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This Week in Comics This Week in Comics

THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (1/4/12 – Yesterday was Monday?)

Above we see an image from Milo Manara’s The Paper Man, initially released in English in 1986 via Catalan Communications, but more readily available in one of my recent holiday reading items, Dark Horse’s The Manara Library Vol. 1: Indian Summer and Other Stories. This leads me to my first minor heresy of the new year. I rather liked The Paper Man more than the better-known, Hugo Pratt-scripted Indian Summer, which to me evoked Hawthorne by way of a Japanese pinku eiga – wildly eccentric, not unambitious softcore porn with a special focus on non-consensual and incest-y scenarios and a fascinatingly airy storytelling manner. My favorite panels were any one depicting a character running like mad or gazing intently at things; there’s a whole page of young soldiers peering at things on a beach that I found just incredibly satisfying, possibly as a temporary respite from Manara’s inescapable sexualization of ostensibly atrocious acts, a trait so evident on the page that Frank Miller addresses it directly in his Foreword (“…even though it is sometimes very unpleasant sex… still Manara’s drawings are relentlessly sexy”), couching it as an inevitable symptom of the artist’s aesthetic.

The Paper Man, in contrast, is less troubling — rape is merely threatened, rather than expressly delineated — and surprisingly delightful; I’d missed that Catalan edition. I also feel, having come from a comic book culture focused intently in other areas, that I’ve missed on a certain fondness for cowboy comics present among European cartoonists of Manara’s generation or thereabouts. Andrea Plazzi introduces the story as Manara’s idea of what a “mainstream” comic should be, and there’s a real delight on the page in sorting through Old West archetypes and fooling around. Even Manara’s art seems especially funny, not just in zany characters capering but in a very deadpan comedy drawn from the solidity of some of the artist’s drawings; the image I posted above is so funny to me, mainly because that horse is so very properly drawn.

Yet there’s unexpected depth to Manara’s story as well, a brief picaresque concerning a lonesome cowboy’s distracted search for the lover up North whose picture he reveres, and the many oddball characters he encounters along the way, including a sassy Native girl. She’s the one who gives him his title, Paper Man, in that he’s crazy about a woman on paper. Manara too is in love with paper people, specifically the cowboys & indians of a comic serial such as this. But the effort at levity is doomed: as love builds between boy and girl, the author arrives at the conclusion that he is working in fantasy, as fabled a West as any from popular literature, Indian Summer included, all historical research aside. And so, sexy antics and all the ugly possibilities therein are suddenly cast aside by Milo Manara on the final page, and we are shown that this landscape of fancy was really brutal and violent and racist as hell, as any adult can easily become aware. It’s a lovely world this artist draws, but he states plainly here that he cannot really live in it.

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PLEASE NOTE: What follows is not a series of capsule reviews but an annotated selection of items listed by Diamond Comic Distributors for release to comic book retailers in North America on the particular Wednesday, or, in the event of a holiday or occurrence necessitating the close of UPS in a manner that would impact deliveries, Thursday, identified in the column title above. Not every listed item will necessarily arrive at every comic book retailer, in that some items may be delayed and ordered quantities will vary. I have in all likelihood not read any of the comics listed below, in that they are not yet released as of the writing of this column, nor will I necessarily read or purchase every item identified; THIS WEEK IN COMICS! reflects only what I find to be potentially interesting.

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SPOTLIGHT PICKS!

Keep Our Secrets: Being the debut release from McSweeney’s McMullens, a line of children’s picture books from the literary institution, as far as those go (I recall going to a talk Art Spiegelman gave in front of a crowd of 200 or so local college students and faculty, where in the process of discussing comics forums he asked “has anyone heard of McSweeney’s?” – about twenty people clapped and one person behind me audibly groaned, and I thought “that’s about right”). The author is Jordan Crane, always a fine stylist, and the book features heat-sensitive ink that reveals new, hidden pictures when you and/or your beloved issue roll your digits around on it. Future, not so directly interactive books will feature art by Matt Furie and Lisa Hanawalt, among others. Video preview; $15.95.

