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Books To Read: Best Graphic Novels:

August 2014

It’s not every month that we get a major new book by the amazing Jules Feiffer and his Kill My Mother is only one of a plethora of much-anticipated summer reading I am picking and previewing for you here. There are plenty of others I am looking forward to, including Nina Bunjevac’s powerful, exquisitely rendered Fatherland, and Emmanuel Guibert’s How The World Was (cover above), just about my favourite French graphic novel of 2012, translated at last.

The great news is that French genius Emmanuel Guibert, also creator of Alan’s War and The Photographer and other titles from FirstSecond, is coming over again to London. Thanks to the Institut Français he will take part in an exclusive Comica Conversation at The British Library, as well as demonstrating his astonishing virtuosity live in the Drawing Parade. It’s part of the Comica Festival weekend of August 15th, 16th and 17th, over the closing Friday to Sunday of the massive British comics exhibition Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK, which I have co-curated with John Harris Dunning. Details as ever on our sister site, Comica Festival!

An Age Of License
by Lucy Knisley

The publisher says:
Lucy Knisley’s latest food-themed graphic memoir recounts her adventures (some romantic) on a European book tour. Acclaimed cartoonist Lucy Knisley (French Milk, Relish) got an opportunity that most only dream of: a travel-expenses-paid trip to Europe/Scandinavia, thanks to a book tour. An Age of License is Knisley’s comics travel memoir recounting her charming (and romantic!) adventures. It’s punctuated by whimsical visual devices (such as a “new experiences” funnel); peppered with the cute cats she meets along the way; and, of course, features her hallmark—drawings and descriptions of food that will make your mouth water. But it’s not all kittens and raclette crepes: Knisley’s experiences are coloured by anxieties, introspective self-inquiries, and quotidian revelations—about traveling alone in unfamiliar countries, and about her life and career—that many young adults will relate to. An Age of License—which takes its name from a French saying—is an Eat, Pray, Love for the alternative comics fan. 208pgs part-colour softcover Read J. Caleb Mozzocco’s extensive interview at Comics Alliance with previews…

Blacksad: Amarillo
by Juan Diaz Canales & Juanjo Guarnido
Dark Horse

The publisher says:
Hardboiled feline detective John Blacksad is back in the latest tour de force from the multiple-award winning duo of writer Juan Díaz Canales and artist Juanjo Guarnido. Taking a much-needed break after the events of A Silent Hell, Blacksad lands a side job driving a rich Texan’s prized yellow Cadillac Eldorado across 1950s America, hitting the back roads from New Orleans to Tulsa. But before long, the car is stolen and Blacksad finds himself mixed up in another murder, with roughneck bikers, a shifty lawyer, one down-and-out Beat generation writer, and some sinister circus folk! When John Blacksad goes on the road, trouble is dead ahead! 72pgs colour hardcover 30-page preview here untranslated but mouth-watering….

by Daniel Boyd & Edi Guedes
Caliber Entertainment

The publisher says:
What if there really was a Garden of Eden — a place with a history before the first people we know of, and a God before the one we now recognise? A civilisation cursed and banished underground for breaking their own commandment — to live in balance with the Earth. When an evil coal operator discovers that the “sacred” carbon can burn forever, he will sacrifice the land and the people to extract the full deposit. After 30 years of failed attempts, covered up as fatal mining accidents, the coal baron has finally found a way to extract his riches. But in his final attempt he awakens and releases a hell the surface world cannot imagine. And the only thing that stands in the way of the end of the world as we know it is a disgraced, ex-pro baseball pitcher and a community of courageous coal miners. Carbon is a new take on Man, Earth, and the God we know. Or think we know. Fantasy? Maybe, maybe not. But for certain, Carbon returns to life in 2014! 120pgs colour softcover Caliber offers preview pages and trailer here…

Cast Away On The Letter ‘A’: A Philemon Adventure
by Fred
Toon Books

The publisher says:
On an ordinary day in the countryside, Philemon falls into a well on his father’s farm and lands . . . on the Atlantic Ocean — literally on an A-shaped island complete with unicorns, centaurs, and exploding clocks. He begins a wild and whimsical journey home through a fantasy world as original as Alice’s Wonderland, as richly imagined as Little Nemo’s Slumberland, and as exciting to explore as Oz. 48pgs colour hardcover Toon Books have some preview pages here for you…

Lemony Snicket says;
Philemon is my new favourite companion. He’s brave, resourceful, and he knows what to do when attacked by a lamp.

