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THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (1/7/15 – Drifting Back)

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Maybe my favorite panel from the most noteworthy comics release of the last two weeks, IDW's new edition of Hugo Pratt's Corto Maltese: Under the Sign of Capricorn. I know a good bird when I see one. This is the first installment of a purported 12-part comprehensive translation of the Corto catalog by Dean Mullaney & Simone Castaldi; the former is the IDW editions' editor and designer, while the latter is author of Drawn and Dangerous: Italian Comics of the 1970s and 1980s, which has been recommended to me in the past, though I've not read it yet. Under the Sign of Capricorn is not actually the earliest Corto material (that would be The Ballad of the Salt Sea, most recently published in 2012 in colored, chopped-up form), but I do believe it was the first to be collected in album form, in 1971, and it finds Pratt in maybe a more comfortable place regarding his visual depiction of the character, so it's a good enough place to start.

It's also the start of a new "EuroComics" line of books from IDW, nothing from which has been announced besides Corto Maltese, and I'll admit to some amusement at the lengths to which the publisher has gone to ingratiate the work with American comics readers. The back cover is a wall of praise, with a special emphasis on superhero and mainstream indie luminaries: Brian K. Vaughan! Matt Fraction! Brian Michael Bendis! Oh god, here's Frank Miller! The inevitable Milo Manara appearance! Kim Thompson! Of particular interest is Umberto Eco, a well-known admirer excerpted here in reference to Pratt's "battle with the angel" of orientalism and exoticism, perhaps in anticipation of potential qualms as to the story's voyage of white men into a dreamy world of magic and forbidden mystery in the times of European colonies in Africa. This is really the only contextual information offered, save for an extensive Pratt biography on the back flap - the work otherwise stands completely alone, in its study new confines.

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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 identified in the column title above. Be aware that some of these comics may be published by Fantagraphics Books, the entity which also administers the posting of this column. 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!

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UR: I'm always fascinated by small-press cartoonists who adopt prominent roles in outside media - I'm betting at least a few readers of this column aren't aware that Grickle creator Graham Annable co-directed a $100 million kids' movie last year (The Boxtrolls, with Anthony Stacchi), although he was involved in computer game production even prior to comics. Similarly, Eric Haven has been a producer in some capacity on MythBusters since 2005, though his professional comics work dates at least back to Angryman at Caliber's Iconografix in '92-'93. You might remember his early '00s Tales to Demolish series at Sparkplug, or The Aviatrix, a 2009 one-shot from Buenaventura Press - it's funny, often bleak stuff, very smooth and pleasantly drawn with superhero/fantasy pastiche elements. Now AdHouse is his publisher, handling a 48-page, 6" x 9" softcover collection of recent shorts culled from various sources. Preview, Tom Spurgeon interview; $14.95.

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Treasury of Mini Comics Vol. 2: In which editor Michael Dowers follows up the 2013 original (and 2010's Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s) with another 5" x 6.25" Fantagraphics brick of stuff, 848 pages collecting works from 1972 to 2013, including rare stuff by Theo Ellsworth, Nick Bertozzi, Ellen Forney & Renée French, Marc Bell, Dan Zettwoch, Jason T. Miles, Trina Robbins, Johnny Ryan, Jeffrey Brown, Tom Neely, Lisa Hanawalt, Jim Rugg, Leah Wishnia, Jeff Nicholson, Le Dernier Cri's Pakito Bolino(!) and many more. Preview; $29.99.

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PLUS!

Jaco the Galactic Patrolman: I've written about this before, just under a year ago, but only now is Viz offering a print compilation of the newest serial by Akira Toriyama, creator of Dragon Ball - a very goofy, laid-back all-ages manga comedy about a weirdo from space who messes around with human folks. The years haven't especially dulled Toriyama, who can still handle action/chase sequences with grace, although he's clearly no longer a fan of never-ending shōnen serial narratives. This one is 248 pages and done; $9.99.

