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Top 16 Comics, Graphic Novels & Manga:

February 2017

My first Top PG Tip for February 2017 is the jubilant return of that baroquely decadent marvel Starstruck, in an expanded and expansive reworking from creators Elaine Lee and Michael Kaluta. It’s wonderful to plunge into more pages of one of true zeniths of recent science-fiction comics.

And my second PG Tip must be the overdue translation of one of the true ‘mistress-pieces’ of family history and autobiography, Pretending Is Lying by Dominique Goblet. Years ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dominique in Cambridge at Sarah Lightman’s first conference on comics by women. Speaking of which, you’ll find a fair few titles by ‘Comix Creatices’ among my international recommendations, as well as graphic biographies ranging from Caravaggio to Calamity Jane, and much more besides. Enjoy! 

Calamity Jane: The Calamitous Life of Martha Jane Cannary, 1852-1903
by Christian Perrissin & Matthieu Blanchin

The publisher says:
Return to the real-life days of the wild, wild West where the living wasn’t so easy… especially for women. Calamity Jane (Martha Jane Cannary) was a bona fide frontierswoman, a professional scout, a drunk, and sometime whore, doing whatever it took to stay alive in the hardscrabble days of American expansion. Writer Christian Perrissin (El Niño, Cape Horn) joins forces with Alph-Art-winning artist Matthieu Blanchin to tackle the legend of this formidable prairie girl and her daring life alongside the likes of Buffalo Bill Cody and Wild Bill Hickok. Presented in English for the first time ever, this graphic novel illustrates the extraordinary tale of an independent woman with gumption - the incredible Calamity Jane. 368pgs part-colour hardcover.

Caravaggio Vol. 1: The Palette and The Sword
by Milo Manara
Dark Horse

The publisher says:
Chronicling the pleasures and struggles of Michelangelo Merisi (who the world would come to know as Caravaggio) during the painter’s early years in Rome, this seminal work is Manara’s love letter to his idol—one of the most revered and influential artists in history. Filled with striking and timeless artwork, this hardcover is the first English-language edition of another modern Manara masterpiece. 64pgs colour hardcover.

Decelerate Blue
by Adam Rapp & Michael Cavallaro
First Second

The publisher says:
The future waits for no one. In this new world, speed and efficiency are everything, and the populace zooms along in a perpetually stimulated haze. Angela thinks she’s the only person in her family―maybe the only person on the planet―who sees anything wrong with this picture. But the truth is she’s not alone. Angela finds herself recruited into a resistance movement where the key to rebellion is taking things slow. In their secret underground hideout, they create a life unplugged from the rapid-fire culture outside. Can they free the rest of the world before the powers that be shut down their utopian experiment? From revolutionary and award-winning playwright Adam Rapp and veteran cartoonist and animator Mike Cavallaro comes Decelerate Blue, a dark, breath-taking new vision of an all-too-plausible future for America. 160pgs part-colour paperback.

Erased Vol. 1
by Kei Sanbe
Yen Press

The publisher says:
Twenty-nine-year-old Satoru Fujinuma is floundering through life. Amid his daily drudgery, he finds himself in the grip of an incredible, inexplicable, and uncontrollable phenomenon that rewinds time, a condition that seems to only make his drab life worse. But then, one day, everything changes. A terrible incident forever changes Satoru’s life as he knows it…and with it, comes a “Revival” that sends Satoru eighteen years into the past. 400pgs B&W hardcover.

Fire!! The Zora Neale Hurston Story
by Peter Bagge
Drawn & Quarterly

The publisher says:
A bold retelling of the life of the Their Eyes Were Watching God author
Peter Bagge has defied the expectations of the comics industry by changing gears from his famous slacker hero Buddy Bradley to documenting the life and times of historical 20th century trailblazers. If Bagge had not already had a New York Times bestseller with his biography of Margaret Sanger, his newest biography, Fire!!: The Zora Neale Hurston Story, would seem to be an unfathomable pairing of author and subject. Yet through Bagge’s skilled cartooning, he turns what could be a rote biography into a bold and dazzling graphic novel, creating a story as brilliant as the life itself. Hurston challenged the norms of what was expected of an African American woman in early 20th century society. The fifth of eight kids from a Baptist family in Alabama, Hurston’s writing prowess blossomed at Howard University, and then Barnard College, where she was the sole black student. She arrived in NYC at the height of the Harlem Renaissance and quickly found herself surrounded by peers such as Langston Hughes and Wallace Thurman. Hurston went on to become a noted folklorist and critically acclaimed novelist, including her most provocative work Their Eyes Were Watching God. Despite these landmark achievements, personal tragedies and shifting political winds in the midcentury rendered her almost forgotten by the end of her life. With admiration and respect, Bagge reconstructs her vivid life in resounding full-color. 104pgs part-colour hardcover.

