Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Exclusive first look: Náva #2


One of the best comics I read last year was Náva, written by Mikael Lopez, beautifully illustrated by Olle  Forsslöf, and published by Swedish comics outfit, Peow! Studio (if you'd like to know some more about the plot, click on the link above). So to say I've been looking forward to the second book is a bit of an understatement. But the wait will soon be over, with  Náva #2 debuting at TCAF (Toronto Comics Art Festival) next weekend, where Peow! Studio will be in attendance. I'm thrilled (honestly- actually thrilled) to present an exclusive first look at the second installment here, including the cover, and a 6 page excerpt. Peow! print all their comics using a risograph machine, so the black and white images below may look different in the physical edition. 

The story picks up essentially where the last one left off, with Vani, Yu, and Yau taken prisoner by the Cani and making their way over the dessert towards Cynopolis. As they trek, the three tell each other stories- continuing the line of myth and fable that was strongly present in the first book. The tales also serve to reveal more of the character's backgrounds, as well as progress the main narrative, and further build the world Lopez and Forsslöf have envisaged. The four strands of the story will be picked out in different colours by the risograph, with the main story in black, Yu's story in blue, Vani's story in purple and a little yellow, and Cani's in teal. If you've not read the first book- have no fear!- Peow! are also bringing along a new, re-printed edition of that, which will feature a new 3 colour cover, more similar in style to the one shown above.

Really, if you're going to TCAF, make an effort to visit the Peow! table, and look through their line- they're doing some fun and fresh comics which are just so good- and pick these books up- you won't be disappointed. They'll aslo have this new comic from Hannah K as well, so stopping by is a must. Peow! will also be attending both ELCAF and Thought Bubble this year, UK readers, so you will get your slice of cake. Meanwhile, you can check out their website here.







Something pretty: Taiyo Matsumoto's GoGo Monster

Some of the comics I'm most excited about right now are Japanese comics; I talked about finding it difficult to get a foothold into manga, but that's now a thing of the past, and I'm having a great time just searching through a hosts of titles, trying things, adding books to my wishlist. I've been the most voracious reader since I was a kid, although it was all Enid Blyton, The Hardy Boys et al back then- and for me, one of the best feelings is discovering new books, series and authors that you've never read, knowing that there's more- knowing that you have the authors back catalogue, or a whole series, to go through. A lot of the time, that means reading older material, which I don't mind, but has probably already been extensively covered.

Anyhow, Taiyo Matsumoto's become one of those creators whose work I've been slowly trying to pull together- I have all the Sunny books, but have not read his earlier books, Tekkon Kinkreet, or Blue Spring yet. Instead, Sarah (Horrocks) convinced me to go with Matsumoto's GoGo Monster, published in English in 2009, and I had to do a quick post on the book design because it's gorgeous (and that's the kind of person I am, sadly). The book is a 464 page hardback, and comes in a through slipcase (open at both ends). One of the reasons why it looks so beautiful is the reason I like Matsumoto in the first place: his art (that and he writes about childhood and adolescence really well, particularly boys going through those stages). At first instance -and in black and white, especially-  his art looks weird- more so, perhaps, due to the derivation from the normative cues you generally get from a lot of manga. It's a blended approach of more 'real' illustration; proportionate figure-work, etc., but then there's a quality to it, a surrealness that allows it to carry emotion so well. I think that's one of the things I get from his art- his illustrations seem to convey almost more than the text.

While some of his pages in Sunny are coloured (they generally look somewhat like this, or this), the brighter colours against the stark, glossy white background here really pop, and are gorgeous to look at, especially the back cover on the bottom right photo here. The page edges have been dyed red and make up a floral pattern- it's a technique I've never liked when it's used on prose books- too gimmicky somehow- but it sits better with the more visual aspect of comics- the association of colour and illustration. Monster's story is about a young boy who inhabits two-worlds- one in which he's a loner kid, bullied by his classmates, scolded at by his teachers, and the other in which great supernatural beings are locked in a battle with evil spirits- a battle and life which bleeds out into the former. The front and back covers represent those two sides to an extent: on the front cover Yuki has his head on a desk- he, the desk, and the flower above his head are all rendered in finely lined black-and-white- it's a flat empty-ish image, but on the corners you have tendrils of sumptuous fauna, birds, and creatures creeping in. They're creeping in from the back cover, which when you turn over, is just filled with vivdily-coloured, strange and sumptuous animals and beings- all very friendly looking, which is just as well, because they're looking at Yuki.

