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THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (8/8/12 – You cause me such angst, kaiju.)

Ah, now that’s how a funny animal makes an entrance! From deep out the Fantagraphics archives (my apartment annex) (unofficial) comes Belgian artist Benoît Sokal, creator of the still-ongoing Inspector Canardo series, although catholic nerds will recall him more easily as a designer behind the popular 2002-04 computer game series Syberia. Actually, his gaming career began with a (very loose) adaptation of an ’80s Inspector Canardo album, 1999′s Amerzone: The Explorer’s Legacy, about which I recently penned a personal confession. I’m a little surprised that Sokal didn’t see a small revival around that time, although I guess the graphic novel situation was still tenuous enough that anthropomorphic noir characters fucking and shooting in a cruelly humorous manner was no longer on the radar.

Still, we have Shaggy Dog Story, a 1989 Rijperman release I believe Fantagraphics distributed. It was the first proper Canardo album following a series of short stories in (À Suivre), and mainly concerns a disturbed dog’s investigation of animal experimentation. Two further albums were promised on the back cover, but I think only one of them was ever released (under the title Blue Angel, from NBM). The same two albums also found themselves released in UK editions via Fleetway’s “xpresso” line, an attempt to build a Eurocomics-centered sibling to 2000 AD; indeed, issues #2 and #3 of the 2kAD-related Crisis Presents anthology focused on European and like-minded short stories, with #2 sporting a nice Canardo short along with pieces by Lorenzo Mattotti, Miguelanxo Prado, Milo Manara, Max Cabanes, Matthias Schultheiss, Sean Phillips and Rachel Ball – a great little magazine if you can track it down, even if you’re not so much into hashing out the implications of such an odd duck of a series temporarily popping up in two countries and then vanishing from English print for good.

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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!

Godzilla: The Half-Century War #1 (of 5): Yeah, this lil’ comic book launch is going right up top, because it’s the new project by Orc Stain writer/artist James Stokoe, an IDW-published look at the title beastie’s destructive exploits, I believe set in a different 20th century decade every issue, although I might be mistaken. Anyway, there’s not a lot of comics artists around more obviously suited to a project like this than the manga-informed (though never quite indebted) Stokoe, who can always be counted on to make the comic book format seem entirely applicable to looming vistas and veritable prairies of debris. Samples; $3.99.

The Shadow’s Treasure: Yep, it’s yet another Humanoids crazy-limited oversized special, this time honed in on a fantastical artist well-deserving of a 12″ x 16″ presentation: François Boucq, whose old Catalan Communications collections Pioneers of the Human Adventure, The Magician’s Wife and Billy Budd, KGB (the latter two written by Jerome Charyn) are well-worth tracking down. Otherwise, Boucq is only represented in English by his old West gunfighter series Bouncer with Alejandro Jodorowsky, who also handles the writing for this dreamy 88-page project from 1999, set up not unlike Jodorowsky’s The Eyes of the Cat with Moebius, which coincidentally is seeing a smaller, 7.7″ x 10.5″ re-release this week. Samples; $69.95.

PLUS!

A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return: Already, I feel remorse over this week’s SPOTLIGHT PICKS[.] Surely there’s some smaller, more expressive, experimental, confrontational work out there in need of highlighting above a front-of-Previews Godzilla tie-in comic and this column’s umpteenth Jodorowsky citation. Also, why is there a duck on top of this post? One day, my replacement will provide the answers to all the questions, and what a fine Tuesday that will be. Until then, I will admit I know absolutely nothing about the nearly half-dozen releases by the Lerner Publishing Group this week, although the most eye-catching among them is this 2007 work (Mourir, partir, revenir – Le Jeu des hirondelles) by Lebanese cartoonist Zeina Abirached, detailing a childhood in Beirut over 192 pages through a visual approach reminiscent of Marjane Satrapi and David B. Paul Gravett overview; $9.95.

