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Books To Read: Best Graphic Novels:

March 2015

Hello again and Happy New Year to you all, may it be your best ever! In fact, 2015 will mark the 10th anniversary of my website and to get things started here are my suggestions for the finest titles to look out for coming out next March. For my personal recommendations this month, eagerly anticipated by me, I have selected not one but two excitingly original graphic novels.

First up, after The House That Groaned, for her second graphic novel, Death Of The Artist (Jonathan Cape) sees Karrie Fransman up her game and take on five different styles, media and personalities, as she reunites with university friends to compare and contrast their creative hopes and fears. Here’s a sneak peek ar the book’s brilliant die-cut cover and title page beneath to whet your appetite!

And then Behind The Curtain from SelfMadeHero is a joint graphic memoir by Andrzej Klimowski and Danusia Schejbal, their first collaboration on a story of their own rather than adapting a classic. In it they relate their lives in communist Poland through a period of minor and momentous changes and challenges. My full reviews will follow. Meanwhile, details of these two intriguing, life-enhacing comics, and much more to look forward to, are laid out below for your delectation. Cheers! 

Behind The Curtain
by Andrzej Klimowki & Danusia Schejbal

The publisher says:
During the 1970s, when many Eastern European citizens dreamed of going West, two young students travelled the other way. They studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw and, much to everyone’s surprise, stayed on to make a living as artists. Behind the Curtain is a graphic novel account of their journey. In this unique collaboration, two distinctive styles interweave to tell a charming and sophisticated story of life, art, politics. Behind the Curtain is a portrait of the cultural environment that flourished against the backdrop of the harsh realities of the communist state. Behind the Curtain captures the absurdities of a time when toilet paper was worth its weight in gold, as well as the picturing the vibrant community of artists who were producing visionary theatrical productions, films, ground-breaking posters and exhibitions. It was a time when a Polish Pope was elected, Solidarity Free Trade Unions were formed and, eventually, tanks appeared in the streets. 192pgs B&W paperback.

Bouncer: Black Hearts
by Alejandro Jodorowsky & François Boucq

The publisher says:
Bouncer, the one-armed gunslinger, is still caught in the clutches of the Wild West’s most notorious town, Barro City. When several new love interests drift into town, Bouncer is once again forced to confront the demons of his past in order to protect the community’s future. Mastermind writer and film director Alexandro Jodorowsky (The Incal, El Topo) returns, with artist François Boucq, to their brilliantly savage Western saga. 124pgs colour hardcover.

Benjamin Bear In Brain Storms!
by Philippe Coudray
Toon Books

The publisher says:
Benjamin Bear can always surprise his friends, whether it’s by walking on his hands during a snowstorm or by using a tree as a parachute. This unassuming bear may at first seem down-to-earth, but his ideas are always out of this world. His zany approach to life has earned him two Eisner Award nominations and bestseller status among kids everywhere. In the third book about Benjamin’s adventures, author Philippe Coudray continues to delight readers by bending the rules of common sense and breaking the laws of physics. Pull up a chair, grab a friend, and open your mind—today’s forecast is for BRAIN STORMS! Philippe Coudray loves drawing comics, and his many children’s books are often used in the schools of his home country of France. His work was chosen by students to win the prestigious Angoulême Prix des Écoles. His first two books in English, Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking and Benjamin Bear in Bright Ideas, were both nominated for the Eisner for Best Publication for Early Readers. 32pgs colour hardcover. See some sample strips from this first volume here…

Captain Ken Vol.1
by Osamu Tezuka
Digital Manga

The publisher says:
Captain Ken is an enigma. Not a single person alive knows who he is, why he’s on Mars, or why he looks just like Miss Ken Minakami. In a whirlwind of gunfights, horseback chases, and utter lawlessness, Captain Ken sparks a time of change. The townspeople seek to rid themselves of the corrupt Mayor Deven, and the Martians seek to reclaim the cities they were chased out of. Our valiant hero, while assisting every damsel in distress, loses sight of his own vendetta. 240pgs B&W paperback. Watch the Kickstarter video trailer for this manga classic here…

Death Of The Artist
by Karrie Fransman
Jonathan Cape

The publisher says:
On 13 August 2013 graphic novelist Karrie Fransman invited four old friends from university to an isolated cottage on the misty moors of the Peak District to join her for a week of hedonism and creativity. Like Shelley and Byron before them, they would use the retreat to tell stories. Except these would be comics, collected together in this very book. The theme? The Death of the Artist. None of the five friends realised how appropriate this theme would become. The book weaves a single narrative across watercolour, digital art, photography, collage and illustration, exploring the themes of creation, destruction, and how we kill our inner artists as we grow up. It takes the graphic novel into entirely new realms. 144pgs colour paperback.

Descender #1
by Jeff Lemire & Dusty Nguyen

The publisher says:
One young robot’s struggle to stay alive in a universe where all androids have been outlawed and bounty hunters lurk on every planet. A rip-roaring and heart-felt cosmic odyssey that pits humanity against machine, and world against world, to create a sprawling space opera from the creators of Trillium, Sweet Tooth, and Little Gotham. Extra-sized first issue contains 30 story pages. 40pgs colour comic book. Read an Entertainment Weekly feature about this here… and Lemire previews three pages on his blog here…

Drawn Onward
by Matt Madden
Retrofit / Big Planet Comics

A man and a woman cross paths in a series of chance encounters in the New York City Subway system. As obsessions grow and falter, these characters walk closer and closer to the edge, striking a dangerous balance. With each new panel Drawn Onward adds a layer to the puzzle, using a mirrored structure of time and place to illustrate the fragile nature of love, and how we seek each other in our own reflections. Matt Madden is a member of the formalist experimental comics group Workshop for Potential Comics (Ouvroir de la bande dessinée Potentielle - Oubapo) which is devoted to discovering and inventing constraints for making comics. Most of Matt’s work since 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style has been created using some kind of rule or formal structure as a starting point. In Drawn Onward, he creates a palindrome comic, a “crab canon” or “cancrizan”, modeled after one of JS Bach’s compositional techniques of a single melody running backwards and forwards simultaneously. Reading the comic in either direction will give two different experiences of the story, but only together will the complete story be revealed - if either version can be trusted. 32pgs B&W oversize comic book. Couple of preview pages here…

Giant Days #1 (of 6)
by John Allison & Lissa Treiman
Boom! Box

The publisher says:
Susan, Esther and Daisy started at university three weeks ago and became fast friends, because their dorm rooms were next to each other. Now, away from home for the first time, all three want to reinvent themselves. But in the face of hand-wringing boys, “personal experimentation”, influenza, mystery-mold, nu-chauvinism, and the wilful, unwanted intrusion of “academia”, they may be lucky just to make it to spring alive. 32pgs colour comic book

Inner City Romance
by Guy Colwell

The publisher says:
Every issue of Inner City Romance is collected in this book, along with Colwell’s paintings and a contextual, autobiographical essay. Guy Colwell’s 1970s underground comic book series Inner City Romance trod new territory: it was filled with stories about prison, black culture, ghetto life, the sex trade, and radical activism. It portrayed the unpleasant realities of life in the inner city, where opportunities were limited and being on the lowest end of the economic ladder meant that one’s vision of the American dream was more about survival than lifestyle choices. Every issue of Inner City Romance is included in this collection, as well as many of the highly detailed paintings Colwell created at the time. In an accompanying text piece, Colwell provides context for the material. 208pgs B&W paperback with 32pgs colour. You can see some of Colwell’s paintings here…

Last Man Vol.1: The Stranger
by Balak, Bastien Vivès & Michaël Sanlaville
First Second

The publisher says:
The Games are already underway when Richard Aldana arrives in town. This mysterious stranger seems to have more in common with our world than the world where the Games are held. He smokes cigarettes and wears a leather jacket while everyone else in this medieval realm is casting spells and weaving tapestries. Nobody knows what to make of him, but when Aldana enrolls in the games he quickly becomes a top contender. Eschewing magic and using only his martial arts prowess, Aldana also befriends and protects a small boy for reasons as mysterious as his origins. Who will win the games? Who is Richard Aldana, really? And what is the ultimate purpose of this gruelling gladiatorial contest? With its intricate fantasy setting and heart-pounding action sequences, Last Man has become the smash hit comics series in France. Combining compelling character-driven storytelling with fast-paced adventure, Last Man is an addictive series with a cliffhanger at the end of each volume that leaves readers panting for more. Vol. 2 (The Royal Cup) and Vol. 3 (The Chase) follow in June and October 2015. 208pgs B&W paperback. Read the first eight pages here…

Lost In NYC
by Nadja Spiegelman & Sergio García Sanchez
Toon Graphic

The publisher says:
The sights . . . the sounds . . . the SMELLS! New York’s crowded subway system is known for many things, but being easy on a lost kid isn’t one of them. When Pablo gets separated from his new schoolmates during his first field trip in New York City, he doesn’t know how he’ll be able to find them again. Luckily, he has a little knowledge, a new friend, and the surprisingly approachable city itself to guide his way. This story features maps, archival photos, and fascinating facts to help readers explore the subway without ever having to get caught like Pablo in the mob of Times Square. It brings all the bustle and beauty of NYC to young readers around the world. Nadja Spiegelman is the Eisner-nominated author of the Zig & Wikki series of science comics for young children. A native New Yorker, she prides herself on important subway know-how such as where to stand to get a seat and how to sleep without missing her stop. She now spends her time between Paris and Brooklyn. Sergio Garcia Sanchez is one of Spain’s most celebrated experimental cartoonists. He has published more than forty-five books and his work has been translated into nine languages. He is also a professor of comics in France and Spain and currently lives in Granada with his wife and his children. 52pgs colour hardcover.