Really looking forward to reading this!

Clockwise from left: slipcase cover, book edges, back cover, front cover.

Catching up with Thought Bubble guest annoucements

I've fallen a little behind with the Thought Bubble announcements, so let's attempt to catch up with news of who's attending, as a whole host of guests have been added to the roster. You can catch up with the first wave of announcements here. The big news as I see it is the addition of French comics wizard, Boulet (aka Gilles Roussel), probably best known to UK/Canadian/US readers for his superb web-comic, Bouletcorp. This will mark Boulet's first appearance at Thought Bubble, and a rare attendance at a UK based festival/event. I've picked out some other names which stand out to me- (you can see the full list as it stands so far here).

  • Cliff Chiang (Wonder Woman)
  • Tim Sale (Batman: The Long Halloween, Dark Victory)
  • John Allison (Bad Machinery)
  • Isabel Greenberg (The Encyclopedia of Early Earth)
  • Hope Larson (A Wrinkle in Time -Larson had to bow out due to sickness last year) 
  • Emma Rios (Pretty Deadly)
  • Vanessa Del Ray (Hit)

Allison and Greenberg are both UK comics stars- one established, one rising, so it's nice to see them afforded guest status. I think I'm right in saying Sale's been a guest previously, although it will be Chiang's first time at the festival before, but they're the kind of popular, evergreen creators that fan will always be glad to see. I'm also really pleased to see Emma Rios and Vanessa Del Ray- Rios was at the festival last year, but I only got to meet her very briefly, and I imagine she'll be much more well-known to people with the success of Pretty Deadly, her Eisner-nominated book with Kelly Sue DeConnick. Del Ray is perhaps a newer name to people, but her art on titles such as Hit, has made a quick impression, and it's another testament to Thought Bubble that they're keeping an finger on the comics pulse, and giving that sort of opportunity to rising names. Other names in attendance include Sean Phillips, Ales Kot, Olly Moss, Andy Belanger, Adi Granov, Cameron Stewart, Kevin Tong, and more.

Meanwhile, the deadline to apply for tables for those wishing to exhibit has come and gone- I believe emails were beginning to be sent out to successful applicants on Monday, and it looks like great Swedish comics outfit, Peow Studio (of whom I'm a big fan), will be in attendance this year, too. unsuccessful applicants will be added to a reserves list, should any cancellations occur and spaces become available. There's a handy guide for exhibitors that covers travel, accommodation, and more, here. Six months to go, but time rolls around fast, my friends...

Comics Shelfie: Simon Gurr

The last Wednesday of April; the month has gone by quickly, and the year even more so. Continuing briskly on, it's that time of the fortnight where comics shelfie *happens* and we take a look at the comic collections/bookshelves of an erstwhile comic creator. This week it's the turn of British artist, Simon Gurr, whose comics background is (to me) more interesting and varied than most; Gurr's career has mainly been in the illustration of non-fiction, educational texts for schools to use, leading to the creation of 3 of his comic books in collaboration with author Eugene Byrne- Brunel: A Graphic Biography, The Bristol Story, and Darwin: A Graphic Biography. He's also produced a number of comics for 2000AD (such as the 'Head' page below)- there's a handy list of projects he's been involved with here- which serves as a good introduction to his work.


But for now, it's over to Simon to talk us through his books:


'I've recently had to give a lot of comics away and move the rest out into the studio, so what you see here is practically everything: A longbox of mostly small press and Marvel/DC 'floppies' (1), a top shelf of beloved books (2), a pile of books relating to a current project (3), a stack of 2000ADs from my personal golden age of 1980-1986 (4) and a second shelf of comic books and books about comics (5).

Despite the reduction in cat-swinging space, it sort of makes sense to have all my comics input in the place where I make my comics output. An example of this is the comic I'm drawing at the moment. Rob Williams's script reminded me of a classic 2000AD moment and I was able to immediately dip into this tower of yellowing thrill power for reference.


