Archive for the ‘Graphic Books’ Category

N.K. Jemisin on Peter S. Beagle and New SFF

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

The 2016 Hugo Award-winning novelist, N.K. Jemisin, returns with another of her NYT‘s columns focused on Science Fiction and Fantasy.

As we have written, she is a demanding and discriminating consumer of fiction. As a critic she is vibrantly engaged and is not willing to let much slide. As a reader she is interested in meaningful content rather than plot, values beautiful language, and appreciates in-depth characterizations. Since last December she has been sharing her views on Science Fiction and Fantasy in the NYT book review column “Otherwordly,” a bi-monthly roundup.

This month she takes on four works, a space opera, a graphic novel, the return of a beloved voice in Fantasy, and creepy speculative fiction.

9781616962449_ff216The work she clearly likes best is the long awaited return of Peter S. Beagle, a favorite of Fantasy readers for books such as The Last Unicorn. His newest novel in 17 years is Summerlong (Tachyon Publications), a contemporary take on the Persephone myth.

Jemisin writes that the characters are “fully textured,” the story is about “how ordinary people change, and are changed by, the numinous,” and the setting is beautifully realized:

“It’s a rare story of summer that feels like the summer — like dreamy intense passions rising and arcing and then spinning away; like beauty underlaid with a tinge of sadness because it is ephemeral. Beagle has captured that seasonal warmth here, beautifully, magically.”

9781632156945_bb8a6She also writes favorably about Pretty Deadly Volume 2: The Bear by Kelly Sue De Connick with art by Emma Ríos (Image Comics; OverDrive Sample), saying at its core it is “a masterpiece of mythopoeism that many literary fantasists struggle to emulate.”

She describes the story as a “weird western saga [that] gleefully, dreamily fuses a Greek chorus, spaghetti westerns, American trickster tales and creepy Japanese shoujo (girls’) manga.”

She is not a complete fan of the coloring in the comic, but says “This is a minor flaw. Every other element of this tale is a perfectly balanced mixture of the macabre with pure human poignancy. New readers will need Volume 1 too, but the return on investment is more than worthwhile.”

Vol.1 is Pretty Deadly: The Shrike (Image Comics; OverDrive Sample).

The full column is online. it ran in last week’s Sunday Book Review.

LUKE CAGE: To Watch and To Read

Sunday, October 2nd, 2016

mv5bmtcymzc1mji5mf5bml5banbnxkftztgwmze4ody2ote-_v1_sy1000_cr007041000_al_The premiere of Netflix’s new 13-episode Luke Cage series, based on the Marvel comics’ character, was so successful that it may have caused the streaming service to go down for two hours on Saturday.

The NYT television critic offers a lukewarm take on the new run, but he is in the minority. Most other critics agree with Deadline Hollywood which calls it “one of the most socially relevant and smartest shows on the small screen you will see this year.”

New York magazine calls the comic book Cage “one of the most important black characters in sequential art,” noting, however, that over his 44-year history, Marvel struggled to “make the character relevant in a world where conceptions of black characters in American pop culture were rapidly evolving.”

screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-12-02-06-pmCharting the character’s evolution in “5 Comics to Read Before You Watch Luke Cage,” New York magazine writes that the first stories, collected in Luke Cage, Hero For Hire vol. 1, represent “Marvel Comics’ blatant attempt to cash in on the Blaxploitation craze.” As a result, the collection is “somewhat awkward to read today, with its urban patois (penned by white men, of course) and simplistic depictions of avarice.”

The Netflix series is quite the opposite. As the show’s creator Ched Hodari Coulter tells Wired magazine in a cover feature on the series, “There have been African ­American super­heroes on our screens before—such as Wesley Snipes’ titular turn in Blade—but Luke Cage is the first to be surrounded by an almost completely black cast and writing team and whose powers and challenges are so explicitly linked to the black experience in America.”

A collection of comics featuring the character was released in August,  Luke Cage: Avenger, (Marvel).

ZITA Blasts Off

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016


Heading off the comic page and onto the silver screen is Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke (Macmillan/First Second; 2/1/11; OverDrive Sample) reports Deadline Hollywood. Fox Animation has acquired rights to the trilogy. Morgan Jurgenson and Alex Ankeles (Robodog) will adapt the books.

The graphic novel trilogy, created by award-winning Hatke, follows the adventures of Zita as she learns to be brave and navigate her far out world. Bleeding Cool lists it as one of the “Essential 8 Comics For Kids,” writing:

“… everything I love about comic books; adventure, humor, humanity and a big heaping dose of wonder … Hatke has made something really special here … original and fun. It’s completely appropriate for kids but like the best stories, I think everyone will appreciate it.”

