Archive for the ‘Graphic Books’ Category

DREDD Is Coming

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

The Judge Dredd comics are getting the Hollywood treatment. It’s a classic series for good reason, so I hope the movie brings readers to the source. Unfortunately, it was made into a terrible movie in 1995, starring Sylvester Stallone and Rob Scheider.

The new movie, called Dredd, coming September 21, looks like it will be much better, because it stars Karl Urban, who always brings intelligence, and when necessary menace, to his varied roles. He has quite an acting challenge, since Dredd never goes without his helmet, which covers his eyes. Stallone opted to ignore this characteristic and ditched the helmet. Urban, however, believes the helmet is essential.

Also, Alex Garland wrote the script. He’s no stranger to thoughtful sci-fi given his novel (and the subsequent film) The Beach (Penguin/Riverhead, 1998) and his screenplay for Never Let Me Go, based on the Kazuo Ishiguro novel.

The Dredd trailer released recently and already there is talk of sequels.

Official Movie Site: DreddTheMovie.com

Hollywood is continually signing up comics, with the hopes that one of them will be the next Batman, if you’re aiming for gravitas, or Avengers, if you’re aiming for a lighter tone. The question for library buyers is whether the resulting movies (if they actually come about) will hook readers on the originals.

Most movie fans seem to be happy to enjoy the movie’s universe, with no interest in going beyond that experience. Part of the blame falls on the publishers, who issue lackluster tie-in comics and maintain the currently running series with no obvious ways in to the stories. I find myself sending the few eager readers back to the classics, to those that inspired the filmmakers, rather than the new releases.

In the case of Dredd, I will recommend the collected original series Judge Dredd: Case Files by John Wagner, with outstanding art by Brian Bolland. There are five collections (the fifth was published in June), beginning with:

Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 01
John Wagner, Pat Mills
Retail Price: $19.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: 2000 AD – (2010-06-15)
ISBN / EAN: 1906735875 / 9781906735876

The individual titles are available on OverDrive.

Movie tie-in:

Dredd: Collecting: Dredd Vs Death, Kingdom of the Blind & The Final Cut
Gordon Rennie, David Bishop, Matthew Smith
Retail Price: $8.99
Mass Market Paperback: 704 pages
Publisher: Abaddon – (2012-07-31)
ISBN / EAN: 1781080771 / 9781781080771

Note: The titles in this collection are available individually from OverDrive

They Walk Again

Monday, July 9th, 2012

AMC’s Walking Dead weekend marathon, capped by a preview of season 3 (coming in October) brought renewed attention to the Robert Kirkman comics that the series is based on.

Amazon’s sales rankings reveal that there are still newbies to the series. Compendium One rose to #62 from #180. A larger number of fans are looking for the latest in the series; The Walking Dead, Vol 16 rose from #61 to #44.

For more about Kirkman’s series, see EarlyWord Comics contributor Robin Brenner’s earlier post.

The Walking Dead: Compendium One
Robert Kirkman
Retail Price: $59.99
Paperback: 1088 pages
Publisher: Image Comics – (2009-05-19)
ISBN / EAN: 1607060760 / 9781607060765

 

The Walking Dead, Vol. 16
Robert Kirkman
Retail Price: $14.99
Paperback: 136 pages
Publisher: Image Comics – (2012-06-19)
ISBN / EAN: 1607065592 / 9781607065593

Top Ten Graphic Memoirs

Friday, May 4th, 2012

To celebrate the release of Alison Bechdel’s Are You My Mother?, Time magazine offers a slide show of ten other “unforgettable autobiographical comics,” beginning with Art Spiegelman’s Maus.

Several libraries are showing heavy holds on Bechdel’s title.

Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama
Alison Bechdel
Retail Price: $22.00
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – (2012-05-01)
ISBN / EAN: 0618982507 / 9780618982509

ARE YOU MY MOTHER?

