Friday, 30 October 2015

Jiro Taniguchi's 'Guardians of the Louvre' coming to English-language audiences in May 2016

Jiro Taniguchi's Guardians of the Louvre is set to become the latest book in the Louvre Collection -a graphic novel series created in collaboration with the renowned museum- to be brought to English language audiences in May next year. Nicolas De Crecy kicked off the line in 2007 with Glacial Period, and since then various cartoonists, artists and writers have been given access to the Louvre to produce comics that are somehow inspired and connected to the museum, it's history, and the works contained within; including Hirohiko Araki and Enki Bilal. It's a unique and lasting way of  enlisting some of the finest comic creators today to use their own artistic medium in order to 'respond' and explore a cultural facet of another.

Taniguchi's a superb, often overlooked mangaka, although the beauty and elegance of his art has made him incredibly popular in France. Very little of Taniguchi's work is produced in colour (the only thing that comes to mind is the Louis Vuitton travel artbook), so the prospect of a full-colour, hardback comic-book from him is rather exciting. 'After a group trip to Europe, a Japanese designer stops in Paris alone, intent on visiting the museums of the capital. But, bedridden in his hotel room with fever, he faces the absolute solitude of one suffering in a foreign land, deprived of any immediate or familiar recourse. When the fever breaks somewhat, he sets out on his visit and promptly gets lost in the crowded halls of the Louvre. Very soon, he discovers many unsuspected facets to this world in a museum, meeting artists and their works from various periods, in a journey oscillating between feverish hallucination and reality, finishing at the crossroads between human and personal history.

With this inner journey, Jiro Taniguchi invites us on a temporal and artistic trip to discover a sense of place under the leadership of some tutelary figures that appear to him, familiar or unknown ... the guardians of the Louvre.'

From what I've read of the Louvre collection, it's a bit hit-and-miss. A couple of aspects the series seems to struggle with is the specificity of the subject (lots of redrawing of famous paintings and sculptures), and the perception of 'art' and the way that subject is treated as very respectful. This seems like an ideal opportunity /forum to discuss and possibly deconstruct some of those notions of respectability, accessibility, definition, and more, but the series is commissioned by the museum after all, so it's unlikely anything critical would be produced. Still, more approaches like De Crecy's excellent, light-hearted Glacial Period or Hirohiko Araki's zany, gory Jojo standalone, that don't put these things on a pedestal of untouchable reverence, would be interesting and provide greater depth to the collection. I'm curious to see what Taniguchi does with the mandate, although from that blurb and the preview pages (there's the protagonist meeting Van Gogh) below, it doesn't look like anything that diverges from the afore-mentioned template. No doubt it will be beautiful to look at and sedately thoughtful to read. Certainly any new Taniguchi is a plus, and this is the sort of brief that fits his style and temperament well; it's difficult to see it be anything other than very good. I look forward to reading it.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

The convention beat: Claire and Zainab go to the Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2015

Detail from Joe Decie's comic mural

I've been thinking about comic festivals/conventions a lot. Whenever I return from one, I look to report back on the experience, but increasingly find I'm not really sure what to say. The 'saw-this-did-that' approach seems very rote -more so when you take into account the type of creator-orientated events I like to attend don't have really big news coming out of them. I've attended 3 cons this year -TCAF. ELCAF, and the Lakes, and will be going to Thought Bubble next month - and while I don't consider that a lot, the experience in itself is starting to wane a little. Or certainly what used to satisfy me as an attendee- just the opportunity to buy comics and see people's work, on its own isn't doing it for me. The more festivals and cons that pop up, the more it makes me think what I, and others want and get out of them, and how those expectations or wants are changing (please feel free to email me any thoughts you have- genuinely interested to hear more perspectives).

There are more comic events than ever in the UK today (mirroring a parallel growth that seems to be happening in North America and Canada), but one of the largest problems appears to be a lack of focus and identity. (It's worth noting that many of these UK events are 'comics' events in an extremely broader, associative cultural sense- merchandise, and pop-culture guest orientated). What does a convention offer that differentiates it from the next? This is an increasingly important factor as people now have a choice of events to attend. The three most distinct conventions in the UK currently are Thought Bubble, ELCAF and Safari, and each have a particular bent: Thought Bubble bringing together quality guests and exhibitors from abroad and here; ELCAF providing a spotlight on graphic art very much in keeping with Nobrow's oeuvre; while Safari gathers the best of alternative comics talent.

