they do for each other, and what will Pheobe take away with her?'

Tuk Tuk by Will Kirkby: This was released in 2011 and nominated as 'best comic' at the inaugural British Comic Awards; Jared grabbed a few copies for the shop from Will at Thought Bubble, so this one is signed in with a little drawing (there's still one left in the store, if you're in or around Leeds) It's 28 cardboard glossy and has great blurb on the back: 'This isn't a tale of heroism. Nor is this a story of good vs evil. It is a tale of the quiet life and the fools who chase after it...' 

Kirkby's a grossly talented artist with imagination to spare, as you can see from the quick pictures I took below, and this just looks so, so good. If you like word-building and intricate drawings, quirky adventure or maps, you can (and should) buy a copy of Tuk Tuk here. Kirkby also posts art on his blog , which you can see here (this, in particular, is amazing). I know he was weighing up his options between getting the second issue of Tuk-Tuk finished by the end of this year, or making a new mini-comic in time for Though Bubble, so either way, more superb comics on the way soon.

And finally:

4090 by Nathan Schreiber: I'm kind of warming a bit more towards the (small) minimalist approach in comics, but I'm not sure that's what I'd call Schreiber's artwork in here (when I hear 'minimalism' in comics, I expect more lines and less blacks), apart from a few pages in the middle. The back and front covers are gorgeous, though. This is set a few thousand years in the future with the pesky humans as ever, on the brink due to a  literal poisonous atmosphere of their own making.

Comics Class by Matthew Forsythe: Auto-bio to finish off- yay!  In which Forsythe teaches comics to a class of 11 year olds with varying results. I really like Fosythe's cartooning here, not only is it a pleasing blend of a traditional , but looser styled, coupled with a more detailed anime/manga approach, it has an inherent sweet quality, too. I've been meaning to check out his Ojingogo and Jinchalo too, both of which look incredible. Forsythe's currently lead designer on a little cartoon called Adventure Time, so no idea when he'll be bringing out more comics, but definitely look into the ones he's already done. Again with the from, Comics Class is a tiny square of a book- 5.5 inches all round- that fits nicely in your hand. 

I have a problem... I'm going to go now.

Friday, 27 September 2013

News, Views, and Oddities: reloaded

News, Views and Oddities is a column I used to do over at the Forbidden Planet blog, but as I'm winding down my writing there to focus my efforts on here, it has made the trepidious journey across. It will be a fortnightly thing, appearing every other Friday, where I link to various comics, art, design and film news and tidbits.

These 1960's Kellogs adverts by Jack Davis are pretty super. 

I think I'm correct in saying that Tucker Stone had been selling Nobrow's books at a few conventions, most recently SPX, which, coupled with the murmurings of the UK publishers' desire to open a US office, makes it less of a surprise that Stone's been appointed as their US Sales and Marketing director. The Beat reports that Stone's also wrapped up his Comics of the Weak column for The Comics Journal.

Sonny Liew talks to comic artist Andie Kong about his experiences of conventions around the world, portfolio reviews, networking and a lot more.
I enjoyed this interview with James Harvey on Bartkira; he's really open and aware of the pros and cons of the projects; I think it's probably more beneficial to those producing the pages than those consuming it, but either way, the quality of art has been incredible. Speaking of Harvey, I'm anticipating his Zygote with a LOT of enthusiasm; and I really like this colour-coded completion chart Harvey's made (how cool is that?) which shows how far he is with thumb-nailing, penciling, inking, colouring etc. The book is slated for a 2014 release from UK publishers Blank Slate Books, but looking at the process tracker, it may be a bit later...

Some comics you should read:
  • I'd never seen this short Spirou comic, written by Lewis Trondheim, and illustrated by Hugo Piette, before- it's so lovely in tone and spirit. 
  • Luke Pearson did a great contribution for First Second' new anthology of Fairytale Stories, re-interpreting The Boy who drew Cats- you can read the whole thing here. 
  • Hisashi Eguchi's Fasting is short and satisfying. 