Monday, April 30th, 2012

As we head toward Mother’s Day, a book about a decidedly non-Hallmark-card mother/daughter relationship, Alison Bechdel’s new graphic novel, Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama, is rising on Amazon’s sales rankings (currently at #29) in advance of its publication tomorrow.

It received an impassioned review in this week’s NYT BR and the author is interviewed in The Barnes and Noble Review/Salon.

Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama
Alison Bechdel
Retail Price: $22.00
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – (2012-05-01)
ISBN / EAN: 0618982507 / 9780618982509

 

Parenting Comic Lands on Indie Best Seller List

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Here’s a great premise: “What if Darth Vader had a 4-year-old?” How would he handle potty time or bedtime stories? That’s the basis for Jeffrey Brown’s graphic novel  Darth Vader and Son (Chronicle), which debuts at #10 on the Indie Hardcover Nonfiction Best Seller list this week.

The author was recently interviewed in the L.A. Times and USA Today’s PopCandy blog said, “Something tells me Brown’s latest effort, Darth Vader and Son is going to be quite a hit.”

A few libraries own it in small quantities.

Darth Vader and Son (Star Wars (Chronicle))
Jeffrey Brown
Retail Price: $14.95
Hardcover: 64 pages
Publisher: Chronicle Books – (2012-04-18)
ISBN / EAN: 145210655X / 9781452106557

JOHN CARTER Plays the Super Bowl

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Yesterday, we wrote that this year’s Super Bowl ads bring new twists; advertisers are using social media both to tease the ads and to make them interactive.

A good example of both trends just appeared on the interwebs; a teaser trailer for the longer Super Bowl teaser trailer (calling M. C. Escher!) of the movie John Carter (based on the first book in the classic series by Edgar Rice Burroughs). The interactive part is signaled by voice-over proclaiming, “For a chance to win tickets to next year’s Super Bowl, look for the exclusive code in the John Carter commercial at this year’s big game!” Viewers can then rush to their computers, pick up their tablets or smart phones to enter the code.

Clearly Disney is pulling out all the stops for John Carter. The first trailer had a “world premiere”  on Good Morning America, in early December.

The movie arrives on March 9, with a wide range of tie-ins. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ classic pulp fiction John Carter series, also referred to as the Barsoom series, predates his Tarzan series, and was the basis of several graphic novels. The series began with A Princess of Mars, which was first published as a book in 1917 and is the basis for the movie.

There are numerous movie tie-ins (including coloring and activity books, indicating it’s expected to attract kids).

Disney Book Group is releasing a novelization, which also includes the original text of A Princess of Mars, for ages 13 and up.

John Carter: The Movie Novelization: Also includes: A Princess of Mars
Stuart Moore, Edgar Rice Burroughs
Retail Price: $9.99
Paperback: 560 pages
Publisher: Disney Editions – (2012-02-07)
ISBN / EAN: 1423165586 / 9781423165583

Marvel is releasing a “prequel” (ages “13 to 99” — if you’re 100 or over, you’re out of luck),

John Carter: World Of Mars
Peter David
Retail Price: $14.99
Paperback: 112 pages
Publisher: Marvel – (2012-02-15)
ISBN / EAN: 0785160418 / 9780785160410

Plus a new graphic novel version (also ages “13 to 99”),

John Carter: A Princess of Mars (John Carter of Mars)
Roger Langridge
Retail Price: $14.99
Paperback: 120 pages
Publisher: Marvel – (2012-02-15)
ISBN / EAN: 0785160426 / 9780785160427

Aimed at collectors, Marvel is also releasing a pricey omnibus of various classic 1970’s graphic novels based on the series, (ages “13 to 99”),

John Carter, Warlord of Mars Omnibus
Marv Wolfman, Chris Claremont, Peter Gillis, Bill Mantlo
Retail Price: $99.99
Hardcover: 632 pages
Publisher: Marvel – (2012-02-22)
ISBN / EAN: 0785159908 / 9780785159902

Disney Book Group is releasing collections of the original novels (the series is in the public domain, so there are several other editions as well as audio versions available. Ebook versions are available from OverDrive.)

Collected John Carter of Mars, The (A Princess of Mars, Gods of Mars, and Warlord of Mars)
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Retail Price: $16.99
Paperback: 768 pages
Publisher: Disney Editions – (2012-02-07)
ISBN / EAN: 1423154266 / 9781423154266

Other volumes in the series are:

Collected John Carter of Mars, The (Swords of Mars, Synthetic Men of Mars, Llana

Collected John Carter of Mars, The (Thuvia, Maid of Mars; The Chessmen of Mars

Disney is also realeasing an “art of the movie” tie-in,

Art of Disney John Carter, The (Introduction by Andrew Stanton / Afterword by Ryan Church): A Visual Journey
Josh Kushins
Retail Price: $50.00
Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Disney Editions – (2012-03-06)
ISBN / EAN: 1423154924 / 9781423154921

Prose Adaptations. Yay? or Nay?

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

How interested are readers in graphic novel adaptations of prose titles?

To consider this question, I looked at recent adaptations to see how well they circulate against my general graphic novel collections.

In my library’s adult collection of over 1,600 titles, none of the top 100 in terms of circulations are adaptations. At number 101, is Nancy Butler’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.  Equally popular is The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born, a series related to but not directly adapted from Stephen King’s popular prose series.  Next up is Darwyn Cooke’s adaptation of Richard Parker’s Hunter.  The Exile, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander spin-off graphic novel, R. Crumb’s Book of Genesis and Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series rank in the middle range of popularity.

Adaptations of classics, including JinSeok Jeon’s One Thousand and One Nights and Gareth Hind’s The Odyssey stand on the list just after the far better known Anita Blake, showing that quality and appeal can compete admirably with name recognition.

The losers among adaptations?  NBM’s Treasury of Murder series, which is a shame considering the high quality of their adaptations. Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunters series is also a low performer. Interestingly, this is a series I continued to purchase because a reader specifically requested them. In my library, it has a small, but dedicated audience.  The Dresden Files adaptations have also sat on the shelf, which is surprising considering how popular the novels are and how open many speculative readers are to trying out the graphic novel format.

On the teen side, there are a few that stand out. Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider, James Patterson’s Maximum Ride, Orson Scott Card’s Ender, and Ian Colfer’s Artemis Fowl adaptations all do tremendously well for the genre.  Point Blank, from the Alex Rider series, is right near the top with original works Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball and Raina Telgemeier’s Smile.

The losers for younger readers include NBM’s often lovely adaptations of classic fairy tales including P. Craig Russell’s Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde, the Anne Frank House authorized biography of Anne Frank, Ellen Schreiber’s Vampire Kisses, D. J. MacHale’s Merchant of Death, and Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas adaptations.  That New York Times multi-week best-selling adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight?  The first volume ranks at #300 while the second volume has yet to be checked out.

What conclusions should we draw from all of this number crunching?

My thoughts:

  1. Just because a series is popular in prose does not mean you can slap together an adaptation into the graphic novel format with rushed art and lackluster attention to adapting dialog and have it succeed.  I think many of those adaptations of popular series that have failed are simply poorly made graphic novels.  Sometimes it’s the fault of a publisher pushing an adaptation too fast into production, and sometimes it just doesn’t gell in the graphic format.
  2. Readers do not easily jump from one format to another.  Some titles will be popular by sheer name recognition, and some will be as an engaging way to comprehend a difficult text (i.e. The Odyssey), but many popular prose titles aren’t going to attract graphic novel readers nor are they going to bring that title’s readers to the format.  Unless both writing and art are really solid, any adaptation will never be as popular as original material in the medium.
  3. Original material always circulates better, so I only collect adaptations if they are requested specifically by readers or if they are lauded in many a review from multiple sources.  Adaptations make up around 3% of my adult collection, and thus far I see no great reason to change that percentage.

What have your experiences been?  How much of your budget do you devote to collecting adaptations of prose in the graphic format?

NYT Graphic Books Bestsellers – Infographic

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Created for Comics Alliance, as a year-end treat, I present to you the New York Times Graphic Books Bestseller list as an infographic:

Go ahead, click on it, expand it (hit the plus sign to make it fill your computer screen), and take it all in.  I’ll wait here.

Created by Wired’s Art Director Tim Leong, this slick representation of the entire year’s data compiled into an easily digestible chart allows us to take stock of the graphic novel market and assess how useful the NYT list is for librarians developing collections.

What did I notice?

The obvious:

Scott Pilgrim and The Walking Dead dominated the charts. Any library worth it’s salt already stocks these titles. Their continuing popularity also happily brought some sturdy new omnibus editions, in the case of The Walking Dead, which can be great when libraries need to catch up or replace tattered, well-loved paperbacks.

To ponder:
Take a good look at that bar graphic of superhero versus non-superhero titles. What does that mean? Are superheroes no longer so popular? Does the NYT  list skew away from superheroes? Perhaps, but more likely, it shows that the market is diversifying and that mainstream comics are no longer defined by costumed vigilantes.

Five titles debuted at number one and then disappeared. All are popular titles in my library. They may not have had the juice to last on the official list but they’re still worthwhile additions to library collections.

The top ten publishers are lead by two small houses. Oni Press is #1 because of Scott Pilgrim. Image Comics, as publisher of  The Walking Dead, comes in at #2. Oni has been considerate and understanding of libraries, plus they put out a lovely assortment of quality titles for all types of readers. Image has been more scattered, with an impenetrable website and they are  just starting to court the library market.  The appearance of Scholastic and Pantheon (RH) in the top ten indicates that traditional publishers have made inroads into the comics market.

The fact that only 16 titles were in the top spot points to the limitations of the list for collection development purposes.  Once you’ve bought those 16, the list become repetitive.

What conclusions do you take away from this aggregation?  What would you like to know from a year’s worth of data?

WALKING DEAD Kills

Monday, October 17th, 2011

The premiere of the second season of AMC Network’s [corrected; we earlier referred to it as USA Network’s] Walking Dead drew a total of 11 million viewers and broke basic cable ratings in several demographics.

No surprise, then, that the various compilations of the source comics also rose on Amazon sales rankings. Leading the pack is the seventh volume which arrives tomorrow:

The Walking Dead, Book 7
Robert Kirkman
Retail Price: $34.99
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Image Comics – (2011-10-18)
ISBN / EAN: 1607064391/ 9781607064398

For those who just can’t get enough of the gore, The Walking Dead Chronicles: The Official Companion Book goes behind the scenes of the first season.

The Walking Dead Chronicles
Paul Ruditis, AMC
Retail Price: $19.95
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams – (2011-10-01)
ISBN / EAN: 1419701193 / 9781419701191

The comic series creator, Robert Kirkman, published  the first in a projected series of original Walking Dead novels last week (more on Kirkman here).

The Walking Dead: Rise of The Governor
Robert Kirkman, Jay Bonansinga
Retail Price: $24.99
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books – (2011-10-11)
ISBN / EAN: 0312547730 / 9780312547738

Joann Sfar’s New Career

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

The NYT, among others, writes today about French singer Serge Gainsbourg, who was an icon in his native country from the ’60’s through his death in 1991. A new film about him, Serge Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life, opens this week.

NPR, however, focuses on the director, Joann Sfar, already well-known as an award-winning comics artist, because he “is as interesting as its subject.”