Comic Book People: Photographs from the 1970s & 1980s
by Jackie Estrada
Exhibit A Press

The publisher says:
This high-quality hardcover coffee-table book offers a unique peek at the early days of comics conventions before they were big pop culture events, when the giants of the industry mingled casually with their peers and fans. It features some 600 candid photos of comics creators taken in the 1970s and 1980s, along with commentary and anecdotes about each person. The candid photos depict not only Golden and Silver Age comic book greats and mainstream creators of the period, but also publishers and editors, underground and alternative cartoonists, big-name fans, comic strip cartoonists, animation directors and voice actors, science fiction and fantasy authors, and movie and TV celebrities. 160pgs part-colour hardcover Watch Jackie’s trailer video here…

Dark Ages #1 (of 4)
by Dan Abnett & I.N.J. Culbard
Dark Horse

The publisher says:
The medieval world is locked in war. As a godless mercenary company slogs across Europe in search of sustenance and coin, they encounter a demonic force born not of hell, but of somewhere else entirely! 40pgs colour comic book Dan Abnett talks with Comic Book Resources here…



by Pierre Maurel
Blank Slate Books

Exploited by unscrupulous employers, failed by benefit bureaucracy, three trapped and disenfranchised young people arrive at an impasse. Stuck in a system that seemingly doesn’t care, they must each make a decision: break away from the status quo or resign themselves to struggling desperately at the bottom of the ladder forever. Departures explores life as a Millennial during the socio-economic downturn, across three stories of hopeless unemployment, dead-end McJobs, and brewing civil unrest. Departures is Pierre Maurel’s first work to be translated into English, following its inclusion in the Official Selection of the 2009 edition of the prestigious Angoulême International Comic Festival in France. 80pgs B&W softcover Blank Slate have more details & preview pages here…

Don Heck: A Work of Art
TwoMorrows Publishing
by Don Heck & John Coates

The publisher says:
Don Heck remains one of the legendary names in comics, considered an “artist’s artist,” respected by peers, and beloved by fans as the co-creator of Marvel Comics characters Iron Man, Hawkeye, and Black Widow, and for his long stint on Marvel Comics’ team book The Avengers. In Don Heck: A Work of Art, author John Coates has meticulously researched and chronicled information on Don’s storied 40-year career, including his time at DC, Dell, Gold Key, and as “ghost” artist on Lee Falk’s The Phantom newspaper strip. From personal recollections from Don’s surviving family, long-time friends, and industry legends, to rare interviews with Heck himself (where he discusses his career, artistic technique, triumphs, frustrations, and love of drawing), this book is full of insight into - and first-hand anecdotes from - the early days of Marvel Comics. It also features an unbiased analysis of sales on Don’s DC Comics titles, an extensive art gallery (including published, unpublished, and pencil artwork), a Foreword by Stan Lee, and an Afterword by Beau Smith. 192pgs colour hardcover

by Nina Bunjevac
Liveright / Jonathan Cape
$19.95 / £16.99

The publisher says:
A bomb, an explosion, and the death of a father form the core of this gripping graphic memoir. Standing alongside Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and Joe Sacco’s Palestine, Nina Bunjevac’s Fatherland is a searing work of graphic nonfiction that tells the history of the Balkans in the twentieth century through the experiences of the author and her family. In 1975, fearing her husband’s growing fanaticism, Bunjevac’s mother flees her marriage and adopted country of Canada, taking Nina—then only a toddler—and her older sister back to Yugoslavia to live with her parents. Her husband and Nina’s father, Peter, was a diehard Serbian nationalist who had been forced to leave his country in the 1950s. Remaining in Canada, Peter became involved with a terrorist organisation bent on overthrowing the Communist Yugoslav government and attacking its supporters in North America. Through exquisitely haunting black-and white art, Fatherland tells an unforgettable true story of how the scars of history are borne by family and nation alike. 156pgs B&W hardcover Read my profile and interview with Nina and her pre-Fatherland two-page strip here…

