Blog Archives

New Comics for New Readers – April 3, 2013

Want to try reading comics? Don’t know where to start? Want to try something different?

Wednesday is New Comics Day! Each week, The Comics Observer spotlights up to three brand new releases worthy of your consideration. All of these have been carefully selected as best bets for someone who has never read comic books, graphic novels or manga before. They each highlight the variety and creativity being produced today. These are also great for those that haven’t read comics in awhile or regular readers looking to try something new.

While we can’t guarantee you’ll like what we’ve picked, we truly believe there’s a comic for everyone. If you like the images and descriptions below, click the links to see previews and learn more about them. You can often buy straight from the publishers or creators. If not, head over to your local comic book store, check out online retailers like Things From Another World and Amazon, or download a copy at comiXology, or the comics and graphic novels sections of the Kindle Store or NOOK store. Let us know what you think in the comments below or on Facebook.

For a full list of this week’s new releases, see comiXology, ComicList.com and PREVIEWSworld.

(Please note these aren’t reviews. Recommendations are based on pre-release buzz, previews, and The Comics Observer‘s patented crystal ball. Product descriptions provided by publisher.)

LettingItGo

Letting It Go by Mariam Katin

Letting It Go
Written and illustrated by Miriam Katin
Published by Drawn and Quarterly
Genre: Non-Fiction
Ages: 13+
pages
$24.95

A Holocaust survivor struggles to let go of the past

Miriam Katin has the light hand of a master storyteller in this flowing, expressive, full-color masterpiece.  A Holocaust survivor and mother, Katin’s world is turned upside down by the news that her adult son is moving to Berlin, a city she’s villainized for the past forty years. As she struggles to accept her son’s decision, she visits the city twice, first to see her son and then to attend a museum gala featuring her own artwork. What she witnesses firsthand is a city coming to terms with its traumatic past, much as Katin is herself. Letting It Go is a deft and careful balance: wry, self-deprecating anecdotes counterpoint a serious account of the myriad ways trauma inflects daily existence, both for survivors and for their families.

Katin’s first book, We Are On Our Own, was a memoir of her childhood, detailing how she and her mother hid in the Hungarian countryside, disguising themselves as a peasant woman and her illegitimate child in order to escape the Nazis. The stunning story, along with Katin’s gorgeous pencil work, immediately garnered acclaim in the comics world and beyond. With Letting It Go, Katin’s storytelling and artistic skills allow her to explore a voice and perspective like no other found in the medium.

JuliosDay

Julio’s Day by Gilbert Hernandez

Julio’s Day
Written and illustrated by Gilbert Hernandez
Published by Fantagraphics
Genre: Fiction
Ages: 13+
104 pages
$19.99

It begins in the year 1900, with the scream of a newborn. It ends, 100 pages later, in the year 2000, with the death rattle of a 100-year-old man. The infant and the old man are both Julio, and Gilbert Hernandez’s Julio’s Day (originally serialized in Love and Rockets Vol. II but never completed until now) is his latest graphic novel, a masterpiece of elliptical, emotional storytelling that traces one life — indeed, one century in a human life — through a series of carefully crafted, consistently surprising and enthralling vignettes.

There is hope and joy, there is bullying and grief, there is war (so much war — this is after all the 20th century), there is love, there is heartbreak. While Julio’s Day has some settings and elements in common with Hernandez’s Palomar cycle (the Central American protagonists and milieu, the vivid characters, the strong familial and social ties), this is very much a singular, standalone story that will help cement his position as one of the strongest and most original cartoonists of this, or any other, century.

Julio’s Day is a story of one man’s life, but it’s a great deal more than that as well. It’s the story of the life of a century, also told as if a day. Beginning with Julio’s birth in 1900 and ending with his death in 2000, the graphic novel touches on most of the major events that shaped the 20th century.” – Brian Evenson, from his introduction

“A haunting performance and about as perfect a literary work as I’ve read in years. Hernandez accomplishes in 100 pages what most novelists only dream of — rendering the closeted phlegmatic Julio in all his confounding complexity and in the process creating an unflinching biography of a community, a country and a century. A masterpiece.” – Junot Díaz

PunkRockJesus

Punk Rock Jesus by Sean Murphy

Punk Rock Jesus
Written and illustrated by Sean Murphy
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics
Genre: Science Fiction
Ages: 16+
224 pages
$16.99

A reality TV show starring a clone of Jesus Christ causes chaos across the U.S. of the near future in Punk Rock Jesus, a new graphic novel written and drawn by Sean Murphy, the acclaimed illustrator of Joe the Barbarian and American Vampire.

J2 causes both outrage and adulation. Religious zealots either love or hate the show, angry politicians worry about its influence on the nation, and members of the scientific community fear the implications of cloning a human being at all, let alone the Son of God. And what effect will this all have on Gwen, the young woman who is selected, through an American Idol-style process, to be the mother of the new Messiah?

Thomas McKael is the clones’s bodyguard and former IRA operative, who despite his turbulent past is hired to protect the new Jesus—a baby who captivates the world, but grows up to become an angry teenager.

When falling ratings force the network to cut Jesus’s mother from the series the young star runs away, renounces his religious heritage and forms a punk rock band. And what starts off as babysitting for Thomas becomes an epic battle, as Jesus goes to war against the corporate media complex that created him.

New Comics for New Readers – March 6, 2013

Photo by Christopher Butcher

Photo by Christopher Butcher

Want to try reading comics? Don’t know where to start? Want to try something different?

Wednesday is New Comics Day! Each week, The Comics Observer spotlights up to three brand new releases worthy of your consideration. All of these have been carefully selected as best bets for someone who has never read comic books, graphic novels or manga before. They each highlight the variety and creativity being produced today. These are also great for those that haven’t read comics in awhile or regular readers looking to try something new.

While we can’t guarantee you’ll like what we’ve picked, we truly believe there’s a comic for everyone. If you like the images and descriptions below, click the links to see previews and learn more about them. You can often buy straight from the publishers or creators. If not, head over to your local comic book store, check out online retailers like Things From Another World and Amazon, or download a copy at comiXology, or the comics and graphic novels sections of the Kindle Store or NOOK store. Let us know what you think in the comments below or on Facebook.

For a full list of this week’s new releases, see comiXology, ComicList.com and PREVIEWSworld.

(Please note these aren’t reviews. Recommendations are based on pre-release buzz, previews, and The Comics Observer‘s patented crystal ball. Product descriptions provided by publisher.)

FannyAndRomeo

Fanny and Romeo by Yves Pelletier and Pascal Girard

Fanny and Romeo
Written by Yves Pelletier
Illustrated by Pascal Girard
Published by Conundrum Press
Genre: Comedy
Ages: 12+
$20.00

It’s him or the cat in this charming collaboration between first time author (and renown Quebec comic actor) Yves Pelletier and the established artist Pascal Girard (winner of the Doug Wright Award for Bigfoot).

The story concerns a young couple, Fanny wants to have children, and Fabien doesn’t feel ready. Then a cat called Romeo comes into their lives. She falls in love, but he’s allergic. Fanny becomes more and more attached to the cat, to the point where she actually rents a separate apartment for it. But it turns out her Romeo has actually been two-timing her.

A perfect blend of Pelletier’s writing with Girard’s beautiful watercolors, this story will warm the hearts of cat lovers and people lovers alike!

Barrage1

Barrage by Kouhei Horikoshi

Barrage Volume 1
Written and illustrated by Kouhei Horikoshi
Published by VIZ Media
Genre: Action/Adventure, Science Fiction, Comedy
Ages: 12+
192 pages
$9.99

Spunky slum kid Astro gets the chance of a lifetime to end the chaos ripping apart his home planet when the playboy prince switches places with him. Now Astro has become Prince Barrage, a boy charged with the duty of restoring peace to the planet…and given an all-powerful magical spear to do it!

In order to save the planet, Astro will have to battle terrifying aliens while learning how to fight from his even more frightening guardian, the exacting knight Tiamat. Does a kid like Astro have what it takes to become the real prince and save the planet?

 

 

MessagesInABottle

Messages in a Bottle by B. Krigstein

Messages in a Bottle: Comic Book Stories by B. Krigstein
Written and illustrated by Bernard Krigstein
Edited by Greg Sadowski
Published by Fantagraphics Books
Genre: Anthology
Ages: 16+
272 pages
$35.00

Working in comic books for just over a decade in the 1940s and ’50s, Bernard Krigstein applied all the craft, intelligence, and ambition of a burgeoning “serious” artist, achieving results that remain stunning to this day. While his legend rests mostly on his landmark narratives created for EC Comics, dozens of stories for lesser publishers equally showcase his singular draftsmanship and radical reinterpretation of the comics page.

Harvey and Eisner Award-winning Krigstein biographer Greg Sadowski has assembled the very best of the artist’s work, starting with his earliest creative rumblings, through his glory days at EC, to his final daring experiments for Stan Lee’s Atlas Comics — running through nearly every genre popular at the time, be it horror, science fiction, war, western, or romance.

This edition reprints the out-of-print 2004 hardcover B. Krigstein Comics, with a number of stories re-tooled and improved in terms of reproduction, and several new stories added. Legendary EC colorist Marie Severin, in her last major assignment before her retirement, recolored 20 stories for this edition. The remainder has been taken from printed comics, digitally restored with subtlety and restraint. Original art pages, photostats from Krigstein’s personal archives, and an extensive set of historical and editorial notes by Sadowski round out this compelling volume.

Honorable mentions for new editions of two favorites:

LastDayInVietnam

Last Day in Vietnam by Will Eisner

Last Day in Vietnam: A Memory
Written and illustrated by Will Eisner
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Genre: War, Memoir
Ages: 16+
80 pages
$17.99

Last Day in Vietnam recounts Will Eisner’s own experiences with soldiers engaged not only in the daily hostilities of war but also in larger, more personal combat. Some of the stories in this novel are comical, some heartrending, some frightening, yet all display the incredible insight into humanity characteristic of Eisner’s entire oeuvre.

* Introduction by Matt Fraction!

* Printed with special sepia ink and in hardcover for the first time.

* Released to coincide with Will Eisner Week — the annual celebration of Eisner’s life and work.

JoeTheBarbarian

Joe the Barbarian by Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy

Joe the Barbarian
Written by Grant Morrison
Illustrated by Sean Murphy
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics
Genre: Fantasy
Ages: 16+
224 pages
$19.99

Joe is an imaginative young kid of 11 who happens to suffer from type 1 diabetes. He can’t fit in at school. He’s the victim of bullies. His dad died overseas in the Iraq war. Without supervision and insulin, he can easily slip into a delirious, disassociative state that presages coma and death.

One fateful day, his condition causes him to believe he has entered a vivid fantasy world in which he is the lost savior — a fantastic land based on the layout and contents of his home. His desperate attempts to make it out of his bedroom and down the mountainous stairs, to find food, switch the lights on and answer the phone to his mother, transform into an incredible, epic adventure through a bizarre landscape of submarine pirate dwarves, evil Hell Hounds, Lightning Lords and besieged castles; a landscape which allows him to work out his own and his family’s problems.

But is his quest really just an insulin-deprived delirium — from which he can die if he doesn’t take his meds — or something much bigger?

New Comics for New Readers – February 6, 2013

Want to try reading comics? Don’t know where to start? Want to try something different?

Wednesday is New Comics Day! Each week, The Comics Observer spotlights up to three brand new releases worthy of your consideration. All of these have been carefully selected as best bets for someone who has never read comic books, graphic novels or manga before. They each highlight the variety and creativity being produced today. These are also great for those that haven’t read comics in awhile or regular readers looking to try something new.

While we can’t guarantee you’ll like what we’ve picked, we truly believe there’s a comic for everyone. If you like the images and descriptions below, click the links to see previews and learn more about them. You can often buy straight from the publishers or creators. If not, head over to your local comic book store, check out online retailers like Things From Another World and Amazon, or download a copy at comiXology, or the comics and graphic novels sections of the Kindle Store or NOOK store. Let us know what you think in the comments below or on Facebook.

For a full list of this week’s new releases, see comiXology and ComicList.com.

(Please note these aren’t reviews. Recommendations are based on pre-release buzz, previews, and The Comics Observer‘s patented crystal ball. Product descriptions provided by publisher.)

BTOOOMv1

BTOOOM! Volume 1 by Junya Inoue

BTOOOM! Volume 1
Written and illustrated by Junya Inoue
Published by Yen Press
Genre: Action/Adventure
Ages: 16+
192 pages
$11.99

An expert gamer is forced to play a real-life version of his favorite game in a battle to the death!

By all counts, Ryouta Sakamoto is a loser when he’s not holed up in his room, bombing things into oblivion in his favorite online action RPG. But his very own uneventful life is blown to pieces when he’s abducted and taken to an uninhabited island, where he soon learns the hard way that he’s being pitted against others just like him in an explosives-riddled death match!

How could this be happening? Who’s putting them up to this? And why!? The name, not to mention the objective, of this very real survival game is eerily familiar to Ryouta, who has mastered its virtual counterpart—BTOOOM! Can Ryouta still come out on top when he’s playing for his life!?

NewDeadwardians

The New Deadwardians by Dan Abnett and I.N.J. Culbard

The New Deadwardians
Written by Dan Abnett
Illustrated by I.N.J. Culbard
Published by Vertigo / DC Comics
Genre: Crime, Horror
Age: 18+
176 pages
$14.99

In post-Victorian England, nearly everyone of the upper classes has voluntarily become a vampire in order to escape the lower classes who are all zombies. Into this simmering cauldron is thrust Chief Inspector George Suttle, a lonely detective who’s got the slowest beat in London: investigating murders in a world where everyone is already dead!

When the body of a young aristocrat washes up on the banks of the Thames, Suttle’s quest for the truth will take him from the darkest sewers to the gleaming halls of power, and reveal the rotten heart at the center of this strange world.

 

Debris

Debris by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Riley Rossmo

Debris
Written by Kurtis J. Wiebe
Illustrated by Riley Rossmo
Published by Image Comics
Genre: Action/Adventure
Ages: 12+
128 pages
$14.99

In the far future, humanity has doomed planet Earth to rot and decay, covering her surface with garbage.  Now, ancient spirits called the Colossals rise from the debris and attack the remaining survivors, forcing the human race to the brink of extinction. After an attack leaves their people without water, Maya, the last Protector, sets out on a journey for pure water, to save the world before the monsters bring it all to an end.

New Comics for New Readers – January 23, 2013

Want to try reading comics? Don’t know where to start? Want to try something different?

Wednesday is New Comics Day! Each week, The Comics Observer spotlights up to three brand new releases worthy of your consideration. All of these have been carefully selected as best bets for someone who has never read comic books, graphic novels or manga before. They each highlight the variety and creativity being produced today. These are also great for those that haven’t read comics in awhile or regular readers looking to try something new.

While we can’t guarantee you’ll like what we’ve picked, we truly believe there’s a comic for everyone. If you like the images and descriptions below, click the links to see previews and learn more about them. You can often buy straight from the publishers or creators. If not, head over to your local comic book store, check out online retailers like Things From Another World and Amazon, or download a copy at comiXology, or the comics and graphic novels sections of the Kindle Store or NOOK store. Let us know what you think in the comments below or on Facebook.

For a full list of this week’s new releases, see comiXology and ComicList.com.

(Please note these aren’t reviews. Recommendations are based on pre-release buzz, previews, and The Comics Observer‘s patented crystal ball. Product descriptions provided by publisher.)

CallingDrLaura

Calling Dr. Laura: A Graphic Memoir by Nicole J. Georges

Calling Dr. Laura: A Graphic Memoir
Written and illustrated by Nicole J. Georges
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: Autobiography
Ages: 13+
288 pages
$16.95

When Nicole Georges was two years old, her family told her that her father was dead. When she was twenty-three, a psychic told her he was alive. Her sister, saddled with guilt, admits that the psychic is right and that the whole family has conspired to keep him a secret. Sent into a tailspin about her identity, Nicole turns to radio talk-show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger for advice.

Packed cover-to-cover with heartfelt and disarming black-and-white illustrations, Calling Dr. Laura tells the story of what happens to you when you are raised in a family of secrets, and what happens to your brain (and heart) when you learn the truth from an unlikely source. Part coming-of-age and part coming-out story, Calling Dr. Laura marks the arrival of an exciting and winning new voice in graphic literature.

DearBelovedStranger

Dear Beloved Stranger by Dino Pai

Dear Beloved Stranger
Written and illustrated by Dino Pai
Published by Urban Fairy Tales / Top Shelf Publications
Genre: Autobiography
Ages: 13+
184 pages
$19.95

Clueless, naïve, full of dreams… and unemployed. Fresh out of art school, our hero Dino is ready to start a new chapter in his life, but can’t figure out how, and struggles to find his identity as an artist. With a little encouragement from a classmate, he sets out on a fantastic inner journey to wipe the dust off his teenage obsessions and reignite his passion.

Blending fact and fiction, past and present, pencil and paint, debut author Dino Pai brings a wide range of voices and influences to bear on the most intimate story in his heart, in this Xeric Award-winning graphic novel.

ADD-AdolescentDemoDivision

A.D.D. by Douglas Rushkoff and Goran Sudzuka

A.D.D.: Adolescent Demo Division
Written by Douglas Rushkoff
Illustrated by Goran Sudzuka and Jose Marzan Jr.
Published by Vertigo / DC Comics
Genre: Sci-fi
Ages: 16+
152 pages
$24.99

The Adolescent Demo Division are the world’s luckiest teen gamers. Raised from birth to test media, appear on reality TV and enjoy the fruits of corporate culture, the squad develop special abilities that make them the envy of the world – and a grave concern to their keepers.

One by one, they “graduate” to new levels that are not what they seem. But their heightened abilities can only take them so far as the ultimate search for their birth families leads to an inconceivably harrowing discovery.

Written by Douglas Rushkoff, world-renowned media theorist, Frontline TV correspondent and author (Ecstasy Club, Media Virus, Program or Be Programmed, Testament), with full color art by Goran Sudzuka and Jose Marzan Jr. (Y: The Last Man).

New Comics for New Readers – November 21, 2012

Wednesday is New Comics Day! Each week, The Comics Observer spotlights three brand new releases worth checking out that should be suitable for someone who has never read comic books, graphic novels or manga before.

These are out today! If you like what you see here, click the links to see previews and learn more about them. Then head to your local comic book store, or check out online retailers like Things From Another World and Amazon. Let us know what you think in the comments below or on Facebook.

For a full list of this week’s new releases, see comiXology and ComicList.com.

(Disclaimer: These aren’t reviews. Recommendations are based on pre-release press, previews, and The Comics Observer‘s patented crystal ball. Product descriptions provided by publisher.)

Digestate: A Food & Eating Themed Anthology

Digestate: A Food and Eating Anthology
Written and illustrated by various (see description)
Edited by J.T. Yost
Published by Birdcage Bottom Books
Genre: Anthology
Ages: 16+
288 pages
$19.95

Over 50 indie comic artists contribute their interpretations of the theme “food and eating” in this gigantic telephone-book sized anthology. A wide range of subject and tone including autobio, fiction, nonfiction and essays (and everything in-between).

Contributors:

Jeffrey Brown, Renée French, Alex Robinson, James Kochalka, Marc Bell, Box Brown, Kevin Cannon, Noah Van Sciver, Josh Bayer, Danny Hellman, Sam Henderson, Josh Burggraf, L. Nichols, Al Ortiz, Sophia Wiedeman, Paul Hoppe, C.M. Butzer, Victor Kerlow, John Kerschbaum, Dan Piraro, Jess Ruliffson, Ben Snakepit, Cha, Adam Hines, Sungyoon Choi, Nate Doyle, Minty Lewis, Hawk Krall, Aaron Mew, Jonas Madden-Connor, Keith Knight, Pranas T. Naujokaitis, Tod C. Parkhill, Jungyeon Roh, Hazel Newlevant, J.T. Yost, Aron Nels Steinke, Gary Fields, Marek Bennett, J.T. Dockery, Jonathan Baylis, Anuj Shrestha, K. Thor Jensen, Nicole J. Georges, Jeremy Tinder, Darryl Ayo, Neil Brideau, James Turek, Jeff Zwirek, Ayun Halliday, Lisa Rosalie Eisenberg, William Cardini, Liz Prince

Saucer Country Vol. 1: Run by Paul Cornell and Ryan Kelly

Saucer Country Volume 1: Run
Written by Paul Cornell
Illustrated by Ryan Kelly
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics
Genre: Science-fiction
Ages: 16+
144 pages
$14.99

Arcadia Alvarado, the leading Democratic candidate for President of the United States, says she was ‘abducted by aliens.’ As the Mexican-American Governor of New Mexico, she’s dealing with immigration, budget cuts and an alcoholic ex. She’s about to toss her hat into the ring as a candidate for President in the most volatile political climate ever. But then…a lonely road and a nightmarish encounter have left her with terrible, half-glimpsed memories. And now she has to become President. To expose the truth–and maybe, to save the world.