As you can probably tell by their condition, the 2000AD weeklies are the oldest items in my collection. I started buying them after reading the Ro-Busters story Terra Meks at a friend's house, when I was about nine. My earliest remaining issues contain tattered fragments from the Block Mania/Apocalypse War saga, but it's only around Prog 300 (1983) that my brother and I learned not to rip the covers off or draw all over the insides. At that time 2000AD was printed on bog paper, with colour restricted to the covers and centre spread, but to me it was perfect. Mick McMahon's work on Slaine back then was one of the best things he (or anyone) has drawn, but other British artists were starting to hit their stride too; Kevin O'Neill, Dave Gibbons, Steve Dillon.

Until 1986 my comics diet consisted pretty much of readily available IPC/Fleetway titles; 2000AD, the short-lived Eagle revival and Scream, Eagle's horror-themed sister publication. But then of course Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons (whose work I knew from 2000AD) made Watchmen and this caused me to move from newsagents to real comic shops! Forbidden Planet and Comics Showcase in London sold me The Dark Knight Returns and Elektra: Assassin and I was hooked. Forever People and Area 51 sustained me when I moved to Bristol where, years later, the much-missed Travelling Man introduced me to the wonders of Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly and Top Shelf. My own top shelf, loosely alphabetised by artist, is now heaving under the weight of many books purchased in Travelling Man.


As you will see from close-ups of both ends of that shelf, I seem to have more books by Daniel Clowes and Chris Ware than anyone else. (Given that most of my comic books are obtained as Christmas presents, this makes for some decidedly unfestive reading.) 


On the next shelf, some more favourites. The black spines in the middle are all Titan Books 2000AD reprints, which means there is a fair amount of duplication in my collection, but Titan's superior crisp white paper really let the black and white artwork shine.


At the far end, a couple of theory books from my BA dissertation and MA, and then some more accessible writing on comics.


There is no real theme to the longbox except 'comics which won't stand up on their own'. I've taken out a handful of more recent comics and lined them up in front of some of the 90s comics I found in there.


Front row (l-r): BOO! ed. by Paul Harrison-Davies & Andrew Waugh, X Utero by Paula Knight, Quinthaven and Kani by Wqrwick Johnson Cadwell, Chocolate & Me by James Howard, Pop! by Jonathan Edwards, Off-life ed. Daniel Humphry, Solipsistic Pop 4 ed. Tom Humberstone/
Back row: The Collected Alas!Comics by Alexander Zograf/Saša Rakezić, Fred the Clown by Roger Langridge, Paradax! by Peter Milligan & Brendan McCarthy.
The box in the middle: 'Mini Burger', is from 1995 and contains 12 small Stripburger comics.

Finally, a small pile of information and inspiration books for ORT, the comic I'm writing and drawing in between professional work:


ORT is a wordless comic, which is why Flood, Congress of The Animals, Winter's Knight and Lupinta's Guitarra are there. Blood is at the back because ORT has vampires in it, but it isn't THAT sort of vampire story.

For my comics shelfie I've selected three individual titles from my collection:


Paris by Andi Watson and Simon Gane
When Paris came out in 2006 I fell completely in love with it. I can't think of a comic I've connected with more instantly and fully than this, I remember the moment I picked it up in the shop. Andi Watson's apparently simple story is served perfectly by Simon's art which captures the beauty of the city, its inhabitants and the two female protagonists without ever overpowering the narrative.

Lighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green
This is a much heavier book than this picture suggests. It's over 500 pages long and never once loses sight of its purpose - to tell an intensely painful and personal story which could only be told a) by the person who experienced it, and b) using the unique narrative functions of comics. Katie achieves this with courage, insight and considerable technical skill.


2000AD
It all began with 2000AD for me, so I'll end with this 30-year old handful of battered, precious, paper and staples. The cover shows Cam Kennedy doing a good job of aping McMahon's distinctive Slaine style. The story inside is Sky Chariots, considered by many to be the pinnacle of McMahon's 2000AD work. My 20p that week also got me five pages of Alan Moore (DR & Quinch Get Drafted), Ian Gibson drawing Dredd, Cam Kennedy on Rogue Trooper and a slice of one of my all-time favourite Strontium Dog stories: The Killing. It's a good example of the quality that kept me buying it each week and fuelled my interest in drawing comics.'

