It's no secret that when my life was turned upside down last year by bring home a tiny, adorable, paper-chewing puppy, that I swiftly made the switch to reading almost all of my comics digitally, and went so far as to rescue/donate my single issues to charity.
Aside from the ease of having my entire library at my fingertips, I've been really impressed by how many comics are available digitally, including indie titles. I first came across Sequential at the Edinburgh Book Festival and since then it's been a regular destination for me when I'm looking for something different.
Right now - and until August 1st - Sequential is celebrating its two year anniversary with a big 50-90% off the print price sale across over 350 titles from the likes of Dark Horse, Fantagraphics, SelfMadeHero, Blank Slate, Avery Hill, Secret Acres, Koyama Press and more.
And okay, I LOVE top ten lists. Not as anything objective, but the chance to see what everyone else is reading that I might be missing out on. So, without further ado, here's my pick of ten titles from the sale to feast your eyes upon.
(NB - each title has a short preview at the Sequential links.)
Panel Mania has been renamed as First Look and continues as normal - features this time is the highly anticipated new collection from Norwegian cartoonist Jason.
The multi-award winning Jason has been consistently publishing at least one critically acclaimed hit per year since the turn of the century, with 2014 the only omission. Fans and critics are awaiting this new collection with keen anticipation, not least due to the alluring title in the original Norwegian: Frida Kahlo’s Parrot.
If You Steal collects eleven new stories, with a definite if extensive focus on pop culture pastiche. A 50s horror comic styled take on Van Morrison’s Moondance, Frida Kahlo as a hitwoman (as seen on the cover), the JFK assassination conspiracies concluded, Santo and his greatest challenge, a heist story with touches of Magritte… Jason casts his net wide, threading these disparate comics into one seamless tapestry with Nostradamus at the helm.
With his signature four panel grid, simple anthropomorphic animal characters, and ligne claire minimalism throughout, Jason’s work is often at risk of being discounted on sight. Yet the uncomplicated surface gives way to complex layers that hold far deeper meanings.
Jason is the master of haunting comics that wriggle into the reader’s brain and very often break their heart. If You Steal is a tad lighter than some of Jason’s previous works but it is still a tremendous example of the power of amplification through simplification – he forges a world so universally recognisable one cannot help but be captivated completely.
Jason’s entire oeuvre is published in English by Fantagraphics and is absolutely essential reading for any fan of comics, art, pulp fiction, or silent/near-wordless narratives. From the earliest Hey, Wait… through I Killed Adolf Hitler and Athos in America, each is an instant classic. If You Steal, complete with Chet Baker, Night of the Vampire Hunter, 50’s style big bug horror fare and all, is no exception.
Of late, I've kept my comics coverage pretty positive. Because comics are pretty darn awesome. But sometimes comics do in fact break your heart. And sometimes you have to take a stand and say, "this is not okay".
The second issue of Airboy by James Robinson and Greg Hinkle hit the shelves yesterday. I really enjoyed the first issue - I have a weakness for stories about writers struggling to write, and the author-insert technique was interesting - so naturally I read the second issue. Here's where I messed up: I didn't see anything wrong with this very transmisogynistic comic, despite it using slurs that I abhor.
Thankfully, I was pointed in the right direction. Hopefully I can help point others towards that direction as well.
[Warning: contains quotes and images of transphobic slurs]
Originally published in issue 278 of the British Science Fiction Association's critical journal, Vector, earlier this year, my second column offers a crash course in science fiction webcomics.
Featuring FreakAngels, Gunnerkrigg Court, Ava's Demon, Thunderpaw: In the Ashes of Fire Mountain, Destructor, Titan, Terra, Dicebox, and I Was Kidnapped by Lesbian Pirates from Outer Space, hit the jump for the full article!
Panel Mania is back with an exclusive preview from the indie king.
It’s rare that an award winning alternative comics creator also finds great book market success, but that is exactly what Canadian artist Michael DeForge has achieved in recent years. Since the publication of Lose #1 in 2009 with Koyama Press, the designer for Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time has gone on to win a clutch of awards at home and in the US, as well as repeatedly breaking into the New York Times best seller lists.
Ant Colony, originally serialised on DeForge’s website and published in early 2014 earned wide critical acclaim, while his on-going Lose series continues to revel in the experimental and eccentric.
Dressing then is a collection of short stories, curated from his prolific portfolio of mini comics, webcomics and both anthology and zine contributions. It is a spiritual successor to the award winning collection Very Casual in 2013, as DeForge continues to balance longer-form work alongside the short strips he revels in.
A series of structureless, but far from pointless, stories are contained within; a myriad of tangents and detours that take the reader on a most unexpectedly boundary-pushing journey. At 120 pages, Dressing holds its own on the DeForge shelf, a thick slice of feverish dreams and fantastic worlds.
There is much to be said about DeForge’s work, from the ever evolving color palettes to his ability to cross into the mainstream while retaining his singularly alternative aesthetic, but what really sets his comics apart is their ability to connect with the reader on a very visceral, instinctive level. Their commentary, often quite subtle, on the human condition – told through descriptive colors and sometimes without words – provoke and soothe in equal measure.
Frequently compared to Chris Ware, Dan Clowes, Charles Burns and Marc Bell amongst many others, and with the chafing label of “critical darling” attached, DeForge continues to defy both convention and comparison with all his many layers of work.
It's weird fiction time at Publisher's Weekly this month!
Two masters of horror combine to bring forth the graphic adaptation of the infamous The King in Yellow, a classic piece of weird fiction that promises madness and delivers genuine chills, and made major pop culture waves last year for its heavy presence in HBO's hit series True Detective.
Originally published in 1895, Robert W Chambers’ eerie short story collection has influenced such fellow cult creators as HP Lovecraft and Raymond Chandler. The King in Yellow is both the title of the book, and the name of a play within the book, which is believed to induce madness in those who witness it.
Now INJ Culbard has brought this twisted tale to life as a graphic novel. Culbard is no stranger to the weird and wonderful, adapting Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness and The Shadow Out of Time as graphic novels, both to great acclaim. He also collaborated on two science fiction highlights of 2014: War of the Worlds inspired Wild’s End at Boom! Studios written by Dan Abnett; and the brilliant Brass Sun at 2000 AD with Ian Edginton. One of the UK’s most prolific cartoonists, his work always guarantees an intelligent and instantly recognizable graphic style.