Some comics you may want to (definitely) look into ordering;   I have 3 of these on pre-order from back when I had money and am recommending them as they are as close as an example of a sure thing in comics that you can get. Also, most of them are $8 and under.

The Fox-announced, origins of (!) young Jim Gordon show seems a round-about and lesser way of doing Gotham Central. I love Gordon, and Gotham Central, for me, is some of the best comic ever produced, so I'm just going to ignore this.

I am (very) slowly learning more about the different types of printing and technques and effects, so I really like seeing posts like this one in which Ryan Cecil-Smith talks a bit about process and colour.  Which brings to mind, these lovely new Foxing Quarterly Stinckers bookplates, designed by Cecil-Smith, Steve Weismann, Philippa Rice, Sam Alden, Patrick Kyle and more.
Simple design ideas are usually the best, see: pac man stapler.
Thought this was quite an interesting topic and list: comic book charcaters who have become more popular  in TV and film due to a particular actors portrayal. 
And finally, Ines Estrada shares a comic that didn't make it into her new Borrowed Tails mini-kus:

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Quick review: the existential Batman

There’s a meme (as I believe they’re called) that I see cropping up fairly regularly in my forays of Internet yonder. Here, allow me to show you:

Batman is a seductive fellow, isn’t he? Fetishes aside, one of the main appeals of the character is that, theoretically, anybody could be him: he  doesn’t have any superpowers: neither do you, he’s a bit ripped: you too could gym (potentially) and be buff, he’s a bit clever: you could dust off those books, he’s a bit rich: you could win the lottery, he’s a bit dark and mysterious: you’ve already been practicing your furrowed brow and deep, tortured look, and so on and so forth.

And yet you couldn’t get somebody further from the every-man than Bruce Wayne (and that’s not an identity statement, I read Bats/Bruce as one and the same). You couldn’t be Batman, not really. You couldn’t do what he does night after night, going up against villains far beyond his level, have an undying resolve and commitment to something that you know can never be overcome, remember all the Robins. As Martha tells her son in Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader, ‘…the only reward you get for being the Batman? You get to be the Batman.’
Patrick Kyle concurs with that latter viewpoint in his Batman parody comic ‘You Can Never Be Me’ and what’s more, Batman himself does too. Kyle’s narrative finds the Dynamic Duo in an all too familiar situation- the Joker has Batman trussed up, while Robin rushes to his mentor’s aid on a bicycle.

The Joker makes an impenetrable and convoluted speech, as arch nemeses are want to do when they have their superheroes tied up. The poor man seems confused to his purpose- does he love Batsy, does he hate him, are they yin and yang, is he sane, or not, or maybe a little- when it boils down to it, who is he? He’s not sure, so he settles for Instagram scooping pictures of the Dark Knight and himself. For his part Batman is worried about getting back to the cave and getting back onto his arty Tumblr blog, while poor Robin runs around in the background just trying to actually do his job. He’s dedicated to the cause, but stymied by Batman’s changing view of him as an accessory or a vital cog.
For somebody who likes taking the piss out of things as much as I do, I’m not a huge fan of parody. It’s not that I’m averse to people poking fun at my favourite characters (DC manage that pretty well), it’s just I think parody is very subject singular and difficult to get right. I really loved this though: I think you can tell Kyle’s a Batman fan in the way he incorporates the material with the funnies and the questions we have all at times frustratedly asked. It’s humorous and lighthearted, and y’know, it’s a damn good Batman comic. Buy it; it's only $5, but alternatively, you can read the whole thing for free here.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

New Blacksad 'Amarillo' cover and synopsis

Okay, so I know we're not going to get the new Blacksad for a while, considering it usually takes Dark Horse about 2 years after the release of the Spanish and French versions to get their English translations published, but time passes quickly and Guarnido's artwork is too beautiful not to share: seriously, just how beautiful is that yellow cover? Very un-Blacksad in mood. Titled 'Amarillo' Canales and Guarnido's fifth outing for the slick cat detective is a tribute to the road movie genre and the legendary Route 66. Here's a clumsily translated synopsis:

'John Blacksad is tired of all the violence and misery around him, so he decides to take his time before returning home. Luck seems to smile on him when a stranger hires him to deliver his car, a brand new Cadillac Eldorado model, from New Orleans to Tulsa. But the south roads are as dusty as they are unpredictable, and Blacksad unwittingly finds himself driving from one end of the US to another, in order to solve a murder involving biker parades, lawyers, writers and even a bloody circus!'

