I kind of wish Phase Magazine was coming out this week. Been waiting a long time for Coming of the Piranhas; thought I'd have to go to them. As you can see if you stare real close, this is the inside-back cover to Steve Ditko's Mr. A #1, which I recently obtained from a very generous source. It's a 1973 release of Comic Art Publishers, fronted by New York-area college student Joe Brancatelli, who around the same time was releasing a syndicated writing-on-comics package to fanzines; Inside Comics would later expand into his own publication in '74, after which Brancatelli would maintain a review & punditry column in the Warren magazines from '76-'80. There's a lot that recalls Warren in Mr. A, from the ads for monster magazines (The Monster Times) which Brancatelli edited for a while, to the above publication, one of several mystery pubs that seemed to come and go. When will I ever complete my set of Comix International? The score presently stands at zero.
Of course, being me, I can't help but notice the lil' bottom ad for French-language copies of "experimental" magazine Pilote, home of noted avant-garde détournement Asterix - how our understanding changes as we gather more information! Still, these copies must have come from the seething post-L'Écho des Savanes, pre-Métal Hurlant period, so it must have looked pretty experimental to the less-acclimated, perhaps monolingual flipper; in this way, the men behind the magazine might have sat in a not-dissimilar position to the fellow fans who'd read the advertisements.
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.
Wizzywig: Plenty of attention was paid to this Ed Piskor project during its webcomic serialization, and now it's a 288-page graphic novel from Top Shelf, tracking a young man's life in phone phreaking, software pirating and early computer hacking. Comes highly recommended, worth a flip. Preview; $19.95.
Paris Soirees: The latest in Humanoids' line of small-run, big-sized specials, this time a near-simultaneous release with the item's European edition, in that I don't believe there is any dialogue to translate. It's a 12" x 16", 64-page album, originally published in 1989, from artist François Avril and writer Philippe Petit-Roulet, neither of whom have been seen in North American comics since the old Drawn and Quarterly anthology - the subject is "the many different types of nights one can enjoy in the French capital," per the publisher. Next up in Humanoids' 'move it or lose it' series is The Shadow's Treasure, an improvisational exercise by Alejandro Jodorowsky & François Boucq (August), and Young Albert, a collection of strips by the late, great Yves Chaland (September). Samples; $69.95.
The Other Sides of Howard Cruse: Several interesting releases from Boom! this week, first among them a 228-page compilation of short works by the Stuck Rubber Baby author, dating back to student press work in the early '70s and proceeding through late-period underground comics and other venues. Commentaries and background are promised, as is an introduction by Jay Lynch. Sample story, artist's comments; $24.99.
The Sketchbook Adventures of Peter Poplaski: This one's more of a direct reprint, a Boom! edition of a 2006 collection of sketch work by the longtime Denis Kitchen/Kitchen Sink Press associate and contributor to assorted underground anthologies: Death Rattle, Snarf, Dope Comix, Web of Spider-Man, etc. Actually, I think his last comic book work was an Alan Moore(!) collaboration in Tom Strong #13, 2001, again among a variety of artists - this one's purely solo. Intro by Robert Crumb; $25.00.
I Told You So: And finally in our Boom! subsection for the explosive July 4th holiday -- make sure your comics store is actually open -- we've got a new 128-page collection of New Yorker gag submissions/potential submissions by Shannon Wheeler, following up on 2010's I Thought You Would Be Funnier; $17.99.
Popeye #3: Hey, did you like that backup story Tom Neely did in the prior issue of this IDW E.C. Segar evocation? Because now he's doing an entire issue, in collaboration with writer Roger Langridge. Preview; $3.99.
The Infernal Man-Thing #1 (of 3): Elsewhere in unexpected happenings, Marvel presents the serialization of a Man-Thing graphic novel the late Steve Gerber wrote in the 1980s, only now reaching completion by artist Kevin Nowlan. A collected edition is already set for later this year, in case you're not into wilty comic book things. Preview; $3.99.
Muppets #1 (of 4): And elsewhere in Roger Langridge, here's Marvel's publication of a Disney license storyline the artist wrote and drew prior to the expiration of Boom!'s use of the characters; $2.99.