Fatale #1 (of 12): This is the new Ed Brubaker/Sean Phillips collaboration, now housed at Image instead of Marvel/Icon. As always, a crime element is expected, this time blended with occult horror to span several decades’ worth of potentially sexy misdeeds. I tend like the long-game, story-of-generations aspect of Criminal, so hopefully this project will offer similar sweep. Preview; $3.50.

PLUS!

The Cartoon Guide to Calculus: Nothing potential about the sexiness of this topic, but for an added bonus you’ll want to be aware that this 256-page HarperCollins paperback comes from Larry Gonick of The Cartoon History of the Universe and several other Cartoon Guides; $18.99.

Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol. 4: In light of all the 2000 AD talk that’s been going down here in the last few weeks, it’s worth a reminder that two reprint tracks are currently running to your hypothetically UK comics-crazy Diamond-serviced retailer: Rebellion’s own collections program, and Simon & Schuster’s smaller, not-entirely-identical line of 2kAD books. This is their newest Judge Dredd release, a chronological (though not quite comprehensive) reprint effort currently up to vol. 18 overseas (where, again, Rebellion is handling it themselves). Progs 156-207 are covered over 384 pages, including The Judge Child, one of the series’ occasional Dredd-leaves-the-city-and-has-adventures story cycles. Douglas Wolk reviewed it here; $19.99.

(Also, insofar as my rambling has no doubt inspired some of you to devote the rest of your days to Dredd studies — and good luck, Gary! — it’s worth mentioning that Rebellion’s periodicals have been rushing into whatever North American stores that carry them over the last few weeks at enough of a rate that this Wednesday’s release of 2000 AD Prog 1763, Judge Dredd Megazine #318 and the 2012 2000 AD annual will put NA readers exactly one weekly issue behind the UK releases, at least until import schedules again take their toll. Rebellion also has a first softcover collection for Dan Abnett’s
& Colin MacNeil’s Dredd-related space revolution serial Insurrection this week.)

Eerie Archives Vol. 9: Elsewhere in stain-your-fingers b&w reprints (which admittedly won’t stain anything in reprint form), Dark Horse brings issues #42-46 of the Warren horror magazine, entering Bill DuBay’s tenure as editor and thus gradually nearing the point where these publications became a sort of counter-mainstream comics, filled with serials and continuing characters, but marked by a notably dark tone grown from their specific genre soil, a status Dark Horse perhaps acknowledges in soliciting their first serial-focused Warren collection for April, dealing with the sci-fi tinged Hunter (which I know entirely through a weird and funny one-off story by Jim Stenstrum and Alex Niño). Artist in this one include Richard Corben, Tom Sutton, Esteban Maroto, Paul Neary and Reed Crandall, with stories by Doug Moench, Don McGregor, Rich Margopoulos and others. Samples; $49.99.

Inner Sanctum: Tales of Mystery, Horror, & Suspense: Meanwhile, Warren veteran Ernie Colón has a new 112-page suite of b&w shorts from NBM, I believe based on episodes of the old Inner Sanctum Mysteries radio show. Samples; $16.99.

EC Archives: Haunt Of Fear Vol. 01 (&) EC Archives: Vault Of Horror Vol. 2: Oh, here’s some other horror comics. Be aware that the publisher is now Grant Geissman’s & Russ Cochran’s GC Press, picking up this six-issues-per-hardcover reprint line from where it left off a while back; $49.95 (each).

Witchfinder Vol. 2: Lost and Gone Forever: Meanwhile, EC veteran John Severin belatedly celebrates his 90th birthday with his latest 136-page release, collecting a recent tenure on one of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy-related series, here written by Mignola and John Arcudi. Look at all this stuff; $17.99.

Ferals #1: And since we’re covering many horrors this week, I’ll make note of this new ongoing David Lapham werewolf comic from Avatar, mainly because Lapham’s Caligula at the same publisher is my primary guilty pleasure comic of the moment. Some say no pleasures are truly guilty, but they probably haven’t gotten to the part where Caligula’s horse, in celebration of his appointment to the Senate, declares “Friends, Romans, countrymen… drop your robes and form a line,” (the horse can talk in this comic), after which Caligula has the series’ nominal hero carve a man into a living swastika and pull its soul out through its mouth. So yeah, this one has werewolves. Preview; $3.99.