Foolbert Funnies: Histories and Other Fictions: On the opposite end of the spectrum in every way imaginable is Frank Stack, underground veteran with a number of scattered humorous and political comics out there in the likes of National Lampoon, Rip Off Comix, Drawn and Quarterly and Mineshaft. This 224-page Fantagraphics softcover collects just that stuff, from 1970 to the present. Samples; $24.99.

Fungus: The Unbearable Rot of Being: The new one from James Kochalka, now via Big Planet/Retrofit, a 108-page perfect-bound account of "little fungal creatures ruminating on a variety of topics, including such bizarre mysteries as 'comics' and 'philosophy', 'cyberspace' and 'redemption'"; $12.00.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1: This is one of those weeks where Marvel drops a bunch of debut issues, many of them readily applicable to accessing at least notionally different audiences -- Ant-Man (it's a movie!); Operation S.I.N. (watch Agent Carter on ABC tonight!); Wolverines (Wolverine, but *plural*) -- so allow me to highlight this new comedy outing for the Will Murray/Steve Ditko creation, which continues Marvel's ongoing efforts at courting female readers (and, not coincidentally, maybe a few of those 'mainstream indie' dollars) by grabbing two contributors to the wildly popular BOOM! comics iteration of Adventure Time: writer Ryan North (the Dinosaur Comics proprietor) and artist Erica Henderson (previously of the MonkeyBrain series Subatomic Party Girls). Preview; $3.99.

Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers #4 (of 6): And on that note, here's the latest from this Dynamite revival of Jack Kirby's creator-owned space saga, molded by writer Joe Casey and primary artist Nathan Fox into a segmented galactic tour reminiscent of Image's Prophet, with a long list of prominent guest artists here including Benjamin Marra (an earlier iteration of the cover identified Connor Willumsen, but I'll presume he's in a future issue now). Preview; $3.99.

Sunglasses After Dark: As a student of 1990s horror comics publishers, sacred tradition compels me to make note of any reprinted works from Verotik, aka "the Glenn Danzig one" - which is actually still around, although this particular book comes from IDW. Sunglasses After Dark was the comics iteration of a vampire-who's-a-vampire-hunter concept created by novelist Nancy A. Collins (currently scripting Red Sonja stuff at Dynamite), as drawn by Stan Shaw, perhaps the only person on Earth to hold art credits on both Satanika and Dennis Eichhorn's Real Stuff. It's a 212-page hardcover, with everything included; $34.99.

Tom Sutton's Creepy Things: Fuck it, though - '70s horror comics are pretty fun too, and while Tom Sutton will probably forever be remembered as the originating interior artist for Vampirella (I'm partial to Squalor, his totally odd late '80s First Comics SF miniseries with writer Stefan Petrucha), he also did a good deal of work for the gasping, belching ol' Charlton press, which I usually picture in my mind as Moloch from Fritz Lang's Metropolis, although this may not be totally accurate. Anyway, sixteen stories are promised here, selected by Charlton Spotlight editor/publisher Michael Ambrose, who also provides an introduction; $24.99.

Drug & Drop Vol. 1: "Drug & Drop...?!" Jesus, what the hell is... ohhh, it's the new CLAMP! Moreover, it's the belated continuation of Legal Drug, one of the familiar Tokyopop releases from the days of the manga boom, when the four-woman CLAMP collective seemed impossibly ascendant in western renown. A supernatural fantasy starring handsome men, this series enjoys the unique quality of having begun in a shōjo magazine aimed at teen girls, only to land in in Young Ace, the same guy-targeted magazine that runs MPD-Psycho. Dark Horse's solicitation carefully notes that this "[w]ill be an ongoing series," perhaps as subtle preparation for the fact that only two volumes have been finished since 2011. Preview; $10.99.

What Did You Eat Yesterday? Vol. 6 (&) Lone Wolf & Cub Omnibus Vol. 7: Two manga aimed at mature men, new and old. The former (Vertical) is Fumi Yoshinaga's cooking/domestic life series, while the latter (Dark Horse) is the Kazuo Koike/Goseki Kojima swordsman classic; $12.95 (Eat), $19.99 (Wolf).

