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THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (2/22/12 – Just a lot of stuff.)

Words of wisdom from Kenneth Smith, who I’m hoping will take over this column once they’re through with me. It’s from the 1990 Fantagraphics publication of Phantasmagoria, an update of art & writing forums Smith self-published years prior. I just found a copy this past weekend while browsing at a comics store by my parents’ house; it was sitting on a table like it’d moved itself there. I took it up to the owner and he told me he loved magazines like that. I could only agree.

But holy smokes are the plenty of new ‘magazines’ ready to drop.

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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!

My Friend Dahmer: I’ve already heard a lot about this 224-page original graphic novel from longtime alt weekly veteran John “Derf” Backderf, and all of it’s good. You might remember some of Backderf’s prior stories about his high school friendship with future serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer from Fantagraphics’ ’90s Zero Zero anthology or the 2002 self-published comic My Friend Dahmer, but this is an all-new self-contained work on the topic. Abrams ComicArts is the publisher, and they’ve got paperback and hardcover editions to choose from. Preview here, dedicated blog here; $17.95 ($24.95 in hardcover).

Hector Umbra: Your pop comic pick of the week, being the first-ever longform work by German artist Uli Oesterle to be published in English; the last I can find of him around North American parts was in The Dark Horse Book of Hauntings back in 2003, though be aware that this is actually an import item from the UK-based Blank Slate Books, a 212-page color hardcover presumably based on a 2009 German-language collection (although I believe some segment or iteration of this material was nominated for the Prix révélation at Angoulême 2004). Oesterle’s art evokes a bit of Mike Mignola — and indeed has been praised by Mike Mignola — which should click well with a storyline seeing an artist/detective investigating the disappearance of a Munich DJ and running into weird and occult trouble. Preview; $26.99.

PLUS!

Wally Wood’s EC Stories: Artist’s Edition: Yeah, this should look nice. It’s another IDW crazy-deluxe original art showcase, this time presenting 144 pages’ worth of Wally Wood’s contributions to EC’s sci-fi catalog (i.e. twelve complete stories and a selection of covers) at their original 15″ x 22″ dimensions, in color so all the marks and spots and whatevers are lavishly visible. Should you encounter one of these in person while flanked by Messrs. Franklin, Johnson & Lincoln, I think you should buy it quickly, as no reprints are planned and I suspect they’ll go fast. A collection for Will Eisner’s The Spirit is next in line. Exciting photographs here; $125.00.

Goliath: I’m always up for some Tom Gauld, and Tom Spurgeon reminds me that this 96-page Drawn and Quarterly original is his longest-yet comics work, a reconfiguration of the Biblical tale from the giant’s point of view. Preview; $19.95.

A Long Day of Mr. James-Teacher: Another Blank Slate release, via their Chalk Marks line of 8″ x 11″ saddle-stitched deluxe comic books that might raise a certain nostalgic glow in readers of this site, although I think all of these items are self-contained and of varying length. This one’s by HARVEYJAMES, an English cartoonist possibly best known for this (although an old Nick Gazin interview led me to this, which is incredible), but here providing a 28-page b&w account of some time spent as an English teacher in South Korea. Preview; $7.99.

Afrika: And returning for a moment to the continent, I will shamefacedly admit that I’d totally forgotten that Dark Horse is planning a new publishing push for Hermann Huppen, the Belgian meat ‘n potatoes adventure strip classicist behind series like Jeremiah and The Towers of Bois-Maury, as well as various one-off projects that have blipped into English-language publication from assorted publishers, most pertinently Dark Horse via its millennial Venture imprint. That was back when Humanoids was also trying to push hardcover albums into North American comic book stores, an effort perhaps nostalgically reflected in the 8″ x 11″ hardcover status of this present 64-page release, a 2007 story of manly ‘European abroad’ action set in a Tanzanian wildlife preserve. Dark Horse next plans to release three-in-one omnibus hardcovers of Jeremiah, beginning in March. Preview; $15.99.