Right State: Vertigo is also still publishing original graphic novels — somewhat miraculously, when you thing about it — enough so that you get new releases by writers you recognize mainly from prior Vertigo hardcovers, such as Mat Johnson of 2008′s Incognegro: A Graphic Mystery (although I am aware he has various prose novels to his credit). This one’s a 152-page thriller about a hard right pundit who sets politics aside and draws upon his special forces background to oppose an assassination attempt on the President of the United States. Art by Andrea Mutti; $24.99.

District Comics: An Unconventional History of Washington, DC: I think this was planned at some point to be an online anthology of comics about the Washington, DC area by (mostly) local artists; maybe it still is? Regardless, it is right now a 256-page Fulcrum Publishing release, edited by Matt Dembicki. I believe Jim Ottaviani is among the contributors; $24.95.

Cardboard: Your big-attention YA Scholastic release for today, a new one by Doug TenNapel, 288 pages about cardboard creatures that come to life and cause trouble for everyone; $12.99 ($24.99 in hardcover).

Bernie Wrightson’s The Muck Monster Artist’s Edition Portfolio (&) Neal Adams’ Thrill Kill Artist’s Edition Portfolio: In which IDW’s Artist’s Edition line of ‘shot-in-color, at-full-size’ original art showcase books finally leaves the whole ‘book’ affectation behind and gathers loose prints of facsimile pages into little packages. The Warren horror magazines are ideal for such a comparatively low-cost effort, and here’s two of their best-known stories, both from 1975, sitting at opposite ends of the horror comics tradition: Bernie Wrightson’s The Muck Monster (7 pages, 14.5″ x 19″), a riff on the Frankenstein story, and Neal Adams’ Thrillkill (8 pages, 12″ x 18″), a Jim Stenstrum-written account of a gunman’s massacre juxtaposing Adams’ images of mayhem with an unseen character’s subsequent reflection on the events via running caption narration. Don’t fret, the book-type Artist’s Editions will be back with showcases for Gil Kane’s The Amazing Spider-Man, Mark Schultz’s Xenozoic Tales, early Mad, and Will Eisner’s The Spirit, which should be up next; $29.99 (each).

Grendel Omnibus Vol. 1: Hunter Rose: And in far more bulky reprint environs, Dark Horse has 600 pages’ worth of Matt Wagner’s signature person-with-a-sharp-thing franchise, including the 1985 Devil by the Deed serial, the 2007-08 Behold the Devil miniseries, and a pair of large anthology projects, 1998-99′s Black, White, and Red (Duncan Fegredo, Guy Davis, Tim Sale, Mike Allred, Ho Che Anderson, Paul Chadwick, Bernie Mireault, Teddy Kristiansen, David Mack, others) and 2002′s Red, White, and Black (Jill Thompson, Farel Dalrymple, Cliff Chiang, Stan Sakai, Darick Robertson, Andi Watson, Jim Mahfood, Ashley Wood, Michael Zulli, others). No idea if any of the really early stuff will be included, a la the 2007 Grendel Archives hardcover. Samples; $24.99.

RASL Vol. 4 (of 4): The Lost Journals of Nikola Tesla: Not a long wait for the trade with Jeff Smith’s sci-fi serial, given that its concluding issue dropped last week. This is the 9″ x 12″ line of oversized softcovers (as opposed to the 6.5″ x 9″ line of fatter digest softcovers, the second volume of which should be imminent), here adding a bonus section to increase the final page count to 160. True to its ‘regional drive-in movie’ feel, RASL concluded with much grapplin’ on high cliffs and two separate summaries of the plot/explanations for what was going on, underscoring both the rather larky nature of the fast-moving story, and (by implication) the sheer extent of time it requires an artist to draw and publish even such a fleet lil’ action scenario, divorced from the studio assistants and grounded serialization forums a similar manga might benefit from; $19.95.

Scott Pilgrim Color Edition Vol. 1 (of 6): Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life: Of course, Smith’s Bone remains a better-known work, in no small part due to its massively successful re-serialization as a line of colorized graphic novels. Here we see Oni attempt the same with Bryan Lee O’Malley’s 2004-10 series, possibly among the defining pop comics of that decade. The colors are by Nathan Fairbairn, and the the format is 6″ x 9″ and hardcover. Big preview; $24.99.