Many thanks to Simon for his time and participation. You can view all the previous installments of Comics Shelfie here. Remember to stop by on the 14th of May for the next installment.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Geof Darrow and Frank Miller return to The Big Guy and Rusty the Robot


More noteworthy publishing news coming out from the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo- C2E2- via Comic Book Resources: Frank Miller and Geof Darrow are to produce a new Big Guy and Rusty the Robot comic for Dark Horse Presents. Miller and Darrow originally published the Big Guy and Rusty Robot mini-series in an over-size format, following the adventures of a boy and his rather large robot, with Dark Horse back in 1995. It was also adapted as an animated kids show, running for 26 episodes between 1999-2001. Darrow returned to comics after a considerable hiatus with his Shaolin Cowboy comic (also with Dark Horse), which he'll continue working on, with the new Rusty story providing a brief  interlude to a different, yet familiar world: 'I have an idea of what it's going to be. It's kind of funny, I think. I hope. In theory, Frank is going to do the dialogue for me when it's ready. He said he would. He can really put something into it...I don't want people's expectations to be too high. This is just a simple thing.'

From that quote, it sounds like Miller's involvement is up in the air, but Darrow is the kind of artist who you'll buy regardless of who he's collaborated with. It'll be interesting to see if Miller does pen the dialogue- it seems a small enough commitment that he might take it on, and it's not one of his bigger works or properties, so the prospect of less scrutiny might be appealing. Good news however it turns out. You can still buy the original collection fairly cheap on Amazon and Ebay. It has dinosaurs and looks like this (or the colour version does):


James Stokoe to produce Avengers 100 one-shot


I'm glad I'm not really involved in comics as such that to the point of receiving details of exciting, embargoed news that you have to sit on for ages, unable to share it with anyone. Nevertheless, I somehow learned (and kept quiet about) the news that one of my utter favourite artists -and probably yours, too- James Stokoe, would be producing an Avengers one-shot for Marvel later this year, as part of an Avengers 100 Year Special. As others have pointed out- neither Marvel or the Avengers have hit the centenary mark, so exactly what the 100 Year refers to is open to debate for the meantime- perhaps something akin to a Year 100 imagining (Stokoe's take looks like it might be a futuristic story).

There's been a degree of surprise around the Stokoe announcement, no doubt because his furiously detailed and acidic coloured art style isn't something you'd really expect on an Avengers title, but this can only be a good thing. I like Marvel's thinking in tapping Stokoe for the job, and I hope the issue will also act as an introduction to Stokoe's work for a much larger audience, who will hopefully go on to pick up other books he's created.

The cover image released (shown above) appears to show some iteration of Rogue and a Dr Strange character, along with Beta Ray Bill- a character whose existence I am only now learning of and who is apparently fucking awesome. Here's a brief back-story: Beta Ray Bill's a yellow, monstrous looking dude in appearance, who surprises everyone when he turns out to be pretty heroic instead- so much so that he's the only other being deemed worthy enough to lift Thor's hammer, Mjolnir. That leads to a tussle over who should actually wield the hammer, a dispute that's resolved when Bill (Bill!) is bestowed a hammer of his own- Stormbreaker! Of course, Thor and he become fast friends after that- out on the lash, swinging their hammers together. 

I think Stokoe's going to take this story places, my friends. The issue will be released in July, with Stokoe on pencilling, inking, colouring and writing duties- the whole shebang.

UPDATE: The 100 is, indeed, a futurespective of the Marvel universe, looking at how things may be in the year 2061 (100 years on from the 1961 debut of the Fantastic Four).

Weapons of Mass Diplomacy: notably absent

Weapons of Mass Diplomacy by Christophe Blain & Abel Lanzac
SelfMade Hero

Your enjoyment of Weapons of Mass Diplomacy, I suspect, will depend on how you view politics. It's co-written by Abel Lanzac- the pen name of Antonin Baudry, a diplomat currently 'Cultural Counselor of the Embassy of France to the United States,' who , from 2002-04, was speechwriter and adviser to French prime minister  Dominique de Villepin, working for the French Ministry of Foreign affairs on issues of culture and international economy. This quasi autobiographical book is based on the experiences of that time, in particular, the build up to the Iraq War.