His books include The Rabbi’s Cat, (Pantheon/ Knopf Doubleday), Little Vampire (First Second/Macmillan) and The Little PrinceGraphic Novel (HMH), which was recommended by Lisa Von Drasek as a “Book to Give Kids You Don’t Know Very Well.” His latest, the fourth in the Night of the Ladykiller, Dungeon series (NBM/ComicsLit) came out in June. Booklist called it “A wonderful addition to the series”

Although some stories claim the movie  Serge Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life is based on a comic (it’s even listed that way in IMDB.com), Sfar says it is not, but that he applied “comic book techniques” to the live action movie,

I love [the] Russian way of storytelling, when you put strong picture close to other strong picture, and you expect the audience to do the job….a kind of montage way of editing a movie.

Gainsbourg may be less familiar to American audiences than Sfar. Some identify him only through his muse, Jane Birkin, the ’60’s British actress for whom the Hermes’ Birkin Bag was named (it’s the one Samantha lusted for on Sex and the City), or for the couple’s daughter, Charlotte Gainsbourg who stars with Kirsten Durst in the upcoming movie Melancholia.

Playdates for Serge Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life are listed on the films website,  GainsbourgAHeroicLife.com

Cowboys & Aliens vs. Batman

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

We are in the full swing of summer movie season, and while there are the major installments we book-lovers have been waiting for (ahem, Harry Potter), this summer is dominated by superhero movies. Marvel keeps churning out film after film in its ultimate mission of releasing the much-anticipated Avengers movie in 2012. DC competes by releasing its own signature characters on the big screen (Green Lantern — in 3D), even though their mediocre entries (excepting the Nolan Batman films) tend to disappoint even die-hard fans.

Other comics-inspired films, like Cowboys & Aliens, opening tomorrow, based on Scott Mitchell Rosenberg’s graphic novel, raise the question: when is it worth picking up the source graphic novel and when, as with the heavily anticipated but ultimately disappointing Green Lantern, (opened 6/17), is it best to wait and see? How do you build your collection to sustain interest as well as anticipate new hits?

In the case of Cowboys & Aliens, there’s a handy 2011 reprint available, and, fortunately, you only have to invest in one book. Few readers have shown interest in my library. For right now, I’m refraining from investing unless the movie proves to be a grand success.

Marvel puts out solidly enjoyable stand alone films from Iron Man (2008 & 2010) to Thor (opened May 6) to the eagerly anticipated Captain America: The First Avenger (opened last week and doing well both at the box office and with critics). The comics, however, require understanding of earlier storylines to grasp and can be impenetrable to new readers. Investing in every potentially relevant Green Lantern comic is a fool’s errand and is ultimately unnecessary. Stick to the solid storylines and authors that are already popular, as with Ed Brubaker’s run on Captain America and Geoff Johns’s run on Green Lantern. Roger Langridge’s Thor: The Mighty Avenger is notable for for penciler Samnee’s clean, bright art and is  one of the best reviewed entry tales of the past year, admired by fans, creators, and readers alike. Although the series was regretfully canceled after eight issues, the book still stands as a solid introduction to Thor’s origin and place within Marvel’s pantheon. With all of these purchases, fans will be pleased, books will fly off the shelves, and libraries can stay within their budget.

DC may be losing right now on the movie front, but their books are easier to get into via a convenient entry point. Like Nolan’s Batman movies? Pick up Batman: Year One or Batman: Arkham Asylum (showing movement on amazon — Sales rank: 364, up from 578)
You don’t need to dive in to the current Batman storyline to find a satisfying read with your favorite blockbuster character.  Right now, I’m most curious about which Batman volumes I’ll need to collect to anticipate reader interest in villain Bane for Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Night Rises (coming next summer).  Catwoman I’ve got covered in her own series (relaunching in fall 2011) but Bane (made all the more exciting because he’s being played by the buzz-worthy Tom Hardy) is more of a mystery.  For Bane’s most famous storyline, I’d need volumes one to three of Batman: Knightfall, sadly fallen out of print.  Keep your eyes peeled for a reprint, though, as DC knows to count on the movies to generate interest in older titles.  Bane has made a more nuanced reappearance in the DC universe as part of Gail Simone’s Secret Six, and her relaunch of this series following a supervillain team is a solid addition to a library’s collection (although be quick, as the six volumes are getting hard to find from vendors and the series has been canceled due to DC’s fall reboot.)