97815964380649781626720589_8fe46The other books in the trilogy are:

Legends of Zita the Spacegirl (9/4/12; OverDrive Sample)

The Return of Zita the Spacegirl (5/13/14; OverDrive Sample)

Hatke won an Eisner Award for Little Robot. His other books include Nobody Likes a Goblin, and Julia’s House for Lost Creatures.

First Second reports that “Of all our books, Zita the Spacegirl has earned the most fan photos and cosplay” and provides some images to prove it.

Wired interviewed the author shortly after the second book in the trilogy hit shelves (accompanied by bonus illustrations).

Alan Moore, The Interviews

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

9781631491344_48f16Hitting shelves today with a hardy thunk is Jerusalem (Norton/Liveright), Alan Moore’s 1,000-plus page modernist novel that addresses “a secular theory of the afterlife,” the metaphysics of time, and poverty and class. So heavy is it (it is almost 10 inches thick and weighs more than some laptops) that the publisher is offering it in a boxed set of three volumes to make reading it more manageable.

It is fitting then that the most recent interviews with Moore, one published by New York magazine and another by The New York Times are weighty, too.

The New York magazine interview captures the author in a good, if reflective, mood, except for his take on certain comics. Known for many pioneering comics, including The Watchmen (DC Comics), he says, “I am really in a bad mood about superheroes,” and goes on to say about film adaptations that cycle through the same material, “What are these movies doing other than entertaining us with stories and characters that were meant to entertain the 12-year-old boys of 50 years ago?”

Despairing about much of the comic industry and his own role in creating some of the most iconic comics of the past few decades he says “I probably only have about 250 pages of comics left in me to write. With regard to the superhero characters, my opinion is that they were what I was given to play with when I was starting out in the industry. That’s it. It wasn’t as if I had ever expressed any particular desire to do them.”

The NYT caught Moore in a worse mood, one in which he is both evasive and self-indulgent, but did manage to illicit the news that he is currently obsessed with David Foster Wallace and particularly  Infinite Jest.

Embracing GHOSTS

Monday, September 12th, 2016

GhostsGraphic novelist Raina Telgemeier was featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition yesterday, causing her new book Ghosts (Scholastic/GRAPHIX) to jump to #8 on Amazon’s sales rankings.

She tells interviewer Barrie Handyman that she hopes the book will serve as a way to talk to children about a difficult subject, death.

The book will be published tomorrow.

MARCH Continues

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

9781603093958_0e365Congressman John Lewis appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert last night and talked about his graphic memoir March, set for release next week as a three-volume boxed set, March (Trilogy Slipcase Set), John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (Top Shelf Productions).

He told Colbert that the ten-cent comic Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story served for him as a road map into the Civil Rights movement.

He hopes that March will become the road map for another generation, making history and civil action plain and real, so it “jumps off the pages and sings and dances” for readers.

The pair also talked about the sit-in recently held in Congress to draw attention to gun violence and how it is an example of finding a way to get into what Congressman Lewis calls “good and necessary trouble.”

Be sure to watch the segment to the end — it’s not to be missed.

BLACK PANTHER Takes Another Star Turn

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

5792a1f455b04Ta-Nehisi Coates and Roxane Gay are collaborating on a Black Panther spin-off, Black Panther: World of Wakanda, reports The New York Times. The poet Yona Harvey is also writing scripts.

It is the first time Gay will work on a comic, as it was the first time for Coates when he wrote the Black Panther re-launch earlier this year. As we have noted, that comic was a top seller and made King T’Challa of Wakanda a major player in the Marvel universe.

Now Coates is pushing to expand that world, recruiting both Gay and Harvey, says the NYT, because “he thought it was important to have female voices help breathe life into these characters.”

Describing her story in an interview posted on the Marvel site, Gay said: “my book is going to be pretty intimate. There’s going to be all kinds of action, but I’m also really excited to show Ayo and Aneka’s relationship, build on that love story, and also introduce some other members of the Dora Milaje … I love being able to focus on women who are fierce enough to fight but still tender enough to love.” (Ed. note. the Dora Milaje is the security force protecting the Black Panther).

“It’s the most bizarre thing I’ve ever done, and I mean that in the best possible way,” she told the NYT, continuing “The opportunity to write black women and queer black women into the Marvel universe, there’s no saying no to that.” In the same Marvel interview Coates says, “Wakanda is a deep, rich world. And I think Roxane is the perfect person to begin the literary excavations.”