Lost Property
by Andy Poyiadgi
Nobrow Press

The publisher says:
Gerald is a postman, much like many other postmen. One day, having lost a precious and personal item, he visits his local lost and found. Only to find far more than he bargained for, because in this self storage , each and every one of Gerald s lost possessions has been kept and contained. How each item got there and why they were under one roof was a mystery. But they were all there…Faced with this new trove of personal riches, Gerald discovers their ability to trigger powerful memories, resurrecting the ghosts of his past, igniting long lost passions and helping him change the course of his future. Andy Poyiadgi makes films by day and comics by night. He has directed trailers for Heinz, Ford, The Guardian, BBC, BAFTA, and The Sopranos. He has contributed to several anthologies, including Wu Wei and ink+PAPER. His recent comic, Teapot Therapy, was shortlisted for the Observer/Jonathan Cape/Comica Graphic Short Story Prize. 24pgs colour hardcover. Sneak peeks here…

Lulu Anew
by Etienne Davodeau

The publisher says:
At the end of yet another unproductive job interview, Lulu, on a whim, takes off for the shore just to get away from it all. She’s got a husband and kids left bewildered but it’s nothing against them. This is just her time, getting away from the grind and with no other plan than savoring it. Surprised at her own temerity, she meets other people on the edge of the world. It wasn’t meant to be for long. It wasn’t meant to be anything but in the end thrilling, fun, and possibly dangerous, this improvised experience will make of Lulu a different woman. 160pgs colour hardcover. NBM has a preview page here…

Nemo: River Of Ghosts
by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill
Top Shelf Productions/Knockabout Comics

The publisher says:
In a world where all the fictions ever written coalesce into a rich mosaic, it’s 1975. Janni Dakkar, pirate queen of Lincoln Island and head of the fabled Nemo family, is eighty years old and beginning to display a tenuous grasp on reality. Pursuing shadows from her past - or her imagination - she embarks on what may be a final voyage down the vastness of the Amazon, a last attempt to put to rest the blood-drenched spectres of old. With allies and adversaries old and new, we accompany an aging predator on her obsessive trek into the cultural landscape of a strange new continent, from the ruined city of Yu-Atlanchi to the fabulous plateau of Maple White Land. As the dark threads in her narrative are drawn into an inescapable web, Captain Nemo leads her hearse-black Nautilus in a desperate raid on horrors believed dead for decades. Through the exotic spectacle of an imagined South America, Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill steer their fifty-year-long Nemo trilogy to its remarkable conclusion, borne upon a River of Ghosts. 56pgs colour hardcover.

Polly And Her Pals: Complete Sunday Comics, 1928-1930
by Cliff Sterrett

The publisher says:
Polly and Her Pals: Complete Sunday Comics, 1928-1930 reprints all of Sterrett’s Sunday pages from the height of his Surrealistic Period in a large 12” x 16” Champagne Edition format so they can be fully appreciated. The book also contains Sterrett’s topper strips “Dot and Dash” and “Sweethearts and Wives.” The majority of the Sundays have never before been reprinted. Polly Perkins is young, blonde, and the apple of many a young man’s eye. Yet while Polly is out on the town or frolicking at the beach, it’s her family that creates all the hubbub. Sensible Maw Perkins can never keep her husband Paw out of trouble, and towed along in Paw’s wake are Polly’s cousin Ashur; Neewah, the family’s tart-tongued retainer; and Paw’s cat, Kitty, the pantomime wonder of the comic strip world. Edited by Dean Mullaney and designed by two-time Emmy winner Lorraine Turner, the book contains the detailed background and biographic material that has made Library of American Comics the “gold standard” in strip reprints. 160pgs colour hardcover.

Roller Girl
by Victoria Jamieson
Dial Books

The publisher says:
For fans of Raina Telgemeier’s Smile, a heartwarming graphic novel about friendship and surviving junior high through the power of roller derby. For most of her twelve years, Astrid has done everything with her best friend Nicole. But after Astrid falls in love with roller derby and signs up for derby camp, Nicole decides to go to dance camp instead. And so begins the most difficult summer of Astrid’s life as she struggles to keep up with the older girls at camp, hang on to the friend she feels slipping away, and cautiously embark on a new friendship. As the end of summer nears and her first roller derby bout (and junior high!) draws closer, Astrid realizes that maybe she is strong enough to handle the bout, a lost friendship, and middle school… in short, strong enough to be a roller girl. In her graphic novel debut, real-life derby girl Victoria Jamieson has created an inspiring coming-of-age story about friendship, perseverence, and girl power! 240pgs colour paperback. Victoria’s posted some of her Roller Derby comics here…

