Hey there, friends of Gosh!
I’m afraid Hayley has gone to New Orleans to learn the jazz trumpet, so you’re going to have a couple of weeks with me as your bit on the side. I don’t expect you to love me, or even stay the night, but you better keep me in the manner to which I am accustomed.
The highlight of the week is something which will no doubt wind up as one of the highlights of the year: Acme Novelty Library Vol 20, the latest in Chris Ware’s continuing catalogue of bittersweet despair. Tangentially connected to Rusty Brown, this volume follows the life of its main character, Jordan W. Lint, from birth to death at the rate of around a page a year.
The always readable Robot 6 blog says: Acme Novelty Library #20 is about an a$$hole. The book’s main character, one Jordan W. Lint, is a bully, a coward, an adulterer, a drunkard, is frequently callous and cruel to friends and family, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In some regards he is an outright monster. Full review here.
It’s easy to take a creator of Ware’s calibre for granted, but he really is one of the few true geniuses working in comics today.
Speaking of geniuses, not that I want to throw the word around too much, but my second pick of the week would have to be the Fantagraphics release of The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec Vol 1, by Jacques Tardi. It’s not his weightiest work (that would be the amazing It Was the War of the Trenches, released in English earlier this year), but it’s certainly his most fun.
Set in Paris, in 1910 (though later volumes shift to post-WWI), the series (nine so far, with the tenth pending) follows cynical heroine Adèle Blanc-Sec as she uncovers the occult secrets of the criminal underword. This first in a planned series of handsome hardcover volumes collects the first two albums, Pterror Over Paris and The Eiffel Tower Demon. Recommended for fans of Hellboy, Beasts of Burden and Good Stuff You Should Be Reading. You can get the patented Fantagraphics Flip-through vid here.
Our erstwhile sister company Knockabout have two new releases out this week. First up is one which is getting a lot of press right now: Depresso (or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Embrace Being Bonkers!), by Brick.
The book is an often harrowing, honest and engaging autobiographical (albeit told through the fictional character of Tom Freeman) account of the author’s battles with depression. Using deft humour and an accessible style to convey his story as one of hope and struggle against obstacles from within and without, editorial cartoonist Brick (aka John Stuart Clark) has made a book that doesn’t fall into the obvious traps often seen with this kind of story. It’s an excellent work from an assured craftsman. Richard at the FPI blog has an insightful review here.
Also shipping this week, available in softcover for the first time, is A Disease of Language, the collection of Eddie Campbell’s adaptations of Alan Moore’s spoken word pieces A Birth Caul, and Snakes and Ladders. The collections also features an extensive interview with Moore by Campbell taken from the second issue of his sadly defunct Egomania magazine. The book makes for a wonderful read for fans of either creator: a particularly personal work on the part of Moore, and an effortless mixed-media adaptation of a complex narrative by Campbell. If you missed the long out of print hardcover, now’s your chance.
John Hicklenton was one of the most distinctive, unsettling artists to come out of the pages of 2000AD, a spiritual successor to Kevin O’Neill in many ways. I remember as a young man feeling decidedly uneasy with his work on Nemesis the Warlock; the twisted figures and ugly faces oozed a kind of corrupt darkness that stood in marked contrast to anything else I was reading at the time. I was in equal parts repelled and fascinated by it, and always followed whatever projects he was working on. As you’re probably aware, Hicklenton passed away earlier this year after a long struggle with MS, but not before he completed a final piece of work intended to act as his epitaph. 100 Months is powerful stuff, a primal scream of visual poetry from an artist who will be remembered. Pat Mills remembers him here.
There is criminally little available in English of the works of Stéphane Blanquet. Apart from the the odd appearance in anthologies such as Zero Zero, or Blab, and a story in the recent Dungeon Monstres Vol 3, his distinctive style has attracted little English language attention. Fantagraphics are helping to remedy that this week with the publication of Toys in the Basement, a children’s book with a pleasingly dark side. Blanquet is a master of the grotesque, so this twisted tale of vengeful toys should be a lot of fun. Video preview here.
From the archives of Things We Nearly Didn’t Order And Boy Would I Have Felt An Ass comes Pang the Wandering Shaolin Monk.
Collecting the webcomic of (nearly) the same name by Ben Costa, Pang is an historical kung-fu fiction, based on the legend of a wandering Shaolin monk (duh) in 17th Century China. It’s a great read, and although you can get the whole thing online for free as a webcomic, the book looks like the kind of handsome artifact that will cause people to raise their eyebrows appreciatively when they visit your house and see it on your shelf. Or perhaps you could leave it lying about, as though by accident, and then say something like “Oh, what’s this historically accurate yet highly entertaining book about the Shaolin monks of 17th Century China doing out here?” Just a thought. Anyway, if you like the fantastical/historical stylings of Usagi Yojimbo (and why wouldn’t you?), then this is a pretty good bet.
