2013 was a GREAT year for comics. If you like fantasy, adventure, and superhero comics, there was Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples excellent space opera Saga, Matt Fraction and David Aja's erstwhile Avenger Hawkeye, and Kelly Sue Deconnick's Captain Marvel.
The latest Batwoman by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman delivered more exquisitely drawn gothic horror, and The Joker returned in Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's nightmare-inducing run on Batman. And—speaking of nightmares—H. P. Lovecraft met Jules Verne in Nemo: Heart of Ice by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill (I'm looking forward to next year's sequel, The Roses of Berlin, a lot).
Then there was the epic, Moebius-meets-Jack Kirby Battling Boy by Paul Pope, and the deliciously pulpy The Black Beetle by Francesco Francavilla.
The luscious historical fantasy adventure Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Vancouver's very own Tony Cliff was just a joy from beginning to end. Not only did it look beautiful (Tony is also an animator), but the dialogue was sharp and snappy.
Online, I have been quietly addicted to the post-Harry Potter fantasy adventure Nimona by Noelle Stevenson. But that won't be out as a book until 2015! (You can, however, find one of Noelle's illustrations on the cover of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell).
Affectionately making fun of tight pants and all that heroic stuff was The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Halifax-based cartoonist Faith Erin Hicks (which I loved, loved, loved), and the brilliant You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack by Tom Gauld. While Superhero Girl dealt with the daily trials and tribulations of a novice superheroine, You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack mashed up literary classics with robots, astronauts, dinosaurs, sea monsters, Victoriana, and masked men (where else would you see a Batman-inspired steampunk Dickens?!).
Also somewhat affectionately deconstructing pop culture (but in an oh-so different way) was the bonkers and acidic My Dirty Dumb Eyes by illustrator Lisa Hanawalt. I'm not sure I'd describe it as comics exactly, but it was sure as hell funny (where else would you see Anna Wintour riding an ostrich?!).
For kids, the pair of eccentrics in Odd Duck by Cecil Castellucci and Sara Varon were lots of fun (the book's been a popular birthday gift), and I really liked Hilda and the Bird Parade by Luke Pearson. Luke also contributed a really great story, 'The Boy Who Drew Cats', to the charming Fairy Tale Comics collection edited by Chris Duffy. (You can read my interview with Luke here).
My kids are still a bit young for them, but I fully expect My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and Adventure Time Fionna & Cake will soon be in required reading in our house...
But comics continued to explore new territory beyond the typical genres associated with the medium. Lucy Knisley's Relish was a tender food memoir with recipes; Primates by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks, a colourful look at the work of primatologists Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas. The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg was a series of strange, funny, and magical stories. Gilbert Hernandez had two remarkable books out this year: Marble Season, a heartfelt, semi-autobiographical comic about childhood in 1960s southern California, and the haunting Julio's Day, a fictional account of man's life from his birth in 1900 to his death 2000. Peter Bagge returned with Woman Rebel, a surprising and fascinating biography of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood.
(I actually had the pleasure of meeting both Beto and Peter this year. Peter was terrific at this year's IFOA—smart and disarmingly funny—but sight of Elvira Kurt sprinting from one side of a CBC studio to the other to meet Beto was something else entirely!)
Rutu Modan's The Property was an extraordinary follow-up to her debut graphic novel Exit Wounds. Lovingly observed, it told the story of an Israeli woman accompanying her elderly grandmother to Warsaw, ostensibly to reclaim property lost during World War II. It was funny, heartbreaking, beautiful and poignant. Literary in the best sense, it was still criminally overlooked by the critics.
And I didn't even get to Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh, The Great War by Joe Sacco...
2013 was the 10th anniversary of Chester Brown's monumental Louis Riel—a book that changed how we thought about comics and, I think, profoundly expanded the possibilities of the medium. Would a book like Rebel Woman have been possible without it? I don't think so. Nor would my favourite comic of the year, Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang, which shared some of its sensibility.
The result of 5 years work, Boxers and Saints is a remarkable achievement. The two volume graphic novel told the intertwined stories of two young people on opposites of the Boxer Rebellion in 19th century China. While Boxers was a brightly coloured adventure story inspired by Chinese opera and superhero comics, Saints delivered an introspective story of identity and faith, drawing more from the personal narratives found in independent comics. Both books were beautifully coloured by Lark Pien (a cartoonist in her own right) and they are visually stunning. But it was the complex storytelling—in turn funny and tragic—and Gene's unique magical realism that made the books truly extraordinary.
Shortly after the release of Boxers and Saints, Gene came to Toronto and delivered two brilliant presentations about becoming a cartoonist and his career from self-published indie comics to the present day. If you ever get chance to hear Gene talk about his work you should definitely take it. I was lucky enough to spend a couple of hours with him just talking comics and superheroes. It was one of the highlights of my year.
Dan, Online Marketing Manager
Paul Pope's long-awaited graphic novel Battling Boy is finally released next week, and the award-winning American comic book artist will be in Toronto to launch the book with The Beguiling on the evening October 15th!
"A straight-up, kick-butt superhero book for kids and grown-ups alike," Battling Boy is the story of an untested hero charged with defending a city infested with monsters. The first of two hotly anticipated volumes, it's already the subject of much excitement in the comics world.
Starting at 7:00pm at the Revival Night Club, Pope — whose previous work includes the acclaimed 100%, Heavy Liquid, and Batman Year 100 — will be on stage to talk about his new work, before taking questions from the audience and signing copies of the book.
Join us if you can!
BATTLING BOY BOOK LAUNCH
Featuring author Paul Pope
@ Revival, 783 College Street, Toronto
Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
Doors at 7PM. Event starts at 7:30pm
Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan, first published by Drawn Quarterly in 2007 (and now available in paperback), is one of my favourite debut graphic novels of recent years. Set in modern-day Tel Aviv, and drawn and coloured in a beautiful, contemporary ‘ligne claire’ style, the book is a portrait of modern Israel, a place where sudden death and dissolution of family ties is an everyday reality.
I met Rutu in Toronto at the International Festival of Authors shortly after Exit Wounds. One of the first cartoonists to be invited to the literary festival, she was a witty, charming and down-to-earth advocate for both the medium and women in comics. It's not surprising that they have invited many more cartoonists since.
Now six years(!) later, Rutu has brought a similar combination of wit, style and realism, to her second full-length graphic novel The Property. Like Exit Wounds, it's a book that deals with family, relationships, and harsh truths. In a recent interview with The Comics Journal, Rutu discussed her own background and family, as well as the influences and ideas that informed The Property:
The idea for The Property came to me after I finished “Mixed Emotions.” One of the stories was about my grandmother. She was this tough, unpleasant old woman, the type that is called in the US “Yiddisher Mama” and in Israel “a Polish lady.” I got very emotional responses to this story in particular. It seems that everyone in the world has “a Yiddisher grandmother,” Italians, Koreans, Japanese, everyone. Maybe it’s not so much about being Jewish. So one night I was lying in bed, just about to fall asleep when suddenly it just came to me. I said, ‘I’ll do a story about this young woman who is going with her grandmother to look at the property.’ I thought it would be a good combination of family relations and money and history, with the Holocaust in the background, but only in the background.
It’s funny because I met Joe Sacco at Angoulême a year ago and we were talking about this book and I said ‘It’s not a Holocaust book, but the Holocaust is in the background.’ I told him I didn’t want to make the grandmother a Holocaust victim. That’s why she came to Israel before the war, because making her the victim is like saying that you can’t touch her. I said, ‘for me, it’s more interesting for the characters to be attached to the drama but not in the middle of it,’ and he said, ‘wow, that’s exactly like Exit Wounds.’ <laughs> I said, ‘oh, I didn’t think about it, but actually, yes. It’s the same.’ <laughs>
The Property is available now.
The following night (Saturday November 24), Julie will be at Librairie D+Q in Montreal for an "evening of beautiful art, good conversations, and the occasional book signing."
Julie Morstad in conversation with Anabela Piersol
Friday, November 23 2012
6PM, with Q&A at 7PM
TYPE Books, 883 Queen Street West, Toronto
Julie Morstad at Librairie D+Q
Saturday, November 24 2012, 7PM
Librairie D+Q, 211 Bernard Ouest, Montreal
Saturday November 3rd, 7pm
3972 Main Street, Vancouver
Toronto-based illustrator and hometown hero Michael Cho will be signing copies of his new book Back Alleys and Urban Landscapes 6pm–8pm on May 23rd at Type Books on Queen Street West near Trinity Bellwoods Park. TYPE will also be featuring a gallery show of selected work from the book.
Michael began creating drawings of the back alleys near his Toronto home in 2008. Collected together in this book, the work speaks to the beauty of the urban landscape: sometimes gritty and citified, sometimes unexpectedly pastoral, but always beautifully rendered. Michael is a brilliant draftsman, and Back Alleys shines with loving attention to detail – from expletive-filled graffiti splayed across backyard fences to the graceful twists of power lines over a bend in the road.