The Smurfs Vol. 12: Smurf vs. Smurf: SOCIAL SATIRE, SMURFS-STYLE in this 1973 joint from Peyo & Yvan Delporte, as a terrible hidden crack in Smurf society -- the proper grammatical usage of the word "smurf" -- threatens to plunge the village into all-out war. A lampoon of conflicts between French and Dutch-speakers in Belgium, this story remains a favorite of mine for employing almost exactly the same ending as Watchmen: imposition of an uneasy peace through a massive faked threat, complete with the suggestion that such misdirection will not go undiscovered (although, y'know, Grumpy doesn't drop the journal off at a magazine prior to his immolation by Brainy, it's different); $5.99 ($10.99 in hardcover).
The Zombies that Ate the World Vol. 2 (of 2): The Eleventh Commandment: Being Humanoids' second hardcover compilation (6.75" x 10.5", 104 pages) of former B.P.R.D. artist Guy Davis' work for the French market, a Jerry Frissen-scripted satire about humankind attempting to coexist with a zombie plague in a variety of revealing ways. Actually one of the earlier entries in the numbing North American zombie boom, with its first English translation dating back to the early '00s revival of Métal Hurlant, although this particular content was last seen via a 2009 comic book miniseries released in conjunction with Devil's Due. Samples; $24.95.
Dreadstar Omnibus Vol. 1: A Dynamite follow-up to the 2010 release of Dreadstar: The Beginning, now touching on the 1982 Epic Comics debut of Jim Starlin's space-faring series, with issues #1-12 included. Samples; $29.99.
The Adventures of Buck O'Rue: A new one from Classic Comics Press, 304 pages collecting the entirety of a 1951-52 cowboy humor strip -- apparently a 'funny rube' thing in the vein of Lil' Abner -- concocted by Disney writer/animator Dick Huemer and studio newspaper strip/comic book artist Paul Murry. Much background info should be included. Note that the publisher also has a tenth collected volume of Leonard Starr's Mary Perkins on Stage this week, covering mid-1969 through late 1970; $29.95.
Tarzan: The Jesse Marsh Years Vol. 11: But if it's '50s Dell Comics contributors/Disney studio veterans of a different sort you're after, Dark Horse has a by-now totally inconceivable eleventh collected volume of Tarzan comics drawn by Jesse Marsh -- 224 pages! -- culled from assorted 1954 publications. More than a decade's worth of stuff to go! The publisher also has a second 264-page volume of the Crime Does Not Pay Archives this week at the same price. Samples; $49.99.
Showcase Presents: Showcase Vol. 1: Pleasantly dizzy title aside, this newest 512-page b&w DC phonebook is noteworthy here for compiling a bunch of critical Silver Age superhero shorts with a stack of non-superhero predecessor stories involving the exploits of firefighters, frogmen and wild animals - 'serious animal' comics, if you will. No sweat - Lois Lane shows up before you know it. Art by Carmine Infantino, Jack Kirby, Wayne Boring, Mike Sekowsky and others. Collects issues #1-21, 1956-59; $19.99.
5 Centimeters Per Second: Your manga pick of the week, a 566-page Vertical collected edition of a Yukiko Seike-drawn adaptation of a 2007 anime movie by Makoto Shinkai, purveyor of low-cost, high-gloss, teary-eyed drama. I tend to find Shinkai sort of warbly and intolerable, and then I feel awful because he's one of the very few directors in Japanese animation today who's managed to carve out a space for totally original auteur work - I'm sure I'll check out his latest, 2011's Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below, whenever it shows up stateside. Anyway, prepare for emotions, as a young man's romantic childhood experience leaves him unprepared for the complications of growth; $18.95.
Idle Hands: The Art of Coop: Finally, your not-a-comic of the week, a 200-page, 10" x 10" Baby Tattoo Books release of visual stuffs by Coop, occasional comics artist among several other pursuits; $50.00.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST RESERVOIR: A whole lot of things might show up, including new works from Jaime & Gilbert Hernandez, the new Dungeon Quest and Wandering Son, and the final issue of Tales Designed to Thrizzle, but Linda Medley's Castle Waiting Vol. II #17 seems to be all that's confirmed, for those who prefer their comics as comic books; $3.95.