So where does the Lakes International Comic Art Festival fit into this picture? It has a unique facet in terms of its locale and in its aim to be a community-driven event, garnering the participation of shops, businesses and schools. Three years into its conception, it's still a relatively small and relaxed festival. If you're visiting for the weekend, there's plenty of time to both explore some of the surrounding Lake District attractions and walk around the various comic at leisure. The curious thing about the Lakes has is its proximity to Thought Bubble: set 4 weeks before an established festival that offers everything it does and more -including many of the same guests- doesn't make much sense and makes differentiation even more difficult. With the rest of the UK calendar open for a strong creator-focused convention, I'm not sure why the Lakes is tabled so close to Thought Bubble; an early summer date would likely benefit it further in terms of footfall and people checking it out. It remains to be seen whether the UK comic scene/audience is robust enough to sustain two very similar festivals a month apart, and what impact the Lakes growth may have on Thought Bubble.

In that vein I talked to a few artists and small press outfits who said they wouldn't be returning because it simply wasn't worth their while in money made back some despite being invited as guests (which generally means travel and accommodation is paid or provided for). Motivations for attending a convention are  obviously different for comic creators who table for a multiple of reasons: to sell their work and make money, to meet peers, friends, and associates in the community that they wouldn't normally see, to exhibit work for visibility, to make connections, and so forth. These goals shift depending on the convention: different events are geared towards different goals.  

Rough context aside, I had a really good time at the Lakes. My friend and Women Write About Comic scribe, Claire Napier and I travelled up separately to Kendal on  Friday 16th October. My journey involved 3+ hours and 2 train changes (which I hate because I get very anxious about connections, which platform I'm supposed to be at, whether I'm going to miss it), but it was smooth enough, even if time did choose that precise moment to take a prolonged yawn. 'This is all that cartoon gang,' a construction worker remarked to his colleague as we and some others walked by. We stopped to eat at The Catch and also ask directions to the place we were staying (we ate there again on the Saturday because the food was so good and the people lovely and friendly). It was about a 20 minutes walk, which was easily doable. Tired from commuting, we didn't do much on the evening apart from some food shopping.

Claire: The food shopping was remarkable because Kendal's Asda is so freakin' big. I know, I'm a bumpkin in every way, but from the town that we saw as we walked from the station through the high street out to the hotel in the suburbs I didn't expect such a large supermarket. Kendal's a market town, with less than 30,000 in permanent residence; from my experience of similar places the Superstore seemed outsize. But considering it again now, we talked a couple of times about how often Kendal seems to have festivals on -- even checking the place out on google maps, they have up a banner for a Harley Owners' Club rally. Which explains (in reverse) why the town seemed so well-suited for hosting a sprawling event. It's a very well-arranged place, I think, easy to understand as a pedestrian and many decent-sized host locations within the scope of the high street. On our way to the hotel that first day we stopped to look at a billion window displays from local businesses (independent and chains, I think?)... Kendal really seems to understand its status as host. Geographically, at least.

Titan Comics


Zainab: We got in early on Saturday at 10:30. The festival is dived into approximately 5 areas: the Clock Tower, which has 4 rooms/halls where cartoonists and publishers exhibit; the Canadian Lodge, which was one room with books by various Canadian cartoonists (Michael DeForge, Kate Beaton, Darwyn Cooke, etc), the comics family zone, the Elephant Yard which housed Boulet/Soaring Penguin Press, Viz, and the Bartkira exhibition, and the Brewery Arts Centre where most of the talks/panels and screenings were being held, and which was also hosting the small shojo manga exhibition. All these areas are free entry, but all talks, workshops, and screenings are paid entry via ticket. The signage around the town was excellent once again, with lots of flags and posters, while spray-painted red maple leafs and blue elephants lead a route to the Canadian Lodge and Elephant Yard respectively. Likewise the free festival programme was clear and informative with times, events and locations all listed.