British Comic Awards: nominations announced

I was pretty chuffed to be asked to serve as a committee member for the British Comic Awards this year, and after reading a tonne of comics and participating in 17,659 email threads, my fellow BCA peeps, Tom Humberstone, Richard Bruton, Clark Burscough, David Monteith, Stacey Whittle, Mel Gibson, Ian Hague, Vicky Stonebridge and I, have come up with a shortlist of nominees which will be put forward for the consideration of the judges. 

The awards have 4 categories: best comic, best book, emerging talent and the young people's comic award. We also choose an entrant for the Hall of Fame, which this year will be awarded to the legendary  Leo Baxendale, creator of Beano strips such as Bash street Kids and Minnie the Minx. The Young People's Comics shortlist is forwarded to a variety of participating schools around Leeds and Yorkshire, and a winner will be chosen by the best people suited to judging comics for children: the children themselves. 

It's been an interesting experience being on the committee, and being privy to the many issues it throws up that you probably wouldn't even consider if you weren't actually taking part, but what's been most impressive has been the sheer amount of very good UK comics- hugely encouraging to see. I can genuinely say that I'm very, very pleased with the shortlist we've produced. I'll write a more in-depth post about it once all is done and dusted, as is proper.

UPDATE: I meant to thank Adam Cadwell, who is the founder of the BCA's and a pretty solid dude all round- the awards takes a huge, huge amount  of time, effort and organisation and a whole load of other nitty gritty things which I'm probably still not aware of and he does a sterling job.

 Below is a full list of nominees:

Best Comic:
The Absence #5 – Martin Stiff (self published)
The Listening Agent – Joe Decie (Blank Slate Books)
Mud Man #6 – Paul Grist (Image Comics)
Soppy – Philippa Rice (self published)
Winter’s Knight: Day One – Robert M Ball (Great Beast/self published)

Best Book:
The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil – Stephen Collins (Jonathan Cape)
Judge Dredd: Trifecta – Al Ewing, Rob Williams, Simon Spurrier, Henry Flint, D’Israeli, Carl Critchlow and Simon Coleby (2000AD Graphic Novels)
The Man Who Laughs – David Hine and Mark Stafford (Self Made Hero)
Mrs. Weber’s Omnibus – Posy Simmons (Jonathan Cape)
The Nao of Brown – Glyn Dillon (Self Made Hero)

Young People’s Comic Award:
Hilda & The Bird Parade – Luke Pearson (NoBrow)
The Sleepwalkers – Vivianne Schwarz (Walker Books)
Cindy & Biscuit #3 – Dan White (self published)
The Complete Rainbow Orchid – Garen Ewing (Egmont)
Playing Out – Jim Medway (Blank Slate Books)

Emerging Talent:
Isabel Greenberg (The River of Lost Souls)
Dilraj Mann (Frank Ocean VS Chris Brown, Make You Notice, Turning Point)
Will Morris (The Silver Darlings)
Jade Sarson (Cafe Suada)
Lizzy Stewart (Solo, Four Days In Brussels, Four Days in Iceland, Object Stories)

Hall of Fame:
Leo Baxendale

The awards ceremony and announcing of winners will take place on Saturday 23rd of November as part of the Thought Bubble comics festival. You can visit the British Comic Awards website here (from where the above book images have been shamelessly pilfered- sorry Adam!).

