Forever Nuts Presents: Happy Hooligan HC By Frederick Burr Opper
Opper was already a quite successful cartoonist/illustrator for the prestigious Puck magazine when William Randolph Hearst lured him out to create a comic strip for the New York Journal. While a step down from (relatively) high to low brow, Opper jumped at the chance and out came Happy Hooligan, an un-heroized vagrant who ends up very badly at the end of each strip, no matter how much good he might mean. His perennial demise surely went on to inspire Wile E. Coyote or Mr. O, especially as his own cowardice and unworthiness contributes to his hilarious woes. This second entry in Forever Nuts, a series showcasing early strips so ingeniously nutty they're forever fresh and off-the-wall, presents here a collection of the better early full-color Sunday strips.
Pages: 112, 7x11, FC, $24.95
More information on Hooligan here and here
Lee: I’m a big fan of early comic strips and I’m looking forward to this too. These strips were published sometime between 1910-1930 and give a wonderful look into life at the time. It’s different. It’s not what you’re used too. But it will certainly be enjoyable.
Jim: Yeah, I understand the interest in this material, but Lee is more of a historian then I am. I go back to Buck Rogers and Prince Valiant, but Lee loves all of it.
:01 First Second
Slow Storm GN By Danica Novgorodoff
When an illegal immigrant and a firefighter are thrown together by a thunderstorm, their lives begin to change. This literary graphic novel is a story of homesickness, horses, storms, and saints, told in watercolors by an exciting new talent. Danica's first comic, A Late Freeze, was the winner of the Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini-Comics, and subsequently nominated for an Eisner Award for Best Single Issue. A mini-comic excerpt of Slow Storm was on the Best American Comics list of top 100 comics for 2007.
Pages: 176, 6x9, SC, FC, $17.95
Visit Danica here
Lee: I love Danica’s art. It’s got that certain expressiveness that is needed for this kind of story. You can find previews at the link and get a great feel for the story. The preview is almost wordless but the storytelling is so good that you are drawn into instantly.
Jim: The artwork has merit, but it is a different style, both expressive and simple. This looks to be a good story and one worth checking out.
My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down HC By David Heatley
What if you wrote and drew a comic strip that honestly depicted every sexual experience you ever had, from 3rd grade to last week? It would force you to re-examine your life in ways that would make your shrink blush. In 2004, that's exactly what David Heatley did, and called it My Sexual History. And what else to follow that up with than Black History, which chronicles every African-American he ever encountered, whether it was Lennie from daycare or the artist's impression of Michael Jackson's Thriller. So make no mistake - David Heatley is anything but withholding. Quite the opposite. But the great surprise is that he's not playing for shock effect, either. He's just trying to tell you what happened as succinctly and colorfully as he can. My Brain is Hanging Upside Down, its title taken from a Ramones lyric, marks the start of a brilliant cartooning career.
Pages: 128, 8x12, FC, $24.95
Visit Heatley’s blog here (with lots of art) and sketchbook here (with lots more art)
Lee: Now this takes the term “life as an open book” to a whole new level. I get the feeling that Heatley isn’t going to hold anything back and that should make for an interesting read. With the kind of openness that he has, it would be interesting to see how his life compares to the rest of us.
Jim: Conceptually it does sound interesting, but not something that I want to read.
Pure Imagination Publishing
Alex Toth: Edge of Genius Vol. 02 SC By Alex Toth
The year 1953 marked a turning point in Toth's career, and the change is represented in thirty stories from that year. Be it horror, war, romance, or science fiction, here is where Alex decided on his style. See why all of his peers stood up and paid attention. Much of this volume is shot from Toth's original art work, the rest is Theakstonized for maximum clarity.
Pages: 160, SC, B&W, $25.00
Lee: Yet another publisher that I buy just about everything they produce. I love PI and it’s books with ultrahigh production values. If you are looking for some of the best collections focused on classic artists then you should always start here.
Jim: See this is where Lee costs me money. There is no way I can pass up on this type of book once Lee says the production values are top notch. Plus Alex Toth is one of the true masters of the craft and has influenced a ton of artist talents in the field.
Walt Kelly Reader Vol. 01 SC By Walt Kelly
Featuring 160 pages from the brilliant creator of Pogo! Included here are stories from Raggedy Ann and Andy, Fairy Tale Parade, Christmas with Mother Goose, Easter with Mother Goose, The Brownies, and Peter Wheat. All of the material is Theakstonized for superior reproduction.