One of my favourite things about cons is the atmosphere on the opening morning- everybody's excited and ready to go; it's a really positive, shared vibe and an affirming environment to be part of. Two of the first tables we saw in the Clock Tower were AdHouse's -manned by Chris Pitzer- and Lando/Decadence Comics. I bought the Four Reptiles of the Apocalypse from Lando, which was/started out as a webcomic. I'm not sure that I entirely get his work yet, but I'm always drawn to it, and some bits of it I can glean something from. It doesn't feel deliberately obfuscating but him doing his thing, which I like and respect. It moves beyond its influences.

Portrait of Lando by Claire

Looking at Lando's The Four Reptiles of the Apocalypse

I loved the personalised drawing dispenser at the Fanny Butcher Press table. It's beautifully designed and eye-catching, with little slips of paper sitting next to it. The form asks you to write down 3 random words and then slot it into the box along with a pound. In exchange you receive a time-stamped ticket which tells you when to return and collect your drawing. I think Claire and I wrote down the words 'butter,' 'ostrich plumed hat' and 'moon,' and got a gorgeous little drawing  from it, inventively combining the words. I'm a big fan of when people do fun and interesting things like this at cons, it's great, and offers something different.

The highlight of the festival was meeting the amazing Asia Alfasi, whose work I'm only superficially aware of, but was completely bowled over by. We've chatted a little bit over email, etc., so it was gratifying and inspiring to finally meet her, and to have the opportunity to buy her work for the first time. It's fascinating to see how she can move between Arabic and English in her work; Arabic is one of those scripts/languages that lends itself beautifully towards calligraphy and seeing it in a comic is just a special kind of thrill. I picked up her comics collection, Harvest, and Claire had her portrait done in a 'manga style' which, as you can see in the picture below, Asia did a fantastic job of. I wasn't the only person who thought so, as her portrait slots quickly got booked up and she had to put up a sign to inform people she couldn't take any more requests for that day. Her prices were ridiculously low, too- £6 for portraits, £2 for gorgeous A4 posters. Asia will be at Thought Bubble, too, where I'd highly recommend visiting her table.

Claire: Asia is a total peach. I met her at OK True Believers in Cheltenham this January, and was dismayed not to find much of a presence online afterwards. Her work is full of verve and humour, and her comics adapting the stories of the folk hero Juha are so much fun that they swept away all the sound and fury of a convention hall while I read. I want to see thick volumes of her work on shelves, and I want to see her getting all of the recognition she deserves! If you see her at a con, go and chat to her, look at her work, and tell your friends.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

New York Review Books to publish Blutch's 'Peplum' in April 2016

News about the English-language publication of Blutch's Peplum has been swirling since early in the year, thanks to Darguad editor Thomas Ragon who first mentioned a rights deal, and now New York Review Books have a listing up on their website for the comic, complete with a release date of April 19th, 2016. It will be translated by Edward Gauvin. Originally published in French in 1996, Peplum is Blutch's adaptation of the Satyricon, a satirical work of fiction by Petronius, first published in 1482. Its plot roughly follows Encolpius and his lover, Giton, a handsome sixteen-year-old servant boy, as Encolpius struggles to retain Giton's attention and affections due to his constantly being enticed away by others. Containing both prose and verse, the work is marked by comedic, serious, erotic, and decadent passages, and known for being an influential example of the Roman novel.  

While Blutch's (aka Christian Hincker) name may or may not be familiar to you; the cartoonist is a long-standing and widely revered member of the French comics community, where he's regarded as one of the most influential and important artists of his generation, and has been publishing work since 1988, and awarded the Grand Prix at Angouleme in 2009. However, very little of his work has been translated into English, apart from for the now out-of-print So Long, Silver Screen, released by Picture Box in 2013. Resplendent with his lush painted brushwork, that book blurs anecdote and non-fiction/quasi auto-bio reportage to present a look at the impact of the cinema Blutch loved and grew up with. So it's incredibly gratifying -both as a fan and beyond- to see another of his books get translated and hopefully reach wider audiences.