The Creep #0: Also a collection, also different, being yet another comic book-format compilation of stuff from Dark Horse Presents, concerning a noir dude created by B.P.R.D. co-writer John Arcudi and Green River Killer artist Jonathan Case; it’s gonna be its own series now. Preview; $2.99.

It Girl! & the Atomics #1: Not a collection, but a new Image spin-off of Mike Allred’s Silver Age throwback series — itself an offshoot of his Madman project — bringing what looks to be a somewhat more contemporary take on the stuff, via writer Jamie S. Rich and artist Mike Norton. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a bunch of slightly older creator-owned titles flocking to the Image line in a refurbished state, given the publisher’s rapidly heightening profile. Preview; $2.99.

Sláine: Treasures of Britain: A 128-page Rebellion collection of Pat Mills-written 2000 AD barbarian comics, this time culled from a mid-’90s period where the series was still searching for a visual approximation of the old, super-popular Simon Bisley painted aesthetic, before settling on the heavy digital photo-play of Clint Langley in the 21st century. Specifically, the artists are Dermot Power and Stephen Tappin, and the scenario concerns demons and magic items and stuff; $24.99.

Slam Dunk 23 (of 31): Once again the manga I’d be most interested in this week, sporting life from Takehiko Inoue. Viz also has vol. 13 of Bakuman, which the Journal’s Chris Mautner has been describing to me as a continuing tirade against the very notion of comics as art, or really anything beyond a mechanism through which to better one’s life through mass appeal and financial reward; $9.99.

Steve Canyon Vol. 2: 1949 1950: Golden Age of Reprints; IDW; Milton Caniff; all-color Sundays; 336 pages; etc.; $49.99.

We Go Pogo: Walt Kelly, Politics, and American Satire: Finally, your book-on-comics for the week, a 272-page Kerry D. Soper study from the University Press of Mississippi, examining various aspects of the comics and animation veteran’s career; $25.00 ($65.00 in hardcover).

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19 Responses to THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (8/8/12 – You cause me such angst, kaiju.)

  1. My favorite chapter of Bakuman is the one very early on about how women just don’t understand dreams, they don’t, they’re the worst… but one day… maybe you can marry one…

    I got into Slam Dunk back in May, finally, and tore through about 13 volumes before I had to take a break. This week, I’m picking up another two (14 & 15), in addition to some canceled manga, mainly Hirohiko Araki’s Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.

    Can’t wait for that Godzilla. I haven’t bought floppies in weeks, but I may break my hot streak.

    • Joe McCulloch says:

      Oh god, the gender politics in Bakuman were such on the nose the-only-good-woman’s-a-pure-demure-thing-you-don’t-touch-or-talk-to-a-lot fandom nerd guy stuff I was certain it was a pisstake, but… maybe not? I didn’t hang around long enough to get my bearings…

      • From the way the ending shakes out, they REALLY hate the “fat nerd behind his computer who’s angry the celebrity has a boyfriend” types. Which is not to say that Takagi and Kaya’s relationship is anything but an awful sexist mess, with the guy being talented and successful and the girl being kind of a leech who’s always cleaning the men’s workspace. But from the treatment of Aoki and Iwase, the two main female creators, I can’t tell if this particular invective is limited to people who aren’t actually creative (Takagi seems to like Kaya better before she has him write her novel for her, for example) or if I’m just overreaching in a redemptive reading. Based on Death Note, I’d say their gender politics are horrible male chauvinism, but Bakuman at least contains some parts against that argument. Not a lot, but some.

        I’d definitely say that it being a reaction to the notion of comics as art is a shallow reading, though, and this notion is even addressed in the comic itself (chapter 90 in volume 11). If anything, it’s interesting to see people trying to be creative within the confines of what young Japanese boys will read and spend money on. They are writing for an audience, whether they like it or not. Akito, the co-protagonist and artist, comes down on the side that true art is possible, but that they are not yet there as an industry, and thus need to work harder. Time and time again the artists get angry at the system, and continually argue for its reform. The protagonists admit time and time again that they aren’t geniuses and that things don’t come easily to them. Setting up Eji, the stand in for One Piece author Oda Eiichiro and signifier of the terribly talented artist who seems to shuck off masterpieces without any effort, as their main antagonist could be seen as favoring the deliberate side over the purely creative, but all three of them remain close friends throughout, and their rivalry is a friendly one designed to spur greater productivity and higher quality manga out of one another.