God Is Dead: The Book of Acts #Alpha
by Alan Moore & Facundo Percio & others
Avatar Press
$5.99 - $19.99

The publisher says:
The greatest assembled team of writers unleash all-new tales of Gods and men in the biggest event of the summer. Two giant-size issues could only be kicked off with the biggest writer in all of comics, Alan Moore, as he brings a tale only he could tell - when his personal God Glycon comes to Earth. Reunited with Facundo (Fashion Beast) Percio, Alan himself stars in a story about where Gods really get their power. Then Simon Spurrier redefines a lowly cherub into maybe the most destructive of all the Gods, one who knows how to use modern human weaknesses. And ongoing series scribe Mike Costa finally reveals the greatest mystery of the series - who actually killed God? The Alpha and the Omega, two epic tomes that you don’t want to miss. Available with lovely Regular, Iconic, and End of Days covers by series cover artist Jacen Burrows. Also a Carnage Wraparound by German Nobile and Divine and Pure Art Retailer Incentives by Burrows. You also don’t want to miss the Glycon Leather cover by Burrows or get everything at once with the Deluxe Collector Set. 48pgs colour comic book

How The World Was: A California Childhood
by Emmanuel Guibert
First Second

The publisher says:
In 1994, French cartoonist Emmanuel Guibert befriended an American veteran named Alan Cope and began creating his new friend’s graphic biography. Alan’s War was the surprising and moving result: the story of Cope’s experiences as an American GI in France during World War II. How the World Was is Emmanuel Guibert’s moving return to documenting the life of his friend. Cope died several years ago, as Guibert was just beginning work on this book, but Guibert has kept working to commit his friend’s story to paper. Cope grew up in California during the great depression, and this remarkable graphic novel details the little moments that make a young man’s life…while capturing the scope of America during the great depression. A lyrical, touching portrait, How the World Was is a gift for a dear friend in the last moments of his life… and also a meditation on the birth of modern America. 160pgs part-colour softcover See the slideshow of opening pages here…

How To Be Happy
by Eleanor Davis

The publisher says:
This is the first collection of literary short comics stories by an award-winning cartoonist. Eleanor Davis’s How to be Happy is the artist’s first collection of graphic/literary short stories. Davis is one of the finest cartoonists of her generation, and has been producing comics since the mid-2000s. Happy re-presents the best stories she’s drawn for such curatorial venues as Mome and NoBrow, as well as her own self-publishing and web efforts. Davis achieves a rare, subtle poignancy in her narratives that are at once compelling and elusive, pregnant with mystery and a deeply satisfying emotional resonance. Happy shows the full range of Davis’s graphic skills — sketchy drawing, polished pen and ink line work, and meticulously designed full colour painted panels— which are always in the service of a narrative that builds to a quietly devastating climax. 144pgs colour with 48pgs B&W hardcover Eleanor has posted some of these comics on her site…


Invincible Days
by Patrick Atangan

The publisher says:
This collection of short stories forms a singular narrative that reveals the tiny moments when you realise you are at the precious end-days of youth. Calling on memories from his own childhood as well as those gathered from friends and family, author and artist Patrick Atangan’s work blends stories with strong psychological elements and insight with simple artwork evocative of youth. Bittersweet, joyful and reflective, these are the type of marking moments that best define us as adults. 128pgs colour hardcover NBM present Patrick in a video interview and preview a page here…

Kill My Mother
by Jules Feiffer

The publisher says:
When three daunting dolls intersect with one hapless heroine and a hard-boiled private eye, deception, betrayal, and murder stalk every mean street in…Kill My Mother. Adding to a legendary career that includes a Pulitzer Prize, an Academy Award, Obie Awards, and Lifetime Achievement Awards from the National Cartoonist Society and the Writers Guild of America, Jules Feiffer now presents his first noir graphic novel. Kill My Mother is a loving homage to the pulp-inspired films and comic strips of his youth. Channeling Eisner’s The Spirit, along with the likes of Hammett, Chandler, Cain, John Huston, and Billy Wilder, and spiced with the deft humour for which Feiffer is renowned, Kill My Mother centres on five formidable women from two unrelated families, linked fatefully and fatally by a has-been, hard-drinking private detective.