'The man known as Blutch is one of the giants of contemporary comics, and Peplum may be his masterpiece: a grand, strange dream of ancient Rome. At the edge of the empire, a gang of bandits discovers the body of a beautiful woman in a cave; she is encased in ice but may still be alive. One of the bandits, bearing a stolen name and with the frozen maiden still in tow, makes his way toward Rome—seeking power, or maybe just survival, as the world unravels.

Thrilling and hallucinatory, vast in scope yet unnervingly intimate, Peplum weaves together threads from Shakespeare and The Satyricon along with Blutch’s own distinctive vision. His hypnotic storytelling and stark, gorgeous art pull us into one of the great works of graphic literature, translated into English for the first time.'


Tuesday, 20 October 2015

'Ghost' by Whit Taylor: finding a new self in an irrevocably changed world

Ghost by Whit Taylor

Whit Taylor's new book, Ghost, sees her cartoon persona presented with the opportunity to spend a day each with any 3 people -dead or alive- of her choice. The only stipulation: she's not allowed to ask them about the manner or nature of their death. These 'ghost' encounters share a thematic thread of an interest and wonder of life, and ways of living; how and why people/things change and evolve; adapt and survive. It's an oft-visited scenario, but Taylor is too interesting a cartoonist to offer a straight, staid interpretation of it; the expectation is that she's building to something and that promise is fulfilled.

Her first meeting is with a rather beleaguered Charles Darwin: 'Why is it that people bypass the well-established rule of not discussing politics or religion when they first meet me?' with whom she talks evolution and the theory of 'punctuated equilibrium': the idea that species experience a series of rapid changes -often caused by external forces- resulting in an entirely new species. Her second visitation is with mythologist and writer, Joseph Campbell, best known for coining the term 'follow your bliss' and extending the concept of the monomyth, surmised by a pattern referred to as 'The Hero’s Journey.'  The hero's journey is purported to be reflective of all people and stories; a cycle that involves trials, tribulations, and learning. This again results in the hero being fundamentally changed as a form of adaptation: in order to implement their new self, knowledge, and attributes unto their changed circumstances, therefore helping themselves and others. Taylor's final meeting, however, takes her to an unexpected subject, one she didn't ask to meet, and one that casts greater significance on the conversations that have taken place.

Taylor's art is clean and cartoony without ever devolving into the cartoonish;  it carries the transitions in tone seamlessly and consistently, and that clarity keeps the various segments from getting knotted. There's an immediacy and openness to the coloured markers, an easy appeal that helps to better digest information being imparted.  There are 2 stories slotted in between each encounter: the first of an old lady living in a care home, and the second a silent tale in which a young girl finds a wounded bird. It's truly a testament to Taylor's ability that the inclusion of these doesn't lead to overkill or convolution, instead (as is recurrent throughout the book) their meaning is divulged in layers as the interlocking stories shed further light on each other. There are lots of little touches to enjoy: the attention to presentation and stylish outfits she chooses to wear; the variety of layouts and approaches that sustain interest; the realness of Taylor's facial expressions, the undercurrent of measured passion that bursts through whenever a point is being keenly felt.

Ghost is a smartly executed comic. Taylor blends a hybrid of genres, combining fact, fantasy, fiction, and autobiography to create a book that reads as both informative and empathetic. There's a sophistication in the way Darwin's and Campbell's teachings are introduced and then transposed onto a more personal narrative of surviving sexual assault and its traumatic aftermath. Taylor uses the people she looks up to, and science, history, and lore to help make sense of what happened to her, and as a means of re-anchoring into an irrevocably altered world. Beliefs and literature that are meaningful to her work to aid in reassuring and realigning her changed self. One of the most difficult aspects of violence and assault is the loss of control and self, of being changed- although not through independent choice. The wholeness of the person you were before is gone forever. Parts of you die and can never be regained. After questioning her existence and worth, Taylor gradually evolves to emerge as something new; someone who can find purpose and value in life and herself. Stronger seems a redundant and misleading descriptor: she's just different, but also the same, still her, but more and less in many ways. A person. She is the hero who overcomes and triumphs.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Comics shelfie: Inés Estrada

It's been a while since the last comics shelfie, the reasons for which have been a mixture of my busyness and not having the time to reach out to people, and also the cartoonists who I'd like to see featured on here being a lot busier then I am. The comics shelfie feature relies solely on cartoonists' time, goodwill, and participation to exist, and I'd like to reiterate how grateful I am for that and to everyone who has contributed. Hopefully, I've got things lined up to a point where it can have a regular slot and gather steam once more.

