I know the feeling, Kitty. This friendly old classic is from Blast Books’ 1996 anthology Comics Underground Japan, which marked most North American readers with their first exposure to Nekojiru, one of the alt-manga icons of the decade. As the biographies in the back indicate, she was still alive at the time of publication; her suicide came about two years later, leaving her husband and collaborator, Hajime Yamano, to continue without her.
Many more eventually came to know Nekojiru through a 2001 anime video that was based on her work: Cat Soup, which was co-written and storyboarded by Masaaki Yuasa, who eventually became a very indie-famous director for animated film and television, including a recent episode of Adventure Time which, in its emphasis on the inevitability of death and the lack of control people have over biological processes, is something of a kid-friendly, network-approved variant on Cat Soup.
So, I was looking around for information on this topic, when I came across a two-part translation the top-notch anime blogger Ben Ettinger undertook way back in 2005 – it’s a remembrance of Nekojiru, the artist, the person, lonely and inspired and abusive and kind, written by a close friend, Yoshiaki Yoshinaga, as part of a larger work on friends of his who’d killed themselves. Truly an excellent cartoonist profile, which I commend to your attention.
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.
Pirates in the Heartland: The Mythology of S. Clay Wilson Vol. 1 (of 3): This time we’re gonna start with your book-on-comics/big-ass reprint project for the week – the start of a three-part biography of the delicate underground doodler, assembled by Patrick Rosenkranz from various archival materials and first-person accounts. “[C]ontains all of his underground comic stories from ZAP Comix, Snatch, Gothic Blimp Works, Bogeyman, Felch, Insect Fear, Pork, Tales of Sex and Death, and Arcade magazine” too. An 8″ x 11.25″ hardcover, 232 pages in length. Preview; $34.99.
Ritual Three: Vile Decay: Malachi Ward has had some work published in Image’s Prophet, and this is a new Revival House book from him, distributed to comics stores via Alternative Comics. “[A]n old woman recounts to her grandson, from the safety of a virtual seaside computer program, how she thinks the world went bad.” I’m always up for a 24-page comic book type of comic; $6.95.
Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey: Hey, it’s the new one from Nick Bertozzi. I recall a webcomics-related Kickstarter project from him last year, but he’s been quite busy with youth-appropriate historical books for First Second, such as 2011’s Lewis & Clark and last year’s Jerusalem: A Family Portrait (written by Boaz Yakin). This one’s another solo effort, a 128-page account of true-life exploration in chilly b&w. Samples; $16.99.
Unfabulous Five: Being another hardcover Humanoids collection of materials culled from writer Jerry Frissen’s 2006-10 Lucha Libre anthology project, parts of which were published as comic books by Image a few years ago; Humanoids’ 2010 release of The Tikitis shares the same origin. As these new books are grouped by artist, the center of attention this time is Benoît “Bill” Boucher, illustrating humorous and fantastic stories of gang life in East LA in an animation-styled lacquer (colors with Lucie Firoud). It’s 152 pages at 7.9″ x 10.8″. Preview; $24.95.
Dog Butts and Love. And Stuff Like That. And Cats.: This is an NBM collection of ‘dark'(-ish) cartoons by Scholastic kids’ books mainstay and prolific edgy-cute licensor Jim Benton, I believe culled from postings on reddit. And while the preceding sentence will function as a virtual contamination logo for some of you, I also can’t think of another set of comics from as prominent a name landing at a smaller publisher quite like this. Samples; $13.99.
The Smurfs Vol. 18: The Finance Smurf: Also from NBM, via their Papercutz line – MORTALITY. Yes, this is the last of the Schtroumpfs albums to have seen release during the lifetime of creator Peyo, who died the year of its release, 1992. A family affair, it is written with his son, Thierry Culliford, and colored by his wife, Nine, with the art made in collaboration with Alain Maury, who would head up the visuals in several episodes going into the future; $5.99 ($10.99 in hardcover).
Sleep Tight, Anna Banana!: Yet even today there are children in Europe, and so French-speaking cartoonists continue to produce new works to preserve our world from madness. For example, this is a 2012 collaboration of writer Dominique Roques and artist Alexis Dormal, who are also, respectively, mother and son. It’s a 28-page landscape-format book, 10″ x 7.5″, dedicated to the dismay a girl’s stuffed animals experience when she will not go to fucking sleep. A First Second translation. Preview; $15.99.
Cartoon Network Super Secret Crisis War! #1 (of 6): Old-school super-comic A – Louise Simonson writes this, a big IDW crossover between licensed characters. Preview; $3.99.
Savage Hulk #1: Old-school super-comic B – Alan Davis writes and pencils this, a Marvel comic about the Incredible Hulk fighting things. Preview; $3.99.
Frank Miller’s Big Damn Sin City: I was puzzled when I first saw this, as I could have sworn there’d been some sort of unexpurgated horse-choking block of this stuff before, but I guess it was just some slipcased sets. Regardless, there is a new Sin City movie opening at the end of August — the third feature directorial credit of Mr. Frank Miller, again in collaboration with Robert Rodriguez — and so Dark Horse really couldn’t *not* drop this 1,360-page compendium of everything, perfect for menacing your imported Casterman Alack Sinner tomes with its vulgar directness. Samples; $100.00.
Frank Bellamy’s Heros the Spartan: But hey, let’s not limit ourselves – the U.K. can also produce gigantic and expensive reprints, like this 11″ x 14″ hardcover from the wonderfully-named Book Palace, reprinting the entirety of a 1962-65 adventure strip that Bellamy drew for Eagle from stories by Tom Tully. If I’m not mistaken, all the strips are presented across double-page spreads, for a total of 272 pages. With a ’73 Bellamy interview conducted by Dez Skinn & Dave Gibbons, an introduction by Norman Boyd, and appreciative texts by Gibbons, Walter Simonson, John Byrne, Ken Steacy and John Watkiss. Samples; $179.99.
ABC Warriors: The Mek Files Vol. 1 (&) Sláine: Lord of the Beasts: Meanwhile, Rebellion continues to rearrange its extensive library of Pat Mills’ writings for 2000 AD. The Mek Files is basically a hardcover re-do of the publisher’s ABC Warriors collections, putting all pertinent robot comics in chronological order for 304 pages, through the arrival of Simon Bisley on “The Black Hole,” with the color bits in color. The 256-page Lord of the Beasts, meanwhile, collects all Celtic warrior strips not otherwise accounted for in another book, effectively covering the 1998-2000 period prior to Clint Langley’s dedicated, decade-plus tenure with the Sláine character; $42.00 (ABC), $29.99 (Sláine).
Judgment Day and Other Stories (&) Barnaby Vol. 2: Fantagraphics! They’re still around? What, I put them in the spotlight? Oh, well, here’s two other reprint projects of theirs – one is another 192-page b&w EC hardcover, this time honed in on Joe Orlando, while the other presents 376 additional pages of Crockett Johnson’s strip art classic; $29.99 (Judgment), $39.99 (Barnaby).
Tarzan: Burne Hogarth’s Lord of the Jungle: And we’ll wrap things up with works that have maybe fallen through the cracks – two Edgar Rice Burroughs-derived hardback books, first published in 1972 and 1976, which saw Hogarth return to the jungle tales in which he had thrived in the ’30s and ’40s. There was a time when some considered this work to be at or near the pinnacle of comics storytelling, though prevailing tastes eventually moved away from its stately coils of muscle and vine, hung heavily atop stretches of text. Now Dark Horse collects them both as a single 264-page, 8 3/8″ x 10 7/8″ hardcover, for easiest access to its stained glass hues and flights of negative space. Samples; $49.99.