Pages: 160, SC, B&W, $25.00
Just in case you’ve lived under a rock forever…. Some info on Kelly here
Lee: And, while Toth’s greatness goes without say, sometimes people forget how great Kelly was too. Even though he was predominantly a newpaper artist he did spend time in comics too. As I’ve said, this is a great way to see art and stories by the absolute masters of the medium.
Jim: Yeah, yeah, yeah, but I was never enthralled with Kelly.
Complete Ace Trucking Vol. 01 SC By Wagner, Grant, Belardinelli & Gibson
Join Ace Garp and his outrageous alien crew on the spaceship Speedo Ghost as they ply their trade on the galaxy's highways and byways. This rabble of misfits are unlike anything you'll have encountered before. Meet huge bodyguard GBH, the skeletal Feek the Freek, and sarcastic ship's computer Ghost as they try to earn an honest living against insufferable odds. Collected together for the very first time in graphic novel format, this is a 2000 AD classic every comic fan will want to check out!
Pages: 320, B&W, $30.50
Some information on Belardinelli here, and a wiki writeup here
Lee: I’m not a fan of wiki writeups but if it’s real then this sounds like a great little series. I love the old 2000AD series just because so many of the creators came to the states later. This is pricey but the only way I’ll ever see the material so I’m sure I’ll get it.
Jim: Wikipedia the made up encyclopedia that apparently even tries to push it’s own views. Do not get me started on wiki.
Seven Seas Entertainment LLC
Afro Samurai Vol. 01 SC By Takashi Okazaki
It's all about revenge - Nothing personal. In the bleak world of the swordsman, it is said that he who becomes the Number 1 samurai shall rule the world. And only Number 2 is allowed to challenge Number 1. Afro Samurai has assumed the mantle of Number 2, seeking vengeance against Number1, a gunman who killed his father years ago. But assassins lurk at every corner, seeking to rob Afro Samurai of the title of Number 2. Can Afro survive long enough to exact his revenge?
Pages: 176, 5x7, #1 of 2, FC, $10.99
Who knew but there’s an official Afro website here
Lee: I’m sorry but this is just too hyped up for me not to try it. Lots of pointless violence, buckets of blood and Samuel L. Jackson! What more could a person ask for? Granted Jackson won’t be reading the story to me but one of the original creators will be involved in this. It’s worth checking out the site just for fun.
Jim: The trailer for the cartoon is great. It does seem very cool.
Silent Devil Productions
Division 18: Union of Novelty Costumed Performers GN By Matt Bergin & Jeremy Donelson
Costumed entertainment can be a tough racket, and sometimes it takes more than cartwheels or balloon animals to make it in Division 18 of the Union of Novelty Costumed Performers. Catch up with Jimmy the Snake, Fat Louie, and the rest of the mascot mafia, as they confront everything from scabs to furries to human resources. This special edition includes the acclaimed D18 debut, Five Hunnies; two never-before-published stories, White Collar Crooks and The Union Files; and a slew of extras.
Pages: 96, SC, B&W, $9.99
The story at Comicon with links and art previews here and the official blog here
Lee: I’m always up for a good satire or humor story and this appears to fit the bill. I’m not sure there will be lots of redeeming qualities here but I sense a good laugh.
Jim: Still a little steep for me in the price department for what it is, if that makes any sense. The preview has promise, but I still want to flip through the whole book before I would commit.
Digger Vol. 01 GN By Ursula Vernon
A no-nonsense wombat becomes trapped in a Wonderland-like country where nonsense is the specialty. After meeting a talking statue of a god, a childlike shadow-demon, and an oracular slug, all she wants is to get back to her safe and sane Warren. Unfortunately, not only is there a distressing lack of signposts, but several creatures keep trying to kill her, and all she has to fight them with is her knowledge of rocks and digging, her stoic wit, and a formidable right hook. Digger Volume 1 collects the first two chapters of the award winning webcomic (no longer accessible on the website), along with an all-new six page comic revealing the origin of the talking statue of Ganesh. Pages: 132, 7x10, SC, B&W, $18.95
Visit Ursula here
Lee: WOW ! Check out the hype from Vernon’s website “Digger has been the winner of the Web Cartoonists' Choice Awards in the categories of Outstanding Black and White Art (2005, 2006), Outstanding Anthropomorphic Comic (2006), and in 2006 was nominated for a Will Eisner Comics Industry Award in the category of Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition.” I for one am a fan of the awards. It exponentially increases the chances that I am going to get something good. Besides that I am all about whimsy so I’m sold.