Mondo #1 (of 3): Your new (oversized!) comic book series launch of the week, specifically the newest Image project from alt cartooning stalwart Ted McKeever, seeing a factory employee suddenly becoming very strong and encountering plenty of odd stuff. Preview; $4.99.

Prophet #22: Speaking of Image, I’d thought the new collected edition of Brandon Graham’s King City was going to show this week, but now I’m not seeing it on any of the release lists. Nonetheless, you will be able to enjoy the second installment of Graham’s alien culture barbarian take on the titular Rob Liefeld creation, here drawn by Simon Roy. Preview; $2.99.

RASL #13: And here’s the latest from Jeff Smith and his Cartoon Books, drawing nearer to the conclusion of this action series; $3.50.

Dark Horse Presents #9: But if its varied bits of action you want, this newest issue of Dark Horse’s house anthology features a new comic by Paul Pope and a new prose story by Andrew Vachss (illustrated by Geof Darrow) – truly we are plunging through Dark Horse history. Other segments include a color Poe adaptation by Richard Corben, a Lobster Johnson story by Mike Mignola & Joe Querio, and various beginning or continuing serials. Samples; $7.99.

DC Universe: Secret Origins: A big smattering of old-time superhero shorts has its appeal, even as an expensive 320-page hardcover, and this collection of several old and newer reprint compilations (Secret Origins, More Secret Origins, Even More Secret Origins and Weird Secret Origins) should have stories by Jerry Siegel, Bob Haney, Gardner Fox and Bob Kanigher, among others, with art by Jack Kirby, Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino, Mike Sekowsky, Ramona Fradon, Joe Simon, Gray Morrow and more; $39.99.

Popbot: Big Beautiful Book: Speaking of smatterings, here’s an IDW compilation — a slipcased 11″ x 14″ hardcover, in fact — of artist Ashley Wood’s unfinished-in-terms-of-plot 2002-09 signature series, which started as a series of illustrations arranged and dialogued with the help of fellow artist Sam Kieth (the Maxx shows up at one point) and then transformed into an oblique work of future satire before concluding as a type of illustrated catalog of robot fantasies assisted by co-writer T.P. Louise. Mostly it all reminds me of the early ’00s, and how determinedly odd ostensibly ‘pop’ comics could get while still attracting something of a broad readership. I think this was initially a special order premium with the publisher, and now they’re knocking off whatever copies are left; $95.00.

Ampney Crucis: Vile Bodies: This week marks the 35th anniversary of British sci-fi comics institution 2000 AD, and with it comes a special extra-long issue that won’t be seen in North America for at least another week if you’re following around digitally. Hard copies are less predictable. However, publisher Rebellion still has something from the pages of the series on import, a collection of throwback painted stories from Ian Edginton & Simon Davis, seeing a very crisp aristocrat challenging extra-dimensional beings that threaten his home reality; $19.99.

Between Gears: Hey, an old-fashioned autobiographical comic! Or, I guess its new-fashioned, being a webcomic limiting itself to one page per incident. Anyway, it’s the debut print-format book from Natalie Nourigat, and it’s from busy, busy Image; $19.99.

Too Much Coffee Man: Cutie Island: Hey, a… fashioned humor comic! This is the first new book from Shannon Wheeler’s best-known creation in a while, a 192-page softcover from Boom! Studios Samples; $17.99.

20th Century Boys Vol. 19 (of 24): Some of you might gravitate more toward Dark Horse’s twentieth volume of Oh My Goddess! in manga this week, but I’ll highlight this rapidly-concluding suspense series by Naoki Urasawa, still from Viz; $12.99.

Explorer: The Mystery Boxes: And we’ll wrap up in a cyclical manner with another Abrams release, this time from its Amulet Books line of youth-targeted publications. It’s a new 128-page color anthology edited by Kazu Kibuishi of the popular Flight series, centered on the premise of mysterious boxes (as you might guess). Nice lineup, including Kibuishi, Emily Carroll, Raina Telgemeier, Dave Roman and others; $10.95 ($19.95 in hardcover).