As for Harvey, Coates told the NYT, “I have found that poetry is so correlated with writing comic books … That’s just so little space, and you have to speak with so much power. I thought she’d be a natural.” Her first story will be a “10-page second story … about Zenzi, a female revolutionary who incited a riot in the first issue of the Black Panther series.”

The Verge reports that “Coates recruited Gay and Harvey personally, and emphasized the importance of having diversity both on the page and on the payroll at Marvel.”

The start of the spin-off series is expected this November.

The “Oscars of Comics” Go To …

Monday, July 25th, 2016

The 28th annual Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, the Oscars of the format, were announced on Friday during Comic-Con.

9781906838980_6b68c  9781603094009_40654  9780062278234_536a7

What is essentially the best book of the year award went to Ruins by Peter Kuper (Abrams/SelfMadeHero, Oct. 2015) for “Best Graphic Album—New. “The publisher describes it as exploring “the shadows and light of Mexico through its past and present as encountered by an array of characters. The real and surreal intermingle to paint an unforgettable portrait of life south of the Rio Grande.”

March: Book Two, John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (Diamond/Top Shelf, Jan. 2015) won “Best Reality-Based Work.” Book Three in the series is schedule for release on Aug 2. PW reports that a delighted Lewis “bounded from his seat and ran to the stage at the announcement.”

Nimona, Noelle Stevenson (HC/Harper Teen, May 2015) won the Eisner for “Best Graphic Novel Reprint.” Librarians will recall it was a National Book Award finalist for Young Peoples Literature last year.

Image Comics swept the series stakes, winning all three categories:

9781632156747_6e544  9781632156105_f7388  9781632159113_688e0

Paper Girls: Volume 1, Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chian (Diamond/Image Comics, Apr. 2016) won “Best New Series.” Paper Girls: Volume 2 is forthcoming in December.

“Best Continuing Series” went to Southern Bastards, Jason Aaron and Jason LaTour. Southern Bastards Volume 3: Homecoming is the most recent (Diamond/Image Comics, July 2016).

The Fade Out, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Diamond/Image Comics; OverDrive Sample) won for “Best Limited Series.” It was issued in three volumes starting in 2015 (vol 1, 2, 3) and will be released in a complete deluxe edition with added material this fall.

9781626720800_998b0  9781608868360_93990  9781770461987_1627b

“Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 8)” went to Little Robot, Ben Hatke (Macmillan/First Second, Sept. 2015; OverDrive Sample).

“Best Publication for Kids (ages 9-12)” was snagged by Over the Garden Wall, Pat McHale, Amalia Levari, and Jim Campbell (S&S/Boom! Studios, Sept. 2016; OverDrive Sample). Volume 2 is forthcoming in Feb. 2017.

SuperMutant Magic Academy, Jillian Tamaki (Macmillan/Drawn and Quarterly, Apr. 2015) won “Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17).”

9781770462083_6c2d3In a year that was particularly notable for the number of women nominees, Kate Beaton’s Step Aside Pops: A Hark! A Vagrant Collection (Macmillan/Drawn and Quarterly, Sept. 2015) won best humor publication, which The Hollywood Reporter points out, is “the first time in the Eisners’ long history that a woman has ever won that category solo.”

In addition, Lynda Barry and Matt Groening were voted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame. The full list of winners is available online.

Book Trailer

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

A trailer for the comic book based on Neil Gaiman’s short story, “How to talk to Girls at Parties,” (available online in both text and audio) was just released and is getting picked up by many entertainment news sites.

The graphic novel, released on Tuesday, is also set to be adapted as a movie, starring Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman and Alex Sharp. Gaiman is the executive producer for the project, set to begin filming in November.

9781616559557_1d4fbNeil Gaiman’s How to Talk to Girls at Parties
Neil Gaiman, Gabriel Bá, Fábio Moon
Dark Horse Books,:July 5, 2016
9781616559557, 1616559551
$17.99 USD, $23.99 CAD


Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

9781506700632_97656Get an early look at Margaret Atwood’s first graphic novel via BuzzFeed. A mix of advocacy (for cats and wildlife) and storytelling, it pairs Atwood with noted illustrator Johnnie Christmas in a tale featuring a superhero scientist who is a part cat and part bird, Angel Catbird (PRH/Dark Horse; Sept. 6, 2016; ISBN: 9781506700632; $14.99).

As we noted in May, Dark Horse acquiring editor says it will be “a humorous, action-driven, pulp-inspired story … [with] …a lot of cat puns …. a strange mix of Will Eisner’s The Spirit, Grant Morrison and Chas Truog’s Animal Man, and Ryan North and Erica Henderson’s Squirrel Girl.”