Jim: See I’m not sold by a lot of awards. I find that all critics (myself included) often get too close to material to have an objective viewpoint. I read a book that was highly touted by some respected creators in the industry and thought it was crap, so I rather check out the preview and try to judge for myself. As a critic I just hope to make someone maybe try something they otherwise would have missed or at least give them a different viewpoint.
Spark Unlimited Inc
Legendary GN By Mark Waid & Martin Montiel
Legendary tells the story of Charles Deckard, an art thief who is duped into stealing Pandora's Box. When he inadvertently opens it, he releases hordes of beasts thought to be fictional - such as werewolves and griffons - into an unprepared modern world. A full-scale war between man and myth begins, and it is quickly complicated by the actions of powerful secret societies. As the person responsible for releasing this terror, Deckard's unwittingly becomes the only person capable of containing it once more and saving civilization from being destroyed by the terrifying creatures of legend. Written by Mark Waid, this original graphic novel, based on the Legendary video game by Spark Unlimited, Inc. and penciled by Martin Montiel, is a thrill-ride of mythical proportions. Featuring an original 96-page story as well as extras from the game and the Legendary universe, comic fans and gamers of all kinds will not be able to put it down!
Pages: 112, SC, FC, $14.99
Lee: Huuummmm. I’m not sure what to make of Waid writing a comic book in support of a video game. Waid always turns in a good story but it’s about a video game. And about characters/concepts he most likely has little or no interest in. It could be good but I bet it’s just average.
Jim: With that write-up I’m surprised you even included this as a pick. This is a book I will pass on.
Sparkplug Comic Books
Mine Tonight GN By Trevor Alixopulos
Stylish, violent, and sordid, Mine Tonight is a story of individuals with high ideals but few scruples. Lukas is an amoral gun-for-hire who finds himself embroiled in the corrupt 2004 Presidential Election. Pulp noir blurs with autobiography as the lives of Lukas and Alixopulos intersect, from the heady chaos of 1999's WTO protest in Seattle to the moral fog of post-9/11 New York. The tricks of memory and the ambiguity of politics leaven the intrigue in a tale both intensely personal and as immediate as breaking news. Deftly mixing reality and fiction, love and blood, Mine Tonight paints a jittery portrait of our time. Pages: 104, 6x9, SC, B&W, $10.00
Visit Trevor here or follow the link to his sketch blog here and his online comix here
Lee: Just from the online material, Trevor’s art seems well suited for this type of story. I don’t have much to say other than it just sounds interesting.
Jim: Come on his “art” is weak, very weak It is something that has no appeal at all to me.
Th3rd World Studios
Creature Features By Various Do you remember when your local drive-in was rocking on a Friday nightand all of the monsters were the result of nuclear waste and government conspiracies? Creature Feature is your chance to relive your youth or visit a joyous time of cinematic insanity done right for the first time. Welcome back to the 70s and 80s because the first Triple and a half CreatureFeature of the new millennium is set to begin!This issue features three and a half scintillating tales of monsterous horror done right - over the top and gratuitous with a super-cool soundtrack. (Readersare responsible for providing their own tunes.) Grab a date, leave the kids at home,andstuff as many friends in your trunkas possiblefor out of this world terrorin Abducted by Chris Yost, hot girls andfeathery friends inHooters by CB Cebulski, creepy crawlies in Why Did It Have To Be Spiders? by Andy Schmidt, and the firsthalf of therocktacular Rockenstein byBrian Smith, a tale so dementedthe drive-in is only willing to screen the first half of it lest they get shut down altogether for public indecency!Pages: 48, B&W, $4.50
Lee: It looks great. Read Jim’s review to see more.
Cream of Tank Girl HC By Alan Martin & Jamie Hewlett
Celebrate the 20th anniversary of Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett's foul-mouthed, anarchic creation with this essential guide to the art of Tank Girl! Bask in the glory of exclusive new commentary from writer Alan Martin! Shiver with pleasure at the sight of rarely seen drawings by genius Gorillaz artist Jamie Hewlett! Have a nice cup of tea whilst studying the recipe page! Verily, The Cream of Tank Girl is a smorgasbord of Tank Girl-osity. Boasting tons of unseen artwork, rarely seen comic strips, every Jamie Hewlett Tank Girl cover ever, publicity posters, script samples and more besides; this is the ultimate guide to Tank Girl and her world! Pages: 176, 9X12, PC, $29.95
Lee: Now this is how I want to read Tank Girl. I’ve always wanted to sample her but the trades were just to uneven for me to get through. But, a good old best-of with tons of extras I can get into. Give me the cream of the Tank Girl crop and I can say I’ve been there, done that.