CONFLICT OF INTEREST RESERVOIR: There’s a pretty enormous amount of Fantagraphics stuff out this week, with nothing more anticipated I suspect than Is That All There Is?, a 144-page collection of almost all of Joost Swarte’s work in alternative comics, including eye-catching bits from RAW, Heavy Metal and elsewhere; $35.00. Then you can keep up your international airs with Kolor Klimax: Nordic Comics Now, a 250-page anthology of Scandinavian works edited by the Journal’s Matthias Wivel; $29.99. Editor Blake Bell returns with Amazing Mysteries: The Bill Everett Archives Vol. 1, a 240-page collection of Golden Age superhero comics from the titular artist; $39.99. Diane Noomin (of the Twisted Sisters anthology, the second volume of which I attribute to changing my entire perception of how the comics form could work at a crucial age) gets a 180-page anthology of her various works with Glitz-2-Go; $19.99. And finally, in case comics are just too much for ya, Listen, Whitey! The Sights and Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975 finds music producer and writer Pat Thomas tracking the recorded output of various black power groups of the designated time span, in glorious prose; $39.99.

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20 Responses to THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (2/22/12 – Just a lot of stuff.)

  1. Tony says:

    Pathetic decision on Swarte’s part to shrunk down a book that was announced for a long time, and solicited in the Previews catalog 3 months ago, as an obvious 8.5″ x 11″ European-sized album, and now has appeared as a 7″ x 9.5″ miniature.

    Or, as reviewer Bart Croonenborghs mildly puts it:

    http://www.brokenfrontier.com/columns/p/detail/is-that-all-there-is-joost-swarte

    “Unfortunately the smaller format puts less of a focus on Swarte’s detailed artwork and as his backgrounds tend to be quite detailed, filled to the brim with small jokes, the format actually detracts more from the artwork than it enhances.”

    ___________________

    Shame on Swarte for his lamentable choice and the ridiculous “rationale” behind it.

  2. Jon says:

    RASL has been a great book. Can’t wait to see what Smith does next.

  3. Joe McCulloch says:

    I’ went through about six issues tonight since I got tripped up on the parallel universe stuff in the new one… I’d felt he was working in a kind of airy, manga-ish pace from the beginning, and reading it in bigger chunks basically confirms that notion. He can also dish out seinen manga-ish violence too… I think this issue might have been the first occurrence of spilled entrails, Jeff Smith style.

    Also, there’s no Andrew Vachss story in DHP #9, for some reason… on the other hand, it looks like Corben’s story is the first one in a while where he’s done his own colors.

    AND: Rebecca Dart cameo in Prophet! And Fil Barlow, of the ’80s series Zooniverse…!

  4. Armando says:

    Regarding that KING CITY collection by Brandon Graham, Image has a release date of March 7.
    Here you go:
    http://www.imagecomics.com/comics/4580/King-City-MR-

  5. The Andrew Vachss story is in issue 10.

  6. Brad says:

    I’m with Tony… After the beautiful Pogo and Barks reprint albums recently, the Swarte book seems too small — small enough that it does his artwork a dis-service, and also small enough that I was finding several strips challenging to read and enjoy (I’m normally complimented by friends on my eyesight, but I find myself feeling the need to read this under a very bright lamp with a magnifying glass). I also thought the price seemed high for the size and lack of commentary on the strips. I’m happier to have this book than to not have it, but would really hope that a second edition might be considered that was larger and had more contextual information. (It also seemed a little lame that the foreword was written a few years ago before the material was even complete…).

    I’m not sure what rationale for the smaller size Tony is referring to… can someone direct me to the right place?

    Thanks,
    -Brad

  7. Tony says:

    According to the aforementioned Bart Croonenborghs:

    http://www.brokenfrontier.com/columns/p/detail/is-that-all-there-is-joost-swarte

    “It utilises the graphic novel format to draw the younger crowd in as Swarte himself says

    I annulled my order as soon as I knew about the unannounced miniaturization, but I thought he was refering to Swarte saying that on the book itself, in some foreword, but if you say the “foreword was written a few years”, I don’t know where Swarte said that.

