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About Alex Carr

In third grade, Alex Carr’s homeroom teacher wrote “See me, please” in red ink on his fiction writing assignment and held him after class to discuss his story involving an evil ice cream flavor with its own appetite—for flesh! On that day, Alex joined the not-so-secret society of readers, writers, and artists who are unafraid of what their third grade teachers think. (No offense intended, Mrs. Thornton. )

Posts by Alex

Graphic Novel Friday: Gilbert Hernandez's Big Year

At the end of July, hard-working and prolific artist and writer Gilbert Hernandez won the Eisner Award for Best Short Story (“Untitled” in Love and Rockets: New Stories #6), to which he stated, “The biggest surprise was the story they chose; a wacked-out fantasy that I didn’t think anyone would take seriously. All in all, it’s a great honor.” From long-running familial dramas, all-ages adventures, grindhouse terrors, erotica, and the…wacked-out, every new or collected work from the now Eisner Award-winning artist is reason enough to investigate and celebrate. For longtime fans and soon-to-be devotees, 2014 presents plenty of opportunity to explore Gilbert’s latest and newly collected stories.

July: Fantagraphics expands their Love and Rockets library again with Luba and Her Family, a collection of later-period L&R works from Gilbert. 

September: A fall two-fer month—first is Bumperhead, an original graphic novel from publisher Drawn & Quarterly that’s billed as a tangentially related story to last year’s Marble Season. It’s a beautiful, oversized black and white hardcover. Then all eyes will be on Love and Rockets: New Stories #7 (Fantagraphics),  where Gilbert follows up his Eisner Award-winning story with new shorts alongside brother Jaime (who also won an Eisner this year: Best Writer/Artist for Love and Rockets #6).

October: Gilbert never shies from the explicit, and readers should be prepared for plenty of passion in Loverboys from Dark Horse Comics, an original graphic novel that promises a “torrid romance” between a young man and a woman who used to be his seventh grade teacher. 

December: OK, we’re still holding our breath for the delayed-but-gotta-be-worth-it Love and Rockets Reader: From Hoppers to Palomar by Marc Sobel. It promises a comprehensive, academic, and in-depth look at what makes Love and Rockets so rewarding.

Just in case you missed it: In May, Dark Horse Comics published Fatima: The Blood Spinners by Gilbert, which is a bizarre, gore-drenched zombie tale that truly sets itself apart from any other zombie comic. 

What a year--congratulations, Gilbert Hernandez!

--Alex

Graphic Novel Friday: This Weekend's Other Space Opera

While I forge my way to the Canadian wilderness for vacation this summer, I will be unable to see The Guardians of the Galaxy film, Marvel’s latest comic book blockbuster. With me, however, is another space epic: Twelve Gems by Lane Milburn.

When the cover art was first revealed, I imagined it had been lifted from the backdrop of pinball machine located in a dingy cantina somewhere in the distant cosmos. A three-headed, horned monstrosity floating above space lava and encircled in glowing lights? Yes, I found my summer read. A copy recently arrived in the mail, and I diligently put it away so that I could save it for my trip. Only now my flight is delayed, I’m stuck in Denver and missing a day of vacation, and Twelve Gems is my only hope—and it’s delivering.

Part Heavy Metal, part Infinity Gauntlet, part progressive metal band's vinyl LP artwork, Twelve Gems offers a space opera send-up that reads like a serious good time. Writer and artist Milburn begins with an eccentric scientist, Dr. Z, who enlists three heroes (Furz, the heavy; Venus, the beautiful warrior; and Dogstar, the talking animal) to find the legendary twelve gems—what they do once collected, no one knows. All that matters is that Dr. Z wants them and he’ s willing to share in the reward, whatever it may be.

Across the stars, the three heroes (who aren’t so heroic) encounter robots, monstrous aliens, and more monstrous aliens, all of whom want the twelve gems for themselves. Dogstar develops a crush as Venus’ outfits only get tighter, and Furz keeps upgrading his murder weapons. It’s absurd how much fun this is, with double-page chapter breaks that would not be out of place on the side of a black van driven by two dudes wearing bandanas. Milburn’s throwback style, the heavy-lined and dense pages are only matched in goofiness by his dialogue: “You who wander this kaleidoscopic cosmos, who possess the mirror-trick of consciousness…speak!” 12Gems_panelAnd the crew can’t seem to catch a break even when they stop at a local space-bar--wherever they go they encounter thieves and assailants. “What?! We don’t get a moment to relax,” Venus bemoans as she readies her battle pose. “This galaxy sucks!” Furz agrees as they both hop into the melee. 

This is exactly what summer blockbusters should be, only Milburn’s is a singular vision. He exploits clichés by embracing them, and he busily captures hyperspace hilarity, while the black and white pages never feel overwhelmed by the dark backdrops or Milburn’s detailed designs. This compact paperback comes with Fantagraphics’ usual high quality paper stock and attention to detail, and I’m so glad it’s here with me—my vacation may have stalled but Twelve Gems gave it a warp core boost regardless.

See also The Comics Journal’s extensive interview with Milburn.

--Alex

Graphic Novel Friday: Happy Birthday, Batman!

Batman_75Happy Bat-Birthday! The Caped Crusader turns 75 this year, and to commemorate, DC Comics will release two 400-page hardcover collections chronicling the adventures and darkness surrounding the Dark Knight and the Clown Prince of Crime, the Joker. Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years and The Joker: A Celebration of 75 Years release next week, featuring 75 years of stories by Bob Kane, Carmine Infantino, Neal Adams, Frank Miller, Denny O’Neil, Greg Rucka, J.H. Williams III, Scott Snyder, Paul Dini, and many more.

