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Books To Read: Best Graphic Novels:

PG Previews March 2014

2014, already? Another New Year is underway and I’m looking ahead here to this coming March, when these brand new titles will start hitting the shelves of quality comics stores and bookshops near you. It’s always hard to pick one standout title, but I am genuinely buzzed that David Lapham is returning at long last to his first, and to my mind, still his very best solo creator-owned series, Stray Bullets, completing the story he left hanging, starting a fresh story arc and compiling all 41 issues into a bumper, back-straining Bible of criminal depravity.

Back in the day, I was struck by his first issue as a massive jolt of creative energy, proof of a talented mainstream comic book illustrator suddenly proving himself fully capable as a complete author, writing and drawing some of most stomach-knotting modern noir graphic novels I’d seen. Bowled over, I wrote a fan letter about Stray Bullets #1 which appeared in his first letter column. Lapham is an exemplar of an American industry professional taking control of his career and copyrights and making the comics he wants, the way he wants. 

I hope some of these tips will appeal to you as much as they appeal to me. Where possible, I’ve added links to images, interviews and info to tell you more. Join me through 2014 for another year of this ever-changing, ever-surprising medium in glorious full flow.

And I can’t leave without a cheeky self-promotion for my own new book Comics Art which is coming out in the USA from Yale University Press. You can order it via your comics store using Diamond Order # STK633734.

Alice in Comicland
edited by Craig Yoe

The publisher says:
Alice like you’ve never seen her before! Some of the greatest comic book artists ever to put pen to paper tumble down the rabbit hole for their own unique look at Lewis Carroll’s famous creation! Walt Kelly, Alex Toth, Dan DeCarlo, George Carlson, MAD-men Harvey Kurtzman, Jack Davis, and Dave Berg, the Simon and Kirby Shop, the Walt Disney Studios, pioneering Yellow Kid creator R. F. Outcault, and many more visit Wonderland and write… draw!... home to tell about it! You’ll be astonished to see Alice gruesomely starring in the banned horror comic book stories of the 1950s, as the basis of a romance comic, riding on a flying saucer, meeting Santa Claus, as a teeny-bopper, hanging out with famous comic characters, going to the weird Monkey Island, looking like Alfred E. Neuman, selling out to pimp bread… and even have a sex change - TWICE! The fascinating - sometimes bizarre - comics, the rare original art, a special introduction by Mark Burstein, president of Lewis Carroll Society of North America, and a revealing foreword by the award-winning comics historian Craig Yoe make this book truly a wonder! Alice in Comicland will leave you grinning like the Cheshire cat! 168pgs hardcover.

Alley Oop: The Complete Sundays Vol. 1 1934-6
by V.T. Hamlin
Dark Horse Comics

The publisher says:
Introducing the first in a series that will collect, in chronological order, all the Sunday pages of this popular newspaper strip! Go back in time to the prehistoric kingdom of Moo and follow the fantastic, whimsical - and often cleverly satirical - Stone Age adventures of V. T. Hamlin’s irrepressible caveman, Alley Oop! This oversized volume collects every Alley Oop Sunday strip from 1934 through 1936, 128pgs hardcover in full colour. Thom Buchanan’s posted a later Sunday page or two here to give you a flavour…

All Star
by Jesse Lonergan

The publisher says:
As the summer of 1998 nears, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa are racing each other to break the home-run record, Bill Clinton is being questioned about a certain Monica Lewinsky, Semisonic’s “Closing Time” is top of the charts, and Carl Carter is leading the Elizabeth Monarchs of rural Vermont to the state championship his senior year. The world is Carl’s oyster: a full scholarship to the University of Maine awaits, going pro after college isn’t out of the question, and he’s so good he can do whatever he wants—until, that is, he makes one very arrogant mistake. Acclaimed graphic novelist Jesse Lonergan offers readers a thought-provoking exploration of the fleeting highs of success in this engrossing book. 176pgs paperback. Here’s NBM’s good-looking preview extract…

by Alec Longstreth
AdHouse Books

The publisher says:
Basewood is the story of an amnesiac young man trying to remember his mysterious past. Along the way he meets an old hermit who lives in a treehouse with his loyal dog, a young woman who fights for what she believes and a giant wolf-dragon who threatens their survival. It is a story of adventure, love, loss, friendship and growth.  216pgs hardcover. Originally published as a five-part adventure series in mini-comic form, the whole story is readable online starting here…

