Graphica / December 10, 2014
If you’ve seen Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line you’ll be well-prepared for what you’re getting into with Showa 1944-1953. The anti-war tone and island imagery are very similar; both tales also revolve around a central character whose positive experiences with native islanders contrast sharply with what they’re forced to endure fighting a short distance away.
I think that, like me, you too will be surprised when Shigeru Mizuki makes it out of the war alive (forgetting for a moment that there is a fourth volume coming that deals with events into the 1980s). It’s surprising that he survives not only physically, but also emotionally. If you’ve read the first two volumes, you know that Shigeru Mizuki’s possesses a unique sense of humour that is often expressed through his ravenous appetite and staggering capacity for punishment. That he didn’t lose his sense of humour or his life despite the severe mental and physical trials he went through is deeply affecting.
Mizuki’s escape from the war isn’t an escape from suffering. Postwar Japan was a hard place, and although Mizkui seems finally to have escaped regular beatings, his prodigious hunger rarely gets a break amid regular food shortages and frequent unemployment. Fishmongery will not contain Mizuki’s energies; running a boarding house merely provides an insecure launch pad into the world of professional art. We leave volume three with Mizuki poised for great accomplishment.
Showa 1953-1989 will be coming soon, but I really feel that Showa 1944-1953 is the heart of the story.
Mark Penney, Ampersand Inc.
News / January 13, 2014
Start Rockin' in Five Easy Steps
With the deadline for this year's RRSP contributions only a few weeks away, The Moolala Guide to Rockin' Your RRSP by bestselling author, television host, and popular speaker Bruce Sellery is an essential purchase this month. Bruce makes retirement relevant to your life today, even though it may be decades before you leave your career behind. He provides a simple plan to help you rock your RRSP immediately, and most importantly, he inspires you to get off your duff and take action.
On Writers and Drinking
In The Trip to Echo Spring, Olivia Laing examines the link between creativity and alcohol through the work and lives of six of America's finest writers: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, John Berryman, John Cheever, and Raymond Carver.
All six of these men were alcoholics, and the subject of drinking surfaces in some of their finest work, from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof to A Moveable Feast. Often, they did their drinking together.
Wanting to make sense of this ferocious, entangling disease, Olivia Laing took a journey across America that plunged her into the heart of these overlapping lives.
Six Women of a Dangerous Generation
Glamorized, mythologized, and demonized, the women of the 1920s prefigured the 1960s in their determination to reinvent the way they lived. Judith Mackrell's Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation explores the ethos of that restless generation through the lives of Lady Diana Cooper, whose coterie included some of the most influential intellectuals and aristocrats of the time; Nancy Cunard, the steamship heiress; Tallulah Bankhead, the politically outspoken actress; Zelda Fitzgerald, whose tumultuous relationship with F. Scott was often tabloid fodder; Josephine Baker, the African American dancer, singer, and actress who relinquished her citizenship and moved to France; and Tamara de Lempicka, the Polish-born art deco painter.
Available January 14
Re-Reading the Classics of Fantasy and SF
In 2008, then-new science-fiction mega-site Tor.com asked Canadian author Jo Walton to blog about reading fantasy and SF. This volume presents a selection of the best of those posts, ranging from short essays to long reassessments of some of the field's most ambitious series.
With over 130 essays in all, What Makes This Book So Great is an immensely readable, engaging collection of provocative, opinionated thoughts about past and present-day fantasy and science fiction, from one of our best writers.
Available January 21
Pia Kirchhoff & Oliver von Bodenstein # 2
Following Snow White Must Die, the second book of Nele Neuhaus's enormously popular crime series, tensions run high and a complex and unpredictable plot propels her characters forward at breakneck speed.
On a hot June day the body of a sixteen-year-old girl washes up on a river bank. She has been brutally murdered, but no one comes forward with any information as to her identity. Then, weeks later, a new case comes in: A popular TV reporter is attacked, raped, and locked in the trunk of her own car. As the two cases collide, Inspectors Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein dig deep into the past and uncover a terrible secret that is about to impact their personal lives as well.
Available January 21
In the few short years since he began his pamphlet-size comic book series Lose, Michael DeForge has announced himself as an important new voice in alternative comics. His brash, confident, undulating artwork sent a shock wave through the comics world for its unique, fully formed aesthetic. With his debut Drawn & Quarterly title, Ant Colony, DeForge confirms his place as a mover and shaker in the world of graphic novels.
Available January 21
NEW IN PAPERBACK
At once a love song to two cities—Sarajevo and Chicago—and a paean to the bonds of family, The Book of My Lives is a singular work of passion, built on fierce intelligence, unspeakable tragedies, and sharp insight. Like the best narratives, it is a book that will leave you a different reader when you finish-and a different person, with a new way of looking at the world.
"Hemon’s verbal acuity would amaze no less even if English were his first language – but it isn’t. A collection of essays chronicles his life, immigrating to the U.S. from Yugoslavia, and ends with his daughter’s devastating story."
Available January 28
Graphica / December 19, 2013
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
My favourite book of the year is The Snatchabook. My daughter was about a year and half old when this book came home for the first time making she and I the perfect test audience. It was a huge hit the first night, and fast became a family favourite. Snatchabook is at times a mischievous brat who a toddler can relate to (not mine...), he gets sad and just wants to have books read to him by someone (something they all can relate to), and its a book about books which we both love. The illustrations are warm and nostalgic, and the story reads aloud beautifully. A bed time classic.
And being the Dad of a daughter Vader's Little Princess is up there as well. Jeffrey Brown's illustrations, and captions are right on point, and a not so welcome but funny window in to my future.
Peter Macdougall, Director of National Accounts
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
Graphica / June 11, 2013
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.
Saturday November 3rd, 7pm
3972 Main Street, Vancouver
Graphica / May 07, 2012
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!
Graphica / November 14, 2011
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.
Graphica / November 07, 2011
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!: