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February 2012

Hey, Happy Holidays and Condiments of the Seasoning to one and all! I’ve found some more glistening needles in the giant haystack of sequential art productions looming on the horizon of February 2012 (all based on publishers’ advance listings, although actual dates may vary), and not a single licensed property, computer game, TV, movie, toy or other dreary genre recipe tie-in among them, just that very welcome combination of originality, innovation and respect for creators’ rights and readers’ intelligence and taste.


A Long Day Of Mr. James-Teacher
by James Harvey
Blank Slate Books
$7.99

The publisher says:
James Harvey explains: “In 2008, I, being a young man of 25 years of age, went to South Korea to reach English to elementary school students. They were the six most eventful and enjoyable months of my life - I was constantly inspired, and formed bonds and friendships that will last forever. I climbed mountains! I hopped fences! I loved, lost, fought and won battles! Here’s a comic I drew about a day where it rained.” A brief snapshot of his time in Korea, A Long Day of Mr. James-Teacher encapsulates the highs and lows of his life as an English teacher. The poster-child for the new wave of manga-inspired artists adapting those styles to their own ends, James exhibits astounding craft in his depiction of one particularly grim day. Attracting praise in its original limited-edition self-published run for its breath-taking fluid art style and emotional range, this deluxe Chalk Marks edition adds all-new work and a couple of extra surprises for readers.

Paul Gravett says:
From the top-and-tail bleed spread illustrations of insanely tangled overhead electricity cables or a clothesline of squids drying in the breeze, James Harvey aka HarveyJames takes us into the experiences of an ‘alien’ teaching kids in Korea. His thoughts in white lettering cluster inside black clouds, as he struggles with lesson plans for his demanding boss Kang and with finding not always approved ways to educate and entertain his pupils, while the rainy season makes him homesick for London. With lively Asian-influenced cartooning from exaggerated expressions to moody white scratchings and circular ripples for the torrential downpour, James delivers an assured autobiographical vignette of real charm and promise.



A Princess Of Mars
adapted by Ian Edginton & Ian Culbard
SelfMadeHero
£14.99

The publisher says:
While prospecting in Arizona, Civil War veteran, John Carter is attacked by Native Americans and is mysteriously transported to Mars. Finding his strength due to the low gravitational forces on Mars - and because of his military abilities - he earns the respect and friendship of the Tharks, a native Martian tribe. As commander of Thark forces he rescues Dejah Thoris, a beautiful Princess of Mars. But can Carter bring peace to the warring tribes of Mars and protect Dejah Thoris from her many enemies? A Princess of Mars is the first in the John Carter Trilogy.

Paul Gravett says:
The team behind SelfMadeHero’s stirling Holmes adaptations tackle Burroughs’ hero with their usual fidelity and flair. This is being released in the US for early 2012, tying in of course with the new movie version, but won’t be published in the UK till 2013.



Between Gears
by Natalie Nourigat
Image Comics
$19.99

The publisher says:
This honest, autobiographical account of a college senior’s life will transport you to the land of Jell-O shots, term papers, job interviews, road trips, and sanguine optimism in the face of uncertainty and change. This trade paperback collects the comic in its entirety, with 30 pages of new material.

Paul Gravett says:
Natalie Nourigat’s manga-inspired diary webcomics Between Gears make the leap from pixel to print in this chunky 304-page compendium. Another talented self-publishing voice has been nurtured by the internet and found her audience around the world.



Cartoon Monarch: Otto Soglow & The Little King
edited by Dean Mullaney
IDW
$49.99

The publisher says:
A long-overdue examination of the unique pantomime cartoons of Otto Soglow, who not only entertained millions for more than fifty years but whose influence remains current in the works of Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, Ivan Brunetti, and others. This compendium features 432 pages of Soglow’s The Little King - plus the complete run of The Ambassador, the strip that preceded the King in the comics pages, as well as copious examples of his other artwork.