Buddy Buys A Dump
by Peter Bagge

The publisher says:
This graphic novel follows ageing, onetime slacker Buddy Bradley from the seminal alternative comics series Hate; it has an all-new, 20-page conclusion. In this graphic novel, he’s back! Now in his 30s and married, with a child, onetime slacker hero Buddy Bradley shaves his head, dons an eye-patch, quits his “real” job and buys the local dump — because what better place to raise a toddler? Peter Bagge’s iconic character is to alternative comics what Homer Simpson has been to television animation over the past quarter-century: a generation-defining slacker and the greatest comedic character of its form and era. Featuring stories originally published in the comic book series Hate Annual from 2000-2011, as well as an all-new 20-page conclusion to the story arc, this book marks the first new book of Buddy stories since the now-perennial classics Buddy Does Seattle (2005) and Buddy Does Jersey (2007). 144pgs paperback, full-color illustrations throughout.

Cottage Classics: Their Makers and The Making
by Malcolm Whyte
Troubador Press

The publisher says:
Cottage Classics: Their Makers & The Making is illustrated by Maxon Crumb, Kim Deitch, Edward Gorey, Spain Rodriguez, S. Clay Wilson and forty-five Underground Cartoonists. It spotlights the personalities, the extraordinary art, and the intricate processes demanded of these creative innovators in books tailor-made for their talents. With over 70 b&w and colour illustrations each chapter reveals behind the book details necessary to design a volume that enriches the creator’s repertoire while bringing fresh viewpoints to timeless literature and opening their works to a wide world of new readers. This limited edition is a must have for fans of Edward Gorey, cartoon art, unique books, and those intrigued with the complex process of book publishing. 120pgs part-colour softcover. Read an interview with Whyte here and see three of the earlier individual Cottage Classics here…

Monsters & Titans: Battling Boy On Tour
by Paul Pope
Image Comics

The publisher says:
Paul Pope’s new graphic novel Battling Boy debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, and the original art is now the focus of a series of travelling art exhibits in the United States and Europe. Image Comics presents Pope’s large, lush, brushy original drawings, represented here in detail, photographed from the actual art boards, with minimal editorial interference or digital editing. This is a wide sampling from the various touring exhibits, featuring the art in its original format, with text in English, French, and Italian. The book focuses on the subtleties of the drawings in process, replicating the experience of seeing the art in person. 63 originals from Battling Boy are showcased, along with detailed close-ups of the pages. A critical essay by Charles Brownstein, executive director of CBLDF, is included. Pope himself contributes an essay on the influences behind Battling Boy, as well as his process and technique. This is a must for any Pope fan, student, fellow artist, or fan of the medium. Monsters & Titans is a celebration of the original art from one of the most critically-acclaimed American cartoonists of our time. 96pgs paperback. Great pages and commentary by Pope here and on his website here…

Nemo: The Roses of Berlin
by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill
Top Shelf Productions / Knockabout Comics
$14.95 / £9.99

The publisher says:
From The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen! Sixteen years ago, notorious science-brigand Janni Nemo journeyed into the frozen reaches of Antarctica to resolve her father’s weighty legacy in a storm of madness and loss, barely escaping with her Nautilus and her life. Now it is 1941, and with her daughter strategically married into the family of aerial warlord Jean Robur, Janni’s raiders have only limited contact with the military might of the clownish German-Tomanian dictator Adenoid Hynkel. But when the pirate queen learns that her loved ones are held hostage in the nightmarish Berlin, she has no choice save to intervene directly, travelling with her ageing lover Broad Arrow Jack into the belly of the beastly metropolis. Within that alienated city await monsters, criminals, and legends, including the remaining vestiges of Germany’s notorious ‘Twilight Heroes’, a dark Teutonic counterpart to Mina Murray’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. And waiting at the far end of this gauntlet of alarming adversaries there is something much, much worse. Continuing in the thrilling tradition of Heart of Ice, Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill rampage through twentieth-century culture in a blazing new adventure, set in a city of totalitarian shadows and mechanical nightmares. Cultures clash and lives are lost in the explosive collision of four unforgettable women, lost in the black and bloody alleyways where thrive The Roses of Berlin. 56pgs colour hardcover. Top Shelf serve upsneak peeks of cover and interiors here…

Stray Bullets: The Über Alles Edition
by David Lapham
Image Comics

The publisher says:
Stray Bullets, by award-winning creator David Lapham, has found a new home: Image Comics. The critically-acclaimed cult classic that left readers in heart-stopping suspense at the end of issue #40 will pick up where it left off and make up for lost time.   Image Comics is proud to announce that Stray Bullets#41, a definitive collection of issues #1-41 entitled Stray Bullets: The Über Alles Edition, and the first issue of Stray Bullets: The Killers, the beginning of a new story arc that will continue as an ongoing monthly series, will all hit store shelves simultaneously on March 12th.  Stray Bullets won the 1996 Eisner Award for Best Writer/Artist, and the trade paperback collection Stray Bullets: Innocence of Nihilism won the 1997 Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album-Reprint. Its trademark dark, neo-noir themes and nonlinear storytelling have been likened to the storytelling styles of Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch. 1,200 pages trade paperback. Read an interview with Lapham here… and he’s generously posted the first four issues online here…

Take Away!
by Liz Lunney
Blank Slate Press

The publisher says:
The very best of Lunney’s work from the last eight years alongside brand new material made especially for the occasion. Comprising of the funniest, most neurotic and most peculiar material such as Self Aware rabbit, Alternative Cards Hard to Find in Shops and Any Meal is Cheap if you Eat Out of a Mug With a Stick. Competing for the spotlight amongst the all star cast of anthropomorphic characters is Lunney’s enduringly popular twitter creation Depressed Cat. Not living any of his nine lives to a fulfilling level, enjoy DC’s journey through office life. 128pgs paperback. Forbidden Planet give you some of her surreally funny wondrousness here…

The Boxer: The True Story of Holocaust Survivor Harry Haft
by Reinhard Kleist

The publisher says:
Poland,1941. Sixteen-year-old Hertzko Haft is sent to Auschwitz. Separated from his family and his fiancee, he draws a will to survive from the thought of seeing them again. His ability to survive, though, comes from something else - a unique talent. When Haft is forced to fight against other inmates for the amusement of the SS officers, he knows the price of a loss. But his extraordinary physicality and skill make Haft a formidable boxer, and he manages to escape death. As the Soviet Army advances in April 1945, he manages to escape the Nazis as well. After the war, Haft emigrates to the US and earns a living as a heavyweight prizefighter. But his new-found fame fails to reunite him with the fiancee he left behind in Poland. Finally, after losing to heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano in 1949, Haft retires from the ring. Soon after, he is married, and building a new life for himself in Brooklyn, New York. The Boxer is a gripping and complex graphic novel - a powerful and moving story about love and the will to survive. 200pgs colour paperback. Check out Kleist’s news, sketches and more here…

