The Best Comics of 2015 (so far)

I’ve read a huge number of comics this year, and mostly old stuff. But I’m also keeping up with newer comics, and whenever one of them strikes me as particularly interesting, it ends up in this little bookshelf instead of disappearing into the larger bookshelves.

If it’s not a floppy pamphlet. Or too big. So this blog post should really be called “The Most Interesting Comics from January to August 2015 That Aren’t Taller Than 20cm And Are Squarebound”, but that just doesn’t seem like a snappy enough title.

Let’s go!

An Iranian Metamorphosis by Mana Neyestani (Uncivilized Books)

I basically buy everything that Uncivilized publishes, mostly directly from the publisher, but they’ve gotten better distribution lately, so I’ve bought the last few from book stores.

Drawn & Quarterly has a pretty good track record, and Fantagraphics publishes a lot of swell stuff (but some not-essential stuff, too (although sometimes their faith in younger artists pays off, like with Daniel Clowes — I mean… Lloyd Llewellyn…)). But Uncivilized hasn’t published a single dud, I think.

This book is about an Iranian cartoonist who got put into jail for drawing a cartoon. And Iranian jails are as bad as you’d guess. It’s a quite powerful book, but the extended cockroach metaphor starts wearing a bit thin near the end. The trails and tribulations they went through to escape from Iran is really interesting, though.

Truth is Fragmentary by Gabrielle Bell (Uncivilized Books)

I just love Gabrielle Bell’s work. This is another collection of diary and travel stuff, and it’s as interesting as ever. Her stories are fun, but a great part of the appeal of these comics is definitely her drawing style:

The way she spots those blacks, and the way she characterises people distinctly without using caricature is great.

As always, not all of these diary entries are… er… totally true…

Walk Before Skeezix by Frank King (Drawn & Quarterly)

The great re-discovery of the last few years has been Frank King’s Gasoline Alley strip from the ’20s. It’s extremely readable, engaging and sometimes very funny.

This, however, is the earliest bit of the strip (before the baby Skeezix was introduced), and the jokes are mostly about car maintenance. Which is surprisingly fascinating from time to time, but some jokes are repeated too many times, and things don’t really progress much.

It’s an amusing book, but I’ve seen other people suggest that this volume is even better than the later ones, and I think that’s… not accurate.

Drama by Raina Telgemeier (Scholastic)

Comics for kids! Comics aren’t just for adults any more!

Telgemeier rules all sales charts for comics these days, which probably explains why I didn’t check her out earlier. If it sells that many copies, can it be any good?

And the answer is “yes”. It’s witty and cute.

The artwork doesn’t do much for me, though:

It’s pleasant and is easy to read, but it’s not my cup of tea. Even the colours are kind of unpleasant, with muted browns and beige dominating many pages.

But that’s not going to stop me from getting her older work.

Here by Richard McGuire (Pantheon)

In the early 90s (I think) McGuire did a short comic that blew everybody’s mind, and is probably the most influential comic on a per-page basis ever. In this book he expands that short comic into some hundred pages, and it’s glorious.

The idea is that we see the same section and angle on every page throughout the ages.

So we follow the development of this plot of land, and see various micro tales play out over the centuries. Like people stubbing their toes.

It’s a reading experience unlike anything else. And it’s really good.

Love and Rockets New Stories no. 7 by The Hernandez Brothers (Fantagraphics)

Speaking of good, Jaime Hernandez has seemingly had a renaissance the last few years. The Browntown/Love Bunglers stories really brought attention back to what wonderful comics he makes.

There’s nothing as stunning in this volume, but it’s still really, really, really good.

I mean really.

I used to find Beto’s stuff as interesting as Jaime’s, but Beto has made too many comics that haven’t really paid off the last decade. He sometimes seems more interested in thumbing his nose at his stooopid readers than saying anything interesting.

The stories in this volume are fine, though.

I’ve long had plans to re-read all of Love & Rockets, and this time I’m going to do it fer shure. I’ve sorted all the various series, and I have them all, it turns out. (Except the first self-published L&R#1.)