Impossible Books: distro with a difference

There are definite encouraging signs of positive development and growth in UK comics, with an increasingly full calendar of events, festivals, and conventions up and down the country drawing big names (Chris Ware, and Joe Sacco were at Edinburgh’s Stripped festival a month back, Scott Snyder will be in Dublin at DICE this weekend, the upcoming Lakes Festival sees a host of creators travel to the district), UK publishers such as Jonathan Cape, Blank Slate Books, and Self Made Hero not only translating excellent bande dessinee, but focusing on nurturing home-grown talent as well. It’s difficult to predict how it will all turn out, but it’s honestly quite an exciting thing to see and be part of.
Earlier this year, another piece in the UK comics scene jigsaw was slotted in, as online distributors Impossible Books quietly set up shop. With the US postage hikes pricing people out of buying directly from creators themselves, and many stores having a small or tucked away corner for self-published/small press books from North America and Canada, Impossible are filling a substantial gap in the market. Founded by Camila Barboza and Taylor Lilley, both of whom work in comics retail for Orbital Comics, they offer a wide range of fantastic comics from outfits such as Koyama Press, Oily Comics, Retrofit, and creators including Michael DeForge, Jordan Crane, Roman Muradov, Michel Fiffe, Noah van Sciver, Lilli Carre and more, providing a very cost effective, weight-based postage charge service. 
Barboza has some background with running labour-of-love initiatives, as the owner of a small, independent record label dedicated to producing limited-run, hand-packaged releases, and is a regular figure on the gig/comic/zines fair and festivals circuit, usually with her camera. Here she and Lilley discuss how the idea of Impossible came about, how they choose which comics they’d like to stock, the challenges associated with the operation of a comics distro and their future plans.

It’s fantastic to have an accessible space in the UK for small press goodness, particularity with shipping costs increasing everywhere and only certain shops stocking them (and even then limited in titles and quantities). How did the idea for Impossible books first come about?
Camila: The idea came pretty much from what you have just pointed out: the extremely high postage rates, and the lack of availability of international independent comics in the British market. As someone who used to order directly from creators and small publishers on a regular basis, I had been in the situation where you order a $5 comic and end up paying almost twice that much in postage way too many times.
I guess we wished somebody would set something like this up, but we got tired of waiting and decided to do it ourselves.
Taylor: I think also, we were both spending so much time looking around for what’s interesting and new, for ourselves and other people … it made sense to put that to a better use than just the occasional recommendation.
Can you talk a little about how you set up, e.g. getting in touch with people, the website, getting comics together?
Camila: We started by contacting a couple of small publishers we wanted to stock, and before we knew it, the word had spread and others got in touch with us too. We were lucky to find a lot of supportive, helpful and incredibly nice people out there – Box Brown, Tony Shenton, John Porcellino, Leef at Mission Comics, and the list goes on and go, have all been immensely helpful!
The two first packages we received were from Retrofit and Hic & Hoc. We both work in comics retail in our day jobs, so we’re used to opening boxes full of comics, but those two sure felt special.
The website is powered by WordPress (one of the great wonders of the modern world!). We designed and built it guided by things we like in a number of sites we use ourselves. We still want to add a lot of other features to it, so I guess you could say it’s still a work in progress.
Taylor: We counted on the legendary helpfulness and supportiveness of the comics community. And they came through! I’d also mention JT Yost of Birdcage Bottom Books, and the folks over at Bergen Street Comics, but like Camila says, people responded way better than we had any right to expect them to. As for getting comics together, its hilarious, and involves semi-regular night-time trips to retrieve books we thought we had copies of! My favourite part of it is inventory, when we get to spread the stock out and kind of bask in comics. It makes it easier to say goodbye when they go.
How do you decide which comics you want to stock?
Camila: Impossible is a pretty small operation, and we can’t stock every single indie comic out there, so we have to  be selective. Our main rule is that we both have to agree on a title before deciding to stock it. Most of what we’re stocking at the moment are titles by creators whose work we already admired before, or things we discovered (and fell in love with) while we were setting up.
 Do you deal directly with the artists or with the publishers themselves?
Taylor: It varies. Part of the model we’re running on is scale, so if we can order more titles from one source, everything runs a little smoother. But there are things like Antiques Roadshow or any of Caitlin Skaalrud’s work, where we went straight to the source because we fell for them, and had to have them. Ideally everything would go to the creators, but most of the people doing distro or publishing are running on enthusiasm and passion, so artists, publishers, distro… they’re all comics people.
Camila: Pretty much all the UK based publications come directly from the artists as well.
I think you guys are doing an awesome job, however, distribution outlets (esp comics) are incredibly time consuming and to put it frankly, not very financially viable. So why set up?
Taylor: They do say the Devil makes work for idle hands, don’t they? Your description, “incredibly time consuming and … not very financially viable”, applies to comic-making as well, for all but the stratospheric few. We do it for all the reasons makers make, to put something we believe in into the hands of people who want to believe.
I know you’ve only been up and running a short time, but how would you assess the experience so far? Any problems or any aspects of it you perhaps didn’t expect? Is it going how you imagined/expected?
Taylor: Intense. It has been intense. I hadn’t anticipated the sheer range of things there would be to do, or the ongoing nature of doing them, in terms of making listings and some of the site-oriented stuff, or more creative work like adverts and blogs. There haven’t really been any problems, though (yet!). I think one of our biggest challenges is to awaken the sleeping giant of those-who-like-comics-but-don’t-yet-know-it. Ring them bells!
Camila: Agreed, it sure has been intense, but it’s also been a great experience and we’re having a lot of fun in the process. We’re still trying to find a way around our biggest problem – extremely high postage rates. We knew exactly what we were getting into from the start, but we were hoping (are hoping?) we’ll be able to find better ways to get stock across the seas.
Do you have any plans to go into publishing once you’ve established yourself a little more?
Taylor: Um, is it hot in here?
Camila: Not really. I’m not saying that could never happen, but at this stage, it’s not something we plan on doing.
Any future plans for Impossible books? Any plans to table at any cons or events?
Camila: Right now our priority is to keep expanding our stock, and we’re just about to start working as a distro for British comics to the States. Again, at this stage, we don’t have plans on doing cons and events, but that may change in the future. We’re just trying to concentrate on a thing at a time and see how it all goes.
Taylor: It would rock to table at TCAF. But yeah, one thing at a time!