Last weekend, Michael joined a host of other super-talented cartoonists – including Kate Beaton, Guy Delisle and Tom Gauld to name a few – signing books at the Toronto Comics Arts Festival at the Toronto Reference Library. Unsurprisingly (in retrospect!) Backalleys was in big demand and we sold out of the book in no time at all, so make sure you come by early on the 23rd if you are want to get your hands on a copy!
It was the Toronto Comics Art Festival at the weekend, and the brilliant Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton won the award for Best Book at the 8th Doug Wright Awards, hosted by Geoff Pevere, which took place on Saturday night at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Founded in 2004, the annual Doug Wright Awards recognize the best and brightest in English-language comics and graphic novels published in the previous year in Canada.
Speaking on behalf of the jury, Shary Boyle praised Kate’s book. “The world of comics can be a sequestered and dusty place,” she said. “As the comic community bemoans its shrinking readership and dying forms, Beaton rises up and throws open the doors to a whole new audience—welcoming one and all with her generous vision and sense of sophisticated, inclusive playfulness.”
Amen to that!
For those of you who don't know, I'm usually based in Toronto. But last week, I was out west for the Raincoast Books spring 2012 sales conference. Sadly I didn't get to see much of Vancouver (the photo above was taken less than a block from the hotel!) or catch up with half the people I meant to, but I did get to hear about a lot of great new books and so I thought I would quickly share a FEW of my personal favourites...
The strangest book on the week was surely How To Build Android: The True Story of Philip K. Dick's Robotic Resurrection by David F. Dufty which is on the Henry Holt & Co list. Spoiler alert: THEY LOST THE ROBOT!
Picador are publishing a collected edition of Edward St. Aubyn's Patrick Melrose trilogy in January — the first time they've all been properly available in the US & Canada I believe — to coincide with the release of his new book At Last (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux). Picador also have a collection of essays by Siri Hustvedt, Living, Thinking, Looking.
Although this season's long-awaited Saul Bass: A Life in Film and Design will be hard to beat, there are several art and design titles that caught my eye. Princeton Architectural Press are publishing Woodcut, a book of beautiful prints by artist Bryan Nash Gill and Up on the Roof, a collection of photographs by Alex MacLean of New York's hidden rooftop spaces. PAPress are also publishing a paperback edition of Michael Bierut's must-read Seventy-Nine Short Essays on Design, and a paperback edition of the beautiful Typography Sketchbooks by Steven Heller and Lita Talarico.
Lawrence King are publishing a new book on the history of picture books, Children's Picturebooks: The Art of Visual Storytelling by Martin Salisbury and Morag Styles, and a new edition of The End of Print by David Carson. 100 Years of Fashion by Cally Blackman also looks stunning.
On the comics side, Drawn & Quarterly are publishing Jerusalem: Chronicle from the Holy City, the latest travelogue from Guy Delisle who previous books include The Burma Chronicles, Pyongyang and Shenzhen, and a new edition of Chester Brown's controversial, scatological and long out-of-print comic Ed The Happy Clown.
I'm also looking forward to seeing more of Baby's in Black: Astrid Kirchherr, Stuart Sutcliffe, and The Beatles in Hamburg by Arne Bellstorf which is being published by First Second in April, and to getting my hands on Darth Vader and Son by Jeffrey Brown and All My Friends Are Still Dead by Avery Monsen and Jori John from Chronicle Books.
And lastly — because I am big nerd and recently finished reading his earlier book about the Dark Knight Batman Unmasked — I'm excited about Will Brooker's Hunting the Dark Knight: Twenty-First Century Batman, which is being published by I. B. Tauris in July.
Phew! More to come...
We have our Spring 2012 sales conference later this month and details of all our new books are flooding in.
There are lots of great titles, but as a comics guy, I was particularly excited to see a new book from Guy Delisle, author of Shenzhen, Pyongyang and The Burma Chronicles. Due to be published in April next year, the new book – also a travelogue and apparently his longest work yet – is about his time in Jerusalem.
Drawn and Quarterly have just posted a preview of the book and it looks fascinating:
There are more pages on the D+Q blog.
D+Q also revealed that there is a short documentary film about Guy coming out soon. I love watching artists at work, so I can't wait to see it in full.
Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City will be available in April 2012, and is available for pre-order from Chapters-Indigo, Amazon, and your local independent bookstore.
Award-winning Canadian cartoonist Joe Ollmann – who was recently on CBC radio show Tapestry discussing his mid-life crisis – is now exposing his fish-out-of-water anxieties as an Anglophone in Montreal's Mile End neighbourhood in this funny video for BravoFACT!: