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.
Best of the Rest is a monthly series looking at the best upcoming works you may otherwise miss out on.
“Matt Kindt is the man.” —Junot Diaz
Indie comics staple Matt Kindt returns this May with Red Handed, a new OGN from First Second. Like a number of his prior works at Dark Horse, DC and Top Shelf, Red Handed is deeply entrenched in the world of espionage. The story of a genius detective’s defense of the city of Red Wheelbarrow (with some nifty spy technology) is a wonderfully hard-boiled yarn, equal parts Geoffrey Homes and Donald Sobol.
I mean, just look at that cover. See if you can spot how many crimes are occurring.
Kindt’s best books are one-man shows like this, and his script and watercolor-esque art come together for a technicolor noir story. Matt also plays a decent amount with form, and fake newspaper clippings and covers are mixed among the pages. The whole package is simply a delight.
by MATT KINDT
On Sale May 7, 2013
Hardcover | 272 pages | $26.99A thrilling look at the mysterious nature of crime and justice.
Welcome to the city of Red Wheelbarrow, where the world’s greatest detective has yet to meet the crime he can’t solve—every criminal in Red Wheelbarrow is caught and convicted thanks to Detective Gould’s brilliant mind and cutting-edge spy technology.
But lately there has been a rash of crimes so eccentric and random that even Detective Gould is stumped. Will he discover the connection between the compulsive chair thief, the novelist who uses purloined street signs to write her magnum opus, and the photographer who secretly documents peoples’ most anguished personal moments? Or will Detective Gould finally meet his match?
Operating with wit and perception in the genre of hard-boiled crime fiction, Red Handed owes as much to Paul Auster as Dashiell Hammett, and raises some genuinely sticky questions about human nature.
Tragedy + Time = Comedy
I love a good superhero comic as much as the next guy (probably moreso, truth be told), but I’ve got a particular soft spot for graphic novels and memoirs about relationships. The newest book I’ve shelved beside Fun Home, Blankets, and Box Office Poison is Cynthia Copeland’s Good Riddance. A graphic novel is quite a departure for Copeland, who previously focused on lighter, parent-friendly fare. The shift was a change of necessity; the author discovered her husband of nearly two decades was having an affair, the instigating event for the memoir. The book chronicles her path from this point, going through a separation and divorce while raising their three children. Good Riddance is an affecting book, written with a surprising amount of humor and a shockingly even-handed perspective. Where a divorce memoir written with pity or malice would be a total drag to read, Copeland succeeds in crafting a book that offers wisdom about personal happiness and the growth that can come from disaster.
by CYNTHIA COPELAND
On Sale May 7, 2013
Softcover | 224 pages | $17.95
When you think you live in a Norman Rockwell painting-married 18 years, three kids, beautiful old house in the country, successful career as a writer-you don’t expect there’s another side to the canvas. Until you read a lovesick e-mail to your husband . . . that didn’t come from you!
Good Riddance is an honest and funny graphic memoir about suffering through and surviving divorce. Cynthia Copeland chronicles the deep pain, confusion, awkwardness, and breakthroughs she experiences in the “new normal” as a wife who’s been deceived, a mom who’s now single, a divorcée who’s dating, and a woman who’s on her own figuring out what she truly wants from her life. Copeland tells her story with an emotional candor and spot-on humor that makes Good Riddance poignant, painful, and hilarious all at once.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water
Since launching in 2007, London publisher SelfMadeHero has built a strong catalog of foreign language translations and original graphic novels. After a few experimental dips in the US market, SelfMadeHero has penned a distribution deal with Abrams that promises to bring scads of unique comics across the pond. Among the early entries is Sandcastle, a mystery that draws tonal inspiration from The Twilight Zone. Written by Pierre Oscar Levy and drawn by Frederik Peeters, the taut story starts as a mystery (tourists on a beach discover a body in the water), and quickly segues into a peculiar science fiction story. Levy tells a fine mystery with plenty of twists and genuine surprises in its 100 pages, but the real star here is Peeters’ art. It’s fitting that Frederik’s name gets top billing on the cover – his depiction of the beach’s unique inhabitants is masterful, and his dynamic work on the more horrific parts of the story unforgettable.
by PIERRE OSCAR LEVY and FREDERICK PEETERS
On Sale May 7, 2013
Hardcover | 112 pages | $19.95
It’s a perfect beach day, or so thought the family, young couple, a few tourists, and a refugee who all end up in the same secluded, idyllic cove filled with rock pools and sandy shore, encircled by green, densely vegetated cliffs.
But this utopia hides a dark secret.
First there is the dead body of a woman found floating in the crystal-clear water.
