With the sad news that PW Comics World over at Publisher's Weekly is closing, the future of Panel Mania, or First Look as it was latterly known, is rather uncertain.
It's been an honour and a privilege to have helmed the column in 2015, and I am so happy to have previewed some 18 comics in that time. Writing the column really allowed me to combine my comics experience, academic knowledge, and my previous years of bookselling expertise.
I hope to continue to have a voice at PW and keep tapping into my bookseller experience, but thank you all for a wonderful nine months. To every publisher, editor, publicity person and creator I've conversed with this year for Panel Mania/First Look - thank you.
Independent comic publishers have such lovely folk working for them, and some fiercely talented creators who are so passionate in their work. You folks are what keep my love of comics alive!
For now, here's a look back at the 18 titles that I saw as guaranteed hits with the right bookseller love behind them:
“Wrinkles” A Haunting Portrait of Aging
My first new piece of the year was also the first of my stint as captain of the Panel Mania ship at Publisher's Weekly - a great excuse to spotlight some of the fantastic comics coming out this year.
Wrinkles hit a little close to home as I suspect it will do for many - watching our older relatives lose their sense of self is as frightening as it is heartbreaking - and it's a reminder that many of us will come to similar fates. The fact that it explores such a well avoided subject is precisely why, I think, it's such an important (as well as beautiful) read.
Lucy Knisley Explores Aging in 'Displacement'
Accidentally carrying on a theme from Wrinkles, this title appealed to me primarily because Knisley's work is always wonderful, but also because January almost demands an uplifting read or two. This travelogue of the creators time on a cruise looking after her grandparents is a little heartbreaking but ultimately encouraging, and the mixture of comic panels, cartooning and letters make for softer read.
I did have a wee cry after reading though!
Fashion Forward with ‘Girl in Dior’
Spotlighting the upcoming translation of French comics maestro Annie Goetzinger, Girl in Dior, a fascinating blend of graphic narrative and fashion illustration, all with a strong undercurrent of rosy nostalgia and the occasional sharp stab of social commentary.
A very beautiful comic.
Ba and Moon Explore Home and Family in ‘Two Brothers’
A world exclusive preview of a highly anticipated new graphic novel.
Ten pages from the upcoming Two Brothers by Brazilian dream team Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon, an adaptation of Dois Irmãos by the eminent author, Milton Hatoum. Two Brothers promises a story of strained family relations and identity, with more than a hint of intrigue bestowed by the two brothers translating the tale in both language and medium. This looks very promising indeed!
The Spectacular World Building of 'The Swords of Glass'
Laura Zuccheri's work is jaw-droppingly beautiful and the world building that she and Sylviane Corgiat have achieved here is first class.
This is a gorgeous book that I've already re-read twice, and would recommend to anyone on the strength of the art alone. It's a 200+ page sci-fi/fantasy epic with strange critters, costumes, and architecture a plenty.
Go 'Ballistic' with Mortimer and Robertson
It started out as my choice for best comic of 2013. Now the first volume is complete and collected in a trade paperback, and set to be best comic of the millennium.
Ladies and gentlemen, do feel free to go ballistic for... Ballistic!
Sophie Goldstein's Dystopian SF in 'The Oven'
I've long admired mini-comics, so I'm thrilled to preview her first long-form work, The Oven.
Keep an eye on those insects within....
The Heart-Stealing Whimsy of 'The Kurdles'
A preview of Robert Goodin's GORGEOUS The Kurdles.
A lovely story of an abandoned teddy bear that finds her way to a new home and new friends - super suitable for all ages and I adore it!
Joie de vivre in Pénélope Bagieu’s 'Exquisite Corpse'
This weeks panel mania features a favourite artist of mine - translated for the first time into English by First Second Books!
Exquisite Corpse is a really fun read from Pénélope Bagieu - with one hell of an ending - and a perfect summer read.
From Zero to 'The Hero' with David Rubin
A super exclusive preview at Publisher's Weekly from the highly anticipated English language edition of David Rubin's masterpiece.
I really enjoyed this, and I'm looking forward to seeing the concluding volume later this year. I'll confess, I was singing Disney Hercules songs in my head for most of my read, but that's a good thing :)
Fighting Tooth and Claw in "The Autumnlands"
For my birthday week I couldn't resist featuring one of my current favourites, The Autumnlands!
This is a must-read book for all fantasy fans, and all animal fans too. Dewey is definitely an artist to keep an eye on.
Return to Carcosa in Culbard’s ‘The King in Yellow’
Spotlighting one of my favourite artists in this weeks Panel Mania, with a comics adaptation of the infamous The King in Yellow by the magnificent INJ Culbard.
The original novel got a lot of attention recently thanks to references in True Detective, so now is the perfect time to dig in and see what all the fuss is about with this classic weird fiction.
'Dressing' for Success with Michael DeForge
An exclusive preview from the indie king's latest publication, and another surefire hit that will appeal to fans of both alternative comics and art.
Jason’s Triumphant Return in “If You Steal”
Panel Mania has been renamed First Look and continues as normal twice a month - this time around it's an exclusive preview of Norwegian's finest and one of my absolute favourite artists.
Jason's upcoming If You Steal, complete with hitwoman Frida Kahlo and 50s horror comic pastiche, is a must-get for my bookshelf.
‘The Puma Blues’ Returns in Complete Form
Stephen Murphy and Michael Zulli's cult classic comic returns with a never before seen ending finally completing the story of The Puma Blues after nearly thirty years.
A very unique and powerful comic that will appeal to environmentalists in particular.
The Breathtaking Beauty of ‘Love: The Fox’
The animal theme for August continues with this new English market edition of Frédéric Brrémaud and Federico Bertolucci's stunning Love: The Fox, a highly anticipated followup to Love: The Tiger.
Love: The Tiger is a comic I am very passionate about, a beautiful story told entirely without words and by blending wonderful character work with realistic animal behaviour. Love: The Fox is equally gorgeous, with a more powerful story threaded throughout.
And it's GORGEOUS.
The Whimsical World of Liniers's 'Macanudo #3'
Probably my favourite PW column of the year thus far, featuring the whimsical Liniers and his existential musings and humour in Macanudo #3.
With meta-humour and existential musings, Macanudo recalls to me fond memories of reading Calvin and Hobbes, or Krazy Kat, and the wonderfully wide cast of unique characters make this all the more charming.
Caitlan Skaalrud’s Dantean ‘Houses of the Holy’
A fabulous debut graphic novel that will strike a chord with anyone who grapples with depression or their own mind.
Light on words and empty of dialogue, Skaalrud’s poetic expressions of inner turmoil are boldly honest, a mysterious building of hints to events already transpired and her struggle to triumph over the darkness within.
With PW Comics World closing, this is potentially the last Panel Mania/First Look.