I would argue that the Iraq War was a seismic, catalytic event in our relationship with politics- the need for transparency and accountability greater than ever, and marking an era denoted by disillusionment and distrust of politics and politicians. A reading of this book is probably coloured by your responses to various questions: what do we expect from politicians? Are they simply people doing a difficult job? Are they hugely privileged individuals in cushy positions of power, with little interest in the greater workings of their office? To what extent can they actually effect change? And so on.

Weapons opens with Arthur Vlaminck arriving the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for his appointment with the prime minister, Alexandre Taillard. Vlamnick's taken from one hushed room to the next, escorted by imposing security guards, nervously imagining himself flanked by storm troopers en route to Darth Vader, until- DOOM!- in bursts Taillard, pumping him by the hand, ushering him into his room, offering him wine, showing him passages from Marx. What follows is a bombardment of rhetoric, a rat-a-tat-ta: the world is a volcano about to erupt- on the brink of world war III- Taillard needs a team- a crack squad, first responders- the French Ministry is raft, but a raft with the cream of the crop, and so it continues. Before he knows it, Vlamnick's at home telling his girlfriend how he's been recruited for The Word. 'Of God?' she asks. 'No! Y'know... words! Words are... They're what must be said. A minister must choose his words wisely... Actually, I'll get the full details tomorrow.'


And with that, the reader is thrown in with Vlamnick as he starts his new job, writing speeches, meeting the other key workers and advisers in the ministry, learning who to trust and who not to, travelling to international summits and conventions, re-writing speeches, navigating office politics. As much as we'd like to imagine the people and offices in charge of the running of our countries, as efficient, hard-working, noble, above the pettiness of everyday concerns, politics as portrayed here is like any other job -a ton of paper pushing, form filling, lip service, poor inter-departmental communication, rivalries and one-up-manship. But Weapons is a curious book, in that it's protagonist is not Vlamnick, but Taillard. Taillard, whose politics lean right, but is presented here as an astute, forward thinking genius, whose charismatic, overpowering personality is half cultivated, half natural- the bluster a smokescreen for an incredibly keen and sharp mind,  a misdirection almost, as he attempts to navigate his peers in order to line up dominoes for the larger vision which he sees and believes.

It's Taillard who is the heart and life of the book, Taillard to whom Blain lends all his dramatic movements and flourishes- flagging every appearance with a sudden DOOM! DOOM! and here comes Taillard swishing, swooshing, spirals in his wake, motion, motion, motion, so many lines. The satirical element is, I'm guessing, supposed to be the audience laughing at Taillard's ridiculousness, his quirks and eccentricity, the ineptitude of the vastly paid people in his office who seem more interested in navigating their career upwards than actually doing their job.


But it doesn't really work. The emphasis on Tailliard as a misunderstood genius type is too pronounced- there's admiration and even reverence, while the people are all ostensibly 'good' doing the best they can, rendering the purported satire toothless. It ends with a rousing speech by Taillard just before the Iraq invasion takes place; with the idea of 'we were right/you should have listened' hanging obtrusively. Nor does it function as a vehicle for the journey of an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances- the fish out of water. After a brilliant opening passage, where Vlamnick is given his first speech to write, we hardly get to see much of our speechwriter every-man. He's present, of course, but events are focused on Taillard, and the few forays into his personal life with his girlfriend fall flat (she leaves him at one point, but then they are inexplicably back together). He's too thin a foil, his story too slight; if you were to pick this up and attempt to read it as the story of a man who gets a job in political office, and the journey that follows- it would't work.