Today, it's the excellent Inés Estrada who is showing us around her book and comics collection. I've written about Estrada's work quite a bit, so I don't want to regurgitate what makes her such a good artist (I feel like the effect of repetition diminishes), but will instead simply direct you to her website to find out more, and her Tumblr, which I find the easiest way to keep up with what work she's putting out. I'd also like to point you towards a couple of her newer comics which are available to read online, in full and for free: the first is Sindaclismo 89, which she published with Breakdown Press, and the second is this short comic she did recently, featuring a bicycling raccoon which I really enjoyed. Over to Inés for the good stuff:

'Hey! What's up, welcome to my room... I just moved to Texas this year from Mexico City and left most of my book collection in boxes at my mom's house like I guess anyone with a mom does once they move to another country.

Books are one of my favorite things and I really miss all my books! I love looking at them, reading them and making them... so naturally I already managed to scrounge up a stash at my new place. This the main place I keep them at... yeah, that's a box I just nailed into the wall!

On top is this humongous book I got from Helge Reumann, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at a residency in Minneapolis called Pierre Feuille Ciseaux. It's a collection of silent black and white strips about an apocaliptic wasteland that might as well be our future. The printing is offest and it's beautiful, the insides were printed with black twice and the ink does come off as a very deep black.

Check out that box I nailed to the wall! I keep mostly zines in it and random paper stuff. On the left is Seth Scriver's latest comic, Blob Top Magazine #2, published (and also beautifully printed) by Colour Code. There's a Charles Burns notebook peeking out, a drawing of an Iguana a friend made for me and also this birthday card my partner Edwin gave me, with a suicidal Bugs Bunny. Also peeking behind is one of my favorite books, "The Book of Cats" by Edgars Folks.

Another favorite is the first issue from Aisha Franz' new series Shit is Real. It's about heartbreak and the future! It's awesome and I can't wait to read the next issues. Aisha always manages to merge beautiful art with honest, complex stories and it's always really gratifying to read her work.

I found this at a used bookshop in Latvia that Sanita (the co-editor of the awesome Latvian comics anthology Kuš!) took me to. Inside it's all trippy illustrations of cats made by this Latvian artist Edgars Folks. I love it!

Here's a look at my "currently reading pile". Just got the newest zines from the Gilmore Boyz, aka Grant Gronewold and Simon Hanselmann. Looking forward to reading that and having some sad laughs. Below there is this novel from John Steinbeck I'm half-way through reading (in Spanish, because I get tired of living in English!), then the newest desirable European anthologies: Mould Map and Volcan. I have finished reading Volcan but to be honest the content doesn't match up the the book itself as an object. It is a beautiful book to hold and browse, but some of the comics were a bit lacking, not only in story but also visually... even in spite of the nice printing. It does have some good stuff like some of my favorite current cartoonists (Oliver Shrauwen, Aidan Koch, Baptiste Virot, Carlos Gonzalez) and also an awesome reprint from Fletcher Hanks. I can say it was still a good acquisition. Mould Map 4 is really great and keeps up with the quality and futuristic vision of the previous issues. This one is specifically about Europe and I think takes a very particular, but also broad look at the subject which is refreshing. I've already read all of it, but I keep flipping it again and rereading some parts. The comics are good, my favorites were from both Sadler brothers, Brecht Vandenbroucke and Roope Eronen. Unexpectedly, what I enjoyed the most were the interview with Ingo Niermann (whose work I didn't know before) and the article about Frigidaire Magazine from Italy.

Another thing I just got from Landfill Editions (who put out Mould Map): the new comic from the Finnish artist Jaakko Pallasvuo, Pure Shores. I was super happy when I heard Jaakko had returned to making comics and this lived up to my excitement. His drawing style now is a lot more loose, but it works well for the story, which has a very passionate pace. It's about a love story in the future! Which I guess is a theme now? I'm working something in that vein for my next comic so it's very enriching to see what other people are doing with such concepts.