Otto Soglow’s Little King is a monarch who sits stiffly on the throne but bursts into life at the sight of a hotdog stand or at the approach of a rowdy mob. He is a man of the people who has somehow found himself on the wrong side of the palace steps, but he makes the most of it, trying to do right by his office and find what pleasures he can at the absurd outer reaches of his daily rituals. It was often said that Otto Soglow resembled his creation, and he did nothing to disabuse people of that notion as he regularly performed in character throughout his career. As is explored in this volume, the resemblance was more than merely physical: like his most famous creation, Soglow was a man whose origins and political sensibilities were always with the working man on the street - and even the angry mob. Yet while he began his career as a radical artist publishing in The New Masses and The Liberator, a decade later he was working for William Randolph Hearst and creating advertisements for Pepsi Cola and oil companies. The Little King is born out of the tension between his political idealism and his professional ambitions.

Paul Gravett says:
If you don’t know The Little King, you are missing Soglow’s refined elegance and economy which gave us one of the gems of largely wordless visual comedy and a timeless insight into the real values in life beyond kingly wealth and royal status. There’s no better place to appreciate this legacy than Dean Mullaney’s gorgeous, enlightening survey - truly fit for a (Little) King!



Cramond Island
by Irkus M. Zeberio
Nobrow
£8.50

The publisher says:
Crammond Island is the first instalment in the Jean Baptiste Baigorri narrative, created by Basque comic book virtuoso Irkus M Zeberio. At 19 x 27 cms it is also one of largest short-run comics to date. The tale follows Jean Baptiste Baigorri, an embattled poet/freedom fighter.existential superhero as he struggles with his rapidly disintegrating relationships, increasingly absurd surroundings, and the missions set for him by a mysterious society… Jean Baptiste has been living in a cottage with his girlfriend in Edinburgh for a while. Lately they haven’t been getting along very well. Jean Baptiste works in a kitchen run by the oppressive minions of the restaurant’s owner, the Fat One. It’s hell on earth, literally, as the kitchen is built at the mouth of one of the seven gates of hell. He works twelve hour days and the company’s unrelenting cost-cutting strategies force their employees to sink to ever lower levels of depravity for the sake of company profits. JBB is tired. Still, as all great poets, he utilises his suffering to advantage, creating particularly spirited (but awful) poetry from his myriad experiences. JBB longs for a change of scene and is ripe for manipulation.

At the news of his grandmother’s deteriorating health, JBB attempts to take time off work to collect his thoughts and visit his ailing relative. After failed attempts at reason with his superior at Hell’s kitchen, he escapes, attracting the attention of an agent of the Fat One. Realising he is in danger, a mysterious duo, including the elusive Dr Echtegeray and his blonde assistant whisk him to safety and enlist him into a paramilitary sect of poets, whose aim is to subvert the status quo universally through non-violent terrorism. Their aim: to deliver a message to the people through poetic activism. Will they succeed in opening the masses’ minds to the liberating power of the Poetic Act, or will they remain in the hopeless throes of their mindless consumerist existences? You’ll have to see, won’t you!

Beginning his career as a contributor to reputed and critically acclaimed comics anthology Kus!, Irkus quickly became known for his sensitivity to the literary tradition of magical realism and his deep mastery of the visual language of comics. At times cryptic, always engaging, his work recalls the boldness of contemporary Serbian author Igor Hofbauer, whilst nodding to the absurdities of Clowes’ darker material. A work entirely of its own, dashing the conventions of graphic storytelling, Crammond Island is but the first taste of an adventure that spans nations, worlds, even dimensions to bring our protagonist ever closer to his destiny: literary greatness!

Paul Gravett says:
Nobrow can be relied upon to provide a classy packaging for another of their talented discoveries. Get in on the ground floor of this intriguingly bizarre strip serial, with this opening episode of 36 oversized pages plus covers, printed in four unique spot colours.



Folly: The Consequences Of Indiscretion
by Hans Rickheit
Fantagraphics
$18.99

The publisher says:
Give your cerebellum a tug and become a spelunker of the subconscious as we trespass among the scorched archaic wastelands of the offspring of apes and fools. Here we find the profane, beautiful progeny of prurient ideals. Immerse yourself in the nocturnal meanderings of unnamed protagonists. Ponder the uncomfortable sexuality of the twins, ‘Cochlea & Eustachia’. Recoil at the doings of a dwarfish malefactor in ‘Hail Jeffrey’, or simply stare at the pretty pictures. Suffice to say that readers of The Squirrel Machine will not be disappointed. The author instructs you not misuse Folly: The Consequences of Indiscretion. Poke it gently with a long stick, if you must. Careful, it might ruin the carpet. Placate it with a belly-rub or sweet pastry before it attacks the children. Don’t worry; your tongue won’t stick. If it fits, don’t shove it in too quickly. Keep it as your own cherished object: a shameful, guarded secret. The filter for reality’s blinding glare. Detritus of the Under-Brain. The Unspeakable Thing You Always Knew.

Paul Gravett says:
Approach with caution unless you delight in being deliciously disturbed. Mining a similar dark vein of the macabre as Charles Burns or Al Columbia, Hans Rickheit serves up some perfect little graphic nightmares.



Friends With Boys
by Faith Erin Hicks
First Second
$15.99

The publisher says:
A coming-of-age tale with a spooky twist! Maggie McKay hardly knows what to do with herself. After an idyllic childhood of homeschooling with her mother and rough-housing with her older brothers, it’s time for Maggie to face the outside world, all on her own. But that means facing high school first. And it also means solving the mystery of the melancholy ghost who has silently followed Maggie throughout her entire life. Maybe it even means making a new friend - one who isn’t one of her brothers.

Paul Gravett says:
First Second can be relied upon to give creators the scope they need to fully explore their subject matter. I’m expecting an advance review of this latest in their line of US-originated graphic novels, so I will report back shortly with full information.



Gloriana
by Kevin Huizenga
Drawn & Quarterly
$19.95

The publisher says:
In Gloriana, Kevin Huizenga exposes the mechanics that underpin everyday life. His protagonist, Glenn Ganges, has conversations about dish soap and library visits that are both faithful depictions of the mundane interactions we all have and so much more: existential dissections of the units that construct our lives. Huizenga has an understated, quiet approach to story writing that allows his characters (and his readers) the self-awareness to recognize the humor and tragedy of every moment. Huizenga’s much-lauded work is finely detailed, and in its innovative use of form, it explores the boundaries of the comic medium, deconstructing and reconstructing panels to express temporality and lived experience more fully. Presented in this expanded edition, Gloriana employs familiar settings and thorough, sometimes scientific explanations to reach thoughtful conclusions.

Paul Gravett says:
I first met Huizenga at the 2002 SPX in Bethesda, Maryland and one of the highlights was picking up his 2001 meaty, eye-opening maxi-mini-comic Gloriana, a high-production self-published number, complete with colour covers and fold-out centrefold. A few years later, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kevin at the BilBolBul festival in Bologna, Italy, with his fellow American artists Paul Hornschemeier and Anders Nilsen. Ten years on, Huizenga’s early, ambitious work gets the hardback graphic novel treatment and a new lease of life.



Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland
by Harvey Pekar & Joseph Remnant
Zip Books & Top Shelf Productions
$21.99

The publisher says:
A lifelong resident of Cleveland, Ohio, Harvey Pekar (1939-2010) pioneered autobiographical comics, mining the mundane for magic since 1976 in his critically acclaimed series American Splendor. Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland is sadly one of his last, but happily one of his most definitive graphic novels. It presents key moments and characters from the city’s history, intertwined with Harvey’s own ups and downs, as relayed to us by Our Man and meticulously researched and rendered by artist Joseph Remnant. At once a history of Cleveland and a portrait of Harvey, it’s a tribute to the ordinary greatness of both.

Alan Moore says:
One of the very greatest works by that unique and irreplaceable American voice, the truly splendorous Harvey Pekar… graced by the impeccable and poignant artistry of Joseph Remnant.

Paul Gravett says:
We’re blessed that the late, great Harvey Pekar left behind several completed scripts, only now seeing the light of day and print as graphic novels. This looks like being one of his finest ever pieces, a citizen’s commemoration of his much-loved city, birthplace of both Superman and the everyman of American Splendor. Alan Moore provides a heartfelt introduction.



Hector Umbra
by Uli Osterle
Blank Slate Books
$27.99

The publisher says:
Oesterle skilfully employs the stylistic devices of the detective novel and science fiction. He also enriches his abstruse and mysterious adventure by taking critical sideswipes at the widespread dissemination of conspiracy theories, the sensationalism of the media and the fashion fixation of club culture. The focal point of his stories is Hector Umbra, a painter, who goes in search of his friend DJ Osaka, who has suddenly disappeared. Prepare to enter a wild and colourful world packed with freaks, villains and aliens.

Paul Gravett says:
Twists and turns await you in this masterly mash-up of genres from one of the most striking stylists of Germany’s new wave of graphic novelists.



Jinchalo
by Matthew Forsythe
Drawn & Quarterly
$19.95

The publisher says:
Jinchalo is Korean for “Really?” and that question (formulated variously as “What is and what isn’t?” “What is real?” and “What is imagined?”) is at the heart of this book. A companion to Matthew Forsythe’s vastly successful Ojingogo, Jinchalo stars the same little girl as its heroine. When the mischievous shape-shifter Jinchalo hatches from a mysterious egg, he starts our heroine adventuring anew. Magical troubles drag the pair out of the safety of her home, through the small village where she resides, up, up, and away. In the course of their flight, they visit a robot garden, follow a vine into the clouds, and leave the village far behind. These comics are firmly rooted in Korean folktales and stylistic conventions, with a playful, joyous drawn line. Jinchalo welcomes readers back into Forsythe’s Miyazaki-tinged dreamscape where spotted octopi fly and bears give piggyback rides, where hummingbirds are larger than people and a sad furry monster wearing a bowler hat lurks around every corner. Forsythe uses page space innovatively in this wordless, panel-less book, and his storytelling is compelling for all ages, both simple and intricately detailed.

Paul Gravett says:
Like Brandon Graham and James Harvey highlighted here, Matthew Forsythe has also been irreparably and positively marked by his early exposure to Asian comics, both Japanese and Korean. There’s no fixed formula to how these influences will be synthesised and expressed through each individual creator. Jinchalo promises to be another blissful Forsythe saga.



Journalism
by Joe Sacco
Metropolitan Books
$24.00

The publisher says:
A first for the world’s greatest cartoon reporter, a collection of journalism, including articles on the American military in Iraq that have never been published in the United States. Over the past decade, Joe Sacco, “our moral draughtsman” (Christopher Hitchens), has increasingly turned to short-form comics journalism to report from the sidelines of wars around the world. Collected here for the first time, Sacco’s darkly funny, revealing reportage confirms his standing as one of the foremost war correspondents working today. In “The Unwanted,” Sacco chronicles the detention of Saharan refugees who have washed up on the shores of Malta; “Chechen War, Chechen Women” documents the trial without end of widows in the Caucasus; and “Kushinagar” goes deep into the lives of India’s untouchables, who are hanging “onto the planet by their fingernails.” Other pieces take Sacco to the smuggling tunnels of Gaza; the trial of Milan Kovacevic, Bosnian warlord, in The Hague; and the darkest chapter in recent American history, Abu Ghraib. And on a mission with American troops - pieces never published in the United States - he confronts the misery and absurdity of the war in Iraq.

Paul Gravett says:
Gathered at last under one cover are Sacco’s assorted reportages, several published in The Guardian magazine in the UK, his short, sharp missives of engaging and engaged cartoon journalism at its best.