As our story begins, we meet Annie Hannigan, an out-of-control teenager, jitterbugging in the 1930s. Annie dreams of offing her mother, Elsie, whom she blames for abandoning her for a job soon after her husband, a cop, is shot and killed. Now, employed by her husband’s best friend—an over-the-hill and perpetually soused private eye—Elsie finds herself covering up his missteps as she is drawn into a case of a mysterious client, who leads her into a decade-long drama of deception and dual identities sprawling from the Depression era to World War II Hollywood and the jungles of the South Pacific. Along with three femme fatales, an obsessed daughter, and a loner heroine, Kill My Mother features a fighter turned tap dancer, a small-time thug who dreams of being a hit man, a name-dropping cab driver, a communist liquor store owner, and a hunky movie star with a mind-boggling secret. Culminating in a U.S.O. tour on a war-torn Pacific island, this disparate band of old enemies congregate to settle scores.

In a drawing style derived from Steve Canyon and The Spirit, Feiffer combines his long-honed skills as cartoonist, playwright, and screenwriter to draw us into this seductively menacing world where streets are black with soot and rain, and base motives and betrayal are served on the rocks in bars unsafe to enter. Bluesy, fast-moving, and funny, Kill My Mother is a trip to Hammett-Chandler-Cain Land: a noir-graphic novel like the movies they don’t make anymore. 160pgs colour hardcover The New Yorker previews the book here…

by Gilbert Hernandez
Dark Horse

The publisher says:
An all-new graphic novel from Pen Center USA Award winner, Gilbert Hernandez! Welcome to Lagrimas, a small south-of-the-border town where young men who consider themselves “loverboys” constantly hit on the ladies, but get shot down most of the time—until one begins an affair with the woman who used to be his seventh grade teacher! As their torrid romance unfolds, three young girls plot to poison the town’s populace, just so they won’t have to listen to their parents or teachers anymore. It’s a passionate—and sometimes comical—tale, as only the celebrated co-creator of Love and Rockets can deliver! 88pgs B&W hardcover

Maddy Kettle Vol. 1: The Adventures of The Thimblewitch
by Eric Orchard
Top Shelf Productions

The publisher says:
Maddy is an eleven-year-old girl with a flying pet toad named Ralph. They’re on a rather big adventure right now, as her parents are currently kangaroo rats (thanks to a magic spell)! On their way to find the Thimblewitch to sort everything out, they’ll battle Spider Goblins and meet two endearing cloud mappers, Harry the bear and Silvio the raccoon. It’s a magical ride! 96pgs colour softcover Forbidden Planet International have some sneak peeks here…

Masterful Marks: Cartoonists Who Changed The World
by Monte Beauchamp & various artists
Simon & Shuster

The publisher says:
In a first-of-its-kind collection, award-winning illustrators celebrate the lives of the visionary artists who created the world of comic art and altered pop culture forever. No one has told the story of comic art in its own medium, until now. In Masterful Marks, top illustrators—including Drew Friedman, Nora Krug, Denis Kitchen, and Peter Kuper—reveal how sixteen visionary cartoonists overcame massive financial, political, and personal challenges to create a new form of art that now defines our world. Superhero comics didn’t exist until two teenagers from Cleveland created the first superhero of all time: Superman. Advertising artist Theodor Geisel released his first book in 1937 as Dr. Seuss—and children’s literature was never the same. Charles M. Schulz’s perseverance and passion gave the world Peanuts, the world’s most famous comic strip. Featuring these tales, and profiling such giants as Walt Disney, Robert Crumb, and the creators of MAD, Tintin, and manga, Masterful Marks illustrates how graphic storytelling became such a rich and popular medium. Masterful Marks is a stunning portrait of the comic art’s aesthetic heritage and a powerful story of how creative vision can change the world. 128pgs colour hardcover