Also on top of my plastic drawers I have this collection of Russian tattoos from Fuel. It's really interesting to read and fun to look at. I flip through these ones often.

One of the few things I brought with me from Mexico, this H.P. Lovecraft book that belonged to my dad in the 70s (it has his name on the inside cover!) It's a collection of short stories featuring this dimension traveling character, Randolph Carter and it's really good.

This is our living room. Most of the stuff there is Edwin's. He also painted that melting guy, the orange is actually neon so it's really intense! I love it. You can also see I sneaked in this iridescent unicorn figure I got at the thrift store in his toy collection hehe

I keep a few books in the bookshelf here that don't fit in my room. This is a great anthology from South Korea called Quang Comics. The way the books are made is really cool, they have some french flaps that you have to tear to open the book when it's new. The content is in full colour and also pretty good, I can't read the comics but luckily many of them are silent! One of my favorite artist in both of this issues is Lee Kyutae.

That's all for now! I got really into this. Thank you for reading and thank you Zainab for inviting me to talk about my books!'

A massive thank you to Inés for her time and participation. You can view all the previous installments of comics shelfie here. Next installment will be up in a month.

Sam Bosma's Fantasy Sports returns with 'The Bandit of Barbel Bay'

Sam Bosma announced on Twitter last Thursday the news of a follow-up book to Fantasy Sports, his very well-received and irrepressibly fun quest-adventure comic, published earlier this year by Nobrow. Bosma's Fantasy Sports originally began life as a black-and-white, self-published work, titled Fantasy Basketball, so when Nobrow picked it up and released a full-colour, large-format, expanded hardback edition as Fantasy Sports 1, the numeration was obviously a sign of intent for what is shaping up to be a series of books. This second book, Fantasy Sports 2: The Bandit of Barbel Bay, will continue the story of unlikely partners Wiz and Mug, in Spring 2016, as the duo return in a new adventure which promises to reveal more about Wiz and her background (an origin possibly involving a baseball diamond), as they seek to uncover mysterious secrets while taking in some sun and sand:

'Wiz and Mug’s adventures continue when a misunderstood teleportation spell accidentally drops them off in a ruined beach town. When the town’s amphibious inhabitants confront Wiz and Mug with the revelation that the United Order of Mages may not be exactly what it seems, a new, beach volleyball tournament begins!'

Bosma's an incredibly skilled cartoonists and illustrator, so it's fantastic to see his work gain more visibility and recognition in this way. Having bought and read the original self-published iteration of the first comic, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the new Nobrow edition, and by how different it felt. Much of that was due to the larger format: being able to see and appreciate the detail of Bosma's art, and the extra dimension provided by experiencing it in colour. As excellent as his black and white art is, Bosma has a superb sense of colour, which adds a whole other dimension to a book like Fantasy Sports, going quite a way to adding to its dynamism and lively tone. That much is evident from the cover art for the new book shown above; the blues and greens give it a real freshness, and the expressiveness on display is fantastic. It's an excellent cover. I'm really looking forward to this, and if you haven't caught the first book yet,  now's the time to get on board; it's a great amalgamation of magic, sports, mystery, and fun.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Kodansha announce new, full-colour Attack On Titan anthology with Tomer and Asaf Hanuka, Ronald Wimberly, Afua Richardson, Babs Tarr, and more

By Tomer and Asaf Hanuka

Some interesting news announced at New York Comic Con: Kodansha will be publishing a 250-page, full-colour Attack on Titan comics anthology that will feature all non-Japanese creators for the first time. Due for release in autumn next year, the anthology will be printed at American comic 'issue' size instead of the smaller manga format, and boasts an intriguing and varied line up of writers, artists, and cartoonists- Tomer and Asaf Hanuka, Ronald Wimberly, Afua Richardson, Kevin Wada, Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, Babs Tarr, Faith Erin Hicks, Kate Leth & Jeremy Lambert, Michael Oeming, Paolo Rivera, Gail Simone, Scott Snyder, and Genevieve Valentine. Written and illustrated by Hajime Isayama, Attack on Titan began serialisation in Bessatsu Shōnen magazine in 2009 and has since become -rather fittingly- a mammoth, monster hit, with 44 million copies of the first 15 volumes in print in Japanese, and 2.5 million copies of the English-language volumes in print. The story is a post-apocalyptic one of sorts, as the last vestiges of humanity struggle to survive in cities encased by huge walls, built to keep out the human-eating giant Titans, who nobody really seems to know the origins of, or much about in general. The comics success has led to a number of spin-off tiles and series, live-action films, and an immensely popular anime adaptation.