The Harlem Hellfighters
by Max Brooks & Canaan White

The publisher says:
From bestselling author Max Brooks, the riveting story of the highly decorated, barrier-breaking, historic black regiment—The Harlem Hellfighters. This is a fictionalised account of the 369th Infantry Regiment—the first African American regiment mustered to fight in World War I. From the enlistment lines in Harlem to the training camp at Spartanburg, South Carolina, to the trenches in France, bestselling author Max Brooks tells the thrilling story of the heroic journey that these soldiers undertook for a chance to fight for America. Despite extraordinary struggles and discrimination, the 369th became one of the most successful—and least celebrated—regiments of the war. The Harlem Hellfighters, as their enemies named them, spent longer than any other American unit in combat and displayed extraordinary valor on the battlefield. Based on true events and featuring artwork from acclaimed illustrator Caanan White, these pages deliver an action-packed and powerful story of courage, honour, and heart. 256pgs B&W paperback. Here’s an interview with Brooks…

The Undertaking of Lily Chen
by Danica Novgorodoff
First Second

The publisher says:
In The Undertaking of Lily Chen, Deshi, a young man struggling to make a life for himself in rural China, watches his life comes unhinged when he accidentally kills his older brother in a fight. His distraught parents send him on a hopeless journey to acquire a bride for his brother to marry posthumously so he doesn’t enter the next world alone—an ancient Chinese tradition with many modern adherents. Eligible female corpses are in short supply, however. When Deshi falls into company with a beautiful, angry, and single young woman named Lily, he sees a solution to his problems.  The only hitch is Lily is still very much alive. Danica Novgorodoff, author of Slow Storm and Refresh, Refresh, brings her distinctive voice and gorgeous, moody watercolours to this wry, beautiful, and surprising literary graphic novel. 432pgs colour paperback. Danica’s posted 18 sample pages here to whet your appetite, and here’s the video trailer…

by Barbara Stok

The publisher says:
The turbulent life of Vincent van Gogh is a constant source of inspiration and intrigue for artists and art lovers. In this beautiful graphic biography, artist and writer Barbara Stok documents the brief and intense period of creativity Van Gogh spent in Arles, Provence. Away from Paris, Van Gogh falls in love with the landscape and light of the south of France. He dreams of setting up an artists’ studio in Arles - somewhere for him and his friends to paint together. But attacks of mental illness leave the painter confused and disorientated. When his friend and fellow artist Paul Gauguin refuses to reside permanently at the Yellow House, Van Gogh cuts off part of his ear. The most notorious event of art history has happened - and Van Gogh’s dreams are left in tatters. However, throughout this period of intense emotion and hardship, Vincent’s brother Theo stands by him, offering constant and unconditional support. Stok has succeeded in breathing new life into one of the most fascinating episodes of art history. 144pgs colour paperback. Download a 16-page preview pdf here from the Van Gogh Museum…

White Cube
by Brecht Vandenbroucke
Drawn & Quarterly

The publisher says:
With few words and gorgeous style, a cartoonist takes aim at the hypocrisies of the art world. White Cube is the Belgian cartoonist and illustrator Brecht Vandenbroucke’s debut book, a collection of mostly wordless strips that follow a pair of pink-faced twins as they attempt to understand contemporary art and the gallery world. Their reactions to the art they encounter are frequently comedic, as they paint over Pablo Picasso’s famous mural Guernica, and re-create a pixelated version of Edvard Munch’s The Scream after receiving one too many e-mails. Lushly painted, these irreverent strips poke fun at the staid, often smug art world, offering an absurdist view on the institutions of that world—questioning what constitutes art and what doesn’t, as well as how we decide what goes on the walls of the gallery and what doesn’t. Vandenbroucke’s distinctive work blends the highbrow with the low, drawing equally from Gordon Matta-Clark’s site-specific artwork and the Three Stooges’ slapstick timing. With a knowing wink at the reader, Vandenbroucke continuously uncovers something to laugh about in the stuffiness and pretentiousness of the art world. 64pgs colour hardcover. Robot6 at CBR give you some fine examples here…

Posted: January 6, 2014


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