Probably Nothing: A diary of not-your-average nine months
by Matilda Tristram

The publisher says:
Probably Nothing by Matilda Tristram is a moving, funny and inspiring graphic memoir by a woman who discovered she had cancer whilst she was pregnant. ‘I am glad. And then sad. (But) Mum’s bought me a furry snood. ‘Ooh, lovely!’’ At 31, Matilda Tristram was 17 weeks pregnant and looking forward to having her first baby. Then she discovered she had cancer. This touching and hilarious graphic memoir, which is never morose or self-pitying, starts at the moment Matilda was diagnosed and ends when her course of chemotherapy finishes in October 2013. Recording the awkward conversations, the highs and lows of treatment, the mixed blessings of receiving ‘Get Well’ cards, and the reality of still having to queue too long for croissants, Matilda captures her experiences with characteristic style and warmth. Along the way she cherishes the small details of life, and learns not to sweat the big things. Her beautiful and boisterous son was born without complications and is reliably keeping her up most nights. Charming, witty and uplifting, this unique and beautifully illustrated book will leave you cherishing the good things in life, and ready to face your own challenges. 96pgs colour hardcover Read a Guardian interview with Matilda here… and read the first three months of Matilda’s online comics and further extracts here…

by Raina Telgemeier
Scholastic Graphix
$24.99 / $10.99

The publisher says:
The companion to Raina Telgemeier’s #1 New York Times bestselling and Eisner Award-winning graphic memoir, Smile. Raina can’t wait to be a big sister. But once Amara is born, things aren’t quite how she expected them to be. Amara is cute, but she’s also a cranky, grouchy baby, and mostly prefers to play by herself. Their relationship doesn’t improve much over the years, but when a baby brother enters the picture and later, something doesn’t seem right between their parents, they realise they must figure out how to get along. They are sisters, after all. Raina uses her signature humour and charm in both present-day narrative and perfectly placed flashbacks to tell the story of her relationship with her sister, which unfolds during the course of a road trip from their home in San Francisco to a family reunion in Colorado. 208pgs colour hardcover/softcover

The Bus
by Paul Kirchner
Editions Tanibis

The publisher says:
The bus comic strips were first published in 1978 in Heavy Metal magazine, where they appeared regularly for seven years. In six to eight mostly wordless panels, former Wally Wood’s assistant Paul Kirchner takes readers through a tightly rendered surrealist world as experienced by a rotund bald man and a forever returning bus. In the bus, fire hydrants come alive, buses chose to stray away from the law and the distant horizon might be just an arm’s length away. In the 25 years since its original publication in 1987, this forgotten gem has never been republished. 96pgs B&W hardcover Buzz Dixon has posted a few examples…

The Collector
by Sergio Toppi

The publisher says:
Far from the auction halls of the elite, The Collector seeks out rare and mysterious artefacts across the world. At home in the salons of Paris as he is in the jungles of Borneo, The Collector is a man who has dedicated his life to finding objects very special and almost unknown , which tracks through his research in a variety of locations. But beware, a man who comes into possession of such items does not hesitate to use any means without scruple. Set against the backdrop of late 19th-century colonialism, The Collector is a delightful, swashbuckling adventure by a master of European comic books, Sergio Toppi. 256pgs B&W hardcover

The Fade Out #1
by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips
$3.50 / $5.99

The publisher says:
Hollywood - 1948. A noir film stuck in endless reshoots. A writer plagued with nightmares from the war and a dangerous secret. An up-and-coming starlet’s suspicious death. And a maniacal Studio Mogul and his Security Chief who will do anything to keep the cameras rolling before the Post-War boom days come crashing down. The Fade Out is the most ambitious series yet from the award-winning Noir Masters. Bonus: This 40-page first issue features more story pages, as well as exclusive back pages articles that are only in these single issues. 40pgs colour comic book & 48pgs oversize magazine variant. Check out the preview at Comics Alliance…