First Year Healthy by Michael DeForge (Drawn & Quarterly)

DeForge is a break-out art comics superstar, or something. His books are usually stomach churning and intense, but something does seem to go awry in this short work. For one, it’s more of a picture book than a comic:

It’s interesting, but not essential.

Which reminds me: You frequently see people express amazement about how many good comics are being published in the US these days. And it’s true: There’s a lot. But I’m also starting to get the impression that the current “new golden age” comics boom is waning. And it started a couple of years ago.

In the, say, five years previous to that, you have an amazing range of young people starting to do really noteworthy books. Books everybody had to rave about. People like Gabrielle Bell, Michael DeForge and Lisa Hanawalt. (And lots more.)

In addition, there was a sense of rediscovery of the past, with reprints of Gasoline Alley being the major one, but also new (and finally perfect) editions of work by Carl Barks, Charles Schulz and Hal Foster.

Older indie comics people also suddenly got a second wind, it seemed, with works like X’ed Out by Charles Burns and Love Bunglers by Jaime Hernandez. It also seemed like major publishing houses were giving away lots of money for a few years, until they discovered that things like Stitches probably wasn’t going to sell no matter how many people they got to review it.

These days? There’s a lot of good stuff being published, as you can see. Some of it’s brilliant. But there doesn’t seem to be any of those big break out works, like we almost got used to, these days.

I dunno. It might just be my perspective from way over here — a lot of stuff is seemingly only available at comics conventions, since distribution for quirkier works is spotty.

Oops. Nattering over. We return to the bookshelf:

Ur by Eric Haven (Adhouse Books)

This slim book is satisfyingly bonkers. It’s absurd and funny.

I mean, how can you not like “Man-Cat”?

The stiff, stilted drawings only helps with creating the creepy, bizarre atmosphere.

Hidden by Mirranda Burton (Black Pepper)

I spent February in Australia, and raided the comics shops there for local produce. I mean products.

Most of them were kinda “eh”, but Burton’s book is quite captivating. It’s about her working as an art instructor for people with ‘intellectual disabilities’.

There are so many ways a book on this subject can go wrong. And this book takes exactly none of those turns. It’s unsentimental, frequently funny and very engaging.

The artwork is very straightforward in a 70s American underground kinda way, and perhaps sometimes has too many talking heads for pages on end, but sometimes takes unexpected turns into whimsy:

Evig lycka by Klas Isaksson (Galago)

I try to raid Stockholm, too, but got to the good shop too late, so I had to go to the superhero store instead. There I found this book, which is pretty original.

Not the story, which is about young Swedes doing young Swede things (and dying), but the artwork.

It’s 450 pages of this kind of stuff.

At first I thought it would be impossible to keep the characters separate, but that turned out to be no problem. After a while, these squares started to look normal.

I was slightly more flippant about the storyline than was warranted. It’s pretty moving. Someone should publish this in English.

Showa 1944-1953 by Shigeru Mizuki (Drawn & Quarterly)

D&Q doesn’t publish many non-good books, but their Japanese stuff seldom fails to disappoint.

Showa is very interesting when dealing with the Japanese atrocities during WWII, but mostly fails when dealing with the personal story of the author. He relentlessly pictures himself as a nose-picking slacker, and it gets really tiring after a while.

Probably not as tiring as being a soldier in the Japanese army, but it’s still not exactly thrilling. His drawing style, which shifts between super-detailed backgrounds (traced from photos?) to the goofy cartoonish characters is also distracting.

The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis (Selfmadehero)

A quite strange science fiction-ish tale about three teenagers on a quest to escape an adult world. Or something.

It’s the kind of world where it rains knives and parents are typically bakelite ovens.

You know.

It’s quite good, although the artwork does nothing for me.

Oglaf Book Two by Doug Bayne and Trudy Cooper (TopatoCo)

Oglaf is serialised on the web, and I read it every week and snicker to myself.

Reading the collections is a different experience. There’s a cumulative effect where everything gets funnier and funnier until you’re gasping for breath.

At least that’s what happens to me.

I cannot recommend Oglaf highly enough. Beautiful art, hilarious jokes, and quite, quite sexy. Get thee unto the store and buy, buy, buy.

Last of the Sandwalkers by Jay Hosler (First Second)

I’ve followed Hosler’s career for a long time now. His thing is basically adventure stories that teach you something about biology. Clan Apis was about bees. Sandwalk Adventures was about a mite that lived in Charles Darwin’s eyelashes, and that taught us about, er, mites, eyelashes and evolution.

You’d think this kind of thing would get boring, but they’re genuinely funny and exciting.

So when I read that Hosler finally had a new, hefty book out I was excited.

Then I noticed that it was to be published by First Second. Uh-oh. Would his charming, but low-drama, kind of storytelling survive the First Second editorial grinder?

Yes, but mostly no. Instead of teaching us a lot about insects, this is all one big adventure with drama. Not quite “So Much Drama”, but way more than usual. With hand-wringing villain and everything.

So it’s not Hosler’s best work. It’s probably his worst work. It’s still worth reading, I think. And I have no idea whether it was the dreaded First Second Miasma that made this book almost fail, or whether it was all Hosler’s doing, but it’s pretty typical. First Second is where good artists go to publish their not-best stuff.

Me Likes You Very Much by Lauren Barnett (Hic and Hoc)

Hic and Hoc is an exciting new publisher that seems to publish mostly younger artists? Their output is a bit hit and miss, but the hits are pretty good.

Like this one. It’s a book of very silly jokes, mostly involving animals and produce saying incongruous stuff.

There’s definitely a cumulative effect. I remember laughing quite a bit when reading this book, but looking at just single pages now while typing this, I’m just tittering a bit.

Den usynlige lesbiske by Océanorosemarie and Sandrine Revel (Cobolt)

This is a Danish translation of “La lesbienne invisible”. The storyline is fine — it’s amusing, has engaging characters and moves nicely along.

But the main attraction here is the artwork:

Me likes this very much.

Palookaville 22 by Seth (Drawn & Quarterly)

Geez, there’s a lot of D&Q on this shelf…

Anyway, Palookaville is one of the last remaining stalwarts of “periodical” American indie comics, although it’s now morphed into book size.

That means that Seth has a lot more pages to fill, and the last issue seemed quite filler-ish. I mean, the stuff was nice to look at, but…

In this issue, though, in addition to continuing the Clyde Fans serial, we get a hefty chunk of autobio comics, where Seth ruminates on his childhood and his nostalgia.

It’s good. It’s really good. It’s very nice to see Seth doing this sort of work again.

Borb by Jason Little (Uncivilized Books)

This book was a great surprise. It’s about a homeless man and his horrible, horrible travails.

They’re also horribly funny, but you kinda feel bad about laughing at his misfortunes. Which I think is part of what Little tries to do here: To make us feel sympathy for this poor guy who bumbles his way through smoking crack and losing his teeth.

Moose by Max de Radigues (Conundrum)

This book has gotten a bit of attention around the interwebs, and it’s what people would call “powerful” while looking around for other words to describe it.

It’s the story of a kid that’s bullied beyond endurance, and it doesn’t go where you’d think a story of this kind would go.

It’s good. The artwork is kinda James Kochalka-ish, which isn’t a bad thing.

What Did You Eat Yesterday? vol 8 by Fumi Yoshinaga (Vertical)

This series is about two boyfriends who live together. And one of them cooks. It’s mostly about cooking, although there is usually a plot of some kind also going on.

The most dramatic moments in the series is when Kakei finds really cheap, say, radishes in the store, but he has to buy too many of them to eat before they go bad, so what to do!??

It sounds like an absurd premise, but it works. It’s pretty funny and engaging in a soap opera like way, but with the drama and stakes turned way, way down. It’s soothing.

In the beginning I mostly skipped reading the pages and pages and pages of food preparation, but now I like even those.

I can see this series continuing forever, and I hope it does. I’ll be buying them all.

The Spectators by Victor Hussenot (Nobrow)

This is a meditation on, er, life or something.

I read this book just a few weeks ago, and I can’t really remember anything about it.

But look at the artwork!

That’s tasty, man.

Sea Urchin by Laura Knetzger (Retrofit/Big Planet)

I’ve been on all the Retrofit kickstarters, I think, and the comics haven’t all uniformly been great. Ahem. But quite a few are good, like this book by Knetzger.

It’s about depression and stuff, and is pretty interesting.

The artwork is a quirky mix of styles. Thumbs up.

Omrokering by Tim Ng Tvedt (Jippi forlag)

Hey, a pamphlet snuck into the bookcase! But it’s a doozy.

I don’t think anybody gets a prize for guessing that Tvedt has seen comics by Chris Ware and Richard McGuire (and perhaps Joost Swarte), but what he does here is just brilliant.

There isn’t a story line as such, but it reads so well. There’s a rhythm flowing through the work that’s amazing. I’ve never read anything that had such a metronome going. The words are repetitive and mesmerising, driving you through it at a high clip.

I don’t know how well it’d translate, but somebody should give it a try, I think.

Well, that’s it. The bookshelf is now empty, evening is approaching and my legs hurt from sitting on the floor all day this sunny Sunday.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this meander through some recent comics.

BD80: Annie Goetzinger & Pierre Christin

La Demoiselle de la Legion d’Honneur

La Demoiselle de la Legion d’Honneur by Annie Goetzinger & Pierre Christin (1980)

Annie Goetzinger and Pierre Christin have created a long list of works together, and this is the first one, published in 1980.

It’s the story of a woman who drifts aimlessly through her life, controlled by various men (and their families).

It’s not a very action packed adventure, although a lot happens. It’s told from the point of view of the titular La Demoiselle remembering her life, and large parts of it fills her with such ennui that she can’t really be bothered giving much details. She goes to Africa with her husband, witnesses a small war, takes a lover, goes to Cuba, gets involved with a revolutionary, goes to Argentina, to Texas, to Los Angeles and becomes a minor movie actor, and so on and so on.

It shouldn’t work, but it does. It’s a pretty engrossing work. And I like Goetzinger’s art. It has a stiff fashion art vibe to it, which makes the cold and stand-off-ish (although sometimes harrowing) tale even more distanced.

Her anatomy sometimes looks pretty odd and distracting, though:

Goetzinger was born in 1951 and studied fashion drawing in the late 60s. Her first comic was publised in 1976. Christin was born in 1938 and is perhaps best known for his work with Jean-Claude Mézières on the science fiction series Valérian, agent spatio-temporel starting in 1967.

La Voyageuse de Petite Ceinture

La Voyageuse de Petite Ceinture by Annie Goetzinger & Pierre Christin (1985)

Five years later and Goetzinger’s art has changed considerably. It’s less stiff, the figures are more assured and the colouring seems more integrated into the art.

Naima wanders around Paris on an abandoned ring railway and daydreams. The tension between “reality” and “daydream” is interesting and affecting:

Halfway through the album I started wondering what it was all about. After reaching the end, I’m still not sure. But it’s really good.

Charlotte et Nancy

Charlotte et Nancy by Annie Goetzinger & Pierre Christin (1987)

The story of two women working in the fashion industry and ending up with swapped personalities. Or something.

As with Petite Ceinture, it’s not easy to say what it’s really about. Except fashion, which is Goetzinger’s artwork is very well suited for. I’m not sure whether the fashion Charlotte/Nancy dreams up is intentionally funny or is supposed to be, like, fashion, but…

Fashion!

La Sultan Blanche

La Sultan Blanche by Annie Goetzinger & Pierre Christin (1996)

A governess is hired by a wealthy British gentleman in Hong Kong. We’re shown the sumptuous life of the final days of the British empire throughout Asia.

An old woman is found dead in a flat in London.

This work had the most shocking denouement of any comic I’ve read in quite a while. It’s astounding. It’s simply brilliant.

And Goetzinger’s art continues to, er, not excatly loosen up, but it’s more playful and reassured.

NBM recently released a translation of Goetzinger’s latest work, Jeune fille en Dior (I haven’t read it yet), but she’s otherwise been under-translated in all languages I understand. There’s 15 works with Christin, and about 10 other works (with other writers, or written by herself). If any of that work is anywhere near as good as La Sultan Blanche, I hope that somebody’ll get translating one of these years.

This post is part of the BD80 series.