Until those tomes hit the shelves, we put our cowls together and identified our five favorite Batman stories-–not a “Best of,” please note! Want to tell us your favorites, Omni readers? To the Bat-comments!

5. Batman: Son of the Demon by Mike W. Barr and Jerry Bingham: Batman falls for Talia al Ghul, the beautiful and dangerous daughter of Ra’s al Ghul, one of Batman’s greatest villains. Their romance leads to a strange alliance between an often shirtless Batman and Ra’s—and its decades-old consequences lead directly into Grant Morrison’s Batman & Son storyline, proving that great stories are never forgotten. [Note that this particular story is contained in a new collection with two other related stories.]

4. Batman: Gotham by Gaslight by Brian Augustyn and Mike Mignola: Mike Mignola! Victorian-era Batman! Mike Mignola! Jack the Ripper! Need we exclaim further? This self-contained story is revered among fans for its artwork and clever, creepy storyline.

3. Batman: The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale:  Batman must face his entire rogues gallery in a murder mystery that spans 12 months. Loeb and Sale’s portrayal of Batman is both classic and contemporary: smart, determined, and muscle-bound. "I made a promise to my parents..."

2. Batman: Nine Lives by Dean Motter and Michael Lark: Say what? This Elseworlds tale (like Gaslight) may be new to readers, but it’s an atypical look at Gotham, where familiar heroes and villains are turned on their heads andBatman_bm reinterpreted in inventive ways. It also involves a murder mystery, and it's a doozy.  [Note: this collection is out of print and available via our third party marketplace.]

1. Batman: The Black Mirror by Scott Snyder, Jock, and Francesco Francavilla: Perhaps the greatest Batman arc in the past decade, The Black Mirror houses two very different stories—both of which trouble Dick Grayson. Yes, our #1 pick is a Batman story without Bruce Wayne! Grayson assumes the mantle and takes the Batman character in a different direction, one worth reading multiple times for how often Snyder gets it “right.” This collection is sure to influence Batman writers for decades to come.

Disclaimer: We excluded any Frank Miller stories from this list, given their importance and length of the shadow they cast over any Bat-list.

--Alex

Graphic Novel Weekend: Interview with Max Brooks

This weekend variant edition of Graphic Novel Friday arrives with an exclusive interview.  Hope everyone had a great July 4th holiday!

Author Max Brooks continues to re-think and refine the zombie phenomenon.  From World War Zthe blockbuster novel that led to the blockbuster film, and the follow-up/send-up The Zombie Survival Guide his name is cemented in the zombie canon. This month, he launches a new graphic novel with Avatar Press that takes another wild look at zombies (and vampires!) in The Extinction Parade. Mr. Brooks nicely took time to answer a few questions over email:

Q: You have two new collections out this spring, The Harlem Hellfighters and The Extinction Parade. What’s your comics origin story—what first inspired you in the medium?

Max Brooks: I can’t remember how old I was, but it was a time before the Berlin Wall fell. We used to spend our summers on a little strip of sand off New York called "Fire Island." I fished and swam and rode my bike everywhere, but one thing I didn’t do was read. Being dyslexic, reading was a real chore. And then I found ROM: Spaceknight at the general store and I recognized it from an action figure I had. It was the first king sized annual. I hadn’t intended to read the whole thing, but before I knew it, I was on the last page. That was the first time in my life I’d ever voluntarily read something, ANYTHING cover to cover, and I still own that exact issue.

Q: The Extinction Parade began as a short prose story. What led to its translation into comics? What aspects did you have to re-think when converting it for Avatar Press?

Max Brooks: Converting from prose to comics is no easy task. For one thing, you can’t ignore any information. In prose, I don’t have to describe anything that’s not integral to the story. Out of sight, out of mind. A comic book is visual. The reader sees everything. I have to pay attention to clothes, hair, architecture, every detail I want to be accurate. Because The Extinction Parade takes place in Malaysia, where I’ve never been, I have to use 3D satellite images to show the artist where our characters are and what we, the readers, would see in the background.

Q: The Extinction Parade is filled with storytelling, from character-to-character moments to detailed narration boxes. What is your method of scripting comics? Are you more hands-on or hands-off in terms of page layouts and character designs?

Continue reading "Graphic Novel Weekend: Interview with Max Brooks" »

Graphic Novel Friday: New Reads from Old Boxes

The best part of moving is unpacking all the new books you had to regrettably box up before you could read them. I spent several weeks unboxing (see also: avoiding), organizing, and then reading a few spectacular comics that published as I changed homes. Here are three that I packed at the top of my stacks:

 

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki (First Second):  Be still my nostalgic heart. This dreamily crafted tale is one to treasure for all seasons. Rose and Windy meet every summer at their respective families’ vacation homes, but in this snapshot the summer threatens to wilt under a long shade. Rose’s parents show signs of strain; Windy’s usual playful nature now grates; and the local teens have graduated from young adult to very adult. Along with perfect dialogue and strong character designs, the narrative is complemented by multiple ready-to-frame double-page spreads. Reading This One Summer is just as rewarding as looking at it. Watch for this on Best of the Year lists.

 

 

 

 

I Kill Giants: Fifth Anniversary Edition by Joe Kelley and JN Ken Niimura (Image Comics):  I was unprepared for my emotional response when I reached the end of this incredible story. Joe Kelley introduces Barbara, a young girl who lives in a fantasy world where she is a giant slayer who wields a mythical hammer. Of course, this fantasy belies a troubled real world from which she seeks escape; one where something dark lurks upstairs in her home. Once the truth is revealed (and after an admittedly clunky first chapter), beware the tugging of heartstrings.