A Treasury of Victorian Murder Compendium Vol. 2 (&) Absolute Batman Incorporated: You've seen 'em before, now see 'em again - thicker. NBM has 400 pages of Victorian Murder, collecting Rick Geary's much-admired true historical crime series, while DC offers basically the entire final third of writer Grant Morrison's Batman run across 648 pages in oversized slipcased hardcover, extending from the early David Finch and Yanick Paquette-drawn stuff through the tenure of Chris Burnham; $29.99 (Treasury), $125.00 (Batman).

Steve Canyon Vol. 5: 1955-1956 (&) Spawn of Mars and Other Stories: Two vintage reprints here. The first continues IDW's library of works by Milton Caniff (a Hugo Pratt favorite) with 336 pages of strip adventure, while the second sees Fantagraphics' b&w EC line roll around to the great Wallace Wood for 216 pages of staggering environments. Wood preview; $49.99 (Canyon), $29.99 (Spawn).

Heavy Metal #272: Finally, ending perhaps near where we began, we have the long-lived newsstand Eurocomics fixture beginning an English serialization of another work by revered veteran Enki Bilal, 2011's Julia & Roem. It's the sequel to Animal’z, which also ran in recent issues of the magazine, although I'm not aware of any plans for a collected edition. A third installment, La couleur de l'air, was released in France about two months ago. Additional stories by Tayyar Ozkan, Zeljko Pahek and others. Preview; $7.95.

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22 Responses to THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (1/7/15 – Drifting Back)

  1. Derik Badman says:

    So after all the controversy with the last Corto translation, no comments on the printing/layout/quality of the new edition? Inquiring minds want to know.

  2. Chris says:

    I wish Heavy Metal would put out more collected editions.

  3. Joe McCulloch says:

    It’s very sturdy for a softcover package; rather thick paper, large flaps (large enough to sort of get in the way toward the beginning and end of the book; I unfolded them, it’s not a big deal to me) – the b&w reproduction looks very nice to me, and I presume the layouts are true to the earlier album editions, although I don’t have an applicable copy to check against, so it’s just a presumption. The binding is pretty tough; I had to press hard to get the image above scanned, and at times I felt I was struggling a bit to keep the book fully open, but this is pretty minor – I think it’s a really nice edition.

  4. Peter says:

    Those of us with limited funds and shelf space want to know if this IDW edition of Corto Maltese should be added to their library if they already have the NBM albums and the “Ballad of the Salt Sea” comics.

  5. Derik Badman says:

    Thanks, Joe.

  6. They must have run out of space for a Kevin Smith quote

  7. Sammy says:

    I saw the Corto Maltese book. Reproduction is great, translation is pretty good, lettering is good, cover is shit.

  8. Joe McCulloch says:

    MORE DETAILS – There will apparently be a separate line of six two-in-one hardcover Corto packages with”Pratt’s watercolors” on the covers and various supplements… also, if I’m reading it correctly, “Ballad of the Salt[y] Sea” will be the last thing IDW releases…

  9. R. Fiore says:

    The latest posting on the Library of American Comics/Eurocomics blog mentions an announcement they will make “very, very soon” that they are “tremendously excited” about. This raises a question I would like to put before the house: What would be the most tremendously exciting announcement a comics publisher could make today? I’m thinking it would be a breakthrough on the complete Moebius. I suppose the most exciting announcement in Fantagraphics history was the Complete Crumb, with the Complete Peanuts next on the list.

  10. Joe McCulloch says:

    That would bring it, yeah, but I wonder if it’s not Enki Bilal… he’s maybe the next-most specialist-famous artist on the scene without much representation in print right now, and I bet the licensing difficulties aren’t so thick.