Judge Bao Vol 1: Judge Bao & The Jade Phoenix
by Patrick Marty & Chongrui Nie
Archaia Entertainment
$14.95

The publisher says:
In China under the Northern Song Dynasty, the Empire saw tremendous growth and prosperity. But with great riches come great temptations, and the Emperor must constantly fight against the corruption of renegade military officers, abusive governors, corrupt businessmen, and regular bandits and thieves. To fight against this scourge, Emperor Ren Zong gave broad magistrate powers to a judge whose reputation would extend well beyond the borders of the Empire: Judge Bao (999-1062 CE). Mandated by the highest court of the Empire, Judge Bao becomes a symbol of justice for the people of the land. His aversion to corruption and dedication to justice make him a popular hero, but with many enemies. Accompanied by his bodyguard Zhan Zhao, his page Bao Xing, and his assistant and coroner Gongsun, he travels the length and breadth of the Middle Kingdom, crusading against corruption and all forms of injustice. In this first volume, Bao finds himself in a small village where a mother mourns her son, languishing in prison, caught in a complicated love triangle and accused of a murder he says he did not commit. Will Judge Bao find the real murderer?

Paul Gravett says:
Chongrui Nie was one of the featured artists, whose work was shown in the exhibition I curated in 2008, Manhua! China Comics Now, the first survey of contemporary Chinese comics presented in Britain. It was a pleasure to meet this gentleman, when I invited him to London for a special study day at the London College of Communication to talk about his life and art. Discover his sumptuous, richly textured and cross-hatched illustrations in this first in a series of translated historical mysteries.



King City
by Brandon Graham
Image Comics
$19.99

The publisher says:
Joe is a young man with no home, no purpose, and almost no friends… though he does have a very special cat. With a simple injection, Joe’s cat can be anything: a weapon, a tool, or even a cuddly companion. But what—if anything—can transform Joe? Whatever it is, it can probably be found in King City, an outrageous semi-futuristic city full of spy gangs, alien porn, and reasonably priced diners.

Paul Gravett says:
Confession time. I was constantly tempted to pick this up in its multiple part-work form from TokyoPop, so my apologies Mr Graham, but I “waited for the trade”, and lo and behold, here it is at last from Image. King City is simply one of the funkiest manga not made in Japan, spunky and spirited, brimming over with ideas and imagination. As with the UK’s James Harvey, we’re seeing these young guns delivering the exciting results of their fusion of a love of manga with Western indie/underground approaches.



Kolor Klimax: Nordic Comics Now
by various, edited by Matthias Wivel
Fantagraphics
$29.99

The publisher says:
This anthology of comics offers an intoxicating and compelling sampling of current works. Jenni Rope [Finland] tells a minimalist tale of heartbreak in “The Island”; Peter Kielland’s [Denmark] Mr. Pig has an eventful day; Joanna Rubin Dranger [Sweden] is “Always Prepared to Die for My Child”; Crumb-esque satirist Christopher Nielsen [Norway] boils down all of life to an eternal journey up the “Escalator”; Tommi Musturi [Finland] provides two full-color Jim Woodringesque romps featuring his “Samuel” character; Johan F. Krarup [Denmark] visits a compulsive comics collector in “Nostalgia”; plus Bendik Kaltenborn’s [Norway] “The Great Underneath,” a dazzling wordless piece from Mardon Smet [Denmark], the legendary Swedish cartoonist Joakim Pirinen’s ultra-virtuoso “My Life,” Drawn & Quarterly-published Amanda Vahamaki’s [Finland] pencil-smudges, and much more.

Paul Gravett says:
I met Danish critic and editor Matthias Wivel, valued contributor to 1001 Comics, again last September at the Helsinki Comics Festival, where this pan-Scandinavian selection box was launched at the Helsinki Comics Centre. Amid extensive media coverage of Finland’s centenary of comics, and with the largest ever attendance of their annual festival, topping 25,000 visitors, this region is clearly buzzing when it comes to sequential art. Kolor Klimax spotlights Wivel’s wide-ranging sampling of stories by idiosyncratic local cartoonists in a substantial tome. And by the way, Matthias confided in me that his choice of title is a nod and nudge-nudge wink-wink to a fondly remembered Sixties porn publication from Denmark.