BD80

I grew up way up north in Norway. I was really into comic books. I liked American comic books just fine (both superheroes and stuff like Love & Rockets and Cerebus), but I loved arty French(ey) “albums” the most.

When I was about 14 (in 1982), more complex comics started being translated into Scandinavian languages. It seemed like an endless stream of wonderful French(ish) comics were being published. Tardi, the Varenne brothers, Hugo Pratt, Bilal, Comès, Manara, Moebius, Franquin… Each time I got a new catalogue from Denmark, there was something new and wonderful to order.

And then it suddenly stopped. Either because they ran out of the really major artists to translate, or because the audience had moved on.

I was reading this stuff pretty much in a vacuum. The only comics magazine I read was The Comics Journal, and that didn’t cover European comics much, but it seemed like that amazing five-year spurt of marvellous translated work was driven by an overhang of work from the late 70s and early 80s. The work from that period seemed to have a lot of ambition, tackling political and social issues in an interesting way. Some somewhat hippyish and “mystical”, and some not.

The 70s, dude.

By the time the translators had caught up, the French comics scene seemed to have devolved into sci-fi, porn, and sci-fi porn, and not much else. It recovered after a while, but I lost track.

Meanwhile, all these albums had remained in cases in the house I grew up in. I’d always wanted to bring them with me, but being a student didn’t give me that much storage room. And then later, so much new, great stuff was being published (mainly in the US) that it was hard just to keep up. (At one point I had an unread backlog stack two meters high.)

But, finally, this Xmas I rooted through the boxes and selected 90kg of albums and shipped them down. They’re now here.

DSC01045Most of these I’ve read time and time again as a teenager, but I haven’t read them in more than 25 years. I’m curious as to whether they’re good as good as I thought they were.

So that’s the project: I’m going to re-read a bunch of these, write a bit about them, and post some scans of some pages.  I’ll avoid works that have been widely reprinted lately (like Tardi and Corto Maltese), and try to pick some artists that interesting, but (perhaps) a bit forgotten.

I’ll try to post about one artist per day for about a week, at least.  Let’s see how that goes…

Scott McCloud’s The Sculptor: A Reappraisal

DSC01674The Sculptor is the long-awaited graphic novel (published by First Second) that has been reviewed a lot.  It’s a spellbinding urban fable about a childhood wish, a deal with Death, the price of art, the value of life, and a desperate love.

DSC01675It says so right there.

But it’s been months since it’s been published now, and I think it’s way past time that we reappraised this hefty work.

(In the following article, there are spoilers and triggers.)

To sum up the plot: An art dork gets super-powers enabling him to sculpt stone by just thinking hard.  The work he produces is terrible.  He then meets a magic pixie dream girl who dies to teach him a lesson about life.  The work he produces after that is even worse.  The end.

Now, many of the earlier reviewers seem to feel that there’s something wonky about this plot.  That perhaps that’s not what McCloud had in mind when making the graphic novel.  But let’s just look at the evidence.

DSC01676DSC01677That’s the first stuff he makes.  A critic accurately describes it as looking like a Polynesian gift shop.  You may interpret that as a dig against the critic, but if he’s not meant to be right, why did McCloud draw that Polynesian gift shop? You can’t argue with this logic.

The dork rails a lot against modern art in general, and Jeff Koons in particular because he’s gimickey and doesn’t make stuff with his own hands.  But look!

DSC01678Neither does the dork, really!  He just wills the crap to be there, and it is!  Just like Koons!  And the “masterpiece” he creates after the magic pixie dream girl dies is even more dreary than the Polynesian gift shop he made earlier, thereby negating the entire MPDG cliche.  The dork learned nothing.  Except how to make things even bigger, and use his hands even less.  Like Koons, I guess.

DSC01679
Could also be a critique of Zurab Tsereteli

That the book obviously is an attack on the common philistinism found in some parts of comics fandom should be clear now.  The “betcha they can’t draw a hand” crowd.  But is it also a sly attack on tropes found in Japanese comics?

Take this “full bleed to the right to signal drama” thing:

DSC01680

DSC01682

DSC01683

DSC01684 DSC01685So…  much…  DRAMA!!!  Every time you turn a page and you register a full bleed at the end of the two page spread, you know that’s there’s going to be DRAMA!  SO MUCH DRAMA!!1!  And you start hating reading the book because of all then anticipation of the DRAMA!!!

It’s a very Japanese thing.  The same with the illusion of time not passing.  You read many, many pages, and it seems like months have passed in the story, but then the dork notes that a week has passed and you go “NO!  IT CANNOT BE!  WHEN WILL THIS BE OVER?!”

So, to conclude: The book is a satire, and a sly dig at expectations.  Well done, McCloud.

(McCloud’s figure drawing is less stiff now than it used to be, but that’s probably not a critique of anything.  Unless somebody can figure out how that’s possible.  I’m all ears.)

Corto Maltese: Under the Sign of Capricorn

IDW announced last year that they were going to translate and publish a complete set of Hugo Pratt’s Corto Maltese (in English translation).  There was much rejoicing across the land.  I haven’t read those comics for decades, since they were stuck at my parent’s house up in the North, so I thought “what they hey” and bought the first volume, Under the Sign of Capricorn.DSC01045

But this Xmas holiday it struck me that I could, like, just start shipping the comics up there down here so that I could re-read … all that stuff …  So I started packing.

After six boxes of 20kg each I stopped, because comics are heavy and I recalled that I live on the fourth floor, no elevator, and I’m lazy.

But included in those first six boxes were all the Corto Maltese albums published in Danish and Swedish back in the 80s, so I thought it might be slightly interesting to compare the new editions to the old ones.  I’m doing this on my comics reading couch for added versimilitude instead of doing scans.

So, first of all: That cover.

DSC01559That is ugly.  That’s just ugly.

In addition to choosing a pretty weird drawing of Corto Maltese here, there are just so many other bad things going on here. Let me linger on this ugliness for an unreasonable amount of time and pictures:

DSC01563
There’s a drop shadow behind Corto

 

DSC01564
There a compass thing that’s very busy in an of itself with all the pointy spokes in the background in addition to the Nato logo in the front. And then there’s the title with a drop shadow onto the compass, and then “Corto Maltese” and “Hugo Pratt” on the compass itself. At least they used the same font, even though the font is butt ugly.

 

DSC01565
The teal background has both a map and a ship (and some seagulls) imposed onto the map.

 

DSC01566
There’s a totally unnecessary border around most of the cover.

 

DSC01562
It’s fun to see the old Eclipse logo make a reappearance, but even here they just can’t keep it simple. There’s the awkward “O” in “EURO” that’s reversed halfway through; there’s all that itty-bitty text underneath it, and as if that wasn’t enough, at the bottom right-hand corner they’ve stuck the Library of American Comics (!) logo. At least that’s what I think it is — it’s so tiny. And these are “EURO COMICS”. Wha?

The cover looks like somebody with attention deficit disorder went mad in Photoshop for fifteen minutes.

Seriously.

Here’s what the Danish version looked like in 1982:

DSC01573Peace.  Tranquility. Beautiful.

Ok, enough with the cover, already.  Get ready for some innards.  By now I was cringing, expecting the worst…

DSC01567
Ok… It’s not restrained or anything, but the compass makes more sense here. It’s not very Hugo Pratt, though, but it’s not awful.

 

DSC01569
Hey, that’s nice. Even included Pratt’s very handsome signature.

 

DSC01570
Wow. Did they use a complety different designer on the innards of the book? That’s pretty excellent.

And then the story itself starts.  What does it look like?

DSC01571The printing looks really nice and crisp.  However, they’ve used a semi-glossy paper stock, which means that you have to keep shifting the page around to be able to read it, because the light makes reflections.  It’s not as shiny as many other modern reprint projects, but it’s still not… good.

DSC01578But when you angle the paper just right, it looks really nice.  The ink is nice and black, and the paper is just slightly off-white.  It’s perfectly acceptable.

DSC01579The Danish version from 1982 is more washed out, but is printed on completely matte paper.  So that’s a tie, I guess.  I do think the new printing is perhaps a bit busier than intended.  All those lines that were probably intended as barely visible skritches (compare the lines in the woodwork and the lines in Corto’s brow in the two versions), and these small lines are now solid, with even width.  It looks like whoever digitised this applied a thresholding function that makes all the lines look stark.  More lines mo better, perhaps, but…

Let me digress a bit about a subject that is, strictly speaking, totally irrelevant here:

These days, most reprint projects of European albums have a tendency to stick a lot of albums together into a great whopping book.  European albums are mostly in the 40-60 page range, and selling anything less than 120 pages is apparently impossible these days.

But sticking separate stories together into one volume changes the way they read.

Most European albums are separate works that have a definite beginning and ending.  After reading one, you feel you’ve experienced something complete.  Sticking several of these works together into one volume changes that experience.  When the next story starts three pages later, there’s a compulsion to continue reading, but more importantly, when you have 60 pages left in the book when you’re reading the end of a story, it doesn’t really feel like the end of a story.

It’s like if films were realeased with a two second pause between “The End” and then the next film the director did starting.  American comics are often more serially oriented, and presenting collections of those works fine, as does collections of TV series.  But doing the same with most European comics changes the reading experience, and not for the better.

But like I said, that rant is irrelevant here, because this book is a collection of six related stories, so just forget what I just said.

As is the norm, though, this volume is over 120 pages, while the 80s edition comes in two volumes:

DSC01581Oh, and there’s the cover of the second 80s volume:

DSC01580Kinda purdy, that one too.  I mean, not as good as the first volume, but still way better than the IDW cover.

Oh, and what’s the stories like?  They’re fantastic, of course, and if you haven’t read them already, you should run out to your nearest comic book store and buy one immediately.  Then rip off the cover, put it in the paper recycling, and then read the stories.

Australian Comics

Whenever in a new city where I can read the language, I try to visit interesting comics shops.  This can be rather difficult, since what’s interesting to me isn’t really what comics shops make a living off of.  I’m looking for stuff I can’t get anywhere else, which means small press and local books, and there is no art comics book store finder.

So binging for “good comics stores <city>” will invariably point me to the one that has the best selection of American superhero books, of which my interest is pretty low.  For Sydney that’s King Comics, which turned out to be a perfectly nice comic book store with a shelf of Australian comics that was pretty slim.  To say the least.

But then I went to Canberra.  Score!

DSC01240 DSC01239

Impact Comics only had two small shelves of Aussie stuff, but they were jam-packed, so I got a nice little stack of stuff.  (There was still books left on the shelves after I left.)

I haven’t read any of it yet, but it looks pretty nice:

DSC01242 DSC01243 DSC01241 DSC01244 DSC01245 DSC01246 DSC01247

Somebody really should set up a “destination comic book store” site to inform us tourists what’s worth seeing.  It’s too bad crowdsourcing is dead, otherwise I’d feel tempted to create one myself…

Art Comic Book Store Finder Wanted

I’ve been travelling a fair bit the last couple of months. One of my favourite things to do in furrin cities is to visit comic book stores. However, finding the interesting stores isn’t trivial.

If you’re reading the comics blogs religiously, and you travel to the conventions, and you know a lot of other people who have the same interests, you just know which stores are the good ones.

The current minimum standard for a good art comics store is (after thorough research) that it should have 1) some Michael DeForge, 2) some issues of Copra, 3) a Gabrielle Bell mini, and 4) a smattering of local, hand-made comics. In addition to the Drawn & Quarterly and Fantagraphics perennials that you can find anywhere.

But I’m pretty oblivious when it comes to the “comics community”. I find myself in a city, and I google for “best comic book store”, and I invariably end up at the local Superhero Dungeon & Games. For instance, I discovered Desert Island Comics in Brooklyn on like my seventh visit to New York.

This time I did a bit more research, and I managed to stop by Comix Experience in San Francisco (very nice, indeed) and the Wow Cool store in Cupertino (extremely nice; we were down in Palo Alto and I convinced my friends to stop by on the way back to SF after reading about it on The Beat and The Comics Reporter).

In London, I stopped by Gosh Comics (got lots of British floppies) and Nobrow (got lots of… Nobrow comics).

Couldn’t someone, somewhere, make an Art Comics Store Finder? Please. Avoid having people going to to Ye Comics Basement in vain, and guide us to the right stores.

Profit!