    (I remember somebody bringing Bilal up to Kim Thompson at one of his History of Eurocomics panels at SPX, whereupon he confessed that the guy’s work just didn’t click with him, and that he’d prioritize translating artists that did…)

  11. Joe McCulloch says:

    Although now that I think of it – announcing The Complete André Franquin Spirou & Fantasio would constitute a showstopping holy shit.

  12. R. Fiore says:

    Franquin has been a tough sell in the English-speaking world. It wouldn’t surprise me that Dean Mullaney had the good taste to want to publish Franquin, but I’m pretty sure that if he did he’d be careful about what he committed to.

  13. Aaltomuoto says:

    They haven’t really tried with Franquin though, AFAIK all that was ever translated is one of the Spirou “Z” stories and that one cinebook title. It’s a shame the Fantagraphics edition of “Idees Noires” never happened (or should that be hasn’t happened yet?) that would probably have been an far easier sell than Spirou.

  14. LewdReed says:

    The Corto Maltese is a lovely package. The black line work on the heavy paper stock is a wonderful thing, the pacing in the original layouts makes for smooth reading. I’m really really hoping they give Munoz/Sampayo’s work the same treatment in an Alec Sinner/Joes Bar series. That’s what I’m hoping gets announced. What a nice companion series to the corto Maltese and fantagraphics Tardi volumes (fingers crossed that picks up steam again too) that would be.

  15. Chris V says:

    “What would be the most tremendously exciting announcement a comics publisher could make today?”

    Complete (80s) RAW – large size, bubblegum cards and torn-covers and all. Would probably make the sticker price of the Complete Zap seem measly in comparison.

    A collection of the Fort Thunder/Paper Rodeo stuff would probably get some people excited.

    Can’t think of anything in Eurocomics the excitement level of which would equal a Complete Moebius, but *I* would be pumped for a Complete Crepax.

  16. Ralphe Ostrander says:

    “What would be the most tremendously exciting announcement a comics publisher could make today?”

    New Joe Matt

  17. Michael Eriksson says:

    I would just be happy with a Complete Blueberry, as I’ve heard rumors that the estate handling Moebius’ affairs wants exorbitant fees to translate his works. But I also think there is a good shot that we might get more of Jordi Bernet’s works finally translated as it appears that IDW already has a working relationship with him. It’s just so exciting to be a fan of European comics now, what with this Corto Maltese series, Dark Horse about to finish the Manara Libraries and Archaia releasing the works of Sergio Toppi, albeit fairly slowly.

  18. Oliver says:

    The success of ‘Blacksad’ only makes me more frustrated that Munoz & Sampayo’s ‘Sinner’ still hasn’t been properly published in English. Are people that crazy for animal-headed noir pastiches? (They can’t *all* be ‘furries’…)

  19. Tony says:

    @Michael Eriksson:

    What makes you think that the “Moebius estate” has no stake in the Blueberry rights?

    Actually, the few things they don’t have veto power on (Incal by Humanoids, Silver Surfer by Marvel, the XIII album by Censorbook) are all available in English.

  20. R. Fiore says:

    Also, Titan is doing Phillipe Druillet.

    Kim Thompson once told me that the Munoz/Sampayo comics Fantagraphics put out sold miserably, though that may have been a magazine rather than a book. Actually, from my conversations with Fantagraphics most of their books I’ve been most excited about have been loss leaders — George Carlson and M.K. Brown, for example.

  21. steven samuels says:

    “Actually, from my conversations with Fantagraphics most of their books I’ve been most excited about have been loss leaders — George Carlson and M.K. Brown, for example.”

    Same as it ever was. The same deal with early Joe Sacco, Woodring, Renee French, etc. etc.

  22. Ralphe Ostrander says:

    “What would be the most tremendously exciting announcement a comics publisher could make today?”

    Amazon just listed a complete Toth Bravo for Adventure from IDW… maybe this is their big announcement. Kind of underwhelming, if so. Astonishing art, junk story.

    Could be Saved by the Bell Volume 1, too, who knows.

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