Leaping Tall Buildings: The Secret Origins Of American Comics
by Christopher Irving & Seth Kushner
PowerHouse Books
$35.00

The publisher says:
From the founders of the popular comics website Graphic NYC - writer Christopher Irving and photographer Seth Kushner - comes the firsthand accounts of the comic book’s story, from its birth in the late 1930s to its current renaissance on movie screens and digital readers everywhere. Kushner’s evocative photography captures the subjects that Irving profiles in a hard-hitting narrative style derived from personal interviews with the legends of the art, all of which is accompanied by examples of their work in the form of original art, sketches, and final panels and covers. The creators profiled include the late Captain America co-creator Joe Simon, Marvel guru Stan Lee, MAD magazine’s fold-out artist Al Jaffee, visionary illustrator Neal Adams (Batman), underground paragon Art Spiegelman (Maus), X-Men writer Chris Claremont, artist/writer/director Frank Miller (Sin City, 300), comic analyst Scott McCloud (Understanding Comics), American Splendor‘s Harvey Pekar, painter Alex Ross (Kingdom Come), multitalented artist and designer Chris Ware (Acme Novelty Library), artist Jill Thompson (Sandman), and more.

Paul Gravett says:
Writer Irving and photographer Kushner delve into the secret origins of the American comic book industry, recreating its sometimes murky roots, and its opportunist and exploitative entrepreneurs, often embroiled in the sleazier end of the cut-priced publishing field - so much for ‘Truth, Justice and the American (comic book) Way!’ - and bring the history into the 21st century flowering of the medium.



Rohan At The Louvre
by Hirohiko Araki
NBM Publishing
$19.99

The publisher says:
Rohan, a young mangaka (Japanese manga artist), meets a beautiful mysterious young woman with a dramatic story. Seeing him draw, she tells him of a cursed 200-year-old painting that used the blackest ink ever known, from a 1000-year-old tree that the painter had brought down. The painting was saved by the curator of the Louvre - Rohan forgets this story until, 10 years later, he tries to locate it on a visit to Paris. Little does he know how violent the curse really is. Fans of manga will appreciate the innovative storyline and the energetic, psychedelic visuals within.

Paul Gravett says:
The British Museum recently published its first related manga, Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure by Hideshi Yukinobu, but meanwhile over in Paris the Louvre museum has been commissioning stunning French artists like De Crécy, Yslaire, Liberge and Matthieu to respond to their collections, buildings and history in graphic novel form. NBM have released these first four and now offers this fascinating transnational manga, the Louvre’s first entry by a leading mangaka, author of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventures published in English by Viz Media and noticeably inspired by the baroque muscularity and exaggerated emotions of the Neal Adams school of superhero comic books.



Shooters
by Eric S. Trautmann, Brandon Jerwa & Steve Lieber
DC Vertigo
$22.99

The publisher says:
Today’s battlefield isn’t just about the uniformed soldier in service to his country; there’s also the contractor, who answers to the corporation. Call them mercenaries, soldiers-for-hire, or private military operators, they are a new breed of combatant in today’s conflicts. Shooters is the story of Terry Glass, a warrior whose spirit and soul has been hardened in countless battles. When a horrible accident shatters his world, Glass finds himself waging a private war on several fronts - against his career, his marriage, and ultimately, his faith.

Paul Gravett says:
I have found that Vertigo original graphic novels can generally be relied upon to take chances. Hopefully I can report back more fully on Shooters once I’m sent a full pdf review copy.



The Celestial Bibendum
by Nicolas De Crécy
Humanoids Inc
$69.95

The publisher says:
From multiple Eisner nominated creator and European star Nicolas De Crécy comes a masterpiece of color and irony, recounting the absurd tale of one lonely seal pup by the name of Diego in the vast and corrupt metropolis of New York-on-the-Seine.

Paul Gravett says:
De Crécy is gradually getting discovered for the French graphic storytelling genius he truly is, with NBM releasing his Louvre-related fantasy Glacial Period and his wacky anthrpomorphic romance Salvatore in English. Now comes this deluxe compilation of his landmark early works. Knockabout are releasing an edition in the UK in April priced more affordably at £24.99 and all being well the artist will be invited over to sign and draw live at the next Comica Comiket Independent Comics Fair in London on Saturday April 21st. Put that date in your diary.

Posted: December 26, 2011

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