If you haven’t already seen it, check out the teaser trailer for The Dark Knight Rises that briefly features Tom Hardy’s Bane.

Thus, in my library, Batman buzz trumps Cowboys & Aliens.  The wind may change, though, and I’m prepped and ready to respond to my patrons if they fall head over heels for Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford battling extraterrestrial threats.

Note: Thanks go out to all my colleagues on the Graphic Novels in Libraries listserv for their help in identifying the best Bane-centric titles.

DC Reboot: What to do with 52 new series?

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Beginning in September, DC Comics will relaunch its entire universe — all fifty-two running comic book series — with new number one issues, new character designs, and in some cases, drastic shifts in character origins and line-ups.

These comics will eventually be released in trade paperback. Below is some information to help you figure out which comics to follow and which to buy when they are issued in collections.

Skeptics question just how much reintroducing characters and their origins will draw in new readers. I’d guess not very much, especially since many readers have no idea that such a reboot is in the works (i.e. a significant majority of my library patrons.) Reboots succeed in creating a few fans from folks already frequenting comics shops (and also annoy long-time fans), but I’ve rarely seen such a reintroduction pull in a reader who isn’t already interested in superhero comics. The readers who are eagerly awaiting Craig Thompson’s Habibi or who delight in the gruesome procedural Chew are not going to be won over by shiny new costumes and a bit of new back story. Still, change is good for superhero tales that have gotten mired in relying on hundreds of previous issues for fans to follow along.

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SAILOR MOON Returns!

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

The week’s big news in the world of comics and graphic novels is the announced return of Naoko Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon, a much-beloved shojo (or girls) comic, one of the key titles that ushered in manga boom beginning around 2000. Alongside other now out-of -print series like Tokyo Mew Mew and Marmalade BoySailor Moon proved the importance of female fans to a skeptical (and yes, startled) comics industry.

Originally published in 1997 by Tokyopop (known then as Mixx), Sailor Moon is remembered by many librarians for its terrible binding, poor printing and paper quality; the volumes flew off the shelves until they fell apart. Kodansha Comics is resurrecting the series with a brand new translation and a deluxe edition (although what makes it “deluxe” is not  yet clear). The series will be released bi-monthly starting in September 2011 and will combine the original 18 volumes into 12 plus one more of side stories.

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Superheroes for the Uninitiated

Thursday, January 27th, 2011
Superheroes are everywhere lately: the inspiration for films (Green Lantern, Thor, Captain America, Batman) and television shows like No Ordinary Family and The Cape. Unfortunately for folks intrigued about the source comics, superhero stories feel like a fans-only world. Background information can be gained from knowledgable fans (see NPR’s Glen Weldon’s informative and hilarious rundown on just who all these Green men are) but for readers skeptical of costumed heroes, diving right in is a tough sell. With decades of back story that shift and change to hook each new generation of readers, trying to enter today’s continuities can be intimidating at best and baffling at worst.

It’s a shame. While some superheroes still conform to the stereotypes of whizz-bang action and moralistic heroism, others represent some of the best comics today. Christopher Nolan has proven Batman’s dramatic strength in film but readers may not realize that the bones of that success come directly from rich and dynamic comics.

Among pop culture icons like Batman and Captain America, there are stories that stand out for adult readers. In the Batman universe, classics like Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, Alan Moore’s Batman: The Killing Joke and Batman: Arkham Asylum are must-reads, and all were source materials for Nolan’s take on the universe. With solid storytelling and no need to know more than the basics of who Batman is, these single-volume windows into Batman’s mission are engaging crime dramas that show off both the character and the grim Gotham Nolan brought to the screen. Many of the Year One series of titles, including personal favorites Green Arrow: Year One and Batgirl: Year One, are well worth seeking out as starter lessons on DC’s heroes.

