THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (4/16/14 – Eclipse Watch Companion)


Not an essay this week so much as a heads-up: the University of Washington Press has just released two new editions of artist Miné Okubo's 1946 "illustrated memoir" Citizen 13660. It is not, however, simply a text with illustrations; instead, the book is constructed around drawings the California-born Okubo created in the Tanforan Assembly Center and the Topaz Relocation Center during the Japanese American internment of WWII, effectively annotating her drawings with information and reminisce about daily life under the burdens of the time. As you can see above, some texts are quite short, though if you stare through the page you can discern how long some of the other texts can get. Okubo was working on Federal Arts Program mural commissioned by the U.S. Army at the time of relocation, and her drawing exhibits a great confidence of line (to say nothing of her unflappable self-portraiture, reminiscent of the cool stares associated with French cartoonists Jacques Tardi and Chantal Montellier).

It looks like at least one of the new editions will serve to place emphasis firmly on the drawing. Presented as an 8" x 8" hardcover, the Special Edition of Citizen 13660 looks to present the art at a much larger size, leaving not nearly so much white space on the page, and re-formatting the text to a smaller, more visually supplementary role. There will be a new softcover too, which looks to be pretty much the same as the 1983 paperback I own, except with a different cover design and a new introduction by Christine Hong (also in the hardcover). Either way, it's a work of likely interest to readers of this column, and I recommend it to you!


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.




Operation Margarine: Being the newest release from Katie Skelly, a compilation/completion of her minicomics series. Motorbikes, nuns and friends from differing social strata. (Barthes too, says the author.) Looks pretty fun, and I like Skelly's drawings. Preview; $12.95.


Bohemians: A Graphic History: A new anthology of biographical comics edited by David Berger & Paul Buhle and published by Verso. It's mentioned here for an interesting lineup of contributing artists, including underground and alternative era names like Sharon Rudahl, Peter Kuper, David Lasky, Milton Knight, the late Spain Rodriguez, and more. Note that the Verso site links to a digital edition which purportedly has more stuff than the printed book; $16.95.



Genesis: A new one-off Image project from writer Nathan Edmondson (of the action series Who Is Jake Ellis?) and artist Alison Sampson (colored by Jason Wordie), concerning an ambitious man ("Adam," heh) who, frustrated in his attempts to affect lasting change in the world, attempts suicide, only to discover that he has the ability to manifest all of his thoughts and desires in reality, making and re-making the world along personal and exclusionary lines. To be honest, the plotty, horror-ish hooks emphasized in the solicitation dissolve very quickly, leaving a swirl of philosophical (Taoist?) inquiry concerning the process of reality's manufacture, complete with a spirit animal of sorts, an angel/demon/muse/doppelgänger and plenty of out-loud musings among spindly natural and architectural forms. Sampson has a flair for panoramic and encroaching settings that is worth a look. Preview; $6.99.

Gaijin: American Prisoner of War: I should clarify that Miné Okubo's work is also rather deadpan and wry, marshaling an accrual of inconveniences to subtly convey the weight of having one's liberties stripped underneath her fine capture of scenes from the site. This new project by children's book author Matt Faulkner, on the other hand, looks to be tackling the same subject matter, also from a fact-based scenario, with more in the way of deliberate drama, focusing on a half-white kid looking for a place to belong in a country disinclined to see him as a person. Official site; $19.99.

A Bintel Brief: Love and Longing In Old New York: I am totally unfamiliar with the works of cartoonist Liana Finck (a New Yorker contributor, I believe), but there's definite potential in the idea of adapting early 20th century advice columns from The Jewish Daily Forward into comics, and HarperCollins has seen it fit to devote 128 pages to the result; $17.99.

Sunny Vol. 3: Big week for feeling low, manga-wise, as Viz brings another 216 pages of Taiyō Matsumoto's increasingly-acclaimed-in-English slice-of-life series. Anecdotally, I've seen some pretty diverse reactions to this series, ranging from 'this overrode my typical distaste for pretty drawings and melodrama' to 'kinda weak and pander-y.' I say it's no GoGo Monster, but it's got just the kind of high-craft sweep that gets you yelling HOW CAN YOU SPEAK TO YOUR CHILD LIKE THAT, WHAT KIND OF MOTHER ARE YOU??! and then ordering a tea from the counter because it's your turn in line. A hardcover presentation, one book behind the Japanese editions, though vol. 5 is set to drop late next month; $22.99.

Wolfsmund Vol. 4: I dunno if Wolfsmund is gonna win any prizes at Slate; it's got that special blend of unnervingly sprightly sex appeal and icewater-veined sadism that marks fantasy manga as a breed apart in terms of comic story potentials. But for those who wish to encourage Mitsuhisa Kuji on her mission, here is Vertical with 260 pages, now positioned one volume behind the Japanese releases. Unlike Sunny, though, the next J-language book release from this artist will be Gaikou Kakkaku, compiling an earlier armored mayhem project; $12.95.

Dorohedoro Vol. 12: In contrast to all that, Viz is nowhere near as far along as Q Hayashida has taken this more punk-ish, grotty fantasy - she's up to vol. 18, though the quarterly clip of these English translations will eventually jostle them to the front; $12.99.

Ariol Vol. 4: A Beautiful Cow: Pretty soon we're going to be getting an English edition of Emmanuel Guibert's 2012 American Depression narrative How the World Was: A California Childhood, which should further his reputation for non-fiction character studies of males in times of strife (see also: The Photographer, Alan's War), but it's worth noting that NBM/Papercutz is now approaching 500 translated pages of a series a bit closer in tone to the Joann Sfar collaborations which introduced him around here: this colorful, Marc Boutavant-drawn account of a lil' cartoon donkey's growing-up adventures. It's 8" x 5 1/2" in softcover; $12.99.

Ro-Busters: The Disaster Squad of Distinction: This is another Simon & Schuster homebrew edition of 2000 AD stuff Rebellion has collected in other formats for the U.K. market, now specially calibrated for North Americans. It's only 112 pages, so it's definitely *not* a U.S. edition of 2010's The Complete Ro-Busters, which compiled the (mostly) late-'70s robot comics Pat Mills wrote for Starlord and 2000 AD, although I presume some of the Dave Gibbons and Kevin O'Neill-drawn stories will be in here, as (I'm guessing from the cover credits) will be at least one of Alan Moore's 2000 AD Annual shorts with the characters, i.e. a 1981 piece drawn by Steve Dillon. Lots of old-school clattering and smashing can be expected; $19.99.

Spider-Man: Newspaper Strips Vol. 1: This looks to be a re-do of a compilation Marvel initially released as a hardcover in 2009; I don't own a copy, but apparently -- from reading around online -- the reproduction quality wasn't great, the Sundays were in b&w, and you had to turn the book sideways to read anything. Promotional images for this 344-page softcover, however, suggest a landscape-format presentation, at least, and the solicitation text claims the Sundays will now be in color. Going from the strip's beginnings in Jan. '77 to Jan. '79, much of the book should represent a collaboration between Stan Lee & John Romita, Sr. on the character; $39.99.

Frankenstein: Alive, Alive! #3: Speaking of non-comic book Marvel projects, I do believe they were the first to publish a formal edition of Frankenstein with Bernie Wrightson's laborious illustrations attached, after more than half a decade's labor. This original, full-comics IDW project hasn't taken quite so long, but it does appear to be on the "done when it's done" schedule, and what's done now is another issue of b&w intensity, scripted by Steve Niles; $3.99.

Adventure Time: Sugary Shorts Vol. 1: Boom!'s popular line of Adventure Time tie-in comics has produced a good deal of short-form backup material, and this is a compilation of some of that, with art by Michael DeForge, Aaron Renier, Paul Pope, Lucy Knisley, Shannon Wheeler, Jim Rugg and others. Samples; $19.99.

Jim Curious: A Voyage to the Heart of the Sea in 3-D Vision: Finally, your maybe-a-comic-or-maybe-not-but-shit-it-made-the-Youth-Selection-at-Angoulême-2013-so-probably of the week, in which Matthias Picard (of the 2011 L'Association release Jeanine) presents 52 pages' worth of a boy's wordless descent into the inky depths, all in exciting stereoscopics. A tall 13" x 9 1/2" hardcover, glasses included, released to North America by Abrams; $19.95.