The Multiversity #1
by Grant Morrison & Ivan Reis
DC Comics

The publisher says:
The biggest adventure in DC’s history is here. Join visionary writer Grant Morrison, today’s most talented artists, and a cast of unforgettable characters from 52 alternative Earths of the known DC Multiverse. Prepare to meet the Vampire League of Earth-43, the Justice Riders of Earth-18, Superdemon, Doc Fate, the super-sons of Superman and Batman, the rampaging Retaliators of Earth-8, the Atomic Knights of Justice, Dino-Cop, Sister Miracle, Lady Quark, the legion of Sivanas, the Nazi New Reichsmen of Earth-10 and the latest, greatest Super Hero of Earth-Prime: YOU! Comprising six complete adventures – each set in a different parallel universe – plus a two-part framing story and a comprehensive guidebook to the many worlds of the Multiverse, The Mulitversity is more than just a multipart comic-book series. It’s a cosmos-spanning, soul-shaking experience that puts YOU on the frontline in the Battle for All Creation against the demonic destroyers known as the Gentry. In issue #1, pencilled by superstar artist Ivan Reis (Aquaman, Justice League), President Superman of Earth-23 uncovers a threat to all Reality so apocalyptic it will take a team of incredible heroes from across the Multiverse to face it – including Captain Carrot, like you’ve never seen him before. But even with a multitude of alternate worlds to choose from, where every variation is possible, can anyone hope to prevail against the onslaught of ultimate evil and undying hatred – in the unstoppable form of a one-time cosmic defender with unimaginable powers?! Join us, if you dare, for the beginning of The Mulitversity. 48pgs colour comic book

Theseus And The Minotaur
by Yvan Pommaux
Toon Books

The publisher says:
Young readers will be eager to dive into Greek mythology as they follow Theseus, the hero who slays the Minotaur. In the unique TOON Graphics line of visually compelling stories, this is a mythology comic done right. Master French cartoonist Yvan Pommaux introduces a wealth of historically accurate details that immerse readers in the context and culture of ancient Greece. The story is supplemented with character cards, maps, mazes, and an index of cited names that will keep readers coming back for more. The literary quality of this book will appeal to readers young and old, making it an excellent addition to every classroom and library. 48pgs colour hardcover See some preview spreads at Toon Books…

To End All Wars
by various writers & artists, edited by Jonathan Clode & John Stuart Clark
Soaring Penguin

The publisher says:
An omnibus of 27 short graphic narratives based on actual events, characters, circumstances, incidents, myths or consequences of the Great War WWI. All proceeds of this publication will be donated to Medecin Sans Frontières. Featuring the four theatres of war (land, sea, air and the home front), spanning four continents and drawn from both sides of the conflict, the stories range from 4 to 16 pages, each by a different author and/or illustrator from the world of independent comics. 320pgs B&W hardcover Full details and lots of previews on the book’s dedicated site…

Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir
by Liz Prince
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt / Zest Books

The publisher says:
Growing up, Liz Prince wasn’t a girly girl, dressing in pink tutus or playing Pretty Pretty princess like the other girls in her neighbourhood. But she wasn’t exactly one of the guys either, as she quickly learned when her Little League baseball coach exiled her to the outfield instead of letting her take the pitcher’s mound. Liz was somewhere in the middle, and Tomboy is the story of her struggle to find the place where she belonged. Tomboy is a graphic novel about refusing gender boundaries, yet unwittingly embracing gender stereotypes at the same time, and realising later in life that you can be just as much of a girl in jeans and a T-shirt as you can in a pink tutu. A memoir told anecdotally, Tomboy follows author and zine artist Liz Prince through her early childhood into adulthood and explores her ever-evolving struggles and wishes regarding what it means to “be a girl.” From staunchly refuting anything she perceived as being “girly” to the point of misogyny, to discovering through the punk community that your identity is whatever you make of it, regardless of your gender, Tomboy is as much humorous and honest as it is at points uncomfortable and heartbreaking. 272pgs B&W softcover Liz tells you about her writing process and Zest Books have some previews and reviews…

Posted: June 8, 2014


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