With the news that Anne Hathaway has been cast as the sex bomb Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, in Nolan’s third and final Batman film, now is a good time to catch up with one of Batman’s finest foils. Sexy, amoral, brilliant, and loyal in her own special way, Catwoman has never been a true supervillian. Rather, she orbits Batman to poke giant holes in his rigid, unforgiving view of the world. Selina Kyle is a cat burglar by trade, and her skill at heists and existence apart from being Batman’s dangerous flirt is brought to action-packed life in the Catwoman series. Start with Catwoman: When in Rome for Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale’s impeccably gorgeous stand alone caper or pick up in Cooke’s retro series starting with Catwoman: The Dark End of the Street to see why Catwoman remains an icon.

Impossible to overlook on Marvel’s side, Ed Brubaker’s writing in Captain America in the past few years has been nothing short of outstanding. While the widely reported deaths of favorite superheroes are not unjustly derided as media stunts (see the death of Superman), the narrative leading up to and through the death of Captain America is complex, sincerely emotional, and a compelling parallel for real-life concerns about the conflict between privacy and security. Start with Captain America: Winter Soldier to appreciate the full arc of storytelling, or jumping ahead to another storyline, start with Civil War: Captain America. Along the way you may have to remind yourself who Bucky is (the Cap’s original teen sidekick), but otherwise the storyline works just fine with what you already know: Steve Rogers is a WWII hero who can feel out of time, heads the Avengers, and hangs out with Tony Stark (aka Iron Man.)

On the ladies’ side, this past year has seen Batwoman break down barriers by becoming the female lead of DC Comics flagship series, Detective Comics. Female readers (and quite a few male readers) have bemoaned the lack of a female superhero who was not only an equal to Superman or Batman but who took the lead in her own series and managed to sidestep donning a costume that was a more fetish object for fans than practical armor for fighting crime. As Batwoman, a counterpart to Batman, Kate Kane has existed since the 1950s, but in scribe Greg Rucka’s expert hands she has become a powerhouse reinterpretation. She echoes her namesake in brawn, deduction, and psychological damage, but she is also a departure from Batman’s blue-blood roots. A proud ex-military fighter and an out lesbian who’s personal history is coming back to haunt her in the Batwoman: Elegy storyline, she is giant step toward what fans have been craving.  With J. H. Williams’s breathtaking art, this series is recent enough that readers can start with the first volume and feel like they’re getting in on the ground floor.

In this post I’ve just touched on the most recognizable superheroes. In my next installment, I’ll take a look at some excellent superheroes from outside these universes.

GIRL GENIUS Day

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Making a giant leap on Amazon sales rankings is Phil & Kaja Foglio’s Agatha H. and the Airship City, the latest in the Girl Genius series, currently at #38, the highest rank to date for a title in the series. The authors nudged this along by proclaiming yesterday “Girl Genius Day” and asking fans to place orders on the new book’s release day, making it soar up the list. A similar tactic was used successfully last fall by the authors of Machine of Death.

I’m not a fan of these efforts to manipulate the lists, but I do love the series — it’s a smart combination of steampunk adventure, humor, and just a touch of romance. Up to now, the series has appeared in comic format, with the previous volumes collected as graphic novels. The new installment, however, is a prose novel.

The series has a devoted fan following. Teens and adults enjoy the derring-do and rich world-building the series excels at, including elaborate Victorian gadgets and believably complicated political struggles. The volumes I’ve managed to collect circulate very well in my library’s teen collection.

I’d love to give the comic series a whole-hearted recommendation, but it’s difficult to buy any but the most recent volumes via library vendors. Also, unfortunately, the bindings don’t hold up to frequent library use.

You can try to get older volumes through other sellers that list on Amazon, if your library is set up to order from them.

Agatha H. and the Airship City (Girl Genius)
Phil Foglio, Kaja Foglio
Retail Price: $24.99
Hardcover: 264 pages
Publisher: Night Shade Books – (2011-01-01)
ISBN / EAN: 1597802115 / 9781597802116