Best of the Rest – April 2013

Ads, previews, press releases … every week, we get loads of info on the latest and greatest books coming out in single issues and trade. Not as well covered are the myriad other works that fill the shelves of comic shops and bookstores. From the graphic novels published by comic publishers like Fantagraphics, First Second, and Drawn and Quarterly to the comics made at traditional publishing houses, there’s a whole world of comics that aren’t promoted on the back cover of the most recent Batman. There are great non-fiction works, translations of foreign comic albums, and reprints collectiong out-of-print classics. Truly, these books can offer a refreshing perspective on comics.

Here’s the first in a monthly series looking at the best upcoming works you may otherwise miss out on. 


First on the menu…

Relish

 

If Ratatouille taught us anything, it’s the powerful connection between food and memory. It’s a connection that indie comic stalwart Lucy Knisley knows all too well.  The daughter of a chef and a gourmet, Lucy spent her life surrounded by (and loving) food. In Relish Knisley traces her life in twelve vignettes, each framed around a particular food. It’s a clever way to tell the story, and each section has the added bonus of ending with a beautiful one-sheet recipe. Lucy is a skillful and energetic storyteller, and though the book deals with some less-than-happy points in her life, it never gets dreary or heavy handed. And, of course, the highest compliment – Knisley draws a ton of food in these 200 pages, and it all looks delicious.

RELISH: MY LIFE IN THE KITCHEN
by LUCY KNISLEY
First Second
On Sale April 2, 2013
Softcover | 192 pages | $17.99

Lucy Knisley loves food. The daughter of a chef and a gourmet, this talented young cartoonist comes by her obsession honestly. In her forthright, thoughtful, and funny memoir, Lucy traces key episodes in her life thus far, framed by what she was eating at the time and lessons learned about food, cooking, and life. Each chapter is bookended with an illustrated recipe—many of them treasured family dishes, and a few of them Lucy’s original inventions.

A welcome read for anyone who ever felt more passion for a sandwich than is strictly speaking proper, Relish is a graphic novel for our time: it invites the reader to celebrate food as a connection to our bodies and a connection to the earth, rather than an enemy, a compulsion, or a consumer product.

The final volume of a must-own trilogy.

Graphic Canon Vol. 3

 

One of my favorite comic projects in recent memory is The Graphic Canon. The three volume collection, edited by Russ Kick, translates the great works of the literary canon – from The Epic of Gilgamesh to Infinite Jest – into comic form. It’s a stunning body of work, varied not only in its stories but also in its contributors. Many of the artists were new to me, but some (Robert Crumb, Seymour Chwast, Will Eisner) should be known by every comic fan. While the first volume dealt with older works, and the second dealt with the great works of the 19th century, this final volume takes us from 1899 to the current day. Between the strength of the earlier volumes and the great selection of books in this one, The Graphic Canon, Vol 3 gets my enthusiastic recommendation.

THE GRAPHIC CANON, VOL 3
edited by RUSS KICK
Seven Stories Press
On Sale April 16, 2013
Softcover | 576 pages | $44.95 US

The classic literary canon of Western civilization meets the comics artists, illustrators, and other artists who have remade reading in the last years of the twentieth century and the first decade of the twenty-first century in Russ Kick’s magisterial, three-volume, full-color The Graphic Canon, volumes 1, 2, and 3.

Volume 3 is a nonstop barrage of comics, full-page illustrations, photography, and cutting-edge design bringing to life the literature of the twentieth century. You never know what you’ll find: a Sherlock Holmes mystery, an H. G. Wells story, an illustrated guide to the Beat writers, a one-act play from Zora Neale Hurston (drawn by Milton Knight), a disturbing meditation on Naked Lunch, Rilke’s soul-stirring Letters to a Young Poet, a WWI soldier’s suppressed poem of war’s savagery, Anaïs Nin’s diaries, the visions of Black Elk, the heroin classic The Man With the Golden Arm (published four years before William Burroughs’s Junky ), and the postmodernism of Thomas Pynchon, David Foster Wallace, Kathy Acker, Raymond Carver, and Donald Barthelme.

An epic, multi-generational tale.

Jerusalem

 

“Epic” is a pretty blasé term at this point. It’s been watered down enough that it’s used to describe everything from reality TV finales to nights playing video games. However, when I say that Boaz Yakin and Nick Bertozzi’s Jerusalem is epic, I mean it in the more traditional sense. This big, bold book follows the lives of fifteen people, covering three generations living through the post-WWII transformation of the Middle East. Using the eyes of very different characters, filmmaker Yakin offers a comprehensive and elucidating view of the founding of Israel. While it’s a bit too personal in scope to call it a history, Jerusalem is a better telling of the nation’s founding than any other book I can recall.

JERUSALEM: A FAMILY PORTRAIT
by BOAZ YAKIN and NICK BERTOZZI
First Second
On Sale April 16, 2013
Hardcover | 400 pages | $24.95 US

An indispensable work of historical fiction about the founding of Israel from A-list Hollywood filmmaker Boaz Yakin.

Jerusalem is a sweeping, epic work that follows a single family—three generations and fifteen very different people—as they are swept up in chaos, war, and nation-making from 1940-1948. Faith, family, and politics are the heady mix that fuel this ambitious, cinematic graphic novel.

With Jerusalem, author-filmmaker Boaz Yakin turns his finely-honed storytelling skills to a topic near to his heart: Yakin’s family lived in Palestine during this period and were caught up in the turmoil of war just as his characters are. This is a personal work, but it is not a book with a political ax to grind. Rather, it seeks to tell the stories of a huge cast of memorable characters as they wrestle with a time when nothing was clear and no path was smooth.

Webcomics! Video Games!

Double Fine Action Comics Vol 1  dblfine2

Double Fine Action Comics started as a bit of a lark – a morning exercise Scott Campbell used as a daily warm-up at the eponymous video game company. Double Fine started uploading these comics onto their website in 2002, and the daily gags quickly amassed a cult following. Double Fine Action Comics Vol 1 and Vol 2 collect Campbell’s first 500 web comics into two paperback volumes. The quick, sketchy comic are deceptively simple, but there’s a lot of skill behind them that becomes apparent in the longer arcs or more elaborate strips. The comics suffer a bit when they’re read in big gulps – they’re obviously built to read on a day-by-day basis – but the two books are great to pick up when you want to laugh at an absurd, ridiculous  and insanely creative strip or three.

DOUBLE FINE ACTION COMICS VOL 1
by SCOTT CAMPBELL
Oni Press
On Sale April 17, 2013
Softcover | 120 pages | $19.99 US

Double Fine Productions is renowned for making videogames such as Psychonauts, Bruutal Legend, and Iron Brigade. Scott Campbell (or Scott C) came on as art director for Psychonauts and started drawing comics as a morning warm up. These comics were then uploaded to doublefine.com and the world was made amazing!

Now you can own them in print form! This book contains the first 300 strips, plus magnificent bonuses! You’ll laugh like crazy, and join the world in feeling amazing!

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DOUBLE FINE ACTION COMICS VOL 2
by SCOTT CAMPBELL
Oni Press
On Sale April 17, 2013
Softcover | 120 pages | $19.99 US

Knight, Strongman, Captain, Thompson, and all the rest return in this the second exciting, amazing, and thrilling volume of Double Fine Action Comics! This volume collects 200 strips that include the Black Pyramid Interdimensional Adventure, Knight Turns inventor,Tower Story, Gold Digger Adventure, The Uncle Black Knight Experience, The White Orb Space Adventure, and more!If you’ve never read the Double Fine Action Comics before, don’t worry because you can just jump right the heck in and enjoy the adventures running. Also included is an in depth, world exclusive review of Double Fine Action Comics by the fairly good-looking Erik Wolpaw!  Is this the greatest collection of all time and space? Buy Double Fine Action Comics Volume 2 and find out!