  8. Kim Thompson says:

    The foreword to IS THAT ALL THERE IS? was written by Chris Ware. It was written “a few years earlier” because the book was originally supposed to be published then and Chris met his deadline, but Joost didn’t meet his in restoring the art and preparing it for publication. (He has since been forgiven, what with being a genius and all.)

    I don’t know where Joost said the smaller format was “to draw in the younger crowd” but if he did, knowing Joost, I’m sure this was tongue in cheek. (Out of curiosity I asked Joost to explain further, and he wrote me the letter below.)

    My opinion is that people are overreacting a bit. (Generally speaking it seems to be people who are familiar with older editions of the work, including the European ones, who are mostly flipping out, while those to whom the work is new think it’s fine.) The “magazine size” pages that are under contention are just 15% smaller than their original publication. To my 55-year-old eyes they look fine, and Joost’s work is so crisp and clear that I don’t really know what people are talking about when they say they can’t make out the details, need a magnifying glass, etc. (Have you guys ever read a Chris Ware book?) If I was going to be flippant I’d say, just move the book 15% closer to your face and you’ll get the same effect.

    That said, there is certainly enough of a general chorus of complaint about the size that all of us (including the Dutch and French publishers, who released simultaneous editions in the same format) are considering an adjustment for any eventual reprints, and/or the softcover edition.

    As for the complaints about there not being enough background or source information, I didn’t and don’t see the need to clutter up the book with this archival detailing, nor did or does Joost. The individual strips stand on their own merits, and if anything Joost’s deadpan, sometimes abstruse sense of humor works best that way. That the condom story was done for a booklet promoting condoms adds nothing whatsoever to anyone’s enjoyment of the story. (The single exception I could think of to this is the grisly Argentinian soccer story, where Joost did in fact add the source and context.)

    Anywhere, here’s Joost himself.

    Dear Kim,

    The comics of Joost Swarte gathered in this collection were originally made for a variety of publications like the early Raw Magazine, some for magazine-size like Heavy Metal, and some for [smaller] graphic novel sized books.

    It was my starting point to do right to the works by presenting them in different sizes. The design for ‘Is That All There Is?’ has 3 different sizes.

    Most of the stories are published at 17 x 23.5 cm. With a small white margin, the works are almost magazine size.

    The section with works that were originally published in a larger size has a newspaper layout. It contains comics and articles by the author, and can be read sideways, measuring 23 x 34 cm. This part can easily be found as it has a black ribbon on top.

    For the graphic novel sized works Joost Swarte created a comic lay-out of 16 x 21 cm.
    Easy to find, as it has an old paper color around the pages.

    So the book is big enough to present the works appropriately and small enough to keep it hidden for your “friends” that search for your copy, trying to steal it.

    Kindly yours,
    Joost Swarte
    Secretary of state of book sizes

  9. Tony says:

    Thanks for the explanations.

    I’ll just focus on savoring this key paragraph:

    “That said, there is certainly enough of a general chorus of complaint about the size that all of us (including the Dutch and French publishers, who released simultaneous editions in the same format) are considering an adjustment for any eventual reprints, and/or the softcover edition.”

    Glad to form part of a general chorus that shares my outrage. I hope the adjustment wil be considered and approved, so an edition worth buying materializes eventually.

    The originally announced and solicited dimensions 0f 8.5″ x 11″ would suffice.

  10. Kim Thompson says:

    Incidentally, my 84-year-0ld mother called me up to tell me how much she loved the Joost Swarte book, and at no point during her encomia did she pause to complain about size or legibility. To those out there who are now hesitating about buying it, I say, if my 84-year-0ld mom can read it you probably can too.

  11. Tony says:

    BTW, I’ don’t know if this could be constructed as a possible precedent, but I’ve ordered the upcoming Fantagraphics’ reprint of Drew Friedman’s ANY SIMILARITIES TO PERSONS LIVING OR DEAD, in no small part because it will be a 9″ x 12″ hardcover.