        It’s got some troublesome aspects, no doubt, and the gender politics are fucked, but it was worth reading, I felt. The moral of “We need more people working harder to make better comics” is something I think we could all agree on.

  2. Tony says:

    When you say “old West gunfighter series Bouncer”, you mean “old series” or “series about the old West”, because if it’s the former, I’ll let you know that the series has jumped ship after 7 Humanoids albums and a brand new 8th and 9th volumes are about to be published by Glenat:

    http://www.glenatbd.com/recherche/?q=bouncer

    In fact, after decades as the standard-bearer of Humanoids, Jodorowsky has left the building and his 5 current series (Bouncer + other 4 brand-new ones: Showman Killer, Ogregod, Sang Royal and Le Pape Terrible) are published by competitors Glenat and Delcourt.

    I think it’s paradoxical that what’s probably the financially weakest of the French mainstream publishers (after the crisis they had about 4 years ago that almost did away with them for good) is the only one who had managed, after fighting insistently tooth and nail for over a decade though, to establish a viable presence in the English-language market which has stabilized into a steady 2 books a month schedule.

    The mind boggles at what real French giants like Dargaud-Lombard, Dupuis, Glenat, Casterman, Delcourt, etc. could do in the USA if they had applied their efforts to the task as insistently and stubbornly as Humanoids (which is a dwarf compared to all of them giants).

    Another paradox is that you and your pal Stone did a monumental “Desastre Hurlant” blog-a-thon after one of Humanoids’s previous crash and burns. I mean, what is about abject failure that provokes such a lengthy homage while moderate success only leads to you religiously spotlighting pretty much every new release in this section (thumbs up for that), but not much more. Have you thought about some sort of “Triumphant hurlant” revisitation? Or are you talking at length about current Humanoids in those podcasts you make? Because I don’t have time to listen to those.

    Also, since you interviewed Corben recently, have you and/or TCJ considered trying to interview some Humanoids representative about the Moebius situation?

    http://www.tcj.com/jean-moebius-giraud-1938-2012/#comment-38548

    They’re rather active on their Facebook page…
    http://www.facebook.com/humanoidsinc

    I’m just a selfish fan who drools at the thought that we could have a 12″ x 16″ presentation, like this week’s spotlight book, of “THE AIRTIGHT GARAGE”
    http://www.humano.com/album/35823
    as well as many other Moebius goodies if it wasn’t for that odious legal stand-off, and I’m all for anything that could raise awareness of the situation and make noise that the involved parts could hear.

    • Joe McCulloch says:

      Oh, I meant old-timey setting; you’re correct that the Bouncer series is still ongoing. Makes me wonder what Jodorowsky’s plans are for Final Incal… he had a Metabarons prequel going that seems to have totally dropped out of view. It is ironic that this move will mark the last of Jodorowsky’s newer work we’ll probably see in English, barring some change (or the modest intervention of Heavy Metal; it’s a bit like when Bilal moved his catalog to Casterman in the midst of the DC/Humanoids deal… but then, it could be that these larger publishers don’t consider the English-language market big enough to warrant the attention they spend making the money they’re used to domestically. It’s not just France either; Tom Spurgeon did a reader participation thing last weekend on mangaka that could have a bigger audience, and I was amused to see names like Riyoko Ikeda, whom I know publishers have pursued, but they can’t offer the money the licensor wants…

      The whole Humanoids thing we did before… part of the impetus behind that was there were defined contours to how much stuff was ultimately released; it was a closed series, which let us approach it in a methodical manner. Plus, we found out we already owned most of it, and the rest could be found second-hand at very low prices. Truthfully, I could be writing more about this stuff today; already, some of the lower-profile releases seem to have become obscure, though I’ve heard smatterings of appreciation for The Hounds of Hell and Koma in different places.

