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, and that I also run a podcast with an employee of Nobrow Press. 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. You could always just buy nothing.
The! Greatest! Of! Marlys!: Oh, nothing much – just an enormous stack of strips from Lynda Barry, creator of short comics since the late 1970s and one of the most fiercely beloved American cartoonists alive today. Sasquatch Books initially published this selection from her Ernie Pook’s Comeek in 2000, but know that the new Drawn and Quarterly hardcover edition expands the contents by several dozen pages to a total of 248. Keenly observed and beholden to seemingly no master but the communication of its characters, aliens all to the seductive designs of commercial identification, this is the stuff that epitomized the alt-weekly comic for many. Samples; $22.95.
The Complete Neat Stuff: Oh, nothing much – just all 15 issues of the original one-man anthology from Peter Bagge, editor at the time of the offbeat anthology Weirdo, purveying all manner of satirical character-driven comedy from 1985 to 1989, after which the series Hate was launched with a tighter focus on certain recurring characters. As a result, there is probably a lot for readers to discover or rediscover in these 488 pages, split into two slipcased tomes and augmented with annotations by Bagge himself. A Fantagraphics release; $59.99.
Bacchus Omnibus Edition Vol. 2 (of 2): Oh, nothing much… man, there’s a ton of reprints this week. I mean, 552 pages of Eddie Campbell — him, his studio, his cohorts — presenting the latter half (1990-99) of his ever-evolving spin on the superhero comic, encompassing the action violence of Hermes vs. The Eyeball Kid and the self-referential lampoon of King Bacchus, among other modes and methods, in a rightly egalitarian spirit. Notes and commentary by Campbell are promised for this Top Shelf release, distributed by IDW, which could very easily satisfy the anticipating browser completely on its own; $39.99.
Corto Maltese: The Ethiopian: We will be hearing much of IDW in the coming minutes. This is a new one from their EuroComics division, a fourth release of adventure tales from the great Hugo Pratt, wrapping up his short stories for the French magazine Pif Gadget (1972-73) in a 96-page, 9.2″ x 11.5″ softcover; book-length serials will follow. Inquisitive, cosmopolitan, and not a little bemused, these comics are among those seminal works that stand unique from even the many that claim their influence; $24.99.
Friends Is Friends: Whoa, not only a new comic here, but a new one from Greg Cook, whom some of you will remember from the 2001 Highwater Books release Catch As Catch Can, as well contributions to the roughly contemporaneous and highly prominent anthologies NON #5 and Comix 2000, among many other venues. I don’t mean to imply he’s been absent from comics since then or anything, but this 208-page First Second hardcover is his first book-length work since that era, an un-paneled system of gag sequences telling of the funny-sad relationships between animal characters. Very much worth a peek at least; $19.99.
Library of American Comics Essentials Vol. 8 – King Features Essentials 1: Krazy Kat 1934: A long title for a long book, by which I mean it’s 11.5″ x 4.25″ at one comic strip per page for 336 pages. I like this format a lot, and it has proven its service to George Herriman in vols. 1 & 6, which collected full years of his Baron Bean. Now Krazy and Ignatz appear in the autumn of their newspaper tenure, “at top speed, ever-changing, endlessly inventive, with language that sparkles with double meanings and more,” per publisher IDW (again). An introduction by Michael Tisserand, author of the forthcoming Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White, is also expected; $29.99.
Private Beach: The Complete Edition (&) Sam Glanzman’s ATTU: The Collected Volumes: Two here from Dover – not an unfamiliar name anymore amidst talk of unique comics reprint choices. Private Beach was 2001-02 series from writer/artist David Hahn, which Slave Labor Graphics published for seven issues, spinning out of earlier comics from Antarctic Press; I have not read any of the run, but Dover describes it as blending “elements of science-fiction adventure, political satire, and soap opera,” and this 208-page edition will include a new 30-page final story by the creator, as well as an appreciation by Hahn’s Helioscope associate Jeff Parker. ATTU is a caveman/dinosaurs/aliens SF sprawl by the fascinating Sam Glanzman, first published as two original graphic novels in 1989 by Lancaster, Pennsylvana’s own 4Winds Publishing Group, headed by Timothy Truman & Chuck Dixon. Truman provides an introduction to Dover’s 160-page edition, which pairs the original books with a heretofore unpublished third volume, as well as essays by Jeff Lemire and Stephen R. Bissette; $16.95 (Beach), $19.95 (ATTU).
Grimjack Omnibus Vol. 2 (&) Hotspur: Complete and Astonishing: While we’re on the subject of Tim Truman, I should note that ComicMix is reprinting his and writer John Ostrander’s GrimJack, a science-fantasy man of action series prominent in the 1980s; the second omnibus softcover is out this week, covering issues #14-30, which also contains a long stretch of pencils by Tom Sutton. Ostrander is very visible at the moment due to the Suicide Squad movie, so ComicMix also has an 80-page collection of Hotspur, a rather obscure 1987 Eclipse fantasy miniseries pencilled by Karl Waller, who drew a bunch of horror and sexy lady comics in the ’90s and beyond (OG at Avatar Press!); $49.99 (Grimjack), $15.00 (Hotspur).
Kelly: The Cartoonist America Turns To: For a long time, I was addicted to “Kelly” – longstanding cartoonist for The Onion, and a relentless, deadpan exhibition of political cartooning at its most artistically cataclysmal. No drearily obvious visual metaphor comes without a text label, no shopworn emotional appeal goes unexploited; and even after the dead end nature of this mannered mode of communication is fully realized, you still have Kelly’s supernatural ability to adopt the most irritating position imaginable on any conceivable issue to enliven his dispatches. Granted, I think you can only read these things for so long under even the best of circumstances, but a 200-page ‘best of’ could make for potent reference. Ward Sutton is the alt weekly veteran who actually writes and draws the cartoons, while the publisher of this 8.5″ x 6.88″ landscape softcover is IDW; $19.99.
Superf*ckers Forever #1 (of 5): Hard to believe it’s been nine years since the ‘final’ issue of James Kochalka‘s teen superhero series, which emphasized the “teen” over the “superhero” in depicting powerful layabouts more interested in video games and naps and making out than saving the world – indeed, the original four-issue series came equipped with an amusing conceit whereby none of the issue numbers were sequential, leaving the novice reader to believe that not only were there huge gaps in their reading, but that somehow they always got stuck with a ‘downtime’ issue bereft of anything excessively superheroic. It has been an enduring, popular thing — not a few readers’ introduction to Kochalka, better known prior to that for the autobiographical American Elf series — and now IDW (which acquired former publisher Top Shelf last year) lays its own banner on a new comic book-sized sequel miniseries (rather than the square dimensions of the old issues). A solo joint as always, though guest artists will supply backup pieces; Jake Lawrence is the first. Preview; $3.99.
The Sequential Artists Workshop Guide to Creating Professional Comic Strips: Finally, your book-on-comics of the week – maybe the most potentially compelling such item of 2016. Tom Hart, you see, is the author of Rosalie Lightning, which is, as of now, the best new comic released in 2016. (Portions were self-published in comic book form earlier, but let’s not split hairs.) He is also the longtime artist of the Hutch Owen series of comic books and strips, and — in 2011 — founded The Sequential Artists Workshop in Gainesville, Florida, with the artist Leela Corman. Now, Alternative Comics presents a 96-page edition of one of the school’s in-house print-on-demand projects, a Hart-authored “complete how-to manual for making the best comic strips you can, from conception to idea generation to layout, lettering, finishing, coloring and even selling.” I’d check it out for sure; $12.95.