Visit Impossible Books here (but only if you’re prepared to part with some cash!)
Many thanks to Camila and Taylor for their time. All photographs used in this article are the property of Camila Barboza.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

I heart Katsuhiro Otomo

I was talking to someone (Jared? Oliver?) yesterday about how, upon reading what many consider the seminal important comic creators, I've been left unimpressed. Unimpressed is perhaps harsh, but often I fail to see what is so special about people like Alan Moore, or Grant Morrison, or Neil Gaiman. Which is not to say I'm dismissive of their work; I can see, for example, why Watchmen holds the place it does in comics history, it was a seminal work at the time and offered a critique of the superhero genre in a way that hadn't really been done before, and remains a complex and layered work today. Similarly, with Sandman, I admire the way in which Gaiman has pulled together hundreds of myths and stories of literature and lore, building and interweaving them into a larger narrative, but it doesn't really speak to me in any way. 

Some of this obviously has to do with subjective taste and context too, but I think a part of it is also people who are afraid to say they don't see the value or merit in a certain work that somebody else does. Which is fine. It doesn't mean you don't 'get' it. I'm tangenting a little here, but I also think people -particularly fans- are more ready to ascribe meaning and depth to a creator's work if it has been present previously, carrying over those themes from stronger books to weaker ones, whereas a new reader won't have had that interaction and is arguably better placed to judge it on its own standing. Sure, there's pleasure to be gained from recognising elements and themes from work-to-work, but if a book doesn't read well without a familarity with the author's whole oeuvre,chances are, it's not a very effective book.

This is all a round-abut way of saying I came across a scan of Otomo's short, silent comic, The Watermelon Messiah today, and was reminded again of his brilliance. I only started reading his work this year- Domu, Akira, I bought Genga, and he's one of the very few comic creators with huge reputations whose work I've read and looked at, and thought 'Yes, I fully understand why you inhabit the place and status that you do.' There's something so instantly impactful about his art- it has presence, like when somebody important walks into a room and there's a discernible hush or shift in the atmosphere: that's how seeing Otomo's work makes me feel, it impresses itself upon you straightaway, but with a sense of something special, something more. I don't just look at it and think 'oh that's pretty, that's well constructed' I feel something, it genuinely makes me feel a little awed, and that's rare, I think -in comics and in art.