Arcadia’s quest is at the heart of this new title from writer Paul Cornell (Demon Knights, Action Comics, Doctor Who) and artist Ryan Kelly (New York Five, Northlanders, Local). With the help of her quirky staff, Arcadia will pursue the truth of her abduction into danger, mystery and awe.

Saucer Country is a dark thriller that blends UFO lore and alien abduction with political intrigue, all set in the hauntingly beautiful Southwest.

The Adventures of Augusta Wind #1 by J.M. DeMatteis and Vassilis Gogtizilas

The Adventures of Augusta Wind #1
Written by J.M. DeMatteis
Illustrated by Vassilis Gogtzilas
Published by IDW Publishing
Genre: Fantasy
Ages: 12+
32 pages
$3.99

Augusta Webster thought she was an ordinary girl living an ordinary life in an ordinary town. But that was before the Snabbit – half-snake/half-rabbit – arrived to turn Augusta’s world upside down and reveal that she’s anything but ordinary.

A new all-ages fantasy from J.M. DeMatteis, creator of Abadazad, with astonishing art by Vassilis Gogtizilas.

 

The Journey, Man 08 – Cheers, mate

Columnist Wayne Rée shares his discovery of comic books, from his start as a super-hero fan to his evolution into a believer of the power of the art form of comics.

Hellblazer: Original Sins by Jamie Delano and John Ridgway

For as long as I’ve been reading comics, there’s been Hellblazer.

A spin-off of the horror series Swamp Thing, this mainstay of DC Comics’ Vertigo mature readers line starred the morally ambiguous, but thoroughly charismatic and quintessentially British magician John Constantine.

I use the past tense in that last bit because DC recently announced that they’re cancelling the long-running title, and relaunching it as a comic where Constantine would operate in the same world as the likes of Batman and Superman. Not a superhero book, mind you – but a book set in a superhero universe. And this makes me feel… weird.

The sneering, swearing, smoking visage of John Constantine is as familiar to me as the likes of Spider-Man and Daredevil. He was the face of mainstream comics’ darker underbelly. Not a character you’d find on kids’ PJs, sure, but he certainly wasn’t an underground figure either.

More than just the familiarity of the book’s protagonist, however, Hellblazer was an institution – a series that some of the biggest and best creators worked on. It introduced me to artists and writers like Brian Azzarello, Giuseppe Camuncoli and the legendary Richard Corben. From its inception in the late 80s, it was the first name in mature mainstream horror comics.

Hellblazer: Setting Sun by Warren Ellis, Tim Bradstreet, et al.

And now it’s gone.

I never followed it regularly, but whenever I did go back to it, it was always like sitting down with an old friend for a pint and catching up on lost time. Hellblazer, more than almost any other mainstream book, mastered the art of welcoming new and lapsed readers. Did it help to know more about John Constantine’s history? Yeah. But it never felt like it was essential.

Now, this new, probably PG-13 book that they’re replacing it with could easily be pretty damn good in its own right. But that’s not the point. To me, it’s not about having a book with John Constantine out there, no matter what sort of world he operates in. It’s a matter of having Hellblazer specifically. Or at least something like it. Constantine, with all his charm and unnerving depth, was just the icing on the cake.

For as long as I’ve been reading comics, there’s always been a mainstream book for truly weird, disturbing and cool horror. That title used to be Hellblazer. But the universe abhors a void and the comic market doubly so. There will be another Hellblazer-type title eventually, I’m sure of it. It’s just that it’ll be a shame to see my old friend go for good.

Wayne Rée’s been writing professionally for about ten years. He’s worked in everything from advertising to publishing, and was even part of the team that created Singapore’s very first tattoo magazine. He dabbles in screenwriting and photography, travels way too much, and is currently putting together his very first short story collection.

The Journey, Man 06 – Four-colored David Bowies

Columnist Wayne Rée shares his discovery of comic books, from his start as a super-hero fan to his evolution into a believer of the power of the art form of comics.

Last month, I talked about the strange relationship between comics and music. I suppose you could consider this month’s edition a sort-of continuation of that. Sort of.

(Call me Wayne Rée: Master of Segueing.)

Anyway, like music, the comic book medium has its fair share of “rock stars.” And I don’t just mean Gerard Way (but, man, that guy writes some seriously awesome comics). Our rock stars are those creators that are so big that they transcend the medium and have entered the consciousness of non-comic fans. They’re not just writers or artists – they’re personalities.

Neil Gaiman

Mr. Sandman. Bring me a dream.
I’ll start with the obvious choice. Chances are, even if you don’t drop by your local comic shop every Wednesday or get into fights about whether Iron Man could be beat Batman (he can’t), you know who Neil Gaiman is.

