THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (6/29/11 – Within Reach)

In the interests of keeping at least one eye improbably half-focused on new comics publishing outside of North America -- and because a certain Jean Giraud is seeing another new edition of one of his big comics works released around these parts this week, albeit a second, stripped-down printing of something that sold out way quicker than anybody seemed to anticipate -- I'd like to call some attention to an upcoming August release from Les Humanoïdes Associés - a spanking new b&w collected edition of one of the great '70s comics, Le Garage hermétique, aka: The Airtight Garage. This is not, to my knowledge, a completely new printing; last December, Les Humanoïdes released a mammoth 420-page brick titled Mœbius Œuvres, Les Années Métal Hurlant, collecting the great cartoonist's contributions to the magazine transmuted to North America as Heavy Metal, and the new Le Garage hermétique edition appears to be part of a line of books culled from that very fat omnibus.

The Airtight Garage requires no introduction from me, although it's always good to post some random pages, just to get a reliably new impression of 'what did Moebius anticipate?' Here, for example, is a decorative splash framed in a manner not dissimilar to some works by later North American cartoonists like Dan Day and J.H. Williams III. The colors are what most English-dominant readers will be familiar with, applied by a team under Moebius' supervision at the time of his works' wide-scale release in English by Epic Comics; I'll probably embarrass myself right here, but I actually don't think the b&w iteration of the work (so, as seen in Heavy Metal, with or without references to a certain J-- C--) has ever enjoyed an English-language collected edition. That's too bad, although at least now a print record of the non-colored artwork can soon be had without a great amount of effort.

Which isn't to say Moebius has left it all in the past:

This was released last April in Europe; it's one of the artist's self-published ventures, an increasingly wide line of goodies including the six-volume Inside Moebius sketchbook comics series and Le Chasseur déprime, a continuation of the improvisatory nature of the original Le Garage hermétique project. Major (or Le Major) is a limited edition, 1000-copy, 312-page collection of drawings made between 1997 and 2009, with guests such as Lorenzo Mattotti. The price (EUR 50,00) is at a premium, but I think it's worth highlighting as an example of how the freewheeling nature of Moebius' most revered works can be preserved in contemporary publishing, if not through a widely-available magazine than via a more direct distribution of personal drawing. Matthias Wivel wrote a nice piece on this aspect of continuum in Moebus' work in issue #300 of the Journal's print edition, and I'd recommend you check that out if you haven't.


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.



Forgotten Fantasy: Sunday Comics 1900-1915: As mentioned in the comments last week, copies of this latest 16" x 21" Sunday Press Books extravaganza have been creeping out for a few days already, but Wednesday appears to be the date to count on for comics stores. It's an anthology of short runs and striking samples, the main feature being the complete American comic strip works of caricaturist, Cubist/Expressionist and Bauhaus instructor Lyonel Feininger (so: The Kin-der-Kids and Wee Willie Winkie’s World), which admittedly have been in and out of print since 1994 as collected into The Comic Strip Art of Lyonel Feininger, although there's absolutely no doubt in my mind it'll all look even better at the full original newspaper dimensions.

(And note also the imminent or possibly very recent release of the new Yale University Press survey of Feininger's life in art, Lyonel Feininger: At the Edge of the World, edited by Barbara Haskell, although it is not being released to comics stores via Diamond this week.)

Among the secondary features -- if indeed "secondary" is a fair term -- I'm most interested in seeing the full run of Charles Forbell's Naughty Pete, better known to readers who encountered the monumental The Smithsonian Book of Newspaper Comics after the mid-1990s as 'what the fuck, this is from 1913?' Fittingly, Chris Ware pens an appreciation, among additional (non-Forbell-centric) essays by Thierry Smolderen, Art Spiegelman and others. Editor Peter Maresca has also been enthusing over the complete 14-episode, 1908 voyage of The Explorigator, a fanciful sci-fi strip created by the New York World's art editor, Harry Grant Dart, to rival the works of Winsor McCay over at the Herald. Speaking of which, there's also a smattering of color installments of McCay's Dream of the Rarebit Fiend and Tales of the Jungle Imps (written by George Randolph Chester), plus stuff from George McManus (the entirety of Nibsy the Newsboy, a comedic McCay riff done early in the artist's career), Raggedy Ann creator John Gruelle, Gustave Verbeek, the awesome Herbert Crowley, and John R. Neill of many a Land of Oz illustration. Probably terrific, save up your dimes. Samples/notes; $125.00.

Lucille: Being the North American publishing debut of Ludovic Debeurme, a very much acclaimed French artist who picked up both Essentials commendation and the René Goscinny award for writing at Angoulême for this work alone. It's a 544-page trip across Europe with a pair of troubled youths, rendered in a whispery style heavy on blank space. Top Shelf is the publisher. Bart Beaty reviewed it here ("...it feels like the first draft of a brilliant book."), and a preview is here; $29.95.



The Incal: Classic Collection: So yes, in case you missed the oversized slipcased edition Humanoids released a few months back, here's a slightly smaller (7.5" x 10.25"), non-slipcased 308-page hardcover edition, once again presenting the entirety of the Moebius/Jodorowsky saga in its original 1980s colors, now with a new introduction by tip-top Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis; $44.95.

I Am Legion: Also in Humanoids re-releases - a less-expensive 184-page softcover edition of a WWII-era supernatural adventure from writer Fabien Nury and artist John Cassaday. Samples; $19.95.

Farm 54: I don't know very much about this new Fanfare/Ponent Mon release, save that it appears to be a comics adaptation by artist Gilad Seliktar of semi-autobiographical Hebrew prose vignettes by his sister Galit, here forming a trio of stories tracking a young woman's life in rural Israel across the 1980s. Worth a look. Preview; $25.00.

Creepy Archives Vol. 10: The usual from Dark Horse, this time covering issues #46-50, which marks the beginning of Bill DuBay's initial tenure as editor of the Warren magazines and thus their gradual expansion into a more serial-oriented, diversified line of comics. Art by Richard Corben, Esteban Maroto, Tom Sutton, Reed Crandall, Rafael Auraleón, Felix Mas and others. Doug Moench writes many scripts, and Jim Stenstrum, one of the period's more interesting Warren-exclusive writers, makes his debut. Samples; $49.99.

Creepy Comics #6: Dark Horse is also still running a 48-page b&w comic book-format revival of the brand, in the unrelated short story mode of the magazines' earliest incarnation. This issue is notable for art by the very good Nathan Fox, as well as a story by Joe R. Lansdale. I think there might be a Neal Adams reprint in here too, if the preview materials are correct. Samples; $4.99.

Scalped #50: A milestone issue for writer Jason Aaron's well-regarded Vertigo crime comic, featuring a whole bunch of special guest artists. I'd especially keep an eye out for a now-rare North American comics appearance by Igor Kordey, though Dean Haspiel, Jill Thompson, Timothy Truman and Denys Cowan are also promised. R. M. Guéra is the primary artist; $2.99.

Flashpoint: Project Superman #1 (of 3): Another of the many, many spin-off projects for DC's Flashpoint crossover thingy, worth highlighting for the participation of Top Ten artist Gene Ha. Preview; $2.99.

The Incredible Hulk & the Human Torch: From the Marvel Vault #1: Finally, an odd sight indeed - the first-ever publication of a mid-'80s Marvel Team-Up inventory piece drawn by no less than Steve Ditko, if (presumably) in his rather basic pencil style used in anticipation of an outside inker. The inks/finishes are actually new here, from artist Karl Kesel, who's also reconfigured some dialogue (Jack C. Harris is credited with the original story). Preview; $2.99.