Fires & Murmur
by Lorenzo Mattotti & Jerry Kramsky
Dover Publications

The publisher says:
Created by Eisner Award-winning artist Lorenzo Mattotti, Fires sweeps readers off into a hypnotic, haunting fantasy centred on a mysterious island where the hills are constantly ablaze. A series of vessels have inexplicably disappeared from the vicinity, so the battleship Anselm II is dispatched to investigate. When the expedition’s leader, Lieutenant Absinthe, comes ashore, his encounter with the burning island’s bizarre residents results in a form of psychic possession that leads to mayhem, madness, and murder. Mattotti’s vivid illustrations, rendered with the depth and richness of paintings, propel the eye through a brooding, brilliantly coloured atmosphere of mesmeriaing imagery. A second tale by Mattotti, co-written with Jerry Kramsky, offers another fantastic voyage. Murmur traces an amnesiac’s quest across phantasmagoric landscapes to recover his identity — an enigmatic journey in which fear and confusion are resolved by arcane magic rituals. This handsome hardcover edition marks the first publication of Fires and Murmur in a single volume. Both stories were originally published in French; this Dover edition features the 1988 English translation of Feux and the 1993 English translation of Murmure. 128pgs colour hardcover.

Good News Bible: The Deadline Strips of Shaky Kane
by Shaky Kane
Breakdown Press

The publisher says:
The most extensive collection of work yet from Shaky Kane, one of British comics’ greatest geniuses. This major retrospective of comics and illustration from essential British cartoonist Shaky Kane collects the entirety of his work from the classic ‘90s magazine Deadline for the first time. Heavily influenced by the great Jack Kirby, Shaky produces comics that combine intensity and bombast with a psychedelic and unmistakably British cynicism. 240pgs B&W paperback.

Haddon Hall: When David Invented Bowie
by Nejib
£14.99 / $22.95

The publisher says:
Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, The Thin White Duke: David Bowie had an extraordinary talent for reinvention. But at the beginning of his career, he made the most significant transformation of his life: from “David” to Bowie. In 1969, shortly after the release of his first hit single, David and his girlfriend Angie move into Haddon Hall, a sprawling Victorian villa in the London suburbs. Part commune, part creative hub, the house becomes home to a community of musicians, hippies, and hangers-on. As egos clash and parties get out of hand, David keeps writing: “Changes,” “Kooks,” “Life on Mars”—songs that will propel him to global fame. Charting Bowie’s personal life, the development of his music, and the transformation of his image, Haddon Hall is an evocative portrait of a young artist presiding over a musical revolution. 144pgs colour hardcover.

Lovers in the Garden
by Anya Davidson
Big Planet / Retrofit Comics

“You’re pretty optimistic for a guy who’s been shot in the back.” New York City, 1975. The heroin epidemic is in full swing. An art-dealing dope pusher and his deadly drug mule, two Vietnam veterans turned hit-men, an optimistic undercover cop and a renegade reporter with a nasty drinking problem all collide in the naked city. But who will come out on top after everyone’s hit rock bottom? 64pgs colour paperback.

Pretending Is Lying
by Dominique Goblet
New York Review Comics

The publisher says:
The first book to appear in English by the acclaimed Belgian artist Dominique Goblet, Pretending is Lying is a memoir unlike any other. In a series of dazzling fragments—skipping through time, and from raw, slashing colour to delicate black and white—Goblet examines the most important relationships in her life: with her partner, Guy Marc; with her daughter, Nikita; and with her parents. The result is an unnerving comedy of paternal dysfunction, an achingly ambivalent love story (with asides on Thomas Pynchon and the Beach Boys), and a searing account of childhood trauma—a dizzying, unforgettable view of a life in progress and a tour de force of the art of comics. 144pgs colour hardcover.

Revolutionary Girl Utena Deluxe Box Set
by Chiho Saito, created by Be-Papas
Viz Media

The publisher says:
Once upon a time, a little girl was rescued by a prince. That girl then grows up to be strong and courageous as she awaits his return. To defend a friend’s honor, she challenges a brute to a duel and wins. She is entrusted with the Sword of Dios and the Rose Bride, who is the key to finding her elusive prince. But this won’t end like a fairy tale. Because Utena has the power to revolutionise the world. The classic shojo manga that redefined the genre. The classic manga returns in a deluxe box set. Hardcover editions of Revolutionary Girl Utena and The Adolescence of Utena are included in this two-volume collectors’ set with exclusive colour pages and poster. 1,120 pgs B&W & colour two-volume box set.

Small Favors: The Definitive Girly Porno Collection
by Colleen Coover
Oni Press

The publisher says:
Small Favors, the critically-acclaimed girly porno comic by Eisner award-winning cartoonist Colleen Coover, is back in print in a deluxe hardcover edition. Join Annie and her tiny taskmaster Nibbil in fun, erotic adventures sure to make you blush. This omnibus edition will include volumes one and two of Small Favors, the never-before-collected colour special, behind-the-scenes materials, and a brand-new introduction. 256pgs B&W hardcover.

Soupy Leaves Home
by Cecil Castellucci & Jose Pimienta
Dark Horse

The publisher says:
Pearl “Soupy” Plankette ran away from her abusive father, but has nowhere to go until she stumbles upon a disguise that gives her the key to a new identity. Reborn as a boy named Soupy, she hitches her star to Remy “Ramshackle” Smith, a hobo who takes her under his wing. Ramshackle’s kindness and protection go a long way to help Soupy heal from her difficult past. But Ramshackle has his own demons to wrestle with, and he’ll need Soupy just as much as she needs him. Set in 1932, this is the story of two misfits with no place to call home, who build a relationship during a train hopping journey from the cold heartbreak of their eastern homes toward the sunny promise of California. 208pgs colour paperback.

Starstruck: Old Proldiers Never Die #1 (of 5)
by Elaine Lee & Michael Kaluta

The publisher says:
A glorious Starstruck mini-series of Lee & Kaluta’s classic space-opera. A rollicking adventure featuring Harry Palmer, the Galactic Girl Guides, and other favourites from this classic series. This re-mastered and expanded series features approximately 50% all-new artwork by legendary comics illustrator Michael Kaluta. Each episode includes a single chapter as well as a glossary written by Lee and illustrated by Kaluta. 32pgs colour comic book.

The British Superhero
by Chris Murray
University Press of Mississippi

The publisher says:
Chris Murray reveals the largely unknown and rather surprising history of the British superhero. It is often thought that Britain did not have its own superheroes, yet Murray demonstrates that there were a great many in Britain and that they were often used as a way to comment on the relationship between Britain and America. Sometimes they emulated the style of American comics, but they also frequently became sites of resistance to perceived American political and cultural hegemony, drawing upon satire and parody as a means of critique. Murray illustrates that the superhero genre is a blend of several influences and that in British comics, these influences are quite different from those in America, resulting in some contrasting approaches to the figure of the superhero. He identifies the origins of the superhero and supervillain in nineteenth-century popular culture such as the penny dreadfuls and boys’ weeklies and in science fiction writing of the 1920s and 1930s. From the emergence of British superheroes in the 1940s, the advent of “fake” American comics, and the reformatting of reprinted material to the British Invasion of the 1980s, and the pivotal roles in American superhero comics and film production held by British artists today, this book will challenge views about British superheroes and the comics’ creators who fashioned them. Murray brings to light a gallery of such comics heroes as the Amazing Mr X, Powerman, Streamline, Captain Zenith, Electroman, Mr Apollo, Masterman, Captain Universe, Marvelman, Kelly’s Eye, Steel Claw, the Purple Hood, Captain Britain, Supercats, Bananaman, Paradax, Jack Staff, and SuperBob. He reminds us of the significance of many such creators and artists as Len Fullerton, Jock McCail, Jack Glass, Denis Gifford, Bob Monkhouse, Dennis M. Reader, Mick Anglo, Brendan McCarthy, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Dave Gibbons, and Mark Millar. 240pgs B&W hardcover.

The Interview
by Manuele Fior

The publisher says:
In this graphic novel, a psychiatrist’s marriage falls apart, alien spacecraft hover in the sky, and his patient claims she can telepathically communicate with them. This graphic novel is set in Italy in 2048. Raniero is a fifty-something psychologist whose marriage is failing. In the sky, strange bright triangles appear, bearing mysterious messages from an extraterrestrial civilisation. Dora, his young patient, is part of the “New” Convention, a movement of young people preaching free love and alternative models to coupling and family. She declares that her telepathic abilities can parse the signal ― a warning of some kind. Initially skeptical, Raniero’s curiosity and attraction grows. The Interview is a science fiction novel that eschews the stars in favour of the delicate, fragile, interior world of human emotion. 180pgs duotone hardcover.

Posted: December 4, 2016


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My Books

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

Comics Art by Paul Gravett from Tate Publishing

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