This has been a post. Thank you.

(Orion Martin posted the full comic here It's taken from Otomo's out of print artbook Kaba)

Monday, 23 September 2013

New Frederik Peeters sci-fi: Aama

I'm sometimes befuddled at people who bemoan the lack of good or even interesting comics; particularly as I feel I'm swimming in them, so much so that even though I consider myself pretty well-versed in keeping abreast of upcoming releases and so forth, a lot still passes me by. Case in point: I hadn't realised Self Made Hero acquired the rights to Swiss graphic novelist Frederik Peeters' award-winning sci-fi series, Aama, back in July. Books 1 and 2 of Aama  won the 'best series' award at Angouleme earlier this year, and Self Made are releasing the English translation -by Edward Gauvin- of the first volume in a hardback on November the 7th. 

His breakthrough book, the acclaimed Blue Pills, a memoir about his relationship with his HIV positive girlfriend, was published by Jonathan Cape, but Self Made Hero have an existing relationship with Peeters, having previously published both his Sandcastle and Pachyderme graphic novels into English, as well as having the author serve as a guest at their booth at the Thought Bubble festival in November last year.   Peeters has again been announced as a guest at Thought Bubble this year, so will no doubt be on hand to sign copies of his newly-released book.

He's a great, viscerally effusive cartoonist, best evidenced, for me, in his illustrations for Pierre Wazem's superb Koma, but is a confident writer, working with various genres and unafraid to test weird and wild ideas. I'm always interested to see and read his work, and as a sci-fi fan, am particularly looking forward to this. Here's the official plot synopsis: 

'In the distant future, Verloc Nim wakes up in the middle of nowhere suffering from complete amnesia. He remembers nothing of his former life. But when Verloc is handed his diary by a robot-monkey called Churchill, he is able to revisit his past. His life, he discovers, has been a miserable one. He lost his business, his family and his friends, simply because he refused the technological advancements pushed on him by society: the pharyngeal filter, the eye implants, the genetic modifications -- Verloc went without all these. He had been astray in a society he deeply resented -- until his brother, Conrad, took him to another planet to retrieve a mysterious biorobotic experiment called AAMA.'

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Jonathan Cape to publish Bastien Vives' Polina

It was only last week over at FPI I was hoping (okay, semi-whingeing) for someone to pick up the rights to translate more of Bastien Vives and Nix's work into English, and 50% of that wish has been realised, thanks to fab UK publishers, Jonathan Cape. No detailed information on this, but they posted an image of French comics illustrator and writer Vives' book, Polina, this morning with the caption 'Coming in Jan 2014.'

I think it's reasonable to assume that means Cape will be putting out an English language version early next year, which is fantastic news. Polina follows the story of a young ballerina as she's admitted into a prestigious dance boarding school and the rigors that life encompasses. The book was released in its original French in 2011, the same year that Cape published  the first English translation of Vive's work, the acclaimed A Taste of Chlorine.

Now... anybody for some Nix?

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Destination X

I would just like to take a moment to squee a little over the pairing of Nobrow and John Martz: if the dream-teaming up of one of of the best comics publishers and one of your favourite comics creators doesn’t merit a squee, I don’t know what does.
Destination X is the story of Sam, idolater of his space explorer grandfather from childhood to man, sponge of his tales, wide-eyed purveyor and defender of his truth. Sam’s grandfather mumbles and mutters of space, strange beings, and the discovery of an uncharted planet he calls Destination X. Laughed at by his co-workers, family and history alike, Sam’s staunch belief in his grandfather’s stories earns him the same ridicule, but having grown up to fulfill his dream of working at a space station, he is determined to prove the veracity of his claims.
Martz is the master of the shorter, meatier narrative in comics and that’s a damn difficult thing to do- it’s hard enough to write good short stories in prose, and bringing together words and picture in a compact and cogent manner is arguably even trickier. He uses a uniquely measured combination of humour and brevity that results in meaningful, entertaining stories that never become grandiose or mired in their own seriousness.