He was the first true comic book rock star I’d ever encountered. I was 16 and (as already established multiple times) was trying out comics that were outside of the superhero realm. But the one genre I wouldn’t touch? Fantasy. In my infinite adolescent wisdom (which, as we all know, isn’t very infinite at all), I’d felt that it wasn’t something that I could get into. I’d been a sci-fi fan since I picked up my first Ray Bradbury book and I just didn’t see how I could relate to elves and ogres the way I did to rocket ships and dystopian futures.

“It’s not exactly fantasy,” my friend said as he handed me his copy of Death: The High Cost of Living. I was hesitant. I knew a little bit about Gaiman’s The Sandman, but I just didn’t see myself digging it. But my aforementioned friend was right. Gaiman’s stuff isn’t fantasy; it’s a little bit of everything.

Gaiman’s greatest gift as a writer is that he wears his influences on his sleeve. If you crack open a volume of The Sandman, you can see elements of fantasy, sure. But also of mythology, horror, slice of life, romance, and, yes, even rock n’ roll.

There was something in Gaiman’s work that could appeal to you, no matter what you loved. And he hooked me. He hooked me in a big way. How big? After I was done with The Sandman, I went out and scooped up all his prose books (Good Omens, by the way, remains one of my favorite novels ever). I started listening to Tori Amos, purely because I heard that she was friends with him. And well… I suppose you could say that I wouldn’t be here right now, if it wasn’t for him.

You see, Neil Gaiman was the writer that made me want to become a writer too.

Warren Ellis

Internet Jesus
The Sandman was published by Vertigo, an imprint from DC Comics. Like Oni Press, I started to see that brand as a mark of quality. That’s how I started reading Transmetropolitan – a series co-created by my second comic book rock star, the infamous Red Bull-guzzling scribe Warren Ellis.

No, he’s not the fella who works with Nick Cave, but his name might ring a couple of bells, I’m sure. For non-comic fans, he might be that columnist from the first few issues of the UK edition of Wired. Or the co-creator of Red, which was adapted into a film starring Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren and God (otherwise known as Morgan Freeman). You might even know him from his larger-than-digital-life online personality, from his blog or on Twitter.

For me, while Gaiman made me want to become a writer, Ellis was the man that cemented that decision. Gaiman showed me how cool writers were, but Ellis, with Transmetropolitan – a series about a cranky, but brilliant journalist from a crazy, but familiar sci-fi future – showed me the power that the written word wielded. It crystalized in my young brain the idea that an article or a story could truly change the way people thought and could, in some almost shamanistic way, alter the world.

Grant Morrison

The Invisibles Man
And finally, there’s Grant Morrison. Because of that Vertigo connection, I tried to get into his The Invisibles way back when. But I just couldn’t. My late-teens-brain wasn’t able to wrap itself around that series in the same way that it could The Sandman or Transmetropolitan and I just dismissed him as that freak job that took lots of drugs and was a transvestite at some point.

It wasn’t until this year, really, that I decided to give The Invisibles another go. I enjoyed some of his stuff over the years – especially his wonderful We3 with visionary artist Frank Quitely and his surprisingly heartfelt take on Animal Man – but after reading his non-fiction, somewhat autobiographical book Supergods, I finally figured out how I could connect to The Invisibles.

Grant Morrison wanted to be a superhero. That’s why he created The Invisibles. Its main character, King Mob, was his kind-of avatar. His way to transcend the boundaries of reality and fiction and become a supercool superspy who did awesome things like fight aliens.

It was pure late-90s punk rock in comic form. It was wishful thinking taken to a whole new level. And it was something I could relate to. After all, almost every superhero fan wants to become a superhero himself.

So, yeah, Grant Morrison is still that freak job that took lots of drugs and was a transvestite at some point. But he’s so much more than that. He’s the guy that understands why I consider Peter Parker more of a friend than a fictional character.

Rock gods of the future
From the days of Stan Lee, comics have always had and always will have its rock stars. Gaiman, Ellis and Morrison are just the bigger names I could think of from my own youth.

You ask me, pretty soon, if they haven’t already, newer readers will be speaking the same way about guys like Matt Fraction (do yourself a favor and watch his hilarious and beautiful presentation The Batman Dreams of Hieronymus Machines) and Brian Wood (if The Invisibles was late-90s punk, then Wood and Riccardo Bruchielli’s DMZ is the politically-charged 21st century equivalent).

And Gerard Way too, but hell, that guy’s already a rock star.

Wayne Rée’s been writing professionally for about ten years. He’s worked in everything from advertising to publishing, and was even part of the team that created Singapore’s very first tattoo magazine. He dabbles in screenwriting and photography, travels way too much, and is currently putting together his very first short story collection.

New Comics for New Readers – August 8, 2012

Wednesday is New Comics Day! Each week, The Comics Observer picks brand new releases worth checking out that should be suitable for someone who has never read comic books, graphic novels or manga before.

These are out today! If you like what you see here, click the links to see previews and learn more about them. Then head to your local comic book store, or check out online retailers like Things From Another World and Amazon. Let us know what you think in the comments below or on Facebook.

For a full list of this week’s new releases, see comiXology and ComicList.com.

(Disclaimer: These aren’t reviews. Recommendations based on pre-release press, previews, and The Comics Observer‘s patented crystal ball. Product descriptions provided by publisher.)

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy by Nathan Hale

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy
Written and illustrated by Nathan Hale
Published by Amulet Books
Genre: History
Ages: 8+
128 pages
$12.95

Nathan Hale, the author’s historical namesake, was America’s first spy, a Revolutionary War hero who famously said “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country” before being hanged by the British. In the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series, author Nathan Hale channels his namesake to present history’s roughest, toughest, and craziest stories in the graphic novel format.
One Dead Spy tackles the story of Hale himself, who was an officer and spy for the American rebels during the Revolutionary War. Author Hale highlights the unusual, gruesome, and just plain unbelievable truth of historical Nathan Hale — from his early unlucky days at Yale to his later unlucky days as an officer — and America during the Revolutionary War.

District Comics, edited by Matt Dembicki

District Comics: An Unconventional History of Washington, DC
Edited by Matt Dembicki
Published by Fulcrum Publishing
Genre: Anthology, History
Ages: 10+
256 pages
$24.95

District Comics is a graphic anthology featuring lesser-known stories about Washington, DC, from its earliest days as a rustic settlement along the swampy banks of the Potomac to the modern-day metropolis. Spanning 1794-2009, District Comics stops along the way for a duel, a drink in the Senate’s speakeasy, a look into the punk scene, and much more.

Featuring stories by:

  • Scott O. Brown, award-winning man of comics and Harvey Award nominee
  • Chad Lambert, five-time Howard E. Day Memorial Prize finalist and writer for Kung Fu Panda and Megamind
  • Jim Ottaviani, creator of The New York Times bestseller Feynman

Right State by Mat Johnson and Andrea Mutti

Right State
Written by Mat Johnson
Illustrated by Andrea Mutti
Published by Vertigo Comics
Genre: Political thriller
Ages: 18+
152 pages
$24.99

Just in time for the fall election, this race-against-time political thriller follows an ex-Special Forces commando who goes undercover with a militia group that’s plotting to assassinate the second African-American President of the U.S.

In the week leading up to a major campaign speech, the Secret Service discovers that an extremist militia group is plotting to assassinate America’s second African American President. The best chance to advert this crisis is to infiltrate the group using an ex-Special Forces war hero turned conservative media pundit named Ted Akers. While Aker’s politics make him a hero to the right-wing fringe and no friend to the current Administration, he takes the assignment and what follows is an adrenaline fueled race against time to stop a President from dying and a country from being ripped apart.

An original graphic novel by Mat Johnson (Incognegro, Dark Rain) and Andrea Mutti.

3 New Comics for New Readers – April 18, 2012

A tale about a shape-shifting shark from Hawaii for young readers, a look at the characters and folklore of Cleveland, and a gutsy look at modern war – just a sampling of the wide variety from this week’s promising new graphic novels and comic books.

Wednesday is New Comics Day! Each week, The Comics Observer picks three brand new releases worth checking out that should be suitable for someone who has never read comic books, graphic novels or manga before.

If you like what you see here, click the links to see previews and learn more about them. Then head to your local comic book store, or check out online retailers like Things From Another World and Amazon. Let us know what you think in the comments below or on Facebook.

For a full list of this week’s new releases, see comiXology and ComicList.com.

Shooters by Eric Trautmann, Brandon Jerwa, and Steve Lieber

Shooters
Written by Eric S. Trautmann and Brandon Jerwa
Illustrated by Steve Lieber
Published by Vertigo / DC Comics
Genre: War
144 pages
$22.99

Today’s battlefield isn’t just about the uniformed soldier in service to his country; there’s also the contractor, who answers to the corporation. Call them mercenaries, soldiers-for-hire, or private military operators, they are a new breed of combatant in today’s conflicts.

Shooters is the story of Terry Glass, a warrior whose spirit and soul has been hardened in countless battles. When a horrible accident shatters his world, Glass finds himself waging a private war on several fronts – against his career, his marriage, and ultimately, his faith.

Written by Eric S. Trautmann (Checkmate, Red Sonja, Flash Gordon) and Brandon Jerwa (G.I. Joe, Battlestar Galactica, Highlander), and drawn by Eisner Award-winning artist Steve Lieber (Underground, Whiteout, Road to Perdition: On the Road), Shooters tells a story of modern warfare that will stay with you forever.

The Shark King by R. Kikuo Johnson

The Shark King
Written and Illustrated by R. Kikuo Johnson
Published by Toon Books
Genre: Fantasy
40 pages
$12.95

Meet Nanaue, a boy craving to be who he truly is.

From the islands of Hawaii comes the electrifying tale of Nanaue, who has to balance his yearning for Dad’s guidance with his desire for Mom’s nurture.

Award-winning cartoonist R. Kikuo Johnson transports young readers to the lush, tropical shores of his native Hawaii. Emerging readers, fluent or not, will be thrilled when they experience the transformative powers of this stirring literary work.