Seven Soldiers of Victory Book 1 (of 2): This appears to be the front half of a new two-volume softcover edition of one of my favorite longform superhero projects of the ’00s, poised to replace a prior four-book series. Grant Morrison writes 30 chapters’ worth (well, 14 here) of superhero revivals, dedicated to the notion of genuine evolution occurring at the margins of a big, diverse superhero world as seven(?) revamped characters become involved in an obscure mission to save humanity from endless, thoughtless cultural regurgitation. Art by J.H. Williams III, Simone Bianchi, Cameron Stewart, Frazer Irving and Ryan Sook & Mick Gray, all of whom would see their superhero prominence either enhanced or reinforced following the project’s conclusion; $29.99.

Mudman #2: Contemporary Britain #1 – a new outing for Paul Grist’s teenage superhero, arriving a bit less than two months after issue #2, which makes it just irregular enough to mention again; $3.50.

Tank Girl: Carioca #3 (of 3): And #2 – the final outing for longstanding 2000 AD artist Mick McMahon on the Alan Martin/Jamie Hewlett creation. Martin is the writer, Titan is the publisher; $5.99.

One Piece Vol. 60: Finally, a potential manga pick, if only to recognize the undeniable truth of there being 12,000 pages of One Piece available. Up to vol. 64 in Japan; $9.99.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST RESERVOIR: On the other hand, you could always go for Wandering Son Vol. 2, Fantagraphics’ latest hardcover manga release, presenting the next 228 pages of Shimura Takako’s low-key drama concerning transgendered youths; $19.99.

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19 Responses to THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (1/4/12 – Yesterday was Monday?)

  1. Oh calculus?? Dang, I’m gonna need a change of pants!

  2. Is it heretical to prefer The Paper Man over Indian Summer? While the latter starts off as if shot by Roger Deakins it fairly swiftly moves into some odd combination of am-dram blockbuster fused with odd 70s sex comedy. The intrusion of some of the nudity and crotch-grabbing, while beautifully drawn, is frankly odd. The story runs towards its inevitable climax and only the surfeit of historical end-notes help recapture a perceived depth to the tale. Whereas The Paper Man moves its farce away from broad sexual themes and into the stupidity of men, and then gives a poignant if manipulative surprise ending. Unlike Indian Summer the ending retains its impact in of and by itself.

    Both have to be read fairly indulgently , the improbability of Indian Summer’s family, the unlikely interactions of just about ever scene in The Paper Man, but Manara’s figurework is what pulls you through such imponderables. The luscious production values of the volume helps too.

  3. Tony says:

    “luscious production values” that don’t extend to the crucial aspect of respecting the original dimensions of the books, opting as usual, with very few precious exceptions in the American market, for a significant reduction.

    • Kim Thompson says:

      Huh? Give or take a few percentage points at best, if even that, the Dark Horse Manara books are the same more-or-less 8 1/2″ x 11″ standard album format that the Italian and for that matter French and other European editions are and have been for as long as I can remember. You make them sound like NBM’s SMURFS books (which I actually think work beautifully at that size).

  4. Tony says:

    The Dark Horse edition is 8 3/8″ x 10 7/8 inches (21.3 x 27.6 centimeters), to be exact.

    The vast majority of the original editions are 9 1/2″ x 12 1/2″(24 x 32 cm.), to be exact.
    http://www.drugstorebd.com/bd/le-declic-tome-01-ne-couleur-9782723467551.htm
    http://www.drugstorebd.com/bd/l-homme-de-papier-9782226111029.htm

    Over one inch of difference in width and over one inch and a half of difference in height.

    That’s what I call a significant reduction.