 

 

 

Afterlife with Archie Book One by Roberto Aguirre-Sagasa and Francesco Francavilla (Archie Comics):  This is no joke, folks! I initially expected a goofy Archie + zombies comic—one to read, chuckle, and then forget. What this does, however, is retool the Archie universe into a nail-biting, horror tale for adults. Much of this is thanks to Francavilla’s Halloween-tinged colors and artwork that discards any previous “house style” regarding character designs. The gang’s all here, but they’ve never looked this good, contemporary, or bloody and bloody scared. See also our Top Ten Reasons to Read Afterlife with Archie feature over at Kindle Daily.

 

 

What’s on your to-read comics list, Omni readers?

--Alex

 

Graphic Novel Friday: Miracleman Returns

Holy hiatus, Batman! The Graphic Novel Friday feature has been MIA for a several weeks, and I apologize. I recently moved, and my comics were all packed away in (too many) boxes, but one new collection stayed with me throughout the process: Miracleman Book 1: A Dream of Flying.

In the early 1980s, well before the gritty deconstruction of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns or Alan Moore’s Watchmen, the latter creator took to lesser-known 1950s United Kingdom hero, Marvelman, and did what he does best: utterly dismantle everything fans knew and rebuild the hero from a grim foundation. After decades of legal issues resulting in the name change to “Miracleman”—and even Alan Moore’s own dismissal of the project (he is now only credited as “The Original Writer”), Marvel Comics brings the out-of-print-run, with later contributions by Neil Gaiman, back to the bookshelves everywhere—and in celebratory fashion.

In Moore’s revamp, alter ego Micky Moran (ha!) has forgotten his superhero identity and slumps in middle age, in a lackluster marriage and job. His dreams haunt and hint at a greater calling, but everything is tinged with darkness, until a moment of panic forces Micky to utter the magic word that eluded him for so long: "Kimota!" And with that exclamation, Alan Moore changed comics forever.

This first volume includes a pre-Moore issue that leads directly into the deconstruction, and the overall story features all the sinister narration, disturbed villains, and pull-the-rug-out-from-under-the-hero origins that would later make Moore such a force in the superhero industry. It’s a revelation to read this story for the first time, to see the comics wizardry take form in an origin story of its own. It’s complemented by artwork from Garry Leach, whose classic lines give characters a subtle lurch. Midway through, an early Alan Davis joins the project, and his artwork, while hemming closely to Leach’s, is still his own—smooth and meticulous. The supplemental section is hefty, with a “Warpsmiths” story that will eventually tie into the larger storyline, and plenty of alternate covers—new and old, sketches, and more.

Welcome back, Miracleman. (Book 2: The Red King Syndrome releases this October!)

--Alex

P.S. GNF will now return to its regular bi-weekly schedule. Kimota!

Graphic Novel Friday: Comic Magic with the Rat Queens

I’m an easy mark for a great cover. So when I saw Fiona Staples’ jaw-droppingly action-packed, expressive, and funny cover to Rat Queens Vol. 1: Sass and Sorcery, I had to give it a chance. The good news: writer Kurtis J. Wiebe and interior artist Roc Upchurch (great name alert!) craft one heck of a cast of fantasy characters. The better news: there’s more story on the way. The bad news: ha, there is no bad news!

The Rat Queens are a close-knit band of “battle-maidens” who take the odd assassin job or two...or three—heck, they’ll kill anybody if the price is right. But they have dangerous competition from similar assassin guilds like elves, dark mages, giants, and—you get the picture. The fantasy tropes are all here, but Wiebe spins them into a funny frenzy that never stoops to parody. The characters are full of motivation and personality instead of being stock cardboard spoofs.

Betty the elf, for example, isn’t a snooty, aloof elitist, rather she’s the type of friend who packs “candy and drugs for dinner” when she and her fellow Rat Queens go on a hunt. Dee, the beautiful cleric, is part of a “blood drinking, squid-worshipping sect of Nrygoth,” but she’s lost the faith. Add a Rockabilly mage and a battle-ready, hipster dwarf and these queens are fierce, sassy, and…sassy—it’s worth repeating that they are all very sassy.

Upchurch’s artwork does not disappoint, either, as he catches these characters in quiet, expressive, and sword-swinging moments. When the Queens quip, Upchurch captures their smirks, wrinkled lips, and sneers; his jagged edges highlight Wiebe’s sarcastic script, and the fight scenes? Crisp and easy to follow, which immensely helps when the pages are so fun to flip to get to the next laugh or blood spillage.

Rat Queens is one to watch and read, and it’s the sleeper pick in April’s Best of the Month selections for Comics and Graphic Novels. Don't let them catch you napping.  

--Alex

Graphic Novel Friday: Hellboy Turns 20!

This month, Hellboy turns 20 years old. Dang! Mike Mignola’s red, big-armed, trench coat-sporting, smoking, one-eyed, sometimes-horned savior/destroyer achieved what few indie comic creations have: household name status. With two feature films (directed by luminary Guillermo del Toro), 14 (or so) volumes of comics and six oversized “library editions,” two animated films, video games, and countless pieces of merchandise, Hellboy grimaced his way into the social consciousness.

To commemorate this milestone, longtime publisher Dark Horse Comics partnered with Mignola to publish Hellboy: The First 20 Years, a deluxe hardcover with over 120 images—some iconic, some esoteric—of the man who wields the Right Hand of Doom. After 20 years, Hellboy’s design remains unique: an antithesis of the superhero with slumped shoulders (although they began quite broad), tiny wrists, a wrinkled coat, and those mismatched arms.

The new retrospective features covers from B.P.R.D., Witchfinder, Lobster Johnson, The Goon, Abe Sapian, the titular book, and more—along with convention prints, line art, unfinished work, watercolors, and the first drawing of Hellboy from 1991.

HBYEmeraldCityCon_clr HBYWONDERCON07_clr

He’s come a long way, baby, but not even this book could contain it all. Dark Horse nicely shared two exclusive images that were not collected in The First 20 Years—the first [above, at left] is a print from Seattle’s Emerald City Comicon, featuring Hellboy standing in front of the Fremont Troll, a local landmark, and the second [at right] is a print from Wondercon 2007. Click both for larger versions. 

Happy Birthday, Hellboy! Fans, be on the look-out for Hellboy events in your city this Saturday, March 22, dubbed “Hellboy Day.”  Celebrate all weekend long with more from Mike Mignola—see our Omni interviews with the candid creator here:

--Alex

Graphic Novel Friday: Hidden Gems with Cliff Chiang

Once I saw that artist Cliff Chiang was the latest subject of TwoMorrows Publishing’s Modern Masters series, it did not take me long to geek out. Now on its 29th installment, Modern Masters is a line of oversized books (usually topping 100 pages) that spotlights iconic artists working in the field of comics. In an original long-form interview, they chronicle an artist’s career, technique and process, influences, rare art, and lesser known works. The Cliff Chiang volume does not disappoint—especially in the latter, and it led me down a fun rabbit-hole.

Comic fans will be familiar with Chiang’s work thanks to his breakout effort on Wonder Woman with writer Brian Azzarello. The duo continue to produce one of the best superhero comics on the stands, the go-to book in DC’s New 52 initiative, and a character-defining run for the sometimes maligned Wonder Woman. Chiang’s bold, deceptively simple lines frame the Amazonian with strength and nobility, and the book is never short on action panels. What his Modern Masters story revealed for me, however—besides his refreshing loyalty to DC—was his first-ever collaboration with Brian Azzarello on the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it series Doctor 13.

Dr13Originally serialized in Tales of the Unexpected in 2006 and 2007 and later collected in Doctor 13: Architecture and Mortality, the story follows the titular protagonist and a very kitschy band of weirdos as they battle even stranger threats. Fans of D-list heroes will appreciate seeing Infectious Lass, Anthro, Andrew Bennett (from I, Vampire), Haunted Tank, and others battle Nazi gorillas and break the fourth wall to confront DC writers like Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka, and Mark Waid. Unfortunately, the trade paperback is out of print, but I scored a copy from Amazon’s third party marketplace and read it in tandem with Modern Masters.

Hidden gems like Doctor 13 make comic collecting so rewarding. Finding an unsung first collaboration between two marquee creators recalls rifling through a longbox at a convention. I love that Modern Masters led me there—and it’s not the first time! Comic readers are encouraged to seek out this great series (recommended: the Art Adams and Chris Sprouse issues) to learn more about artists they admire and do a little longbox digging of their own.

--Alex

Graphic Novel Friday: Guardians of the Galaxy

This week, Marvel revealed the trailer for their 2014 summer blockbuster effort, Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s a gamble for Marvel, a studio that previously relied on names like Iron Man, Captain America, and the Avengers to carry their comic-to-film adaptations, while Guardians features C-list heroes with names like Drax, Star-Lord, and Rocket Raccoon. Audiences may be unfamiliar (think the Avengers in space, only with more attitude), but the trailer is high on humor and action, and soon-to-be fans can climb aboard with a rich history of source material—a sampling of which follows below.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1: Cosmic Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis, Steve McNiven and Sara Pichelli: Relentless hitmaker Brian Michael Bendis delivers the Guardians to fans both new and old, bringing everyone up to speed on origins and what lies beyond the stars for this disgruntled group. It’s an accessible read, primed for its big screen debut, and features sharp, detailed artwork by McNiven and Pichelli. Vol. 2 is also available (and a better arc, I think!). [Demand is so high that our retail site is temporarily out of stock--but more is on the way!]

 

 

Guardians of the Galaxy by Abnett & Lanning: The Complete Collection Volume 1 by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Paul Pelletier, and more: The Guardians may be riding high now, but it was this book that brought them back into the spotlight a few years ago. While the ideas behind the team have always been humorous (a talking raccoon with a machine gun?), Abnett and Lanning introduced a sense of fun to the space opera.

[Releasing this August.]

 

 

 

Rocket Raccoon & Groot: The Complete Collection by various: Mark my words: the breakout stars of the new film will be the least human—Rocket Raccoon, the talking space raccoon, and his buddy Groot, a talking tree/action hero whose vocabulary is limited to “I am Groot.” This collection features stories involving the two pals with a wide range of artists and writers, including Mike Mignola(!), Keith Giffen, Jack Kirby, the aforementioned Abnett and Lanning, and more. It’s absurd stuff and therefore essential.

 

 

 

 

Guardians of the Galaxy by Jim Valentino Volume 1 by Jim Valentino, Al Milgrom, Ron Lim, and more: In the 1990s, this revival by Jim Valentino was my first exposure to the weird team, which features a very different roster than the above collections. These Guardians exist in Marvel’s far future, the 31st century! Occasionally, the heroes would cross paths with future versions of other Marvel characters, like Ghost Rider, or go on missions to find Captain America’s long-lost shield—or turn their space opera into a space soap opera with often overwrought romance.

 

 

 

 

Guardians of the Galaxy: Tomorrow's Avengers - Volume 2 by Roger Stern, Len Wein, Jim Shooter, David Micheline, Sal Buscema, George Perez, David Wenzel, John Byrne: I may catch some heat for doing this, but I am purposefully including Volume 2 instead of Volume 1 from this classic Guardians run, which, like the Valentino book above, is a very different sort of Guardians of the Galaxy than the film or newer titles. But it’s worth a look, because the contributors can’t be beat, the stories are more engaging (than Vol. 1), and it’s here that the present-day Avengers cross paths with the 31st century heroes, making for a lively battle then team-up.

 

--Alex

Graphic Novel Friday: Guilty Pleasures No More!

I’ve harbored a secret since May of 2013. It’s nothing to be ashamed of—more like a guilty pleasure—but I didn’t advertise it to my comics reading friends. I’m ready to come clean: I read both Avengers Arena and Young Avengers (and I’m in my mid-30s).

Avengers Arena is The Hunger Games meets Avengers sidekicks (note the Battle Royale homage cover pictured at right), an infectious, jump-in-and-read soap opera where the stakes are life or death—and sometimes both. The premise is thin, and yet this comic is more readable, funny, clever, and addictive than most marquee books.

Writer Dennis Hopeless (don’t let the ominous name dissuade you) smartly assigns visible life meters to each character, and they deplete with each act of aggression. It’s a great way for readers to keep powers and character fights in check amidst the explosions, shape-changers, and killer tidal waves. Hopeless doles out the love triangles, and artist Kev Walker supplies jagged, frenetic lines to everyone and everything—giving it all page-turning momentum. All three volumes are now available and tell one heck of a complete and satisfying story.

No less addictive but much headier, the restart to Young Avengers introduces a young Loki to the team along with Ms. America (I didn’t know her, either). The former addition proves to be writer Kieron Gillen’s winning formula, as Loki’s mischievous, know-it-all attitude gives the book its funny backbone. Rejoining the team are series stalwarts Hawkeye (Kate Bishop, who’s also co-starring in Matt Fraction’s sublime Hawkeye), Wiccan and his boyfriend Hulkling, and Marvel Boy. The longtime romance between Wiccan and Hulking has always been the lynchpin of the team, and here it is tested thanks to Loki’s boss-level scheming.

The villain of the first two arcs (a monster mom!) could have quickly run aground, but Gillen keeps the narrative upright by dropping meta-sized plot bombs onto the team, resulting in a book that is full of young adults but reads like a crossover drama. Jamie McKelvie’s art is a pleasure, all clean lines, distinctive character designs, and believable expressions.

My secret’s out, and it seems silly to have kept it so. These are great books that deserve wider recognition. Join me on the rooftop. I’ll be the one shouting.

--Alex

Graphic Novel Friday: Must-Reads in 2014

We consulted Doctor Strange’s Eye of Agamotto to find key upcoming releases in 2014, and the next few months are stuffed with infinity gems. Here are but a few we uncovered.

 

The grand and grizzled Gandalf of comics, Alan Moore, has a banner year ahead, beginning with Miracleman Vol. 1: A Dream of Flying, the sought-after but legally hushed series that will finally be available thanks to Marvel’s legal prowess. Billed only as “The Original Writer” in this new edition (per his wishes), Alan Moore kicks off the superhero deconstruction era of comics by writing a single exclamation: “Kimota!” Plus, it features artwork by Alan Davis, Garry Leach, Steve Dillon, and Paul Neary. (May, Marvel) 

 

 

 

The market needs more horror comics, and horror comics need more witchcraft. Enter Coffin Hill Vol. 1: Forest of the Night by Caitlin Kittredge Inaki Miranda to remedy both in a spooky brew. Eve Coffin (that name!) returns home after 10 years to find her supernatural forest murder mystery remains unsolved. Blood, incantations, snakes, and snarky witches galore. (May, Vertigo) 

 

 

 

Very few comics become in-house favorites like the King of the Flies series: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 were both in our Best of the Year picks for 2010 and 2011, respectively. Now, the late Kim Thompson-translated project will finally conclude with King of The Flies Vol. 3: Happy Daze.  The description promises more hallucinatory creepiness and nihilism—and Ringo, the disturbed bowling greaser—but not much else is known. Fitting, since this series has so far been about the coiling questions it raises—do yourself a dark favor and start the series now. (September, Fantagraphics)

 

 

Confession: I’ve never read Elfquest and know very little about it, except that it appears to involve cute, doll-like elves with leather vests, big hair, swords, and animal friends. It’s also beloved by a devoted readership that swears it’s about much more than my limited understanding. Gauntlet thrown! The Complete Elfquest Vol. 1 by Wendy and Rick Pini arrives this summer to set me straight. (August, Dark Horse)

 

 

 Afterlife with Archie should not be this good, but I swear on my Romero DVDs that it is—in every bloody way. Most of this is due to Francesco Francavilla’s never-dull, atypical take on the Riverdale crew—here they all are as young adults, not cartoons. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s script is both an homage to classic horror (Stephen King’s Pet Sematary is freely referenced) but also a did-they-really-just-do-that? mature take on the franchise. Awash in autumnal hues, the grisly panels and gallows humor will reanimate any interest in Betty, Veronica, Archie, and company. (May, Archie Comics)

For five more picks in 2014, see also our Kindle Daily post! What are you most looking forward to in this new year, Omni readers?

--Alex

 

Graphic Novel Friday: Interview at the Federal Bureau of Physics

Publisher Vertigo Comics opened an extraordinary wormhole in 2013 with FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics by writer Simon Oliver and artist Robbi Rodriguez (originally titled Collider). In this world that is otherwise like our own, the laws of physics have begun to deteriorate. As the world struggles to cope and continue with this new, ever-shifting reality, the Federal Bureau of Physics forms to contain and solve for the bizarre. Agent Adam Hardy is one such member of the FBP and, like his father before him, he begins to suspect there is something even stranger afoot in a world that has lost its bearings.