R. Kikuo Johnson grew up in Hawaii on the island of Maui. For generations, native Hawaiians have told tales of the shape-shifting shark god Kamohoalii; The Shark King is the artist’s version of one such tale about the insatiable appetite of Kamohoalii’s son, Nanaue. Kikuo’s 2005 graphic novel, Night Fisher — also set in Hawaii — earned him both the Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer Award and a Harvey Award. Kikuo spent his childhood exploring the rocky shore in front of his grandmother’s house at low tide and diving with his older brother. Since moving to the mainland, Kikuo has discovered the joys of swimming in fresh water and currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, where he enjoys cooking, playing his ukulele, and riding his bike all over the city.

Cleveland by Harvey Pekar and Joseph Remnant

Cleveland
Written by Harvey Pekar
Illustrated by Joseph Remnant
Introduction by Alan Moore
Published by ZIP Comics and Top Shelf Productions
Genre: Non-Fiction
128 pages
$21.99

A lifelong Cleveland resident, Harvey Pekar (1939-2010) pioneered autobiographical comics, mining the mundane for magic since 1976 in his ongoing American Splendor series. Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland is sadly one of his last, but happily one of his most definitive graphic novels.

It combines classic American Splendor-ous autobiographical anecdotes with key moments and characters in the city’s history as relayed to us by Our Man and meticulously researched and rendered by artist Joseph Remnant.

With an introduction by Alan Moore to boot!

3 New Comics for New Readers – April 4, 2012

Kitty stories for kiddies (of all ages), a fantastic journey to a dark and weird world, and a creature of the earth haunting the swamps – Wednesday is New Comics Day! Each week, The Comics Observer picks three brand new releases worth checking out that should be suitable for someone who has never read comics before.

If you like what you see here, click the links to see previews and learn more about them. Then head to your local comic book store, or check out online retailers like Things From Another World and Amazon. Let us know what you think in the comments below or on Facebook.

Miss Annie: Freedom! by La Galle & Balthazar

Miss Annie Book 1: Freedom!
Written by Frank Le Gall
Illustrated by Flore Balthazar
Published by Graphic Universe / Lerner Publishing Group
Ages 7 and up / Grade 3 and up
Genre: Humor
48 pages
$6.95

Miss Annie is a kitten with ambitions and a large dose of curiosity! The big, wide world beyond the window calls! Outdoors there are trees to climb, birds to chase, and other cats. Even though she’s only a few months old, Miss Annie thinks she’s big enough for adventure right now. If only she can convince her human family that she can take care of herself — or can she?

Born in Rouen in France, award-winning writer Frank Le Gall published his first works at the age of sixteen. Since then Le Gall has continued writing graphic novel adventures, occasionally taking a break for animation and short stories.

Born in 1981 in La Louvière, Belgium, Flore Balthazar decided at the age of nine that she would become a cartoonist, after reading Hergé’s Tintin and other comics at the local library across the street from her house. She soon realized that her art would not look exactly like Tintin, and developed her own self-taught style. She eventually went on to study at the Binche and the Etterbeek Academies of Fine Arts (both in Belgium), also studying Slavic languages and literature at the university in Brussels. She quickly realized that the best way to become a cartoonist is simply to keep drawing. She now lives in Orléans, France. Miss Annie is her first graphic novel series.

The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath & Other Stories by H.P. Lovecraft & Jason Thompson

The Dream-Quest Of Unknown Kadath & Other Stories
Written by H.P. Lovecraft
Adapted and illustrated by Jason Bradley Thompson
Published by Mock Man Press
Funded by Kickstarter
Genre: Fantasy/Horror
184 pages
$24.95

Three times Randolph Carter dreamed of the marvelous city…and three times he was snatched away while still he paused on the high terrace above it.

In search of a lost city and a forgotten memory, Randolph Carter enters the dreamlands, the vast world of wonder and horror where one night can span a million years. From the jungles of Kled to the surface of the moon, through perilous encounters with bat-winged nightgaunts and man-eating ghouls, Carter’s quest takes him ever closer to the secret of the marvelous sunset city… and the terror of Nyarlathotep and Azathoth, the monstrous Other Gods who stand in his way.

This limited edition oversize 184-page hardcover includes a full comic adaptation of the novel by H.P. Lovecraft, as well as the related stories “The White Ship,” “Celephais” and “The Strange High House in the Mist.” It also features a map of the dream world, as well as an art gallery section with concept sketches and additional drawings.

Saga of the Swamp Thing Book One by Alan Moore & Stephen Bissette

Saga of the Swamp Thing Book One
Written by Alan Moore
Illustrated by Stephen R. Bissette and John Totleben
Published by Vertigo / DC Comics
Genre: Horror
208 pages
$19.99

Before Watchmen, Alan Moore made his debut in the U.S. comic book industry with the revitalization of the horror comic book The Swamp Thing. His deconstruction of the classic monster stretched the creative boundaries of the medium and became one of the most spectacular series in comic book history.

With modern-day issues explored against a backdrop of horror, Swamp Thing‘s stories became commentaries on environmental, political and social issues, unflinching in their relevance. Saga of the Swamp Thing Book One collects issues #20-27 of this seminal series including the never-before-reprinted Saga of the Swamp Thing #20, where Moore takes over as writer and concludes the previous storyline.

Book One begins with the story “The Anatomy Lesson,” a haunting origin story that reshapes Swamp Thing mythology with terrifying revelations that begin a journey of discovery and adventure that will take him across the stars and beyond.

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