    I’m sure others will find it insignificant and mock my complaints. Whatever…

    The reduction can be easily noticed putting the DH editions side by side with the recent Heavy Metal editions of BORGIA (4 albums by Manara & Jodorowsky), which are 9 1/2″ x 12 1/2″ like the originals.
    http://www.amazon.com/Borgia-Flames-Hell-Alejandro-Jodorowsky/dp/1935351141/

    • Kim Thompson says:

      Tony, Manara is an Italian cartoonist, so the French editions are not the “original” editions. I have the most recent, official, definitive LE OPERE set of Manara’s complete works in Italian and they’re 8 1/2″ x 11 1/4″ — i.e. pretty damn close to the Dark Horse ones. It’s true that the earlier set of French “Drugstore” Glénat books were a larger format, but they’re now re-releasing the material in the same 8 1/2″ x 11 1/4″ format themselves. Those earlier “Drugstore” editions are an exception and given the fact that the current Italian, French and American editions (and as I recall the earlier NBM and Catalan versions, and other earlier French ones) all are around this size, I think it’s pretty obvious that this is Manara’s preferred size and the “Drugstore” ones were just an extra-large extravagance, probably part of a collection/series of erotic work that just happened to have that particular format because at the time the publisher thought it made them look extra classy or made them stand out or whatever.

      Your initial posting made it sound as if the Dark Horse books were drastically shrunken like the DUNGEON or SMURFS books or most of the First Second books, which simply is not the case. They are absolutely consistent with the treatment of the material in the majority of its incarnations around the world. It’s fine if you prefer the larger first “Drugstore” size but it’s simply not true that this is the standard or original size and Dark Horse’s represents a deviation or corruption of it.

      • Kim Thompson says:

        OK, one small correction, the larger “Drugstore” editions seem to actually have been released simultaneously with the smaller “Intégrale” ones that match the Italian size, but my point that they’re outliers remains.

  5. Anthony Thorne says:

    Yet another review of this book – a generally positive one – that seems to bemoan the qualities that make Manara Manara. These books are fictional artworks for adults, frequently couched in European sexual mores that aren’t necessarily geared towards appeasing Western puritanism. If INDIAN SUMMER is ‘troubling’ then Lord knows what Joe (and the authors of the various other hand-wringing articles I’ve read of this initial Manara volume online) will do if forced to review Dark Horse’s upcoming MANARA EROTICA series. Not to knock Joe’s informed commentary too much – referencing Japanese pinku eiga indicates a more thoughtful approach than some others I’ve read, and I appreciate his thoughts are at worst a mixed recommendation – but it’s tiring to see how many reviewers of this book have felt the need to offer an apology for the content. (I know I’m the only one making the comparison, but better Manara’s stylised erotica than the nauseating blend of coy-yet-overt titillation and garish, probably fascist machismo found on the racks throughout the rest of the mainstream American comics industry.) I should probably be glad TCJ and others haven’t discussed Manara in the same cack-handed way British critic Clive James did in his CULTURAL AMNESIA volume, where James, in a chapter on the artist’s collaboration with Fellini, called the former ‘Marinara’ throughout, as if reminded of a special pasta sauce.

    If Dark Horse want to pursue more Euro-erotica, they should do a deal with Kevin Eastman and restore, un-censor and collect Manara’s sleazier countryman Paolo Eleuteri Serpieri next. They wouldn’t get an Eisner award for their efforts, but I’m sure the book would have its fans, and uses.

    • Joe McCulloch says:

      Your comments are well-taken, and I hope you’ll forgive that my first impulse was to check if Serpieri had released a second volume of Les Enfers, or if Heavy Metal had yet scheduled the conclusion to Manara’s & Jodorowsky’s Borgia – no such luck!

      I do think you underestimate my exposure to erotic comics in general, and Manara’s in particular. My recent score of $2.50-a-pop issues of Penthouse Comix — a purchase prompted, in part, by Manara’s participation — can most immediately attest to that. Still, I found Indian Summer indeed troubling, both in that I generally find eroticised depictions of sexual violence to be disquieting, and also insofar as the work suggests sexual violence as a chaotic inevitability, ruled by some enduring, cycle-of-the-seasons-like desirous, animal impulse — a potential innocence — rather than the means of imposing power which Hugo Pratt’s script at times acknowledges. Indeed, the paternalistic, hypocritical religious antagonist of the book is dwarfed, in the end, by the mighty tides of violence prompted by free people unable to coexist due to their competing urges, the fallout of violent sexual “play,” a characterization the book doesn’t particularly rebut.

      I am aware, of course, that the book is a self-evident genre fantasy, yet this particular blend of romanticized mayhem is no less troubling to me for it. Manara may be Manara — don’t I know it, having bought a sixty dollar cover-priced book of his comics! — but the particulars of this work give him some special effect. I admit my comments in the post above were brief and unspecific.

      As for your comments re: titillation in American superhero comics, I can only say I agree, and that Manara’s own recent X-Men comic seemed an odd bridge indeed between traditions, although they could at least have relegated the fucking ads to the back of the North American comic book edition.

      • Kim Thompson says:

        Actually, someone should do some nice reprints of the Guido Crepax material. An Italian publisher has been releasing lovingly restored editions of Crepax scanned from first-rate source material which makes it look better than it has in many years (and better than any previous American edition). In terms of sheer formal qualities, Crepax is easily the best of the European X-rated cartoonists, as well as the creator of some of the most radical page breakdowns this side of Krigstein. And as Gilbert Hernandez once told me, “he draws the best asses in comics.”

        On the matter of Manara (which, full disclosure/reminder for those who don’t know, I’ve been translating for Dark Horse), he definitely wades into the perennial minefield of depicting sexual violence in an aestheticized/titillating way with an unapologetic make-it-hot inclination. In my typically wishy-washy way I can certainly see why someone would be troubled or even dismayed by this (although if you are, stay away from Pichard, and for that matter Crepax… actually, most of the Euro smutmeisters) but I also respect the idea of making a story which is about sex and desire steamily erotic throughout: This is after all probably the reason why Pratt, who could obviously easily have drawn INDIAN SUMMER or EL GAUCHO himself (and whose stylish minimalism would have dodged this whole debate), hand-picked Manara to draw them.

        I expect there will be much horrified blogging when we hit the EROTICA volumes, which feature far more sexual violence and domination and nastiness presented with unrestrained glee as both comedy and a turn-on (in fact, I suggested retitling the CLICK! series THE TURN-ON but we decided to stick with the original, by now well-known title) — but there’s a playful naughtiness to the work that makes it difficult for me to take it too seriously on that level. (In a way the Pratt collaborations are more jarring because the episodes of titillating sexual violence are intermittent within a far more sober, serious –and for that matter historically accurate– structure.)

        Setting aside the inherent merits of the material itself, I must say I think Dark Horse is doing a bang-up job of presenting it and I’m pleased to be part of this project.

  6. patrick ford says:

    Crepax is a neglected giant here in America. In my opinion he dwarfs Manara on every level, absolutely in terms of sexual politics.
    While it’s clearly seen differently by many people Crepax, and things like Crumb. and (in film) David Lynch come across to me as feminist. The artists explore sexuality and it’s connection to violence, but their sympathies favor the woman.
    Crepax is also one of the best colourists ever to work in the medium. Just the other day I was going over all the pages I’d cut out of the Heavy Metal magazines which serialized his “Man from Harlem” story, and I followed that up with the 1980 Dargaud edition of “L’Astronef Pirate.” Both of those works are filled with beautiful watercolour work.

  7. DerikB says:

    There’s isn’t even a current French edition of Crepax’s Valentina work. It’s a damn shame. I would pay for expensive volumes of that.

  8. patrick ford says:

    The first time I saw Crepax was 1971 in the pages of the excellent Couperie/Maurice Horn book ” A History of the Comic Strip.” It was the samples from “Neutron” which got my attention back then.
    Manara aside from his content, just as a visual artist comes across to me as a rubber stamp artist. Looking at his work it seems almost like he has a large collection of figural rubber stamps which he uses over and over. Crepax isn’t like that, it’s almost like every figure he’s drawing is unique. On the whole every aspect his visual imagination is prodigious.