Then there is the odd fact that all the children are aging rapidly. Soon everybody is growing older-every half hour-and there doesn’t seem to be any way out of the cove. Levy’s dramatic storytelling works seamlessly with Peeters’s sinister art to create a profoundly disturbing and fantastical mystery.
Originally published in French years ago, Christophe Blain’s In the Kitchen with Alain Passard is now available in English. The breezy comic profiles the quixotic Alain Passard, a Parisian master chef who Blain shadowed for two years as research. Journeying through Passard’s kitchens and gardens, the book paints a picture of a chef who works with something akin to blind instinct. The book has a frantic energy, told mostly through dialogue (really, monologue from Passard) and flowing sketches from Blain that capture the motion of a chef in the kitchen. This focus on spoken words creates the effect of Alain speaking directly to the reader, almost as if he’s doing a “talking head” for The Office or Parks and Rec. The intimacy that Blain captures is disarming, and immediately draws the reader into the privileged world of high-end French cuisine. Even if you don’t know haute cuisine from Hot Topic, the book is an accessible treat.
IN THE KITCHEN WITH ALAIN PASSARD
by CHRISTOPHE BLAIN
On Sale May 7, 2013
Hardcover | 96 pages | $16.95
Available in English for the very first time, In the Kitchen with Alain Passard is the first graphic novel to enter the kitchen of a master chef. Over the course of three years, illustrator Christophe Blain trailed acclaimed chef Alain Passard through his kitchens and gardens. With simple yet sublime drawings and thousands of colorful panels, this book gives the reader an inside, uncensored look at the world of Passard, who shocked the food universe in 2001 by removing meat from the menu at his celebrated Paris restaurant, L’Arpege, and dedicating himself to serving vegetables from his own organic farms. This irresistible hardcover combines a portrait of an amazing chef, an inside look at his creative process, and a humorous riff on fine dining culture-plus fifteen recipes for the home kitchen-in one haute cuisine comic book for foodies!
Classic Art from a Master
Steve Ditko is one of those guys you could picture on the Mount Rushmore of comics creators. Hell, the man had a hand in the creation of Dr. Strange and freakin’ Spider-Man. But before hooking up with Marvel (then Atlas) comics in 1956, Ditko started a relationship with Connecticut’s Charlton Comics. Before, during, and after his years at Marvel, Steve Ditko produced science fiction, horror and mystery stories for the small publisher. Impossible Tales: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol 4 collects over two hundred of these early Ditko pages, restored in full-color in an oversized hardcover. Like so many of the great comics from the 1950s, the drug-fueled, macabre scenes look more like something out of an alternate dimension rather than from the states’ apple pie and bubblegum past.
IMPOSSIBLE TALES: THE STEVE DITKO ARCHIVES, VOL 4
by STEVE DITKO
On Sale May 1, 2013
Hardcover | 256 pages | $39.99
The co-creator of Spider-Man will shock you with these twisted tales in the fourth volume of The Ditko Archives.
Five years before Steve Ditko began work on his now legendary co-creations for Marvel Comics, the Amazing Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, he was producing some of his best work in near anonymity for Charlton Comics. Like its predecessors, Impossible Tales: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 4 features over 200 meticulously restored full-color pages of Ditko in his early prime—stories that have never seen a proper reprinting until now, thrilling stories of suspense, mystery, haunted houses, and unsuspecting victims all delineated in Ditko’s wildly idiosyncratic, masterful style. This fourth volume ranks as the best in the Archives series to date thanks in large part to the inspiration Ditko took from comics derived from the classic host-narrated radio shows, which gave an extra oomph to his creepy yarns. Moreover, comics such as This Magazine is Haunted and Tales of The Mysterious Traveler bore witness to a veritable explosion in Ditko’s ingenuity in terms of manipulating the traditional comic-book page layout. This new level of excellence also manifested itself in his work on other books, such Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds, Out of This World, Strange Suspense Stories, and Unusual Tales, all of which are amply represented in this volume.
Cornier than Ethanol, Cheesier than Provolone
Speaking of bubble gum…
If you’re a person of a certain age, your first experience with comics was probably the little strips wrapped around Bazooka Joe bubble gum. They’re comics I have a huge amount of residual affection for, though I don’t even remember them being particularly funny. Since they were wrapped around bubble gum, they usually only got a cursory read before a pitch straight into the trash.
With Bazooka Joe and His Gang, Topps is giving me (and all of you) a chance to look back at these minicomics. The book promises to be a neat historical document, with strips culled from six decades of Bazooka Joe comics – including the complete first series from the 1950s. There’s also essays, jokes, and other ancillary content in the surprisingly hefty book. Oh, and trading cards. So, if you like that kind of thing, that’s the kind of thing that you’ll like.
