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When Tuesday comes around, you know it’s time for Joe McCulloch to highlight the most-interesting sounding new releases of the Week in Comics, and this time, he also has a bit to say about a comic that just won a British Comics Award, Garen Ewing’s Complete Rainbow Orchid, which he describes as…

a glossy evocation of mid-20th century Belgian bande dessinée, as wedded to the ripping yarns of H. Rider Haggard and the golden age of silent movie comedy. North American iPad owners can purchase the book through the Sequential app, although no such print publisher has picked the material up for distribution; you’ll have to import Egmont UK’s 9″ x 12″ softcover album, or any of the three component albums which the same publisher has been releasing since 2009, though the origins of the work date back to 1997, with magazine serialization, self-publication and webcomic avenues duly explored. To outside observers, it may seem the classic overnight success of 15 years’ making, though I know Ewing had also been active in the UK fanzine and small press scenes for a while.

I first learned about The Rainbow Orchid though Forbidden Planet’s terrifying suite of Best of 2012 lists, though my appetite was really whetted by learning about the artist’s influences; no simple Hergé devotee, Ewing counts Edgar P. Jacobs as a crucial motivator, while also maintaining a keen interest in Yves Chaland, one of my own personal favorites. It was Chaland, in fact, which raised certain expectations about the work – perhaps unfairly, in retrospect.

We also have Robert Kirby’s review of Treasury of Mini Comics, the first in a series of anthologies to be edited by Michael Dowers. Here’s a sample:

There are some excellent excursions into surrealist realms here from Roberta Gregory, Fiona Smyth, and Max Clotfelter with Marc Palm; a good dose of “Cynicalman” hilarity from mini-comics great Matt Feazell, an amusing tribute to Beatrix Potter from Mark Campos, a nicely-made Mixtape from Nate Beaty, and some charming early work from John Porcellino. The collection would not have felt nearly as complete without the inclusion of these small press mainstays. Within Treasury there is also the joy of discovering (for me) heretofore unfamiliar talents, such as Peter Thompson, with his strikingly presented I’m the Devil, Mark Connery with the awesomely stoopid humor of Rudy (if you like the comics of Liz Hickey you’ll like this), and Karl Wills, whose art puts me in mind of Joost Swarte, in his tale of mean girl vs. mean girl, “Jessica’s Good Deed”. I could read a cart-load more of comics by all three of these creators.

And yesterday, we published a review by Paul Buhle of Dark Horse’s Original Daredevil Archives, featuring anti-Hitler comics from the Biro/Wood studio.

Michael T. Gilbert, himself a professional cartoonist of many years standing, has written a very fine, thoughtful introduction—unlike the occasionally mediocre of the introductions to the reprints written on the fly, or without much historical knowledge beyond the names of the artists.

Gilbert does a fine job of leading us through the saga, especially highlighting the weirdos who made the pages sparkle. Take Charles Biro, who would shortly emerge as a major artist for Crime Does Not Pay, the noir classic or exploitation-fest, however one wishes to see the violence of the most popular comic in the postwar 1940s. Gilbert shrewdly notes that when it came to drawing, Biro would never be a master of the field. But when it came to weaving a story, he could hardly be matched. His criminal characters almost invariably proved the most exciting, in the way that the Devil got the best parts in Milton.


Elsewhere:

—News. Mark Evanier reports that Al Plastino has died. We will have more on that later. As alluded to earlier, the British Comics Awards were announced. Here’s a solid roundup of the recent Apple/Sex Criminals fracas. Tom Spurgeon has a massive post recapping his experiences at CAB. Jeff Smith’s new webcomic has just launched.

—Spending Opportunities. Drawn & Quarterly is having a major holiday sale, with 40% off all everything on their web store. Rina Ayuyang’s auction/fundraiser for typhoon relief (which features lots of really impressive art) is in its final stretch this week. You should really check it out.

—Reviews & Commentary. Hillary Brown at Paste looks at Frank Santoro’s Pompeii. Emily Thomas takes issue with Glyn Dillon’s Nao of Brown. And one more early best-of-the-year list, put together for the Washington Post by Michael Cavna. Bully talks comics numbering.

—Interviews. Alan Moore is in fine form talking to The Guardian, mentioning in passing (again) that he doesn’t think much of superhero comics, and in the process angering (again) a bunch of superhero fans on the internet. (This routine has gone on so long that it started out as funny, gradually became less and less funny, and has now gone around to being funny again.) The same paper also talks to Neil Cohn about his upcoming book, The Visual Language of Comics. And there’s a really short interview with Tom Gauld at The New Yorker regarding his first cover for the magazine.


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