While the first collected volume will release in February, single digital issues are available now. Vertigo and DC Comics provided the following exclusive interview with both creators:

Q: For the uninitiated, how would you describe FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics in one sentence? Okay…we'll give you two. Two sentences!

Simon Oliver: Physics may be broken but it’s no longer front-page news. Luckily the Federal Bureau of Physics is here, their motto: “To prevent and protect mankind from the impossible…”

Robbi Rodriguez: I was asked at the beginning of the project of what I envisioned for the book and I said I saw it as if Kurt Vonnegut, Bruce Springsteen and Wally Wood created a comic. Blue collar sci-fi.

Q: Was there any particular moment or inspiration behind the book’s premise? How long has this idea been with the two of you?

Simon Oliver: I’d been talking to my editor Mark Doyle for a while about doing a new monthly, and I’d been bouncing ideas at him but nothing was sticking. The thing about an ongoing monthly is you need something “big”, some big idea that will keep you supplied with stories to plop your characters down into…anyway it was around tornado season, I was in my car listening to a report about how some tornado had flattened a town in the Midwest and it struck me, “what if the tornadoes weren’t caused by weather? What if it was actually physics? What if physics didn’t work so well anymore? What it the laws of physics were broken?"

I remember calling Mark up and pitching him that version and we knew we had “it”; we had that big idea to run with, so it was just a case of shaping up the rules of the world, and putting the characters together. One big detail, which seems small, but it’s something I think sets the book apart from similar stories, is that it’s out in the open, there’s no big conspiracy to keep it quiet, it’s very much a part of our lives.

Mark had Robbi on a list of artists he wanted to work with, and I think he really nailed it choosing him, and that’s something that goes for the entire art team. Rico nails the colors and Nathan’s covers are second to none. I’ve been lucky.

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Graphic Novel Friday: Holiday Buying Guide

Yikes, was everyone else aware that the holiday buying season is almost over? The good news: there are plenty of good-looking comics to give as gifts. The bad news: there isn’t a lot of time! Here are a few noteworthy, stand-out books that would make perfect presents for the comics reader in your life.

For the music buff: The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story by Vivek J. Tiwary, Andrew C. Robinson, and Kyle Baker: The cultural fascination with the Fab Four will never wane so long as new stories continue to be unearthed and told. Here, The Beatles’ manager and visionary, Brian Epstein, receives his due in this dreamy, eccentric graphic novel. There are three editions of this book, depending on how “fab” you want to get: standard hardcover edition (and digital edition), a collector’s edition (with bonus materials), and a limited edition (only 1,500 copies) with a slipcase, bonus materials, and a signed tip-in sheet by writer Tiwary.

For the goofball: Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh. This famously bizarre and manic webcomic is finally available as a collection (with new stories!) and it does not disappoint. Amazon editor Mari Malcolm had this to say in her glowing review: “Neurosis has rarely been so relatable and entertaining.” Brosh captures her childhood and adult awkwardness in deceptively simple illustrations, allowing for a universal appeal and accessibility. Parp!

For the lit major: This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz was already a critical hit when it first published in September 2012, but this new slipcased edition includes illustrations by beloved indie artist Jaime Hernandez (Love and Rockets). There are full-page illustrations for each story, and Hernandez's deep, economical lines perfectly suit Diaz's layered tales [Hope I find this one under the tree!]. Speaking of layered stories, if your special someone does not yet have a copy of The Sandman on his or her shelf, now is the time to remedy such a void with The Sandman Omnibus Vol. 1 by Neil Gaiman. Presented in a sturdy, richly detailed hardcover (with over 1,000 pages), this is the gift edition to make any Grinch’s heart swell.

For the history buff: The Boxer Rebellion is told from two perspectives in Boxers & Saints (Boxed Set) by Gene Luen Yang. Appearing on many Best of the Year lists (including ours), Yang’s ambitious examination of the human condition as told through one of the most controversial moments in Chinese history is not as daunting a read as it sounds. Rather, this is a treasure, both in narrative and packaging.

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Graphic Novel Friday: Interview with Mike Mignola (Part Two)

In Part One of our interview with Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, we discussed the recent original graphic novel, The Midnight Circus, and his narrative influences. In Part Two of our spirited conversation, we explore the forthcoming Hellboy in Hell storyline, the changing status quo of his universe—where Mike gently corrects my understanding about a particular character—and our favorite new vampire film. 

Alex Carr: While young Hellboy begins his adventures in The Midnight Circus, his career, as we know it, ends in Hellboy in Hell. What awaits him in Hell?

Mike Mignola: A lot of family stuff; I’ll say some old “friends” with quotations marks around it; a lot—a lot of stuff [laughs]. The first volume of Hellboy in Hell is really settling him into Hell. We get a tour of that world—not the complete world, but Hellboy gets shown around a bit. We get to see a little bit of how my version of Hell works. And most important, we see that by Hellboy appearing in Hell, major changes have happened with the guys who have been running Hell. Hellboy gets in there and throws a pretty big rock in that pond.

There are some major changes that happen, and really, after that first volume I want to focus on doing smaller stories for a while and go back to my spin on fairy and folk tales. My long-term goal with Hell—we’ll see the Greek underworld, we’ll see the sort-of Asian underworld of Hell so I can do Asian-related fairy tales and folklore and use the creatures from those mythologies.

AC: There’s an apocalyptic theme running through your entire universe at the moment. We’ve got Hellboy in Hell, and in B.P.R.D. there’s a multi-year arc called Hell on Earth. Why so grim?