It’s not often I’d include a book in Best of the Rest purely for nostalgia’s sake, but there you go.
BAZOOKA JOE AND HIS GANG
by THE TOPPS COMPANY INC
On Sale May 28, 2013
Hardcover | 224 pages | $19.95
Bazooka Joe and his Gang have been synonymous with bubble gum ever since their debut in 1953, providing an irresistible combination of cheap laughs wrapped around pink, sugary sweetness. This book celebrates the iconic mini-comics that are recognized the world over. The story of Bazooka Bubble Gum is also detailed with extensive essays, including a profile of Wesley Morse, the original illustrator of Bazooka Joe. Included are reproductions of more than 100 classic comics spanning six decades-including the complete first series, reprinted in its entirety for the first time-as well as jokes, fortunes, and tiny ads for mail-order merchandise. Like Bazooka Bubble Gum itself, the book is pure nostalgia and guaranteed to appeal to kids and adults alike.
Includes 4 bonus trading cards and a genuine wax wrapper that evokes the original bubble gum packaging-like holding an actual piece of Bazooka in your hands!
Alternative Comedy for your eyes
I first became aware of Lisa Hanawalt’s absurd cartoons thanks to Lucky Peach, where her “Secret Lives of Chefs” feature picked fun at some of the biggest foodie celebs. It led me down a Tumblr rabbit hole to Lisa’s other work, all of which is similarly weird and wonderful. So, of course, I was thrilled to find that Drawn and Quarterly is publishing My Dirty Dumb Eyes, a collection of new and reprinted work from the artist. It’s a humor collection first and a comic collection second, with traditional comics mingling with single-page gags, lists, and other ephemera.
As much as absurd, bizarre humor is my jam, I know it’s not for everyone. A book like this, more than any other on this list, is a love-it-or-hate-it proposition. To make things a bit easier on yourself, check out this preview from D&Q. You’ll figure out pretty damn fast if this book is for you.
MY DIRTY DUMB EYES
by LISA HANAWALT
Drawn and Quarterly
On Sale May 28, 2013
Paperback | 122 pages | $22.95
My Dirty Dumb Eyes is the highly anticipated debut collection from the award-winning cartoonist Lisa Hanawalt. In a few short years, Hanawalt has made a name for herself: Her intricately detailed, absurdly funny comics have appeared in venues as wide and varied as The Hairpin, VanityFair.com, Lucky Peach, Saveur, The New York Times, and The Believer.
My Dirty Dumb Eyes intermingles drawings, paintings, single-panel gag jokes, funny lists, and anthropomorphized animals all in the service of satirical, startlingly observant commentary on pop culture, contemporary society, and human idiosyncrasies. Her wild sense of humor contrasts strikingly with the carefully rendered lines and flawless draftsmanship that are Hanawalt trademarks. Whether she’s revealing the secret lives of celebrity chefs or explaining that what dogs really want is a tennis-ball bride, My Dirty Dumb Eyes will have readers rolling in the aisles, as Hanawalt’s insights into human (and animal) behavior startle and delight time and again.
Claremont. But, y’know, good Claremont.
There’s actually a pretty interesting story behind Marada the She-Wolf. Bolton and Claremont’s story was originally conceived as a Red Sonja story, but that tale had to be scrapped thanks to rights issues swirling around the character. With a shift from the Conan universe to the Roman Empire, some story tweaks, and a hair pallete swap from red to blonde, Sonja became Marada. There’s a nice mix of straightforward medieval action (couched in cultural history), political intrigue, and mystical elements, which keeps the book’s three stories from leaning too heavily on any single trope.
The book runs into many of the problems of the sword-and-sorcery genre, particularly in how it handles Marada’s motivation. However, there’s enough clever storytelling and imaginative ideas in Marada - not to mention its unique history – to make it worth a read. This is particularly true of Bolton’s art, which remains stunning some 30 years after its creation. I suspect he isn’t nearly as well-known as Claremont, and it’s a shame considering what a great artist he is.
MARADA THE SHE-WOLF
by CHRIS CLAREMONT and JOHN BOLTON
On Sale May 28, 2013
Hardcover | 112 pages | $24.95
Marada has captured the imagination since her first appearance in Epic illustrated in 1982. Descended of Caesar, and preceded by her legendary reputation as a warrior, Marada crosses the Roman Empire from adventure to adventure. Written by key writer of The Uncanny X-Men,Chris Claremont, and stunningly illustrated by John Bolton (The Green Woman), Marada the She-Wolf is collected in its totality for the first time, in full colour and accompanied by never-before-seen material.