Tales Of Telguuth: A Tribute To Steve Moore
by Steve Moore, Clint Langley & various artists

The publisher says:
In March 2014, British comics lost one of its’ most creative and distinct voices in the form of Steve Moore. The father of the 2000 AD Future Shock, Steve created many memorable characters including Lazer Erazer and Axel Pressbutton for Warrior, and the psychotic Dalek killer, Abslom Daak for the Doctor Who Magazine. This collection features the highly-regarded fantasy series which Moore developed for 2000 AD, along with some of his classic Future Shocks. It will also featur a new introduction from Alan Moore (no relation), for whom Steve Moore was a major influence. 176pgs part-colour paperback. Read a personal appreciation of Steve Moore by Pádraig Ó Méalóid here…

The March Of The Crabs Vol. 1: The Crabby Condition
by Arthur de Pins
Boom! Studios

The publisher says:
Crabs versus The World. All species in the world evolve…except one. Cancer Simplicimus Vulgaris, or the square crab, has suffered with the same evolutionary defect for millennia: it cannot change direction. Condemned to walk in one straight line forever, these crabs living along the Gironde estuary have largely resigned themselves to their fate. However, one seemingly ordinary summer, three crabs decide to take matters into their own claws and rebel against the straight and narrow path they have been sentenced to, upending the entire ecosystem in the process. From critically-acclaimed French illustrator and animator Arthur de Pins comes the first volume in his hilarious and touching trilogy about scuttling towards your own destiny. 112pgs colour hardcover.

The Other Side Of The Wall
by Simon Schwartz
Lerner Publishing Group

The publisher says:
Simon Schwartz was born in 1982 in East Germany, at a time when the repressive Socialist Unity Party of Germany controlled the area. Shortly before Simon’s birth, his parents decided to leave their home in search of greater freedoms on the other side of the Berlin Wall. But East German authorities did not allow the Schwartzes to leave for almost three years. In the meantime, Simon’s parents struggled with the costs of their decision: the loss of work, the attention of the East German secret police, and the fragmentation of their family. In his debut graphic novel, Simon Schwartz tells the true story of his parents’ coming of age in East Germany, their rejection of the communist way of life, and the challenges of leaving that world behind. Translated from the German original entitled Drüben!. 112pgs B&W paperback.

The Swords Of Glass
by Sylviane Corgiat & Laura Zuccheri

The publisher says:
In a world threatened by the imminent death of its sun, young Yama lives a relatively happy and peaceful life as the daughter of the chief of the village. But everything changes the day a sword of glass falls from the sky, as prophesied. Anyone who touches the sword is instantly turned to glass and dies. Orland, the local warlord, comes to the village to seize the unique weapon, but fails, and in the process Yama’s father and mother die. Yama, however, escapes and survives with only one thought: to retrieve the sword of glass, and avenge the death of her parents by killing Orland with it.  With the help of a mysterious woodsman, who provides shelter and eventually raises her, Yama sets out to enact her revenge. Yet, Yama is also the key to the swords of glass prophecy: which provides humanity with one final chance of surviving the extinction of the sun. The complete four-volume series collected in one book. Sylviane Corgiat is a prolific French writer who won the Grand Prix du Livre Jeunesse for her YA novel, The Memory Traffickers, and has written for the long-running French cop TV series, Navarro. She has written numerous comic book series including Elias the Cursed (Humanoids), Moon Shadow, and co-wrote Néféritès: The Embalmer (both for Les Humanoïdes Associés). Italian-born Laura Zuccheri has worked as an artist on numerous Italian publications including Ken Parker magazine, The Condemned and Hardware (Sergio Bonelli). She won the The Grand Guinigi Award for Best Art at Lucca Festival for her Swords of Glass work. 204pgs colour hardcover.

Wuvable Oaf
by Ed Luce

The publisher says:
Wuvable Oaf is the first-ever collection of the acclaimed self-published comic book series by cartoonist Ed Luce. Oaf is a large, hirsute, scary-looking ex-wrestler who lives in San Francisco with his adorable kitties and listens to a lot of Morrissey. The book follows Oaf’s search for love in the big city, especially his pursuit of Eiffel, the lead singer of the black metal/queercore/ progressive disco grindcore band Ejaculoid. Luce weaves between the friends, associates, enemies, ex-lovers and pasts of both men into the story of their courtship. A romantic comedy at its core, Wuvable Oaf recalls elements of comics as diverse as Scott Pilgrim, Love and Rockets, and Archie, set against the background of San Francisco’s queer community and music scene. 264pgs B&W paperback with 24pgs colour.

Posted: January 1, 2015


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Comics Art by Paul Gravett from Tate Publishing

1001 Comics  You Must Read Before You Die edited by Paul Gravett

Comics Unmasked by Paul Gravett and John Harris Dunning from The British Library