A big part of what makes his work so good is the way he uses word and pictures together in service of the story. Now that sounds pretty standard- it’s what comics are supposed to do after all- but think about this, most comics today, if you read them out aloud to someone they would by and large still make sense via dialogues, internal monologues, even scene setting narrative.
What Martz does is use words and pictures separately yet together to tell his story. Take the page below for example, the joke hinges on that silent panel with the jumbled screen message. Similarly, in the above pages, removing  Sam’s imagined response alters the meaning of the passage- without it, Sam’s just a bullied little boy, with it, you get the suggestion of a different aspect to his personality entirely. Many comics today are more like illustrated texts, so it’s heartening to see Martz’s panels telling their own tale, be it through silent passages or something going on in the background, it’s always narratively integral and moving the story forward.
Destination X is a story of single-mindedness, obsession and the blindness caused by unwavering belief. Sam chooses to believe in his grandfather and is intent upon inserting himself into that picture, regardless of whether it’s true or not, and without really considering the repercussions of either outcome.
His focus and immersion of this goal leads to a total discarding of all else: he makes no friends, has no other interests, and is oblivious to the effects of his pursuits on those around him, or indeed, himself. It’s rather ironic, then, that when he does semi wake-up to the possibility of a world and emotions beyond his limited view, his lack of understanding prevents him from recognising what is ostensibly a confrontation with a reflection of his own nature.
Reading Martz's work is always a singular pleasure and Destination X is no different: a funny, neat and nuanced tale,  nicely offset by the galactic feel of the purple toned hues and clear line style. I greatly enjoyed reading this, and have no doubt that you will, too.

Linda Medley working on Castle Waiting spin-off, vol 3

Some good news via a Fantagraphics blog update today; Linda Medley is working on producing volume 3 of her acclaimed Castle Waiting series, as well as a spin-off comic, titled Twelve Witches. It sounds like the spin-off may have been announced previously (I must have missed it), but it's something that Medley's been working on since 2003 and has picked up again, and is aimed at younger readers. No anticipatory dates for either project yet, and it's not yet certain what format the books will take- Castle Waiting was originally released in issues and then collected together, but more Linda Medley comics are only ever A Good Thing. 

You can see some process pages for Twelve Witches at Fantagraphics' Tumblr.  

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Publishing news from SPX: new van Sciver and Alden books

As expected, there have been quite a few book publishing announcements coming out from SPX; Tom Spurgeon has, as ever, the lowdown on these, which you can read about here. I know many people are (understandably) excited about Fantagraphics publishing a collected, slip-cased version of Daniel Clowes' Eightball), but the for me, the pick of the new and upcoming releases is Tom Kaczynski's Uncivilised Books putting out a print version of Sam Alden's Hawaii 1997 (via Publisher's Weekly).

Alden's a (very young) pretty prolific comics creator with a huge online following and often self-publishes limited runs of his work, and has previously published and distributed comics with Space Face Books, Sonatina Comics and Italian imprint Delebile. Alden won the promising talent award at the Ignatz awards this year and (if I remember correctly) I believe he published a small run of Hawaii 1997 for a convention, but it's currently only available to read online. The Uncivilised book is due in early 2014 and will be published in a flip-book format, with Hawaii 1997 on one side and a new story on the other. Alden's a huge talent, so any print version of his work- hell, any version of his work, is good news.

The other news that got me excited was Chris Pitzer's excellent AdHouse Books announcing a collection  of Noah van Sciver's comics, titled Youth is Wasted and due for release in June 2014. Van Sciver's debut graphic novel, The Hypo, which saw a young Abraham Lincoln battle depression, was published by Fantagraphics last year, and he's also the author of comics such as Saint Cole, 1999, Deep in the Woods, and his Blammo series. 

To my mind, van Sciver is one of the few comics creators out there who make work which is dense in both art and text and manage to pull it off; I think he updates that ugly alt comics art style really well and his humour is usually nicely on point. The Youth is Wasted collection will compromise of selected short stories from Blammo, as well as collating van Sciver's various contributions to anthologies. The book will run to 112 pages and be published in paperback format.