MM: You know, things do look pretty grim, but I think there are more laughs in Hellboy in Hell than there are in B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth. I think Hell is getting nicer and Earth is getting worse [laughs]. Once we figured out what we were doing, the whole point of the Hellboy/B.P.R.D. stuff has always been evolution. The kind of evolution we’re seeing on Earth is nasty evolution—part of this kind of evolution is that you have to wipe out what was there before you can replace it.

In B.P.R.D., a lot of the old ways of doing things are being replaced, and people are going to struggle against things like, you know, giant monsters coming down to re-pave the planet. Human beings are going to try to stop that. Can they do it? I don’t know. Everything is changing, and there’s a lot of destruction that goes along with it.

Continue reading "Graphic Novel Friday: Interview with Mike Mignola (Part Two)" »

Graphic Novel Friday: Interview with Mike Mignola (Part One)

Before we finish the leftovers from Thanksgiving and head into December, let’s revisit one of the Best of the Month picks for November in Comics and Graphic Novels: Hellboy: The Midnight Circus by Mike Mignola and Duncan Fegredo. Demons and dark prophecies await young Hellboy as he sneaks away to find the circus, making for a classic Hellboy tale, but the way in which Mignola weaves familiar narratives into the compact story elevates it to must-read canon. In part one of our interview with Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, we discuss his narrative influences in The Midnight Cirucs, the art process, and why he dislikes the circus.

Alex Carr: The Midnight Circus stars a young Hellboy, whom we recently saw in B.P.R.D.: 1948. Was it a conscious decision to release these two stories so closely together—and why the sudden focus on Hellboy at an early age?

Mike Mignola: You know, I think that was one of those happy accidents. Since we started using young Hellboy in the B.P.R.D. stories, 1946 and 1947, it just made sense to continue in 1948, but I wasn’t thinking about that at all when I started The Midnight Circus. When I started thinking about The Midnight Circus, I was looking for something to do with [artist] Duncan Fegredo that was different than what we’d done before [in The Wild Hunt and The Storm and the Fury]. Since Duncan killed off Hellboy, I thought, “Well, let’s go to the other end of the spectrum.”

It’s set in the 1940s, so I was thinking Ray Bradbury—what does a young kid in the 1940s do? He sneaks off and goes to the circus. Obviously, I was thinking about Something Wicked This Way Comes, that coming-of-age type of thing, where you’re not a little kid anymore, but you’re not quite an adult. And of course Hellboy grows up to be a guy who’s always smoking a cigarette, so I thought about making that a moment. Is this somehow his rite of passage, you know, stealing a cigarette? So, Hellboy sneaks off and has a smoke.

And I’m a big fan of Pinocchio, the original book, and I’d always seen these funny parallels between that character and Hellboy—with the whole real-boy thing. It was an excuse to do the circus, and once I got into the circus, I didn’t really know what the hell to do because I don’t really care about the circus. But I thought it would be a chance to do my spin on Pinocchio.

AC: Well, you’ve pretty much touched upon every question I had for you about the book [laughs]. You dedicate The Midnight Circus to Ray Bradbury: “Who confirmed my worst fears about the circus.” When did you first encounter his classic, Something Wicked This Way Comes?

MM: Probably college. It remains my favorite Bradbury novel. I love that thing.

AC: I have to believe there is some sort of story behind your “worst fears about the circus.”

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Happy Halloween Comics!

Happy Halloween! This special collector’s edition of Graphic Novel Friday arrives on a Thursday—just in time for the greatest holiday of them all. With no familial baggage or end of year expectations, Halloween’s all party. In keeping with that sentiment, our Top 10 Halloween comics of the fall are less about the fright and more about the groovy monster mashed-ness of the evening. Raise a dark chocolate and let’s get spooky.Witchinghour_1_

10. Marvel Zombies: The Complete Collection, Vol. 1 by Robert Kirkman, Mark Millar, Sean Philips, and more.

9. The Walking Dead, Vol. 19: March to War by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard. 

8. The Witching Hour #1 by Various.COFFIN_Cv1__

7. Creepy Presents: Steve Ditko by Steve Ditko and Archie Goodwin.

6. Creepy Archives Vol. 17 by Various.

5. Revival: Deluxe Collection, Vol. 1 by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton

4. Hellboy: The Midnight Circus by Mike Mignola, Duncan Fegredo.

3. Coffin Hill #1 by Caitlin Kittredge and Inaki Miranda. 

2. The Halloween Legion: The Great Goblin Invasion by Martin Powell, Thomas Boatwright, and Diana Leto.

1. Colder by Paul Tobin and Juan Ferreyra. 

By now it’s almost sunset, Omni readers. Take a peek outside the window. Do the pumpkins look mischievous tonight? Are their grins a little grim? Maybe save a piece of candy in case the doorway darkens once more.

--Alex

Graphic Novel Friday: Sabertooth Swordsman!

Normally, I try to feature a book close to its publication date, but in the case of Dark Horse’s Sabertooth Swordsman by Damon Gentry and Aaron Conley (out in late November) I need to talk to someone, anyone about it—-anywhere.

I’ll start with the subtitle: “And the Mayhem of the Malevolent Mastodon Mathematician.” Love. It. And it’s this spirit of self-aware humor that progresses throughout the compact hardcover, where a young farmer loses his wife to a roving band of marauders and swears revenge. It’s at this point where the farmer meets a benevolent cloud, and this cloud grants him the power and body of—yes, a Sabertooth Swordsman. From there the adventure begins, with plenty of slicing, dicing, gore, and cleaved appendages.

Over at Comics Alliance, Chris Sims likens it to “some half-remembered NES game that you would’ve gotten at a video store in 1988 because it kind of looked like a Mario game.” Exactly, only with a heavy dose of hallucinogens because the Sabertooth Swordsman traverses the surreal and mystical as often as he cuts a gushingly bloody swath. At the end of significant “boss battles,” the swordsman is awarded various upgrades (“Juice box,” chicken leg,” “laser eyes,” etc.), and yet he is constantly dismissed by locals and villains.