Atwood told BuzzFeed that comics are not new to her, saying “I grew up in the 1940s drawing comics, and I’ve continued: I even drew a strip in the 1970s.”

9781506700991_1ada3Angel Catbird is not the only comic Atwood has in the works. She is part of The Secret Loves of Geek Girls: Expanded Edition, Hope Nicholson (PRH/Dark Horse; on sale Oct. 18), an anthology that started as a kickstarter campaign, reports The Guardian.

Atwood tweeted about it last year:

Live from Comic-Con

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016


If you’ve longed to attend San Diego Comic-Con, this year you can experience it vicariously. Syfy Presents Live From Comic-Con will run on the network the three nights of the show, July 21-23.

Host Will Arnett will, according to Deadline, “invite fans at the network’s outdoor stage to discuss and engage in the Con’s breaking news, insider party coverage, and exclusive content, along with sneak peeks of the most anticipated films and TV series.”

Too bad they don’t mention actual comics, but perhaps, at least, they will cover the Eisner winners. This year, by the way, a record number of women have been nominated for the award

As You Like It

Monday, June 20th, 2016

9781101983300_c5d77Add comics to the recent flurry of successful Shakespeare re-vamps. Ryan North’s 1,100 page “chooseable-path” graphic novel  Romeo And/Or Juliet (PRH/Riverhead), is based on the famous romance and debuts on the NYT Best Sellers Advice, How-To & Miscellaneous list, landing at #7. He celebrates with a collage image on his homepage, labeled “AWESOME AND/OR WHAAAAAT.”

North’s wildly imaginative adaptation of the bard (in one adventure readers can choose to become the character of a glove) caught the attention of the media. He tells NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday that he thinks this way of encountering Shakespeare makes the play fun again, bringing the old story back to life, and providing a deeper understanding in the process:

“You know what these characters are supposed to be like, and when you kind of push them off the rails a little bit, there’s a sense of breaking the rules that’s a lot of fun.”

He tags his books “Plays weren’t meant to be read. They were meant… to be played.”

New York magazine’s site Vulture offers an illustrated interview that includes North commenting on the 100+ artists contributing to the book (including Noelle Stevenson, Randall Munroe, and Kate Beaton), how the book relates to video games (he mentions on his website that he has created an unlockable character), and the process of reading a work with so many endings. About the latter he says: “just because you give the reader a choice doesn’t mean it’s an easier book.”

Paste offers a gallery of images, showing the range of styles included.

9780982853740North’s first chooseable-path adventure was the Kickstarter-funded project To Be or Not to Be (Perseus/PGW/Legato/Breadpig, 2013), based on HamletAccording to North, it was the most funded publishing project in the history of Kickstarter.

North also creates Dinosaur Comics and writes for The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl comics.


Readers’ Advisory: Comics

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday offers a capsule overview of the state of comics, interviewing George Gene Gustines, of the NYT‘s Arts Beat blog, about the format’s allure, both for readers and for authors.

The brief interview gives insight into the value of all the mixes, mash-ups, alliances, and re-issues for readers and the big-name authors being drawn to the format.

Gustine delineates the current audience for comics, pointing out that all age groups are fans but the sweet spot right now are readers in their 40s who grew up on comics and have followed every significant character evolution and story line. He says that publishers are trying to appeal to kids again with a lot of new material to ensure the format does not age out.

STL001673Gustines also discusses the trend for prose authors to move to comics. As we reported, Ta-Nehisi Coates is topping the charts with his new version of Black Panther (the graphic novel compiling issues #1-4 is forthcoming: Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Book 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates, illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze (Hachette/Marvel; Sept. 27, 2016; ISBN: 9781302900533; $16.99).

9781401263133_63839Brad Meltzer (bestselling author of thrillers such as The Tenth Justice) had a highly successful turn as well says Gustines, creating a run of the Justice League of America and the comic series Identity Crisis that Gustines says “sold like gangbusters.”

Another thriller author, Greg Rucka, has written dozens of comics for both DC and Marvel including work on Batman and Spider-Man and Michael Chabon created stories for the Casanova comic with Matt Fraction, the Eisner and Harvey award-winning author of such popular series as Sex Criminals and Hawkeye.

9781506700632_97656Due in September is, Margaret Atwood’s Angel Catbird (PRH/Dark Horse; Sept. 6, 2016; ISBN: 9781506700632; $14.99), the first in an  . The Guardian quotes Atwood, “I have concocted a superhero who is part cat, part bird. Due to some spilled genetic Super-Splicer, our hero got tangled up with both a cat and an owl; hence his fur and feathers, and his identity problems.”