Oh là là

The Adventures of Jodelle

First published in France in 1966, The Adventures of Jodelle receives the deluxe treatment in this new edition from Fantagraphics. The book, which follows a beautiful super-spy (modeled on a French teen idol), is a satirical spy story set in a Space Age Roman-Empire fantasy world. Drawn in pop-art style, Jodelle was one of the early comic shots fired in sexual revolution of the 1960s; thoroughly modern and wholly emancipated. This new collection not only reprints and “remasters” the complete Jodelle story, but offers a new translation and includes 80 pages of supplemental material. The story itself is still a hoot, but the essay – which places the story in its fascinating historical context – is what makes The Adventures of Jodelle a must-buy.

THE ADVENTURES OF JODELLE
by GUY PEELLAERT and PIERRE BARTIER
Fantagraphics
On Sale April 20, 2013
Hardcover | 160 pages | $45.00 US

Ensconced in the avant-garde of the extraordinary social and cultural upheavals that were drawing 1960s Europe into the building wave of postmodernism, a Belgian advertising dropout, fed up with the corporate world, conceived the first “adult comic book” virtually off the top of his head.

By creating The Adventures of Jodelle, a deluxe comics album that wore its revolutionary Pop sensibility on its sleeve, Guy Peellaert obliterated the conventions of what had up to that point been a minor, childish medium. Ironically appropriating the face and body of the teen idol Sylvie Vartan, he fashioned a new kind of heroine, a sensual, parodically beautiful spy. For his setting he chose a defiantly anachronistic Roman Empire, into which irrupted the most flamboyant symbols of a conquering America, the originator of all fantasies.

Completely remastered and featuring a new translation, this long-awaited reprinting of The Adventures of Jodelle is accompanied by an 80-page, lushly-illustrated textual supplement created in partnership with the artist’s estate which traces the creative path travelled by this maverick artist, who multiplied his chosen means of expression, skipping from comics to cinema and moving through fashion, periodicals, and television, including collaborations with many of the great figures of mythical 1960s-era Paris, from Serge Gainsbourg to Yves Saint Laurent.

The force is with this one.

Vader's Little Princess

One of the most delightful surprises of last year was Darth Vader and Son, Jeffrey Brown’s collection of single-page comics featuring the imagined relationship between the estranged Skywalkers. He follows the book up in April with Vader’s Little Princess, which follows the Dark Lord of the Sith through the trials of raising a daughter. There’s no one as good at the single page gag as Jeffrey Brown, and his love (and deep knowledge) of Star Wars shines through in these books. I’m particularly excited to see the increased scope of this outing; while Son only showed Luke as a tyke, Princess splits the comics between young Leia and rebellious teen Leia. So, along with seeing Darth Vader deal with his daughter’s tea parties, we get comics about the flustered father dealing with her dating life. One imagines that seeing your daughter with Han Solo makes the dark side a bit more palatable.

VADER’S LITTLE PRINCESS
by JEFFREY BROWN
Chronicle Books
On Sale April 23, 2013
Hardcover | 64 pages | $14.95 US

In this irresistibly funny follow-up to the breakout bestseller Darth Vader and Son, Vader-Sith Lord and leader of the Galactic Empire-now faces the trials, joys, and mood swings of raising his daughter Leia as she grows from a sweet little girl into a rebellious teenager. Smart and funny illustrations by artist Jeffrey Brown give classic Star Wars moments a twist by bringing these iconic family relations together under one roof. From tea parties to teaching Leia how to fly a TIE fighter, regulating the time she spends talking with friends via R2-D2′s hologram, and making sure Leia doesn’t leave the house wearing only the a skirted metal bikini, Vader’s parenting skills are put hilariously to the test.