      I barely have time to listen to the podcast I’m on… we only talked about The Singles Theory on there…

      • Tony says:

        I didn’t think Jodorowsky’s departure would affect those 2 current books in the Incal/Metabarons universe, but now that you mention it…

        Final Incal is only one volume shy of completion and once Ladroon finishes it and the trilogy is complete, Humanoids USA would release it in the same format than Incal and Before the Incal, a superdeluxe slipcase containing the 3 albums of FINAL INCAL plus the 2 albums of AFTER THE INCAL into one single volume.

        About the Metabarons prequel, CASTAKA, here’s Das Pastoras vandalizing my copy of the first album a couple of years ago:
        http://o9o9o9.wordpress.com/2010/05/09/das-pastoras-firmando-en-la-libreria-paz-de-pontevedra/
        He said back then that after his brief stint with Marvel, it was back to work on the second volume of the book for Humanoids…

        I think your comparison of Jodorowsky’s situation with what happened with Bilal is right on the money, sadly. You raise a valid point about the French giants’ blassé attitude towards the US market, but I’d bet that if any of them are even aware of Humanoids’s modest success, they’re looking at it with envy, at the very least.

      • mateor says:

        I don’t know much about much, but from what I can tell, those French Publishers probably think that the Humanoids’ US experience is exactly why they don’t bother.

        It seems to me like they are content to wait until someone offer them a large amount of easy money.

      • Pedro Bouça says:

        Dargaud, the biggest and richest french publisher, tried to publish in the US on the seventies. It was an abject failure and pretty much ruined the career of star writer/editor Michel Greg.

        And the amount of money Humanoids lost on its US ventures may be one of the reasons why the publisher is so fragile nowadays…

        Oh, and Soleil tried a partnership with Marvel that failed so miserably that not even Jog or Tucker cared to mention its books!

        On the other hand, the british Cinebook seems to be quite sucessful publishing classic french-belgian comics, so everything is possible.

    • Tucker Stone says:

      “Abject failure” became a topic of discussion during Desastre Hurlant, but I don’t remember it being an impetus whatsoever for the actual conversation. We wanted to talk about those books, together, and we had the time to. Using the limitations of what DC published gave it a definite end, that’s all.

  3. Joe McCulloch says:

    SPEAK OF THE DEVIL: Amazon is currently soliciting an English-language release this November for Jodorowsky’s 1992 La Passion de Diosamante (now titled simply Diosamante), drawn by the late, great Jean-Claude Gal. Apparently this edition will not include the 2002 sequel drawn by Igor Kordey. Priced at $24.95, so it’s not one of limited editions…

    (Heavy Metal‘s 1978 edition of Gal’s & Jean-Pierre Dionnet’s Conquering Armies is among the quintessential forgot-that-existed Eurocomics-in-English surprises, which you should definitely jump on if you get the chance… Pat Mills considered the series “a key source of inspiration” for the initial look of Sláine, just to tie it all back into this week’s column…)

  4. Hi,

    I’m Alex Donoghue, director at Humanoids.

    For the record, Jodorowsky has not “left the building.” He has worked for various publishers for decades (“Face de Lune” with Boucq in the 90s at Casterman, “Aliot” with de la Fuente in the 90s at Dargaud, “Borgia” with Manara in 2004 at Albin Michel, are some examples). Les Humanoïdes Associés, and thus Humanoids, still have various projects with him, including as mentioned in your posts “Final Incal” with Ladronn (the third installment being under production as we speak), “Castaka” with Das Pastoras (the second installment currently being under production as well) and a brand new cycle of The Metabarons.

    It is also incorrect to say that the restructuring Les Humanoïdes Associés went through in 2008 “almost did away with them for good.”

    As all its competitors without any exceptions, Les Humanoïdes Associés back then was publishing way too many titles per year (150 new titles were planed for 2008…). They, however, were the first to recognize that ultimately it would negatively impact the quality of the books, kill the market and all of them with it. It took great efforts, money and resources, to reinvent the business model. Unfortunately, as of today they are the only publisher to have done this to that scale and the French market is now suffering hard, if not dying. But this is no longer an issue for Les Humanoïdes Associés since they have been, for a few years now, primarily focused on the international market.

    While it is true to say that Les Humanoïdes Associés in France is a dwarf compared for example to Media Participations (Dargaud, Dupuis, Lombard, etc.), it is, however, the most well-known and translated European graphic novel publisher in the world. When you see Humanoids presence in the US as a paradox, do you know that the top selling European graphic novels in Japan, for example, are titles from our catalogs (yes, Jodorowsky, but also de Crecy for example).

    We strongly believe that this happens because we develop books in a totally different way than the other publishers in Europe (with a careful development process which can take years if the book happens to need it). In addition, it seems that our titles are more appealing to an international audience than any other European catalog.

    The teams in both France and in the US, along with the authors involved, all have the feeling of being part of something truly unique, more in the spirit of a boutique than an industrial activity.

    And that is why we love it when you talk about our books and take the comments you make very seriously.

    In the hope of continuing to publish more of what everyone wants to read.

    Best Regards.

    • Tony says:

      Thank you very much for chiming in, Mr. Donoghue.

      I’m really shocked to read your affirmation that “the French market is now suffering hard, if not dying.”

      What is totally true is that “Les Humanoides” is the only one who thinks so, because every other publisher is flooding the market month after month.

      For instance, Media Participations (Dargaud, Dupuis, Lombard) has put up a 440 page catalog with all their books for the next month of October alone, with dozens upon dozens of new releases:

      http://es.calameo.com/read/001521635e06e037ef427

      Again, that avalanche is for one month alone. If what you say about “dying” is true and the industry (minus Humanoides) keeps on this path, a brutal bust has to happen sooner or later.

      P.S.:
      Nothing to say about the infamous MOEBIUS conundrum?

      • No particular comment on Moebius except that considering the enormous amount of e-mails we have received, Humanoids has obtained from Les Humanoïdes Associés 100 copies out of the 300 copies that will be produced of an extra deluxe edition of the Airtight Garage (12 x 16 inches, in a custom made box) – in its original French language – and that will be shipped directly to the US and will be made available for North American fans. This exciting news came to us very recently and it seems that the only solution we have will be to sell these copies directly from our website. More information to be released soon.

  5. Miko says:

    Inspecteur Canardo is another one of those bafflingly English-unavailable comics like Valerian & Laureline – in print in dozens of languages on four or five continents, fairly popular in almost as many countries, but nonexistent in the English-speaking world.

    • Joe McCulloch says:

      Cinebook has released three recent volumes of Valérian, though they’re a small UK publisher and their reach into North American comics stores is limited…

      • Kim Thompson says:

        More precisely and less ambiguously, Cinebook has recently released three volumes, since it’s some fairly old material. (The iBooks collection that’s now out of print collected considerably ater material.) All prime stuff.

        It’s true that Cinebook doesn’t have enormous direct market penetration, although that may be more due to comics shop resistance than to any failure on their end (I think Diamond carries all the books). But the three are available at Amazon (for less than ten bucks each new thanks to Cinebook’s aggressively low prices), and a fourth is scheduled for later this year.

        Maybe the Besson movie will help. (Yep, he’s doing VALERIAN next.)

        Most discussions about VALERIAN boil down to arguing about whether it’s the greatest SF comic series of all time, or merely in the top three or five.

  6. Tony says:

    I have the theory that Cinebook could be defined as “vanity publishing.”

    It’s founded and owned by a wealthy French politician who got rich in the electronics industry. A sort of French Mark “Crossgen” Alessi. He quit his bread-and -butter business once he got loaded and then he devoted himself to his “hobbies”: French comics and right-wing politics.

    Therefore, I think any reports on Cinebook’s successes or policies should be taken with a grain of salt, as with any deep-pocket-backed venture.

    • Daniel K says:

      I saw a rack of Cinebook comics in Edinburgh airport two years ago. I was amazed as I hadn’t even known that the publisher existed prior to that point; good luck finding any other graphic novels in that airport meanwhile. Perhaps they’re doing OK.

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