Damon Gentry’s script is full of quick puns (“Tiny kitten, feel my math!”), but he leaves plenty of room for Aaron Conley’s art to shred and shine. No stone is left un-pencilled in Conley’s meticulously detailed, hyper-frenetic artwork. It’s fantastic to behold and daunting to process. Due to the black, white, and  Swordsman03grey rendering, depth is occasionally lost, so images can blend within panels. This does not, however, take away from the gorgeous visuals. The reader simply has to spend a little more time with them, as there are finer points in the corners of everything. The art is so layered that it recalls Brandon Graham, so it’s no surprise that the fellow indie artist provides a pinup and blurb (“Sabertooth Swordsman is fantastic comics. It’s the kind of work I hope to find when I go into a comic shop.”), along with Mike Allred (whose pinup is great!), Johnny Ryan, John Arcudi, and more.

My enthusiasm got the best of me—I cannot wait to talk about Sabertooth Swordsman. It's one for wishlists and the comics fan in your life who loves the weird and beautiful. I recommend being an early adopter here, ahead of the (scimitar's) curve. This one’s all animal.

--Alex

Graphic Novel Friday: Very Big Fall Comics

With comic collections, size does matter—especially thanks to recent advances in archival packaging, resulting in exceptionally bound, carefully curated, and lovingly restored books that stand head-and-shoulders above past collections in both actual size and merit. What follows below are but a few that release in time for fall and cause our bookshelves to sway:
  • RASL by Jeff Smith: Smith’s follow-up to his wildly successful and beloved Bone series has been presented in a number of formats, but this spectacular hardcover, in color for the first time thanks to Steve Hamaker (who also colored Bone), is the definitive way to read it. Just shy of 500 pages, RASL follows a reality-hopping art thief who also happens to be a disciple of Nikola Tesla’s unified field theory.
  • Love and Rockets: The Covers by Los Bros Hernandez: For all of Fantagraphics’ lovely collections of Love and Rockets stories over the past 30 years, the iconic, weird, and eye-popping covers have rarely been highlighted. That changes in this 200-page, tall-as-an-Amazon hardcover (with a clear overlay as dust jacket), which features every L&R cover from the first volume of stories, sometimes in original pencils, inks, and/or without the trade dress. It’s a rare opportunity to see such high quality, independent work in one sharp location.

  • Co-Mix: A Retrospective of Comics, Graphics, and Scraps by Art Spiegelman: This oversized cultural artifact chronicles the career, both famous and obscure, of Art Speigelman. Work for RAW, Playboy, and The New Yorker are highlighted, as are the artist’s book designs sketches and fascinating esoterica. It’s a hodge-podge, albeit fastidiously organized—and a companion to Spiegelman’s Paris retrospective at the library of the Centre Pompidou.
  • The Art of Archie: The Covers by Victor Gorelick and Craig Yoe: Building from the foundation of The Art of Betty & Veronica, this latest deluxe package follows the same format: full-page spreads of original artwork scans along with spotlights on artists such as Dan DeCarlo, Harry Lucey, and Bob Montana. The chronology of stylistic shifts in character portrayals and subject matter makes for an engrossing coffee table flip-through, as the older, intricate covers hold rich detail and surprisingly risqué gags.

--Alex

Graphic Novel Friday: LGBT in Comics

Since 1997 (although their efforts date back to the late 1980s), the Lambda Literary Foundation “nurtures, celebrates, and preserves LGBT literature through programs that honor excellence, promote visibility and encourage development of emerging writers.” Their scope expanded last week with the following good news for comics fans:

"For the first time ever, the Lambda Literary Awards will honor LGBT Graphic Novels in their own category in keeping with the explosion of titles, and talent, that have enriched LGBT literature for years. The new LGBT Graphic Novels category is defined as “any work –fiction or nonfiction– that uses a combination of words and sequential art to convey a narrative and is published in book form (as distinguished from periodical comic books). Open to any genre or topic this category includes graphic novels, graphic memoirs and comic anthologies.”

While we wait for the award winners to be announced in spring of 2014, here is a list of our favorite graphic novels that have LGBT themes and/or characters. It’s by no means comprehensive, and we’re hoping Omni readers will add their favorites to the comments!

  • Love and Rockets by Los Bros Hernandez (Fantagraphics): Ongoing for over 30 years, the rich world created by an artistic band of brothers is still ahead of its time, involving LGBT characters and issues without pandering or overt “special messages.” These are life stories, told as life unfolds—with humor, heartbreak, and perseverance.  (See also the recent and very cool Covers collection and our reading guide to the series.)
  • Dykes to Watch Out for by Alison Bechdel (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt): Here is another long-running literary comics staple, this time focusing on a predominantly lesbian cast that ages and grows as the stories publish.
  • Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III (DC Comics): DC certainly made headlines when it announced the first openly lesbian character in the Bat-family, but Rucka and Williams transformed her into more than a costumed hero; she’s imbued with true character, full of pride, mistakes, and—yes—heroics.
  • Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse (Vertigo): Set in the early 1960s and in the American South, protagonist Toland Polk maneuvers his sexuality in a tumultuous time period, set against civil rights, racism, activism, and coming-out culture.
  • Wandering Son by Shimura Takako and Matt Thorn (Fantagraphics): This beautiful literary manga follows the lives of two fifth graders, Shuichi Nitori Yoshino Takatsuki, as they both question their gender identities in the wide-eyed and often cruel period of adolescence.

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