Detectives, dames, and … werewolves?

Fall Guy for Murder

 

If there’s one part of comic history that every fan should familiarize themselves with, it’s EC Comics. The pre-code publisher was a launching pad for well known creators like Wally Wood and John Severin, who did some of their best work on the company’s books. Though they’re perhaps best known as a horror and sci-fi publisher, EC put out a number of crime books based around film noir sensibilities. One of the best crime writers and artists there was Johnny Craig, who wrote, drew and edited on Crime SuspenStories and The Vault of Horror in the 1950s. Some were fairly straight-ahead noir books featuring murderous husbands, duplicitous wives and private dicks, while others had more fantastic elements like vampires, wolves and time bombs. The 23 stories in Fall Guy for Murder and Other Stories are short, weird, and incredibly creative. Craig stand out as not only an excellent writer, but one of the best artists of his time. While it isn’t quite as ornate as the EC Artist’s Editions, Fantagraphics’ Fall Guy does a faithful reproduction of these decades-old stories, backed with essays and historical notes.

FALL GUY FOR MURDER AND OTHER STORIES
by JOHNNY CRAIG
Fantagraphics
On Sale April 30, 2013
Hardcover | 200 pages | $28.99 US

The first collection to ever showcase the chronological run of Johnny Craig’s crisp, elegantly drawn Crime SuspenStories adds noir to the EC Comics library. Surrounded by the ornate, retro, proto-splatter horror graphics of Jack Davis and Graham Ingels and the slick, futuristic sci-fi stylings of Wally Wood and Al Williamson, EC Comics superstar Johnny Craig stood out in the 1950s with his elegant, crisp, contemporary graphic style. And nowhere did this style work more beautifully than in the dozens of superb crime and horror comics he wrote and drew for EC, mostly for the two comics he also edited, Crime SuspenStories and The Vault of Horror. (Craig was the only EC artist to habitually write his own material for the entire length of EC’s run.) Featuring murderous husbands and wives, executioners, thieving surgeons, vengeful sword-swallowers, time bombs, private dicks, vampires, werewolves, and ghouls, the 23 stories in this book comprise a perfect encapsulation of the very best and darkest kind of noir and horror writing, stunningly executed (in more than one sense of the word) by one of the great cartoonists of his (or any) era. And all in seven or eight pages per story! Fall Guy For Murder And Other Stories is once again, as are the other EC Comic Library releases, supplemented with several fascinating essays and informative historical notes on the stories.


Comments

  1. Neb Neb says:

    Those Fantagrphics EC collections are really gorgeous. I’ve got the Craig and Jack Davis one on my wishlist.

  2. wangman31888 wangman31888 says:

    This new monthly article is gonna be awesome.
    I want Vader’s little princess so badly!

  3. Impossibilly Impossibilly says:

    I really like Scott C.’s stuff.

  4. jasonhart jasonhart says:

    Thank you guys for adding this. As someone who’s losing their superhero religion, this is just what I needed. (Your spotlights on Joyners in 3D, District 14, Walrus, etc. were also much appreciated.)

  5. Jeff Reid Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    I was already in for Vader’s Little Princess but hadn’t heard of the Lucy Knisley or Johnny Craig books. Just added Fall Guy to my next DCBS order and Relish from my library.

  6. Baykid Baykid says:

    This is a feature I’d love to see more often! Jerusalem sounds especially powerful and definitely up my alley.

  7. IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

    I love noir films, love em. Guess I’ll have to check out “FALL GUY FOR MURDER AND OTHER STORIES
    by JOHNNY CRAIG”.

  8. Thanks, Josh and iFanboy for making this a thing. It’s great that you’re throwing some spotlight on some of the lesser watched publishers.

  9. Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Love this feature. Interested in all of these.

  10. CaeuZokul CaeuZokul says:

    Great! A new reading list to start! … And no, I’m not being sarcastic or facetious.