Jim: The double entrees are just all over the place and some are so bad, that I will pass on any comments.
Marshall Law Origins SC By Pat Mills & Kevin O’Neill
From the creative team of Pat Mills (Charley's War) and Kevin O'Neill (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) comes a new kind of law enforcement for a dark and dystopian future - Marshal Law! When one of San Futuro's leading sex queen hostesses turns up dead in what appears to be a bizarre suicide, it seems clear that there is more to this insidious situation than meets the eye. It's time for Marshal Law to dish out the pain! Also featuring the classic stories Cloak of Evil and Day of the Dead, this brand-new and fully-illustrated novel includes an introduction and commentary by Pat Mills, all-new digital cover art by Nick Percival, and hordes of unseen artwork by award-winning artist O'Neill! Pages: 240, 5x8, $12.95
Lee: Behind this awful cover is a really good comic book. This was published long ago in the 90’s and is probably one of the first real deconstructionist superhero stories. The good guys were bad but the bad guys were worse. It’s a great story with great art that’s way over the top. Certainly not for the kiddies though.
Jim: Agreed. Marshall Law was almost ahead of its time.
Watching the Watchmen HC By Dave Gibbons, Chip Kidd & Mike Essl
Watchmen is one of the biggest-selling graphic novels ever. It has stayed constantly in print since 1987, remains a bestseller, and the film adaptation arrives in theaters in March 2009. Acclaimed as one of Time Magazine's 100 best English-language novels since 1923, Watchmen is widely considered to be the greatest graphic novel ever. In Watching the Watchmen, artist Dave Gibbons gives his own account of the genesis of Watchmen, opening his archives to reveal the secrets behind the book's creation with a stunning array of previously unpublished sketches, early script extracts, and exclusive photographs. Featuring the breathtaking design of Chip Kidd and Mike Essl, Watching the Watchmen is both a major art book and the definitive companion to the graphic novel that changed an industry. This special edition will feature an exclusive variant cover, a signature page from Dave Gibbons featuring unseen archive art, and a set of eight wrapped art cards drawn from Gibbons's Watchmen archive.
Pages: 256, 9x12, FC, $50.00
Lee: Obviously Watchmen is a comic book icon. So now we have a book about the book. This is very expensive but I’m really interested in what Gibbons has to say.
Jim: I agree and hope Lee will loan this to me or at least favor the blog with a review of the book. A $50 price tag is too high for this type of material.
Top Shelf Productions
From Shadow of Northern Lights SC By Edited by Johannes Klenell
Inspired by the work of Robert Crumb, the comical aspect of MAD and the storytelling of the director Ingmar Bergman, the Swedish magazine Galago began as a publication of political satire during the late 70s. In the three decades since, it has grown to become the flagship of the Swedish alternative comics scene. From The Shadow Of The Northern Lights, gathers 200 pages of some of the finest comic artists Galago and Sweden has to offer, including contributions from David Liljemark, Marcus Ivarsson, Mats Jonsson, Knut Larsson, Kolbeinn Karlsson, Liv Strömquist, and Loka Kanarp. The Swedish comics community has developed into one of the most important comics scenes in the EU, on par with the indy scenes in the U.S. and France.
Pages: 200, $19.95
Lee: If it isn’t obvious, I really love the indies scene here in America. And that love of small press comics has led to a love of Euro comics too. This looks to be a great way to see a lot of different artists and styles in one package.
Jim: What I have been learning that the age of American and Euro comics is fast disappearing. We have interviewed creators that live in the Philippines, Spain and China. The internet is allowing creators to work together who never would have had the chance to do so before, so I believe that the only thing we are seeing from the Euro material are just other good stories.
That Salty Air GN By Tim Sievert
Hugh is a fisherman with a special relationship to the sea; a relationship based on respect and reverence. But when Hugh feels that the sea has betrayed him, his whole existence is thrown out of whack. Hell-bent on settling the score, Hugh takes his revenge to the extreme, jeopardizing not only himself, but his family in the process, becoming a story about change, and learning the price for trifling with the natural progression of things. SC graphic novel, $10.00
Visit the Top Shelf page with previews here
Lee: I recently read the Essex County trilogy from Top Shelf and I loved it. It was emotional and very well done. When I look at this book I see that same kind of quality. Between Blankets & Essex County, Top Shelf has found a great niche as a publisher of great human interest stories. This is an older offering but it’s worth looking at.
Jim: Rerun pick. I think there should be a moratorium on rerun picks.