Post-apocalyptic dinosaur survival stories (as the ever-popular genre is known) don’t get much better than Mark Schultz’s seminal work Xenozoic Tales (or Cadillacs & Dinosaurs, as it was known through part of its history). It’s strange to imagine now that this series was touted as the next Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in its day, with a cartoon series, video games, action figures, trading cards and more. It never quite hit the giddy heights of TMNT, but it did okay, and then largely disappeared from popular culture. As to the comics themselves, Schultz did a total of 14 issues of the series, and they are a beautifully illustrated homage to classic adventure stories, particularly to the works of Frank Frazetta & Al Williamson. Unavailable since the mid-2000’s, Flesk have released a complete collection of the series, a thumping great 352-page oversized softcover that arrives this week. Definitely worth the time and money. Previews can be found here.
Jonathan Hickman has quite rightly become one of the hottest new writers in Marvel’s thoroughbred stable. His work on SHIELD, Fantastic Four and Secret Warriors has felt fresh and exciting, full of big concepts grounded by solid character work. Before his Marvel debut, he built his reputation on a series of titles at Image, among which was superhuman sci-fi A Red Mass for Mars. Now available as a collection, the mini series – beautifully illustrated by Ryan Bodenheim – tells of an apocalyptic future where an Earth battered by climate change, super-viruses (natural and technological), nuclear terrorism and amoral superbeings suddenly finds itself under threat from alien invaders. It’s a lot more action-oriented than Hickman’s usual creator-owned work, but he certainly shows the chops necessary to make it work. A few feelgood preview pages from the first issue can be found here.
Gosh, is that the time? Okay, let’s take a little walk down bullet-point lane:
- Fans of boxing and avatars of all that is good in the human spirit can bliss out this week to DC’s reprinting of Superman Vs Muhammad Ali, the classic Denny O’Neil / Neal Adams team-up. It’s available in two formats: a facsimile hardcover edition, which reproduces the story in its original oversized form, and a normal comic-sized hardcover which, oh so teasingly, has a number of extra features including sketches and so on. Which to choose? Which to choose?
- Atomic Robo has a new mini starting, Atomic Robo: The Deadly Art of Science. Are you reading Atomic Robo? You really should be.
- Now, I’m not normally one to recommend video game tie-ins, simply for the reason that more often than not the effort put into them is, well, cursory at best. But when the creative team on that video game tie-in is Cameron Stewart & Karl Kerschel, well, I’m left with little choice. They could do a My Little Pony comic, and I’d probably still be able to recommend it. So it’s with great pleasure that I heartily give my advance approval to Assassin’s Creed: The Fall, a three-issue mini-series which transplants the (excellent, by the way) game series into Tsarist Russia. Preview.
- Nick Spencer, the upcoming and very friendly writer who recently popped through Gosh’s doors, has been given the reigns of a T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents (type that five times fast) relaunch at DC. With art by Cafu and covers by Frank Quitely, it looks like a nice start for the classic Wally Wood characters. Preview here.
- Ian Edginton (joint holder, along with Dan Abnett, of the Hardest Working Writer in UK Comics award) and artistic collaborator Davide Fabbri return to the world of the Victorian Undead this week. We’ve had Sherlock Holmes battling zombies and contending with Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, but now Holmes and Watson find themselves pitting their wits against the vampiric menace of Dracula. It’s all in good fun, and a lot of fun it is.
And now for the news:
- Have you been salivating at the gigantic League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century 1969 cover we have lurking at the top of our stairs? Well, you’ll be happy to know that Kevin O’Neill is now only a scant 12 pages away from finishing the book, putting us well on track for a release sometime around April 2011. Are you excited? I’ve seen a bunch of coloured pages and let me tell you, I’m excited!
- Our friend John Dunning (writer of Salem Brownstone, among other things) has alerted us to the onedotzero_adventures in motion festival at the BFI Southbank, running the 10th – 14th November. It’s an eclectic mix of visual arts featuring everything from an interactive installation by fashion designer/artist Cassette Playa, through to a screening of cut-scenes from the Call of Duty: Black Ops game. In between there somewhere is a showing of Steve Sale’s documentary Superhero Me, following his efforts to become a real-life costumed crusader in Epsom. Yes, Epsom. In Surrey. You can find out more about the man and the movie at his website here, and more about the onedotzero festival here.
- Big congratulations to Stephen Collins for winning this year’s Jonathan Cape/Observer/Comica Graphic Short Story competition! You may have seen Collins’ excellent work in the Solipsistic Pop anthologies. If not, do yourself a favour and check them out, and then jump on over to his blog, where you can also check out his winning entry. A real talent to watch. (Image below not from his winning submission. It’s just pretty great.)
And that’s me outta here until next week!
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Hey there, friends of Gosh!