    And, apparently, the original edition was a 6″ x 9″ miniature:
    http://www.amazon.com/Similarity-Persons-Living-Purely-Coincidental/dp/0930193180

    As a big Friedman fan, I applaud this decision to re-present the book in a much bigger size, and I don’t see why the same couldn’t be applied to Swarte’s book.

    If Friedman deserves a 9″ x 12″, so does Swarte, but the originally announced ans solicited dimensions of 8.5″ x 11″ would suffice.

  12. Frank Santoro says:

    The Swarte book looks fine smaller – not that big of a deal, folks. Just sayin.

  13. Tony says:

    Booooooooo…

  14. Doug Skinner says:

    I had no trouble reading it, although some of the material is certainly more impressive larger. It’s not as beautifully designed as the old Real Free Press “Modern Art” (my first Swarte book), but then, what is? And Kim Thompson’s translations are much better. Are there plans to collect Swarte’s kids’ comics?

  15. Kim Thompson says:

    There is no 6 x 9 ANY SIMILARITY book; that’s an Amazon error. It’s been a variety of sizes from the first, near tabloid-size edition to a later ca. 8 x 11 version; this new one is somewhere in between. Drew got his copy yesterday and is very happy with it.

    As for the Swarte kids’ books, there are plans for them, yes. The issue is that Joost is very particular about getting the scans and printing exactly right (cf. the LOOOOONG wait for him to tweak IS THAT ALL THERE IS? into shape) to his satisfaction, so while there is talk about doing this with that material, I wouldn’t hold my breath unless Joost can set up a system for transferring all this material to digital files that doesn’t take quite so much of his time as ALL THERE IS did. Rest assured that I’m badgering him about it, though.

    These are the KATOEN + PINBAL stories, which were serialized in some long-forgotten Dutch magazine, of which three were published by Casterman in French under the title COTON + PISTON, one of which we subsequently serialized in MEASLES in English under the title HECTOR + DEXTER.

    They’re pretty great, but even more intriguing is the fact that apparently there is a ton of this material that was never collected into albums, including, according to Joost, some stories that were even better than the ones that were. (He mentions this in the COMICS JOURNAL interview of a few years ago. This would be a nice interview to put online, come to think of it, o webmasters.) Which means that there’s 120+ pages’ worth of the Casterman-collected books of which 2/3 have never been printed in English, and 80, 120, who knows? more pages that virtually no one outside of the 1970s Dutch magazine readers has seen before.

    Thanks to Doug for the compliment about my translations (man, this was a fun book, but a hard one), although in the case of the Dutch-published English-language MODERN ART those were definitely some seriously wacky translations. (Joost himself dismissively referred to them as “hippie translations” and I think is relieved to see them superseded.)

  16. patrick ford says:

    Here is the older of two:
    http://www.tcj.com/archive-viewer-issue-181/?pid=18771
    There is a very easy and, if you think about it, obvious way to search the contents of each issue without tedious page by page effort.

  17. Doug Skinner says:

    Yes, hippie translations is about right; funny, since the book itself was so elegant. Swarte also did some other kids’ features, “Passi, Messa” and “Dr. Ben Cine & D.” (I just know the French titles, from the Futuropolis editions). “Passi, Messi,” in particular, is great stuff. Any plans for those?

  18. Kim Thompson says:

    I’ve actually never seen the DR. BEN CINE stuff (but I’m looking into it). PASSI, MESSA is certainly on my radar as a potential follow-up to ITATI. In the long run I’d love to put every Joost Swarte comic into print, of course; it’s just that we’ve been focussed on the main enchilada up until this point.

  19. Doug Skinner says:

    Well, of course; I was just curious. “Dr. Ben Cine” is more of an illustrated column than comics, but vintage, funny Swarte. Worth looking into!

  20. For what it’s worth, I thought the book was beautifully done. Compact-sure. But in no way did it impede my enjoyment of it’s content. It’s one of my favorite books of the year.

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