Valiant Entertainment LLC
Archer & Armstrong: First Impressions HC By Jim Shooter, Barry Windsor-Smith & Bob Layton
The most unlikely traveling companions are back! This Valiant special edition hardcover collects the full Archer & Armstrong origin story from issues #0-6 for the first time ever, digitally recolored and including the all-new story, Formation of the Sect, detailing how the secret organization came to power, by legendary creator Jim Shooter, illustrators Sal Velluto and Bob Almond, and with an all-new cover by legendary artist Michael Golden! When Archer's preacher parents betray and try to murder him, he goes in search of enlightenment, returning years later seeking revenge as the world's greatest hand-to-hand fighter. However, instead of revenge he finds Armstrong, the centuries-old immortal wanderer who spends his time drinking, fighting and spinning tales of his hedonistic adventures throughout history! When a ruthless cult and its bumbling agents try to enlist Archer to kill Armstrong (the one they believe to be the Devil), the two most unlikely traveling companions turn the tables and team up to face down the threat that could destroy the world!
Pages: 168, 7x10, FC, $24.95
Lee: I really want to enjoy this but the last couple of Valiant hc’s have not only had bad production but so-so stories too. This was written in the boom period of the early 90’s which should tell the entire story. Another problem is that I don’t remember the story being all the good to begin with. I’m afraid I’m going to pass on this one.
Jim: Agreed. A story that was weak if memory serves and lower production values, makes this an easy pass.
American Widow HC By Alissa R. Torres & Choi
Alissa and Eddie Torres met in New York City, fell in love, and married in a whirlwind romance. Eddie had come to the United States as an illegal alien from Columbia and gradually worked his way up from a series of jobs in the garment district to become a high-paid currency broker, eventually landing his dream job at Cantor Fitzgerald in the World Trade Center. His first day of work was September 10, 2001. The next day he died in the World Trade Center attacks. Pregnant with their first child, Alissa found herself cast into the role of terrorist widow. Forced to deal with unimaginable challenges, she found herself tossed into a storm of bureaucracy, politics, patriotism, mourning, consolation, and motherhood. Ultimately, she succeeded in taking hold of the forces about her to set off toward a brighter future. Told with the intimacy only a graphic novel can convey, American Widow offers a universal message of hope and redemption.
Pages: 208, 6x9, B&W, $22.00
Lee: WOW! Does this look depressing. Don’t get me wrong, it looks like a very moving story but talk about sad ending. Other than that, I’m really glad this is out there because it’s something that I can give to my “literary” friends and show them there’s more to comic books than superheroes.
Jim: This does look depressing. Sometimes reading this material is cathartic, but I will pass on this book. Lee's literary friend is the guy at the corner Wa-Wa.
OH OH OH The late add…
Houghton Mifflin Company
Tamara Drewe GN By Posy Simmonds
Like her acclaimed Gemma Bovery, Posy Simmonds' Tamara Drewe is a funny and wise original novel in graphic form, with a delightfully sly nod to a literary classic as well as to contemporary mores. An aspiring American novelist, Glen Larson, is returning to a crime writer's retreat in the English countryside, run by long-suffering Beth Hardiman and her husband, Nicholas, a charismatic detective novelist. Into their midst arrives newspaper columnist Tamara Drewe, whose recent nose job has given her a newfound confidence. Aware of her powers over men, Tamara little suspects that local teens Casey and Jody keep tabs on her every move, including her torrid affair with Nicholas. Snooping in Tamara's house, Casey and Jody soon begin sending e-mails from her computer - with unexpectedly dark consequences.
Pages: 136, 9x10, HC, FC, $16.95
More on Posey here and one page preview here
Lee: As I was wrapping this up I scrolled through all the indies one more time and I found this. I didn’t want to add any more books but I went to the one page preview and I was sold! I usually need more than one page to sell me on a story but this one page was very good. I liked the art. You could sense the tension between the characters on the page. It was very good and now I’m doing a late add at my comic store. Sheesh.
Jim: I thought I had reached the end of the list and then the surprise add on. Lee scours the listings and finds all sorts of stuff, but he saves us from having to look at every listing and gives us some great highlights.
Lee: As always a lot to choose from with the indies selection. Slowly but surely, my indies purchases are overtaking purchases from the big two. And, I have to stop looking at the indies section because I keep adding things…. Like Tamara Drewe.
Jim: Very nice list. Lee takes the lead for this post and I occasionally find one or two he missed, but Lee scans everything in detail. So much to choose from and such variety, it shows the unlimited nature of the graphic art form.