  9. patrick ford says:

    BTW: If by chance Derik hasn’t seen the Couperie/Horn ” A History of the Comic Strip,” I would think chapter 12 of that book “Narrative Figuration” would be something he ought to seek out.

  10. Eddie campbell says:

    Couperie/Horn ” A History of the Comic Strip,”

    I bought that and read it in 1970 when I was 15. It introduced me to the extraordinary idea that comics has a history. (I mean, outside of ‘Marvel Collectors Item Classics’) The thought hadn’t occurred to me until then. The chapter you refer to is, if memory serves, the one written by Moliterni. I got so annoyed with that chapter, about ten years later, that I cut it out, and having cut it out, I found that there was then only a very small amount of the pages left that I wanted to keep. But I remain fond of Maurice Horn’s way of writing about comics. His introduction to the second volume of Flash Gordon that Nostalgia Press published remains my favourite of his writings. he also wrote a fine essay in which he characterized the ‘new funnies’ (Pogo and Peanuts essentially) as ‘intellectual funnies’ and then proceeded to explain with examples what he meant (Published I think in a collection of Pogo Miscellanies… as before, I now only have loose pages. Like Patrick above I long ago realized there is no way I can keep everything and got in the habit of reducing the size of it all by cutting out the pages I want and tossing the rest out.)

  11. patrick ford says:

    The author of “Narrative Figuration” is Gerald Gassiot-Talabot. Moliterni wrote chapter 1o “Narrative Technique” which
    dealt heavily with the relationship between word and picture and the role each plays in advancing a narrative. Pellos and McCay are the foundation of his essay.

  12. Eddie campbell says:

    Ah! I remember now. But oddly, I don’t remember what the Gassiot-Talabot chapter said. In fact, I have no recall of that name whatsoever. Quick google…
    http://www.kettererkunst.com/dict/narrative-figuration.shtml

    “Narrative Figuration (French: “figuration narrative”) is regarded as the pendant to Pop Art in continental Europe with its roots in France. Narrative Figuration was not to a closed group of artists but an open movement, that arose in the context of the Paris exhibition “Mythologies quotidiennes” (English: “Everyday Mythologies”) in 1964.
    The year of origin of Narrative Figuration was also the great year for Pop Art, as it celebrated successes at the 1964 Biennale in Venice and claimed to be the leading figurative tendency. Inspired by this new style, which had become well-known throughout Europe, the artists Bernard Rancillac (born in 1931) and Hervé Télémaque (born in 1937) organized the exhibition “Mythologies quotidiennes” together with the art critic Gérald Gassiot-Talabot. Some 34 artists participated, their figurative art turned against the predominant abstraction, inspired by Pop Art, the artists referenced the contemporary society and its objects.
    Narrative Figuration did not only want to take on modern Pop esthetics in its art, the artists also wanted to propagate changes in society. Accordingly, elements from English and American Pop Art were mixed with tendencies of Critical Realism. Images from advertising, comics, film and photography were used as motifs, but also images from earlier times of art history were taken on and integrated into new and surprising contexts, they often turned out as politicized narrations.”

  13. patrick ford says:

    My favorite bit from Maurice Horn was him writing about Frank Godwin’s Connie in the Encyclopedia of Comics. Connie was originally a “girl strip;” it took a turn towards fantasy in 1934, and in one sequence Connie goes on an interplanetary mission which is Flash Gordon style science fantasy.
    Maurice Horn: “Connie’s explorations of the solar system (which were to last over two years) is one of the most remarkable sequences in the history of the adventure strip, and in the power of it’s imagery and suspense can be ranked along side the best episodes of Raymond’s Flash Gordon, Caniff’s Terry, and Foster’s Prince Valiant.”
    That kind of enthusiasm can be tantalizing.

  14. Taschen published a couple of Crepax hardcovers some 10 years ago, each one over 400 pages in length. Remaindered copies of these could be bought quite cheaply for a while, but I see that they’re now relatively expensive on Amazon.

    Spanish publisher Norma Editorial is reprinting Crepax’s “Valentina”, the third volume should see print this year.

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