And so it rafts in a rudderless middle-ground - neither sharp or incisive enough regarding politics or people, nor empathetic towards any one person. What makes it worthwhile, however, is Blain's illustration, which is always a pleasure to see, and he does his utmost to imbibe the text with the life and edge it's lacking. Take a look at the  beauty of this lone splash page, for example: 


That comes by way of a Taillard dream- merging a cartoon and his own fantasies, that highlights the collaborative nature of Weapons- that's a very Blain touch. So too, is the running gag of Taillard as Darth Vader:



The white backgrounds Blain employs here, used to tonal effectiveness in In the Kitchen, don't fare as well. The expanse of white space punctuated only by talking busts of people, cramming word balloons everywhere are remarkably flat- conveying little but boredom. I'm sure it's done when there's more words to be fitted on the page, removing background to free up space, because it doesn't mark a shift in tone or emphasis. Blain's legendary expressiveness and dynamic movement is on display; he uses a lot of clouds in this one- bid clouds, little, mini clouds- of frustrations, of perspiration, nervousness, effort, concentration, it's a great little thing to see- the universal application of the common cloud. His fondness for visualising sound through colouring , lettering and sfx makes an appearance too, when the French delegation suffers a spot of turbulence to their aircraft:


I can't imagine anyone depicted within the pages of Weapons of Mass Diplomacy being even mildly offended by it- it's a book that they'd laugh at together, in its gentle caricatures. I wrote the other day of effective satire coming from a position of where you stand a little apart from the thing which you're taking jabs at, and I think this suffers from Lanzac's affection for the subject, and also, as someone who continues to be employed by the French government, his refusal to go full throttle. As a fan of Blain, I relish any opportunity to see his work, and as much as it elevates what is here, even he can't quite save this from stodginess and a whiff of self-righteousness.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Pick up the Guardian comics special this weekend

 

The Guardian seems to be lending  its support to the upcoming Comics Unmasked exhibtion at the British Library, with a variety of articles, like this one on how to write a comic, and more excitingly, pairing up well-known authors to collaborate with artists to create new comic works. The first comic, 'Here,' a Frazer Irving adaptation of The End Of Alice author AM Homes’s tale of a mysterious phone call is available to read on the site for free now. Further to that, Rich Johnston reports that the newspaper's Weekend magazine will  this Saturday collect all the comics and articles in a print special. The comics will also run on the website for all to read, with one story appearing every day from today. Here's some of the authors and artists taking part:

  • AM Homes and Frazer Irving
  • Audrey Niffenegger and Eddie Campbell
  • Gillian Flynn and Dave Gibbons
  • Dave Eggers
  • Margaret Atwood and Christian Ward
  • Michel Faber and Roger Langridge
You can see preview for all those strips here. I seem to remember the Guardian did a comics special in the Weekend last year (or maybe a while back) with Kate Beaton and others contributing comics. That quickly sold out, and I'm sure this will, too. Make sure you get your hands on a copy.


Preview: Antoine Cossé's Mutiny Bay


My friends, I'm so excited about comics right now- I got through periods where nothing looks good to me, but that's more a mindset, and a result of having so much to go through that you sort of become resistant to it. But not today! Today there's lots to share and be excited about- primarily Antoine Cossé's new upcoming book with Breakdown Press: Mutiny Bay. The British small press publishing imprint released the cover to Cossé's book on Tumblr yesterday- and it's a beautiful looking thing- as are the pages Cossé has been sharing on his blog. Breakdown were kind enough to provide a preview for your viewing pleasure, and I've added in some of my favourites, pulled from Cossé's Tumblr. 

Mutiny Bay sees Cossé take on the tale of the Armada de Molucca, a Spanish fleet consisting of five ships , led by Ferdinand Magellan in a bid to discover a South American strait that would expedite trade with the Indonesian Spice Islands. The fleet left Seville on the 10th of August 1519, with only 2 ships making the completing the journey to the Spice Islands in 1521, and one ship eventually returning to Spain 3 years after they had set out. Cossé follows the journey of Captain Magellan and his crew, as months later, in a deserted and inhospitable land, mutiny brews, two men are marooned, and the world explodes in a riot of hallucinatory colour. 

Cossé previously released his graphic novel, Kiddo, in 2012, as well as producing J.1137 with Breakdown Press late last year, and is currently part of Retrofit's line-up. The French illustrator is returning to live in Paris this year, so enjoy his English-language work while you can. Mutiny Bay will be published this summer, at approximately 150 pages in length. 