Dark Horse acquiring editor said it will be “a humorous, action-driven, pulp-inspired story … [with] …a lot of cat puns …. a strange mix of Will Eisner’s The Spirit, Grant Morrison and Chas Truog’s Animal Man, and Ryan North and Erica Henderson’s Squirrel Girl.”

All this, of course, on top of what is also a busy market of adapting print only books into comics, such as Paul Auster’s City of Glass, Donald E. Westlake’s Parker novels, and both Game of Thrones and Outlander.


Monday, May 23rd, 2016

STL001673The top comic in the US, outselling all others with an impressive one-month sales count of over 250,000 copies is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Black Panther. That number is likely to be revised upwards to 300,000 once reorder figures are known, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The comic, released on April 6th, is the first of eleven single issues that will be collected into paperback complications, beginning with #1-4, Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Book 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates, illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze (Hachette/Marvel; Sept. 27, 2016; ISBN: 9781302900533; $16.99).

MV5BMjQ0MTgyNjAxMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjUzMDkyODE@._V1_SX214_AL_Part of the demand may be a result of the hugely successful movie Captain America: Civil War  which features a super fast Black Panther played by Chadwick Boseman, but Ta-Nehisi Coates’s project was buzzy before the movie hit theaters, with plenty of pre-pub attention, from the NYTWSJ, and The Atlantic (where Coates is national correspondent).

Writing from the UK perspective, The Guardian quotes Kate McHale, comics buyer at Waterstones (the UK’s largest bookstore chain):

“The anticipation about what new angles a brilliant writer like Ta-Nehisi Coates could bring to the character … I think we’re expecting a level of depth and insight that could make this one of Marvel’s most interesting and compelling titles, and one of the must-reads of the year. After a great first issue that looks likely.”

Reviews range from glowing to supportive. Vox writes:

“It’s excellent. Coates and Stelfreeze have created a pocket in the ever-expanding Marvel comic universe that’s daring and wondrous, but also organic and natural — a place and a comic that feels crucial and important to the company’s legacy.”

io9 offers the headline “The New Black Panther Comic Is Off to an Amazing Start” and says:

“By giving us a starting point of T’Challa at his weakest, Black Panther is setting itself on a road that could give us some of his strongest stories in years.”

IGN offers a history of the character for all those trying to catch up:

Comics Legend Darwin Cooke
Dies at 53

Monday, May 16th, 2016

9781401248888_c2884Iconic Eisner-winning comics illustrator and writer Darwyn Cooke, has died of lung cancer. He was 53.

Of his many contributions he is perhaps best known for his revamp of DC Comics characters, Catwoman (working with Ed Brubaker) chief among them. He also worked on comic adaptations of Donald E. Westlake’s Parker novels and on a prequel to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen.

DC co-publisher Dan DiDio said in a statement reported by USA Today:

“He was both compassionate and combative, approaching everything he did with a tenaciousness and temerity that is now unheard of in a world afraid to offend. This is an industry-wide loss that I feel personally, but the sadness is mitigated in the knowing that the beauty and grace of his art will forever stand the test of time and be a monument to all that is great about comics.”

Of his signature style, the L.A. Times writes:

“His work was ingrained with a sense of humanity and wonder pulled directly from his signature retro-touched style [of] fat, black lines, V-shaped men and hourglass cut women [that] fill each page with nostalgic charm and bold visuals … His style and taste … sound like a golden trumpet through the DC Comics catalog. It was loud, daring and it heralded hope.”

Cooke’s DC: The New Frontier may be his most exemplary work (also adapted into a animated direct-to-video film in 2008). It combines a deep knowledge of the DC universe with a strong sense of hope and justice and showcases his trademark style, as he imagines the Golden Age DC characters such as Superman and Batman meeting the Silver Age characters such as Green Lantern and Flash, creating new stories and pairings while reaching deep into the DC backfile. This approach, practiced frequently by other comics and comic films, is particularly well handled by Cooke.

9781401262457_e492fHe is the illustrator for a new title releasing this week, The Twilight Children written by Gilbert Hernandez (RH/Vertigo). The paperback release of DC: The New Frontier (RH/DC Comics) is due Jun 28.

Two of his works are rising on Amazon, the deluxe edition of DC: The New Frontier and Graphic Ink: The DC Comics Art of Darwin Cooke  (RH/DC Comics).

Many publications, from A.V. Club to Entertainment Weekly to the The New York Times offered tributes.

The best tribute is Cooke’s work itself. Below is a feature on the art in DC: The New Frontier.