I’m a massive fan of the radio show This American Life and I listened to an episode earlier this week that I reckon you’d like. The subject was superpowers. John Hodgman was asking people if they would rather be able to turn invisible or fly, and the whole thing became a far bigger and more philosophical question than you probably think it is. But the bit that made me laugh on the bus was the very short interview with Chris Ware at the beginning of the episode, where he was talking about being the most loathed kid at school.
“There were a few times where I actually came to school with bits of a superhero costume secreted under my school uniform. I guess, I don’t exactly know why. I guess I thought it was like it was going to give me some sense of power or something. But of course then I had gym class, you know? You have to change your clothes, so.
…I don’t know what I was thinking.”
He goes on to talk about his (still alive and well) crush on Batgirl, and why it is that every time he draws Superman in the Acme Novelty Library he just gets fatter and fatter and more Dad-like.
But This American Life will only take up an hour of your life, so when you’re done with that you might like some comics to read. Here are some of your options this week:
I read Tom Gauld’s Goliath the other night – the beaten-up, much-loved advance copy that’s travelled around London in the backpacks of various Gosh! folk. I was going to mention it anyway but seeing as it’s arriving this week I don’t need to exert any effort in the shoehorning. It’s proper brilliant. We’ve got a pile of pre-orders already for the Gosh! Exclusive Bookplate Edition so if you put your name down for one it’ll be waiting for you at the downstairs counter (mail order folk: you’ll be hearing from me shortly). If you’re new to this game and have no idea what I’m talking about this should clear everything up. Be quick if you want one! This one’s not going to hang about. And don’t forget to come to our launch party where you can meet Gauld himself.
Joining it on the Bookplate Editions shelf is Aneurin Wright’s Things To Do in a Retiirement Home Trailer Park which I mentioned on the blog ages ago. It’s an autobiographical book about Wright and his Dad in his Dad’s final days. Previews and all sorts in that link. Unlike Goliath it’s a big hefty thing that’ll take a good afternoon or two to read.
Joost Swarte was one of Art Spiegelman’s RAW contributors in the 80s which is probably where most of you would know him from. Chris Ware (that man again) has “loved Joost Swarte’s perfect cartoons, drawings and designs for decades and it’s nothing short of ridiculous that a comprehensive edition of this brilliant artist’s work has never been available in America until now.” He’s a national treasure in his native Holland (even going so far as to let him design buildings) but none of his stuff has been available in English for some time. Is That All There Is? is a hardcover collection of almost all of his alternative comics work from 1972 to now (even the RAW ones) and Fantagraphics have done their damnedest to try and make the new printing look just like they did back in the day, with their retro duotones, Zip-a-Tone etc. They’ve got a PDF preview of the book here.
As a sidenote, the Google also dug up these lovely bookmark designs Swarte did for a bookshop in Holland. More bookshops should have cartoonists do bookmarks for them. Eddie Campbell did a bunch for a small secondhand bookshop somewhere in Brisbane.
From the same part of the world comes Kolor Klimax, an anthology of Nordic comics by people who are not Jason. There are some you’ll recognise like Kolbein Karlsson, whose book The Troll King came out back in 2010 from Top Shelf, and some you won’t (yet). There’s twenty-two of the best creators in Scandinavia’s comics hotbed on show: some are very Jim Woodring-y, some R. Crumb-y, and some entirely something else. Fantagraphics have a preview.
Afrika by Belgian comics creator Hermann is available in English for the first time. It’s about a misanthropic European expatriate who is now guardian of a Tanzanian wildlife preserve. It’s so new I can’t find that much stuff about it in English, but you can see the lush colour artwork over at Dark Horse.
Ted McKeever launches a new three-part miniseries this week with Mondo #1, about a man whose job it is to “enhance” poultry, but falls victim to his own weird process when a loose chicken gets under his feet. McKeever says the story will hark back to the kind of thing he did in Metropol: “Unleashed craziness, twisted humor, dark foreboding evil, monkeys with top hats, surfer dudes who shoot fire out of their eyes, bikini dames with giant paper-mache heads – well, you get the idea. I want to have a story where anything is possible, but not totally abstract. One of the things I can’t stand in any given story is the lack of reality foundation. That said, it doesn’t mean things can’t go bat-shit crazy off the charts, but only as long as the crazy is anchored to the reality of the world in my story.” The rest of that interview and a preview is here. He draws a good rooster. Did you know that about McKeever before now?
Between Gears is the softcover collection of the webcomic by Natalie Nourigat. It’s an autobiographical thing about a college senior’s life: bubble tea, Scott Pilgrim, a lot of appearances of the word “awesome”. You can still read some of the stuff online but for the 30 pages of new material you’ll just have to buy the book.
Popbot Big Beautiful Book was one of those incredibly rare things that was only available at the San Diego Comic-Con, collecting all eight of the long sold-out Popbot volumes in one massive book. There’s just 500 copies left in the world and once they’re gone they’re gone. 400 pages of Ashley Wood art in a fancy slipcase. Who wants one?
Andrew’s just pulled Explorer: The Mystery Boxes (both hardcover and soft) out of the delivery and said it’s something to shout about. It’s the “spiritual successor” to Flight, the young adult anthology series masterminded by animator Kazu Kibuishi. Lots of young creators are in the mix most notably Emily Carroll, who will always have fans here thanks to that web comic I keep linking to: His Face All Red. Wired have a review for you.
Here’s one that’s not really comics related and was possibly ordered because of its excellent title: Listen, Whitey! The Sounds of Black Power 1965 – 1975. It was put together by music producer/scholar Pat Thomas who spent five years researching the book and befriending members of the Black Panther Party. He’s dug up rare speeches, interviews and music, and chronicled the history of Motown Records’ Black Power label, Black Forum, which released politically charged work by people like Bill Cosby and Ossie Davis. It’s a massive piece of work with huge colour reproductions of record covers and photographs and you can see a preview of it at Fantagraphics.
Wally Wood’s Strange Worlds of Science Fiction arrived not that long ago and this week we’re getting another big collection of his work to join it on the shelf. In the same line as IDW’s Rocketeer and Walt Simonson’s Mighty Thor Artist Editions, comes Wally Wood’s EC Stories. The aim of these Artist Editions is to showcase an artist at the pinnacle of their talents and reproduce the work in its original size, scanned from the original pages in colour so you’ll see every bit of white paint and blue pencil just as if you were looking at the original artwork itself. It’s an unwieldy 15” by 22” and we understand your pained looks when you think about filing that thing away on your bookshelf.
You can consider Amazing Mysteries: The Bill Everett Archives Volume 1 Blake Bell’s companion piece to his 2010 book Fire and Water: Bill Everett, The Sub-Mariner and the Birth of Marvel Comics. In this he’s collected Everett’s more obscure stories – the ones in which he’s still working out his sci-fi and superhero creations, westerns, historical retellings, and crime comics. The book’s format is much the same as the Steve Ditko Archives and Fantagraphics have a preview.
More old stuff collected in The Phantom: Complete Series – The Charlton Years Volume 1. This is the bit in the late 60s when the series moved to its third publishing home. The volume collects issues #30 to #40 in full colour, all digitally remastered so they look even better than they did back in the day.
Too Much Coffee Man: Cutie Island is an all-new collection from New Yorker cartoonist, Shannon Wheeler, starring the anxiety-riddled underwear-clad hero who serves as a vehicle for Wheeler’s thoughts about life. There’s a short and recent interview with Wheeler over at Modern Fix and for a preview those folks at Comicbook Resources have got you covered.
Torso by Brian Michael Bendis and Marc Andreyko is a hardcover collection of the six-issue series about Eliot Ness (aka Kevin Costner in The Untouchables) and his team’s investigation into America’s first serial killer. It’s the one that was almost turned into a film by David Fincher a few years ago, and then wasn’t. As vile murderers go, the Cleveland Torso Murderer’s a pretty good one, but he ain’t no Albert Fish.
From DC Comics you can have Batman Vs. Bane in trade paperback, reprinting Chuck Dixon’s Batman/Bane and Batman: Bane of the Demon #1 – #4. This is probably one for those of you who missed the whole Bane thing in the 90s and need to catch up for the film, or something. Then there’s DC Universe: Secret Origins HC which collects a bunch of classic Silver Age comics for the first time. Basically all the ones with “Secret Origins” in their title.
Googling Spider-Man Fights Substance Abuse, the new trade paperback out this week, I came across this old comic in which Peter Parker is molested by a bigger boy. News to me! It’s not in this collection but the book is full of Spider-Man dealing with other big social issues with his pals Storm, Luke Cage, Power Pack and the rest. Tales of Wonder has the whole list.
And lastly, if you’re a fan of Paul Pope you should pick up a copy of Dark Horse Presents #9 because he’s in it. There’s also a Mike Mignola Lobster Johnson story and Brian Wood’s The Massive continues. Preview here.
That’s all there is. There isn’t anymore.