Fresh from France: Cinebook release Vehlmann and Gazzotti's 'Alone'


I've often talked about the many merits of UK publishers Cinebook, who do a fantastic job translating some of the best French language comics for English audiences, and here's another reason why: this month sees them releasing the first volume of Fabien Vehlmann and Bruno Gazzotti's award-winning 'Seuls' series, re-dubbed 'Alone.' Vehlmann may be familiar to people as the author of Green Manor (also published with Cinebook), The Isle of 100,000 Graves, his collaboration with Jason, and more recently, Beautiful Darkness- co-authored and illustrated by Kerascoet, and published by Drawn and Quarterly. 

The Seuls series began life in 2006, and in its original French, it is 8 volumes in, with the 9th on the horizon. The hugely popular and acclaimed books are divided into 'cycles,' which I'm thinking is pretty much like seasons- the first 5 volumes make up the first 'cycle,' and the second cycle is at mid-point with 3 books. Really excited about this- been reading a lot about it by putting article after article through Google Translate, and the series just is supposed to get better and better, with a variety of elements introduced- things getting more sci-fi, a bit dystopian, a bit Planet of the Apes, and more. Here's a plot synopsis from Cinebook to whet your appetite: 
Five children who have never met each other, who live very different lives in a small city. Then, one day, they all wake up in their empty homes, walk out into empty streets and wander through the empty city… No adults, no other children; just the five of them eventually finding each other, and forced to band together to face the inevitable questions – and the dangers of a modern city suddenly emptied of its inhabitants... 
I came across a very good interview with Vehlmann and Gazotti here, where they discuss a range of subjects (the interview is from 2009, conducted to promote the 3rd book in the series), where Vehlmann, in particular, talks interestingly about inspiration, representation, and having a young black boy as the hero of the story, and more. The interview's in French, but I've plucked out a few choice quotes, and attempted to translated them roughly below.


On inspiration and ideas: 'I've long had the idea to make a book about children left to themselves. It was related to my reading of Lord of the Flies by William Golding, which I read as a child and was deeply traumatized by- in the good sense. At the time, I couldn't find the right line of approach, I imagined children on an island, but it didn't really fit- something was missing. And then it clicked: they need to be in town... I want the reader to read what he wants to read with his references to his world. This is not a moralizing story, but there are values. If I had to pinpoint one central theme it would be that they are alone, but together. It's important to me; I find that the collective is super important.'

'I  don't like disaster movies strictly speaking, when the buildings collapse,  and so on, but what interests me is when the universe collapses and seeing how people react to the situation.'

On casting a black character as the hero and central protagonist: 'At first, my characters were pretty stereotypical; I wanted to do something very classic, with very marked characters, paving the foundations to later surprise the reader. But what I'm most proud of is the character who had a difficult childhood and is the de facto leader of the group, the most mature- the hero of the series. He wasn't called Dodzi at the time, but Bruno and I both decided we wanted a main character of colour in Franco-Belgian comics. It's  usually found that a character of colour is often the "sidekick", or a secondary character, and here we had the opportunity to cast a hero, without descending into stereotype and giving him  [and the story] the opportunity to evolve. We've had comments on the fact that our hero is black- people [presumably from within the comics industry] asking whether it was necessary, or whether we were under any obligation (to have a black main character) It wasn't by racism as such, but by proxy. It's often the case elsewhere, you pitch a character of colour and you hear 'I don't mind, but isn't it a bit risky?' [in terms of audience/sales]... But it was a natural choice; I'm proud to have been able to portray different characters and a wider representation.'

Vehlmann: Children never question why a character is of colour. They choose favourite characters based on the actual character, not on the colour of their skin.'
Gazzotti: Our aim was to simply present five normal, everyday characters who you'd find in real life, from various backgrounds.'

I know Cinebook are releasing the second book in the series a few months after this volume, but to all intents and purposes this is a really terrific all-ages series- beautifully illustrated (look at that art below!), great story, representative, and one that's worthy of your support. If you live in the US or Canada, and aren't sure where to get hold of Cinebook's releases, I know for sure they're listed in Previews, so ask your local comic book store to order it for you. Alone: The Vanishing was due for release on April 24th (that adte might be one week here or there).