Talking to Brigid Alverson, Random House's associate director of publishing services, Ben Applegate, who also oversees the editorial team at Kodansha Comics, discussed how the authors involved in the Attack on Titan anthology had been given a free reign to come up with new characters and approaches, 'We're trying to create a book with a wide variety of stories, so I want to start with what the creators are interested in doing and go from there. So far, we've got a few serious stories in the Titan continuity, a few stories involving Titans in new settings, and a few completely off-the-wall comedy pieces.' The book will comprise of comics ranging from 5 to 25 pages, as well as pin-ups. 

I really like the concept of Attack of Titan and bought the first 3 volumes on that basis, but found the time and technicality afforded to the aerial fights between the Titans and people convoluted and boring, in addition to there being too many characters to keep up with. The bits in between were good, but not enough to convince me to continue, although I am now thinking of giving it a second pass. I'm interested to see this project, largely due to the enlisting of some excellent contributors (specifically the first four in the line-up above), and because it  seems to be one of those things that will be accessible to people who aren't familiar with Attack on Titan in addition to those who are. No doubt that's one of the aims of the book; to get readers and followers of some of these very popular American creators aware of Attack of Titan and hope that translates into further sales of the main manga.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

With pound in hand: October comic and graphic novel releases

Here we go- picking out the cream of this month's releases, in graphic novels, collected editions and anything else notable.

PICK OF THE MONTH: Marquis of Anaon 2; The Black Virgin by Matthie Bonhomme and Fabien Vehlmann, Cinebook: My final contribution to The AV Club's comics panel was a review of The Isle of Brac, the first book in Fabien Vehlmann's and Matthieu Bonhomme's 5-volume Marquis of Anaon series. Bonhomme's gorgeous art is the shining light here -beautifully shown off in the original album format/size- and worth the entry price alone. Vehlmann is no slouch though, and his stories of young  Jean-Baptiste Poulain who travels from place to place for to learn and experience and inevitably become embroiled in some problem, are solidly empathetic. In this second book, Jean-Baptiste arrives in central France to investigate the deaths of two young women. Both were killed a year apart in the same barbaric, ritual way, their bodies left near the Black Virgin Chapel. Once again, it's up to Jean-Baptiste to negotiate the high feelings and theories of various interested parties as he aims to get to the truth. Really looking forward to just sitting down and being immersed in the beauty of this once it's out.

Curveball by Jeremy Sorese, Nobrow: Jeremy Sorese is of those cartoonists I'm aware of largely because they work in animation- in Sorese's case, Steven Universe, for which he also co-created the popular and very good comic book. I haven't read much of his original work, but from what I've seen of this new, mammoth, 420-page black and white book, it certainly looks the absolute business. I'm always interested to read books on the relationship between humans and robots, too (robot feelings do it for me), of which this is one. 'After years of technological advancement, the relationship between humans and robots is changing. In the midst of this turmoil, one woman faces her own breakdown at the hands of a manipulative friend. Jeremy Sorese explores how heartbreak can make us feel like the center of the universe and how the realization that we are not is often more painful than the heartbreak itself.'

Graphic Ink: Darwyn Cooke, DC: You may remember last June I wrote about DC's collection of Frank Quietly's work, which took me by surprise by being very good. The material collected was wide-ranging and worthwhile: comics that were hard to find or had otherwise gone out of print, his cover work, and so forth; the hardback was sturdy and nicely bound, and it was priced reasonably for what it was. This 400 page Darwyn Cooke collection is a continuation of that spotlight series, although there's little information on what's contained within. I'm a big fan of Cooke's art, and since DC have gained some goodwill with the Quietly collection, I'm going to trust them in producing something of similar high quality here. I think it's unlikely it'll include The New Frontier, but perhaps Batman: Ego will be in there as a shorter story. Hopefully none of the Before Watchmen stuff. I'd really love if they collected all those landscape variant covers he did for them -they were stunning and would be quite something to see in this oversized format.

Last Man 3 The Chase by Bastien Vives, Michael Sanlaville, Balak, First Second: The third book of the hugely enjoyable Last Man comics releases this month. Volume 2 ended on a bit of a cliffhanger after the end of the fighting tournament, and it seems like this may be the installment that provides readers with some answers in terms of what's going on regards to time and setting and the smushing of modern and archaic worlds. The Chase promises to focus more on Adrian and his mother Marianne as the story moves beyond the haven of the Valley of the Kings for the first time: 'Magic and mysteries and some super-strange people await them as they set off on their latest adventure.' Expect thrills, topsy-turviness, and some of the most stunningly dynamic and fluid art you'll see.

Master Keaton 4 by Naoki Urasawa, Hokusei Katsushika, and Takashi Nagasaki, Viz: Every time I write or discuss Master Keaton, I reassess my feelings towards it. Keaton is the monolithic 'good man' that you'll see frequently in Urasawa's work: an archaeology professor, a gifted insurance investigator, a former SAS man, but what I like about this series is it's ostensibly about people and human nature. Keaton's sideline investigations and training make him the ideal vessel for these people and stories to filter through, and even though they can feel a bit on the nose, they're still emotionally resonant (I mean; I cried). Book 4 sees the return of Keaton's delightful dad in one story, as he moves into a building where all the tenants blame themselves for one of the residents suicide. Just a really affirming and good comic, cartooned to great levels by Urasawa.

Two Brothers by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba, Dark Horse: Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba return with Two Brothers, an adaption of  a work by acclaimed novelist Milton Hatoum. I'm not generally sold on book to comic adaptations -particularly where the label of 'literary' is involved, but Moon and Ba do interesting work so this is worth a look at least. 'Twin brothers Omar and Yaqub may share the same features, but they could not be more different. And the possessive love of their mother, Zana, stirs the troubled waters between them even more. After a brutally violent exchange between the young boys, Yaqub, 'the good son,' is sent from his home in Brazil to live with relatives in Lebanon, only to return five years later as a virtual stranger to the parents who bore him, his tensions with Omar unchanged. Family secrets engage the reader in this profoundly resonant story about identity, love, loss, deception, and the dissolution of blood ties.' 

Rat God by Richard Corben, published by Dark Horse: The trade paperback collection of Richard Corben's Rat God mini-series, which I've been waiting for. Look at that grotesque face on the cover! Corben is the master of combining flesh-crawling horror with a squirmy realism even his people look ripe and 'off.' You know terrible things are afoot before being shown a monster of any kind. Lovecraft bores me, but since this is Corben, I hope that's minimal in overt involvement, and that the comic's as good as some of his other shorter books. 'Terrible things stalk the forests outside Arkham in this chilling original tale from comics master Richard Corben! An arrogant city slicker on a quest to uncover the background of a young woman from the backwoods finds horrors beyond imagining, combining Lovecraftian mutations with Native American legends.'

Bad Machinery 4: The Case of the Lonely One by John Allison, Oni Press:  It's curious how often John Allison is overlooked as one of contemporary cartoonings excellent practitioners. Perhaps it's because his work and style is deemed youth-orientated, or because he works online (the double knell of snobbery in comics), or that consistency is undervalued over the search for fresh new things. But there are few cartoonists who have developed such a unified and cohesive language and world, from dialogue to expression to tone and colour and line. And he gets better, as is apparent to anyone who has been following his comics for a while. This makes the print editions of Bad Machinery indispensable, and now we're on book 4, we're getting to some of the real, good, oniony stuff. 'A new school year brings a new classmate to Griswald's Grammar School! But he's a bit strange, and he really, really likes onions. When the whole school suddenly becomes best friends with him, Shauna seems to be the only one left out. It's up to her to peel back the mystery, one onion layer at a time.'

Also releasing: Assassination Classroom volume7, Kenya volume 5, Appleseed Alpha, Oyster War, Iscariot